Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Hard science fiction

Hard science fiction, or hard SF, is a subgenre of science fiction characterized by an interest in scientific detail or accuracy. Many hard SF stories focus on the natural sciences and technological developments, although many others leave the technology in the background. Some authors scrupulously eschew such implausibilities as faster-than-light travel, while others accept such plot devices but nonetheless show a concern with a realistic depiction of the worlds that such a technology might make accessible.

Character development is sometimes secondary to explorations of astronomical or physical phenomena, but other times authors make the human condition forefront in the story. However a common theme of hard SF has the resolution of the plot often hinging upon a technological point. Writers attempt to have their stories consistent with known science at the time of publication. Interestingly, some hard science fiction stories are set in an alternate universe where different physical laws apply; however, in such cases the author makes use of current physics to design a universe that is at least potentially realistic.

Hard science fiction is largely a literary genre, as the complexities of physics rarely translate well to the screen. One of the notable exceptions is 2001: A Space Odyssey, however the movie still leaves out much of the examination of the physics, computer science, and other scientific analyses present in the novel version.

Well known authors often said to be practitioners of hard SF, include

See the article on Hal Clement for a description of how one hard science fiction author viewed his craft.

One science-fiction television show which has consciously attempted to portray physics correctly is J. Michael Straczynski's Babylon 5, albeit inconsistently especially in later seasons of its half-decade run. The sequel series, Crusade, went so far as to formally enter into a working partnership with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to ensure scientific accuracy. Certain dramatic elements such as sounds in space, visible lasers in a vacuum, etc., are probably to be expected or even demanded by the casual viewer not deeply familiar with the real science involved, and any television or film SF producer must tread a gray line between pleasing the lowest and highest common denominators in his auudience.

An example of a web-based hard science fiction project (where many people contribute different pieces of what becomes a coherent story) is Orion's Arm.

A fan organization that has grown up around Hard Science Fiction is General Technics, populated by scientists, technical folks, and others with a specific interest in this area. General Technics' name is taken from the organization that created a global-scale computer in John Brunner's novel, Stand on Zanzibar. General Technics, though concentrated in the American Midwest, has a global membership.

See also: Soft science fiction

External Link