Talk:Hard science fiction

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Gundam? Really? Robots with swords and magic particles? Surely there are better examples from anime...--Leperflesh (talk) 06:12, 10 January 2008 (UTC)

Examples of hard sf?[edit]

I move that we should have a separate "List of Hard Science Fiction" page. Which would, of course, need many entries initially. --RProgrammer

Kress and Asimov both soft and hard??? Cimon avaro

Asimov is definitely not hard science fiction; his stories were way more focused on the characters than their environments and technology. - LukeyBoy
Asimov was prolific enough to be both. Space operas like the Foundation Series were obviously not hard sf. Some of his short stories certainly were. I'm sure someone can give some examples, I'm not as well read as I should be. --ChrisRuvolo 20:25, 22 Jun 2004 (UTC)
The Gods Themselves is an Asimov novel in full hard SF mode. It won a Hugo and a Nebula award and is definately worth checking out, probably my favourite Asimov. Coyote-37 09:12, 14 July 2005 (UTC)
Asimov describes himself as a hard sf author, in the comments in The Hugo Winners anthologies he edited. Lets allow him the right to self-determination on this one. Also,incidentally, i would disagree with calling the Foundation series space opera, but that's neither here nor there. ddillon 01:05, 7 June 2007 (UTC)
Of course Asimov writes hard science fiction. Check The End of Eternity, The Bicentennial Man and most of his short stories like Nightfall. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Davichito (talkcontribs) 18:11, 25 April 2008 (UTC)

How can Babylon 5 be both hard sci-fi and space opera? This makes no sense. - mib 08:03, 25 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Jules Verne as hard sci-fi?!?!?

While his plots were very adventurous and imaginary, it seems Jules Verne tried to imagine wonders based on the future of his contemporary technologies - very unlike H.G. Wells. When Verne knew about Wells' The Time Machine, he commented: "He [Wells] lies". (source - Scientific American Brazil: Exploradores do Futuro, v.2., late 2005. Sorry, I only have the brazilian magazine).
Still about Verne, some consider he has predicted many existing machines, like the helicopter, the modern submarine and television (Scientific American Brazil - Exploradores do Futuro, v.1., p.7, late 2005)
If you don't think Jules Verne had anything to do with hard SF, read the section in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea where he describes in exacting detail how the Nautilus's buoyancy is countered for submersion, and how its maximum depth is calculated. There are also very concrete and technical treatments of SCUBA gear, fluorescent lights, and rechargeable batteries.

How well known is Joan Slonczewski in the science fiction field. She gets 4000ish google results but appears to have published only six novels. I confess that her name is very much less familiar to me than the other ones on the list. Maybe somebody should first write a stub about her, and then consider re-adding the listing. -- Cimon 18:49, May 8, 2005 (UTC)

She's as much hard sci fi as some of the others on the list. 13:37, 6 January 2006 (UTC)

Does anyone else here feel that the movie Red Planet (2000) should be included here? I mean, it's as hard as a sci-fi movie usually can get AFAIK. OK, if you exclude the cheesy AI that goes berserk, and enters a "kill all humans" mode that is, but that's hollywood for you... Alex.g 14:53, 8 January 2006 (UTC)

Not so much. It's not hard SF, but at least it's harder than Mission to Mars - the flapping tent in that movie made me want to throw something at the screen. -- Jeandré, 2006-01-09t20:20z

Orson Scott Card is hard sci-fi? Coyote Pete 03:24, 30 January 2006 (UTC)

in Ender's Game yes, otherwise, not so much. I don't like the wierdo teleporting box that appears later in the Ender series for that matter, as hard SF. Greglocock 11:29, 27 February 2007 (UTC)

The notion that in hard SF "the main characters are usually working scientists, engineers, military personnel, or astronauts" reflects a rather old-fashioned bias (rooted in John Campbell's preferences in Astounding/Analog)--it is an accidental rather than an essential trait. The heart of the "hard SF" designation is the relationship of the science content (and attitude) to the rest of the narrative, and (historically, anyway) the "hardness" of the science itself. The term seems to have arisen out of the distinction between the kind of physics-and-engineering-centered stories that characterized Astounding/Analog and the sociology-and-pyschology-centered stories in, say, Galaxy and F&SF in the 50s and 60s--the "hard" (quantitative, lab-centered) sciences versus the "soft" ones (sociology, pyschology, even biology). It was an oversimple distinction then and is even more so now, but it arose out of divisions within the readership. Some of those "hard SF" character preferences had to do with those cultural divisions (which set of nerds do you want to depict/identify with?), and some out of writers' laziness or lack of skill (hack writers will default to the easiest solution to a problem), but few of them are essential to the story's status as hard SF. Greg Benford's Timescape is an obvious exception. BTW, most of Nancy Kress's output since before Beggars in Spain is quite clearly hard SF built on bioscience and (when her late husband Charles Sheffield was still around) physics.

