October 25, 2015

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY: Hard SF or Soft SF…*once more with feeling*…

https://michaelpatrickhicks.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/wanderers_ringshine_03.jpg?w=350&h=200&crop=1Using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane, August 2015, I will jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. This is event #2600 (page 59). The link is provided below… ?Zz

 The Changing Face of Hard Science Fiction: Hard science fiction has roots that at least go back to Verne, and it’s been a major part of the field—some would argue it’s been the center of the field, or even the only real SF—since at least the 1940s. But like the rest of SF, it has evolved and change. Where is it now and where is it going? Stanley Schmidt (m), David Hartwell, Nancy Kress, Karl Schroeder

I would have loved to have been to this one! All of these authors/editors are ones I LOVE: Stan Schmidt goes without saying – editor of ANALOG for years, hard SF writer in his own right. David Hartwell – started the STAR TREK line at Pocket Books, started Tor Books, and administers (with Gordon van Gelder) the PK Dick Award. Nancy Kress, aside from being a spectacular short story writer, also wrote two of my favorite series – the BEGGARS books and the PROBABILITY books. Karl Schroeder invented and wrote stories in a totally absorbing world that exists as “bubbles” of air in zero-g.

With a biology major – and having taught astronomy, biology, chemistry, physics, geology, meteorology, zoology, as well as various and sundry fifth, sixth, and seventh grade “general science” classes – I naturally gravitated to hard SF.

That being said, I’ve been exploring themes of my own in science fiction that have their roots in hard sciences – mostly biology – but tap into “less hard” sciences like psychology and sociology. This isn’t to say that I’ve gotten it all down and I’m ready to move into the “pros”; but I’m working on it.

In particular, in my first novel, I look at how the future will treat young people on the autism spectrum or with learning disabilities. Unfortunately, I don’t think that anything will change because neither of those has a specific “genetic home” – at least that we know of today. With politicians flailing about, trying to acquiesce to teachers unions (and make no mistake about it – Washington is talking to teacher-politicians. REAL teachers don’t have time to waste talking to politicians. They’re busy teaching kids) and return us all to the bad old days where we pass kids on without knowing what they know (http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2015/10/24/obama-calls-for-less-standardized-testing-in-schools-addressing-nationwide/).

 I explore education and how genetic manipulation of Humans will intersect and the effect that intersection will have on society. I look at unexpected results of genetic manipulation. I wonder what would happen in an interstellar civilization if none of them had ever made use of animal and plant domestication – we think it’s “normal”, but just as “psychic powers” might be normal for aliens, the practice of large scale domestication might be something Humans do that is unique.

It’s hard science with a soft science intersection.

The thing is, isn’t this what SF writers have been doing all along? They just vary the mix of science and psychology; science and sociology; science and parapsychology; science and politics; science and business management, economics, finance, and advertising; science and anthropology; science and education; and science and humor. ANALOG and PERIHELION, and others, tend to be stronger on the hard science. ASIMOV’S and F&SF tend toward the softer science. None of them are exclusive, but all have tendencies. Nebula and Hugo Awards tend to reward the softer science mixes more often than the harder science stories.

If I had to make a guess, these people – as well as the field at large – would say that “hard SF is dead” and that mixed SF is the “wave of the future”. I think we’ve already been there and come back. We’ll see, but I think the field will swing back into hard SF again – because it’s the exploration of current technology’s impact on the future.
Program Book: http://sasquan.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/ConGuide.toupload.pdf

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