In its purest form, one might argue that hard SF is about the science or engineering, with human affairs of interest only insofar as they are affected by them--thus they might be gadget/puzzle or disaster stories, with all their combinations and permutations. The core of Larry Niven's "Neutron Star" is, despite its alien-psychology, future-history, and magical-science features, a textbook example of a hard-SF puzzle: what can reach through a supposedly invulnerable hull to destroy the squishy contents? The answer is absolutely orthodox science-stuff. But most SF (including "Neutron Star") doesn't limit itself to being illustrated science lectures, so there are always other agendas, anything from mere entertainment (solve the puzzle, ride the thrill-ride) to socio-political speculation (imagine the impact of unlimited free energy or indefinitely-extended lifespans) to considerations of human nature under extreme or extremely altered conditions (anyone from Wells to Stapledon to Heinlein to Bruce Sterling to Greg Egan). I'd say that "hard SF" is an attitude or set of operating guidelines that produces stories in which material reality and our ways of understanding and manipulating it are respected--it is a decorum, not a true subgenre. If you want to see a hard-SF mind working with miraculous technologies, look at a couple of Damon Knight pieces: A for Anything and "Rule Golden." Once the (impossible or very unlikely) givens are established, the implications are worked out with rigor. RLetson 21:38, 24 March 2006 (UTC)

RLetson, do you fancy taking a bit of time to edit your extremely well thought out post here into usable content for the main page? This sort of discussion is just the kind of valuable content that I think the page needs to help address the main section/other media imbalance. Coyote-37 09:33, 27 March 2006 (UTC)
OK--I'm newish at Wiki-ing, so I'll check the protocols (most of which I see from the discussions here) and adjust and splice accordingly. Should I post a version and suggested splice-point here, or just go ahead and do it? I can see that this part of the community is more organized than the Hawaiian-music territory I've been tweaking. RLetson 17:18, 27 March 2006 (UTC)

Life by Gwyneth Jones[edit]

This has been added to the "representative works" section today. I haven't read it myself, but from the Amazon reviews I'm a little dubious. My understanding was that we could easily fill this section with a couple of thousand examples of sci-fi works which are "somewhat hard", so in the interests of brevity only works which are outstanding &/or very clearly representative of the genre were to be listed in the "representative works" section. All in favour cry "delete". --Stroller (talk) 00:55, 5 November 2010 (UTC)


Does anyone know about the use of the term "clank" to describe hard sci fi? This was the term I had heard used to describe it previously, and I wonder if it's a commonly known term. -- Mike Simpson 19:34, 1 Jun 2004 (UTC)

Proposal: qualify examples of Hard SF authors[edit]

..with the scientific topic they specialise in. E.g., Kim Stanley Robinson, environmental science and politics. Greg Egan, Physics and Computer Science.

Whether politics is a scientific topic is debatable. :) But I'll give you "environmental science" in KSR's case. --Chronodm 03:28, 2 December 2005 (UTC)
I think this is a good idea. Coyote Pete 03:26, 30 January 2006 (UTC)
Yes Alastair Reynolds physics and astronomy background and his working for the ESA have clearly influenced the hardness of his sci-fi. (Emperor 15:15, 23 December 2006 (UTC))
But is he a *major* writer? Geez, this list is already way too long! A bunch of the others seem marginal to me. If you look at the tennis article, for instance, you see a section called "Great Players" -- it lists 13 great old-time players before Open Tennis started in 1968, most of whom are quasi-forgotten today. It also lists some brief qualifications for each of them, giving an idea of just *why* they were great, great players. There's also another section in the same general area in which all the players who have won 2 or more of the 4 major Grand Slam tournaments since 1968 are listed. Anyone good enough to have won two of these titles is certainly a very fine player -- I myself would raise the bar a little higher, to 3 or 4 titles, perhaps, before calling them "great". But I understand the reasoning here and don't argue with it -- at least a consensus has decided that a *single* grand slam title isn't enough to be listed here. I realise that evaluating tennis players is a lot easier than evaluating "hard SF" writers, but I still think a little more effort ought to be put into this listing of the writers. I particularly wish RLetson, who is extremely knowledgeable (he's been reviewing books for Locus for Lo! these many years), and who has already written here about trimming the list, would get out his scalpel and do some trimming. Thirty years ago, when I felt I knew as much about the field as anyone, I would have done it. Now I feel I don't know enough about the modern writers to be able to delete any except the more egregiously mis-labled ones. Russell! Are you reading this?! Hayford Peirce 01:11, 24 December 2006 (UTC)
Is he a major writer? Difficult to say as it is subjective. He is one of the big current writers in the field and also has a very solid science background which is also worthy of mention. Managing such lists are tricky as opinion will always differ. Two fixes: Start a List of hard science fiction authors entry with each author being given a couple of sentences on their big work, influences (both on then and to other people) and hard science connections (if any) and/or a "Hard science fiction authors" category. Then do away with the list as the big names should be mentioned in the main text. (Emperor 03:21, 24 December 2006 (UTC))

What about adding Jane Jensen (Dante's Equation), Gentry Lee (Rama series with Arthur C. Clarke) and Michael Kube-McDowell (Trigger, Isaac Asimov's Robot City)? (rm)

  • Some nameless one just added Stanislaw Lem, calling him "one of the greatest authors of hard science fiction." Boggle. This is the Lem who had guys walkng around on the moon without space suits! Reverted. Pete Tillman 18:55, 21 December 2006 (UTC)

I have gone over the list and added to it. Yes, some are debatable, but David and I have already made the case in print (Ascent of Wonder or Hard SF renaissance). I added Connie WIllis and Eleanor Arnasen out of deference to people who claimed they had unjustly been left out of our hard sf anthologies. In general, there is no one definition of hard sf that includes or excludes a writer. Hard SF is aprticular litarary game. Out of deference to Greg Benford's feelings, I have left out JG Ballard, who did indeed play the game, though in a perverse way. I removed the lack of citation tag. I used my books as reference, which are indeed the primary reference material for such list. --Pleasantville aka Kathryn Cramer 14:26, 25 July 2007 (UTC)

I have added Ben Bova. The science in his Grand Tour series is most definitely a realistic extrapolation of current science (the man worked for NASA). dllu (talk) 17:20, 24 October 2010 (UTC)

Regarding Battlestar Galactica text[edit]

I noticed that Jeandré removed the BSG text. While I do agree that the text read like a pitch, perhaps it could have been reworded instead of outright removed? Not that it matters now, since I reworded the text to focus more on the scientific aspects than the characterization of the people. If anyone has any comments, concerns or questions on the edit, feel free to talk about them here. Thanks! -- Joe Beaudoin Jr. Think out loud 19:20, 4 August 2005 (UTC)

Ouch--not more than 1 hour and my original addition of the BSG text here was folded, spindled, and mutilated, although it does have a better read, somewhat. Oh, well, I may expand on it on BSG Wiki :) I appreciate readding the text in a more appropriate manner for the topic at hand. Spencerian 19:31, 4 August 2005 (UTC)
Just a thought... We may just want to do a separate page on "naturalistic science fiction", which focuses both on the characterization and scientific aspects of a literary product. (We can still keep the BSG scientific stuff on this page, though, since it now deals explicitly with science.) -- Joe Beaudoin Jr. Think out loud 20:27, 4 August 2005 (UTC)
Your request is my command. It could really use a lot of additional information beyond what I could derive from Moore's essay and interpretation of it. Spencerian 18:21, 5 August 2005 (UTC)
I still think BSG is overemphasized, as is the entire "other media" section which I don't think comes close to being hard SF; but I agree that a rewrite is better than my removal.
BSG is softer than Firefly (2002) when it comes to sound in space and FTL. Firefly also has projectile weapons and no ETI, but it does have lots of anti-science elements meaning that it too isn't near being hard SF. — Jeandré, 2005-08-05t19:56z

"Lightspeed physics appear to avoid violation of General Relativity principles by using the wormhole concept of apparent FTL travel, instead of using fantastic energies or materials (à la "anti-matter" or "dilithium crystals," respectively) for FTL travel" - How are BSG's wormholes any less fantastic a concept than "anti-matter" or "dilithium crystals"? Just because it has projectile weapons and no fancy energy shields or other technobabble doesn't make it Hard SF. This section needs a delete or a move to 'naturalistic' SF. Polanyist 1st November 2005, 9:51PM AEST

Thoughts on losing the other media section?[edit]

As with all Wiki articles, this is becoming dominated by only vaguely relevant text relating to TV shows. Hard sci-fi to me has always been about novels, no TV series or film has really come close to the depth of the best Asimov or Clarke. I propose we massively cut the other media section to a simple list and maybe try and find a way to add content to the section on sci-fi authors. What do others think? Coyote-37 09:02, 21 October 2005 (UTC)

I agree. It is disproportionate. But I suggest we expand the literary section first, before hacking at the media section. After all, if we only manage to do the hacking and not the writing, the article will be in a worse state. I also think, mind, that the list of sample hard SF authors is too large and needs qualification (see above). I'll have a think about what else we could write. -- Jon Dowland 12:39, 24 October 2005 (UTC)
Good suggestions. Maybe some discussion of how common themes of Hard SF (entropy, slower than light travel etc) impact on the plot? For instance, Clarke's later novels are contained within the solar system, as he seems to have accepted that FTL will always be impossible, so his commitment to science influences the types of stories he is able to tell. Or maybe something about how ideas from Hard SF lead into real world innovations. Ion drives for instance, or geostable orbits. Coyote-37 13:20, 24 October 2005 (UTC)
Just because B5, BSG, and FF are harder than most TV sci-fi shows, does not mean they warrant inclusion in an article on hard SF. These shows are surely nowhere near hard SF. Would it not be better to have a sentence explaining that hard SF has not occured in other media? — Jeandré, 2005-10-29t04:52z
I'm not willing to bring down the wrath of the Browncoats by deleting the TV section entirely, but I have added an intro paragraph noting that TV generally doesn't live up to print hard-SF standards. --Chronodm 03:38, 2 December 2005 (UTC)
OK, so I finally got round to watching Serenity. It's great fun and all, but Hard SF it is most definately not. I'm back to wanting to remove the entire 'other media' section as I remain fully unconvinced by it. I'd be very interested to hear from a user who is familiar with both hard sf and the other media mentioned and is still in favour of keeping it. I suspect that many of those wanting to keep it are not familiar with the hard sf genre. Coyote-37 10:15, 25 January 2006 (UTC)
I agree. I like Firefly, but it is soft science fiction. It's not about technology or the impact of technology. What technology there is is just the backdrop for the story being told. That doesn't mean it's not good. The problem is that this article is very POV - too many people want to use hard science fiction as a synonym for "good" and soft as a synonym for "bad". There is plenty of bad hard science fiction, and plenty of good soft science fiction.--RLent 14:54, 20 February 2006 (UTC)

Er... it's not often I do mass deletions of content without reading the talk page first, and it seems I should have resisted this time as well. But starting by calling 2001 hard sf and ending with Cowboy Bebop of all things... I nearly choked on my sandwich. Anyway, at best there a paragraph or two of non-bull to compress that lot into. --zippedmartin 03:58, 3 April 2006 (UTC)

Firefly's solar system[edit]

Can someone who's seen all of Firefly (I've only seen the film) add a note as to whether it's ever explained how all the planets in the show's solar system seem to be within the habitable zone? If it is explained, great; if not, well, if the fact that all the planets are in the same system (negating the need for FTL) is to be cited as evidence for the show's hard-SF-ness, the fact that all the planets are so close together should maybe be cited against it. --Chronodm 03:41, 2 December 2005 (UTC)

Firefly is soft science fiction. It's also good science fiction. Too often, people label science fiction they like as "hard" and that which they don't like as "soft". The technology in Firefly is the backdrop in which the story takes place.--RLent 19:32, 21 February 2006 (UTC)
all the world's in firefly's system (which is never named ) are terraformed as said in start of the movie
"We found a new solar system: dozens of planets and hundreds of moons. Each one terraformed — a process taking decades — to support human life. To be new Earths."
How they got all of them to been 1 g (earth gravity) seem hard to believe but.Joeyjojo 03:52, 8 March 2006 (UTC)
Hey, given that the ships have artificial gravity, why is an arbitrary planet/moon having 1g hard to believe? Helps the terraforming too -- holds the atmosphere in. (OTOH, artificial G is almost as "unhard" as FTL. If you can do the former you may be able to do the latter, courtesy of Alcubierre, et al. -- AJWM 05:01, 11 May 2007 (UTC)
In the TV series, it never becomes clear at all whether the planets are part of a single solar system or whether we are dealing with many different solar systems. Personally, I always assumed the latter. —Naddy 16:01, 1 April 2006 (UTC)
I figured it was a somewhat distant multiple solar system. that would allow many habitable zones. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:54, 10 October 2008 (UTC)

Merge Proposal[edit]

While I'm sure there is some sort of distinction between the two, these pages look so identical I would say one is redundant. I would suggest picking one and using the other as a Wikipedia:Redirect. Then, you could spend a paragraph on the main page discussing the other. Palm_Dogg 01:34, 25 January 2006 (UTC)

Please see my response at Talk:Naturalistic science fiction. —Josiah Rowe (talkcontribs) 05:51, 25 January 2006 (UTC)

Distinction between hard SF and SF with hard elements[edit]

One thing that struck me with the article and examples as it stands is there are many examples of SF which have elements of hard SF in them - e.g., the silence of space, but are not "hard SF". I think that Hard SF is where the science is *central* to the story, and the article should reflect that. -- Jon Dowland 09:44, 20 March 2006 (UTC)

I'm not sure there's a bright line between these two categories--the latter sounds like what I call "competent SF," that is, SF that only makes mistakes deliberately in order to fulfill other goals (e.g., allowing FTL travel in order to enable an interstellar civilization). Maintaining silence in vacuum (in films) I put at the same level as concealing the wires that hold up the spaceships: a matter of craft. (Yes, I know about Lucas' decision, and it still annoys me.) RLetson 21:27, 24 March 2006 (UTC)

Over at rec.arts.sf.written, where definitions and redefinitions of hard sf are a favorite sport, the sort of thing Jon Dowland refers to has been called "locally hard" -- possibly a Wayne Throop coinage. Pete Tillman 20:38, 22 June 2006 (UTC)

Orson Scott Card?[edit]

Could Orson Scott Card be considered for his strict exclusion of faster than light travel in the Ender series (despite adding some hypothetical or purely fantasy technologies), as well as his "no new technology in the future" themed short story Mortal Gods? --NEMT 21:25, 21 August 2006 (UTC)

I don't think FTL alone should be a benchmark of whether something is Hard SF or not, although it is certainly a popular one. My own opinion is that the setting of a novel in a scientifically plausible universe is not enough, and that the science has to be a first-hand part of the story. -- Jon Dowland 23:24, 12 November 2006 (UTC)
how can NOT haveing new technology in the future make it hard SF??? Joeyjojo 14:30, 30 November 2006 (UTC)
Orson's Ender series has FTL communication in the fist book and FTL travel by the last. --Tim (talk) 08:08, 22 April 2017 (UTC)

Hard science fiction a theme??[edit]

Is hard science fiction really a theme, as claimed in the first paragraph? It seems less a theme (topos, ...) than a (forgive my unscientific language) "way" of narrating themes (e.g., an Apocalypse could be narrated in either hard or soft science fiction...). Indeed, the Science Fiction themes article does not refer to hard science fiction at all. --Ibn Battuta 18:08, 6 November 2006 (UTC)

  • I think you're absolutely right about this -- it's a technique rather than a theme. I can have a story in which the hero uses a FTL ship to get somewhere but the reader is told nothing more than that the ship *is* faster than light. The story may or may not be "hard science fiction" but *probably* isn't. If, on the other hand, I spend three paragraphs detailing just *how* the ship goes FTL, then that's almost certainly gonna be what I call a hard SF story. Some would disagree by saying that *any* FTL story by definition cannot be hard SF -- I think that's too extreme an attitude but it does exist. However, as regards this article, I do think that the first parag. should be rewritten. I'm too lazy to do it myself, however, since it will have to be carefully done so that other editors don't revert it.... Hayford Peirce 19:58, 6 November 2006 (UTC)

Actually, "hard SF" is neither a theme nor a technique--it's just a subdivision of SF-in-general that values accuracy and consistency of scientific content over other qualities. This is a decorum issue, not unlike the notion of a "playfair" mystery where the information needed to solve the puzzle is not concealed from the reader. (Anybody remember the Ellery Queen "challenge to the reader" page?) It does affect the "technique" of story/world construction by eliminating some kinds of elements and in general requiring a level of (scientifically/technologically-based) plausibility--but this is not any different from the decorum rule that dictates, say, psychologically round characters or recognizable social interactions in general fiction. Content-oriented "oughts" can be part of a genre definition--for example, if the characters in a story are exaggerated, grotesque, or stereotyped, it might make the story a satire or social comedy. We wouldn't call that characteristic a theme, nor would it be by itself a technique. So we can say that hard SF is a subdivision, a category, a tradition, or even a school of SF and that it is the result of a set of attitudes and values and preferences on the part of writers and readers. With apologies for dropping into professor mode-- RLetson 18:43, 11 November 2006 (UTC)

The laundry list[edit]

I just cut a few names from the ever-expanding list of "often said to be" hard SF writers (note the weasel wording)--it's getting to be a list of "writers I like and think should be included," and it also suggests that the article itself is weak in establishing what constitutes "hard science fiction." (Robin Cook?) I'd suggest, first, a rewrite of the article that recognizes that the term is not part of a rigorous taxonomy--it's a rule-of-thumb notion, a fannish invention that has proved useful over the years, but nothing like as definite as the difference between, say, a cozy mystery and a hard-boiled detective story. Second, I'd suggest that the endless list become something more limited and defined: say, five or ten writers whose work is recognized as characterizing "hard SF"--Poul Anderson would be one, as would Heinlein, Sheffield, and Benford. Note that this is not some chemically-pure literary category we're descibing here, since nearly every "hard SF" writer has written stories that a hard-SF puritan would condemn (anything with faster-than-light travel, for example). We may want to establish some sort of test or criterion for inclusion in the short list--mention in Clute & Nicholls or an authoritative anthology (as one editor has already started doing). Third, it might be useful to incorporate the complementary-opposite (and equally fuzzy) term soft science fiction into this article--it certainly isn't doing well on its own. RLetson 17:35, 13 November 2006 (UTC)

What about Stephen Baxter? He's about as hard as hard SF comes (especially his newer work since the Xeelee series) And with 41 books (albeit a couple are collaborations with AC Clarke, and some non-fiction) under his belt I belive he is worthy mention with the other authors on this list. In most of his stories, the characters take a back seat to the science and with degrees in math & engineering, he knows what he is talking about. Anyway just a thought... thegreattim 18:44, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

Is there a way of freezing or otherwise limiting the laundry list? I've just cut Godwin and Nourse (not prominent enough), but clearly people are going to keep adding personal favorites and the damn list will straggle on indefinitely unless we can suggest a plausible limiting factor, as I suggested above. (I'm reluctant to suggest the easy way out of a numerical limit--ten-best lists make even more trouble than ordinary ones.) RLetson 17:48, 24 January 2007 (UTC)

Okay, sorry to be nitpicky but... Carl Sagan on the list of major authors of Hard SF? I am a big of fan of Carl as the next guy (I've read most of his published work, I belive) but, correct me if I'm wrong, has he not only published one fiction novel, specificaly "Contact"? Is not almost all of his work Non-Fiction? I wish it was not the case, but I think it is... Unfortunatley, I feel this disqualifies him from the list. thegreattim 19:31, 5 February 2007 (UTC)

You're absolutely right -- I had meant to delete him some time ago but forgot. Consider it done. Hayford Peirce 20:59, 5 February 2007 (UTC)

Hi all! My two cents- the list should focus on the actual works not whether the author is well known or created numerous hard sf books. I personally just want advice on what to read. Just read Benford's Beyond Infinity and liked it a great deal. David Brin's Uplift Wars probably won't make the cut but it sure was enjoyable. As long as there are no unicorns or scorcery I can live with a little sloppy science I suppose. "Gardonduty" —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:15, 15 April 2010 (UTC)

Jacek Dukaj?[edit]

More evidence that the list is seen as some sort of "writers I like" place--selections from the Wiki article on Dukaj. These are hard SF?

"IACTE" - On a space colony, there is a place where dreams can become a reality, and a revived Native American hunter sets on the trail of a vampire.
"Muchobójca" (Flykiller) - In space and on space colonies, there are ghosts. And where there are ghosts, there will be exorcists. However, can human-trained exorcist deal with magic that evolved elsewhere?

And so on. Time to tighten up the article and purge the list. RLetson 18:20, 16 November 2006 (UTC)

  • I agree with you about tightening up the list but Dukaj apparently presents a problem, just as, in a sense, Larry Niven does. *Most* of Niven's stuff is hard SF, but some is fantasy, albeit with consistent laws etc. Could we rename this list so that it is called something like "Authors whose predominant work is hard"? or some such? Aside from FLT and such like, I myself have never knowingly written fantasy -- my Time Scanner stories probably fall into the FLT category but once you grant the premise, then there's nothing soft at all about the stories. Ditto for many of my other stories -- I'd *like* to be on that list! Hayford Peirce 21:57, 16 November 2006 (UTC)
My problem with the list as it stands is that it could go on indefinitely--and everybody wants to be on it, or to see their favorite writers there. If the point of the article is to characterize "hard SF," then a clear explanation of the category, accompanied by a handful of writers who illustrate that characterization, should about do the job. It might be useful to point out contrasting examples within a writer's canon (Poul Anderson's "Kyrie" versus A Midsummer Tempest; Heinlein's "They" versus Farmer in the Sky), but that's probably something that belongs in the article proper. RLetson 22:20, 16 November 2006 (UTC)
How about retitling it "Major writers who are primarily known for their hard SF"? Then we could put on Heinlein, Clarke, Niven, Hal Clement, Ben Bova, and a handful of others. Hayford Peirce 22:27, 16 November 2006 (UTC)\
No one else seems to have taken my suggestion, or to have even discussed it, so I will take it upon myself to do what I suggested. Now that the die have been cast, if any of you object to my editing, you can redo it to your heart's content. But I do think that this long, long, LONG laundry list of so-called hard SF writers ought to remain quite short. In fact, if anything, the present list I just did could be shortened. Tom Godwin, for instance, is prominent for a single story written 50 years ago. He can almost certainly be trimmed, along with some others.... Hayford Peirce 17:24, 30 November 2006 (UTC)

Hayford: Anything that keeps the list from metastasizing is fine with me--and renaming it "Major Writers" is a good first step. I suppose (to expand on a point I made earlier) if we want to be properly Wikian and document every item on said list, we could check that some authoritative source had so identified each one--Clute & Nicholls, Anatomy of Wonder, and so on. The intro to Hartwell & Cramer's Hard SF Renaissance (which I just picked up) might also provide guidance. I guess the thing is to keep it from turning into a "Hey, what about my guy?" competition. BTW (and this is directed to everyone working on this article), the "Hard SF" entries in both Clute & Nicholls and Gary K. Wolfe's Critical Terms for Science Fiction and Fantasy are quite good, and, as a bonus, Wolfe's bibliography points to just about all of the major works of scholarship on SF. RLetson 20:08, 1 December 2006 (UTC)

Hi, i think Dukaj's "Perfekcyjna Niedoskonałoś" (Perfect inperfection?) is hard sci-fi novel. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:59, 23 February 2010 (UTC)

An immodest proposal[edit]

I've been fooling around with ways of revising the article and have come up with the following. Rather than just do the edit, I thought I'd post it here for comment. I would replace the entire body of the article with something like this, which combines bits of the existing version with scraps scavenged from my earlier comments and some things I dug out of The Hard SF Renaissance and the Jesse's Words SF lexicography site. I would particularly like to cut paragraph 4 of the current version--my reasons are outlined above in an entry from March. Anyhow, here's a draft of a start:

Hard science fiction, or hard SF, is a category of science fiction characterized by an emphasis on scientific detail and/or accuracy. The term was first used in print in 1957 by P. Schuyler Miller, book reviewer for Astounding Science Fiction. ref[Science Fiction Citations]; also David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer, "New People, New Places, New Politics," introduction to The Hard SF Renaissance, 2002, ISBN 0-312-87635-1]]ref The complementary term, soft science fiction (a back-formation that first appeared in the late 1970s ref ref), contrasts the "hardness" of the sciences involved: quantitative or material-based disciplines (physics, chemistry, astronomy) versus the social sciences (sociology, anthropology, psychology). (In some usages, though, "soft SF" suggests bad or fake science.) Neither term is part of a rigorous taxonomy--instead they are rule-of-thumb ways of characterizing stories that have proved useful.
The heart of the "hard SF" designation is the relationship of the science content (and attitude) to the rest of the narrative, and (in the beginning, at least) the "hardness" or rigor of the science itself. One requirement for hard SF is procedural or intentional: a story should be trying to be accurate and rigorous in its use of the scientific knowledge of its time, and later discoveries do not necessarily invalidate the label. For example, P. Schuyler Miller called Arthur C. Clarke's 1961 novel A Fall of Moondust hard SF ref[Science Fiction Citations] ref, and the designation stands even though a crucial plot element, the existence of deep pockets of "moondust" in Luna craters, is now known to be incorrect. There is a degree of flexibility in how far from "real science" a story can stray before it leaves the realm of hard SF. Some authors scrupulously eschew such implausibilities as faster-than-light travel, while others accept such plot devices but focus on realistically depicting the worlds that such a technology might make accessible. It is less a matter of the absolute accuracy of the science content than of the rigor and consistency with which the various ideas and possibilities are worked out that makes a story hard SF. RLetson 05:58, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
I think that's terrific! Go for it! Hayford Peirce 16:48, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

What about Stanislaw Lem ?[edit]

I was very surprised that Stanislaw Lem was not on the list of authors of hard science fiction. If he should not be included, so who should?

--Ouroborosx 02:13, 21 December 2006 (UTC)

Please see the comments above regarding the 'laundry list'. The list only needs to be representative, not exhaustive. Coyote-37 10:10, 21 December 2006 (UTC)

Lem actually rarely wrote hard sci-fi. He did a few works ("Solaris" and "Fiacso"), but most of his novels were soft sci-fi (Given the fact that he wrote some hard sci-fi, I also think we should include him).-- (talk) 10:51, 17 July 2014 (UTC)

I guess, with "His Master's Voice" and probably "Golem XIV" we named a complete list of hard sci-fi by Lem. Santacloud (talk) 18:58, 4 November 2015 (UTC)

Immodesty accomplished[edit]

I've done a rewrite of the main article along the lines proposed above. RLetson 22:06, 5 January 2007 (UTC)

Removed unsupported assertion[edit]

"Further attempts to define hard science fiction have been made more recently by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer, through their anthologies The Ascent of Wonder (1994) and The Hard Science Fiction Renaissance (2002)."

The text above was added by Kathryn Cramer (Pleasantville (talk · contribs)) (See diff). That text needs to be supported by a secondary source that asserts that Mr. Hartwell and Mrs. Cramer have "further attempted to define hard science fiction". It is now removed. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 19:03, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

This seems harsh, as both Hartwell & Cramer are well-known SF editors. Further, I've read both works, and they are as advertised above
Even further, according to

the addition was made by Hayford Peirce!

Propose reinstatement of the above statement.
Cheers, Pete Tillman 20:05, 30 January 2007 (UTC)
Hmm, no, *I* didn't originally enter it. Maybe when I reverted something or other, or made some other edit, it got carried along with the other item. It seems like a legit. edit to me, no matter who originally entered it. If Arthur C. Clarke came along and entered a couple of verifiable statements, would we delete it? But this whole Wiki Original Research and citation business is a can of worms.... Hayford Peirce 23:07, 30 January 2007 (UTC)
Is the objection that the works mentioned don't exist? If a statement is true, verifiable, noteworthy, and relevant, it should be included. Etiquette suggests that Ms. Cramer should perhaps offer edits to the talk page where a possible COI exists, but this is a minor quibble. Avt tor 11:14, 27 February 2007 (UTC)

David Brin?[edit]

I understand that you can make arguments for Earth, Glory Season, and The Postman, but most of his work include rather prominent fantastical elements (e.g. the telepathy in the Uplift series, which is treated pretty loosely). Further, his page shows no reference to the classification "hard science fiction", unlike (say) Hal Clement's.

I don't dispute that he's an important writer, but I don't think he's hard SF. Robin Z 03:08, 25 February 2007 (UTC)

Is he the guy who wrote some of the dolphin books? If so, my impression is that he was called a "hard" writer at the time by a bunch of people who over-looked the fact that there was telepathy between the people and the dolphins (at least I think so). But, of course, this is a very difficult definition to nail down, as I think the article tries to say. Heinlein's "Time for the Stars", for instance -- super hard, *except* there's the telepathy aspect. Most people tend to overlook that sort of thing when a "certified" hard writer uses one of these gimmicks.... Hayford Peirce 03:50, 25 February 2007 (UTC)

First: Being on or off a list of hard-SF writers is not exactly the center of this article. Second: After a while (about 12 seconds), questions of the hardness of a particular writer's SF, or of particular books in a writer's career, start looking like theological debates. We really need to face the fact that the "hardness" of SF is not a well-defined term with sharp boundaries; it is a relative term, even among people who think they can define it precisely. There is a spread of opinion on what exactly constitutes "hardness" in SF, but there is no single measure that everyone agrees on--this makes "hard SF" not a genuine genre term but something closer to a decorum term. Other SF categories--space opera, planetary romance, military SF, and so on--are more easily treated on the basis of what they contain--to adapt George R.R. Martin's term, what "furniture" they use. But hardness of SF is a judgment applied to a text, and the criteria, while not necessarily entirely subjective, do vary considerably across the whole SF readership. It seems to me that any attempt to describe "hard SF" without recognizing this situation is always going to devolve into para-theological arguments and competing lists of texts/writers. The "hardness" of a text is a quality that we can discuss and compare, but, like "noir," it is not a unitary, all-or-nothing attribute, and thus is an unstable basis for a genre term. It might be better to talk about hard SF as a school, a taste, a decorum, or a movement than a subgenre. (See the discussion page for the newish Space Opera Noir article, where I'm having a not-dissimilar conversation.) RLetson 21:35, 25 February 2007 (UTC)

Larry Niven wrote hard SF, yet it had lots of telepathy and such. Back in those days, these ideas were more credible and had their place in even the hardest of hard SF. These days, there's less of a place, but as Perice points out, writers who are known for their hardness can get telepathy grandfathered in. Also, while I didn't read Brin's books, I remember a review that mentioned that some alien race was powerfully telepathic, while dolphins used machines to communicate. While telepathy is pretty implausible, it's less so when applied to aliens as opposed to dolphins. So, in short, I say we keep Brin. 03:28, 26 February 2007 (UTC)
IMO, "Hard SF" is a recognized subgenre within SF. I agree the boundaries are somewhat subjective (for example, almost any reference to FTL travel is considered by some to violate "hardness"). IMO, "Hard SF" is SF that focuses in detail on specific scientific theories and principles; it doesn't require that every element by provable within the limits of contemporary science. My opinion here is only explanatory, not definitive; I think the definition of this category belongs to reviewers and academics, i.e. verifiable sources. Avt tor 11:20, 27 February 2007 (UTC)


Neither 2010 nor Gattaca strike me as being hard SF films. 2001 is a much better example than 2010, surely? Gattaca fails because it is not really about future technology - it could be set in a current high school for all the setting matters. However, I must admit, there aren't many modern hard SF films that spring to mind, and the old ones just seem laughable. Greglocock 11:46, 27 February 2007 (UTC)

I disagree about Gattaca, but I'm not sure how much :) Science is a central part of the story, and that's an important criteria for Hard SF... -- Jon Dowland 20:38, 27 February 2007 (UTC)
I would say Contact and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind both qualify as good examples of hard SF films. (talk) 22:42, 28 July 2008 (UTC)

Hard SF or not?[edit]

- Q Original 05:47, 28 February 2007 (UTC)

Asimov was writing hard SF in the 1930s and Heinlein in the 1940s. John Campbell's influence on the field was so strong that the term "hard SF" didn't need to be invented until after he was done at Astounding. 2001 was just about the only thing Clarke wrote that wasn't hard SF. Star Trek in general is commonly cited as a contrast from hard SF. Avt tor 09:31, 28 February 2007 (UTC)

2001 was just about the only thing Clarke wrote that wasn't hard SF. You really read this book? Star Trek in general is commonly cited as a contrast from hard SF. General - yes, but, in the case of TMP, not. Q Original 14:56, 28 February 2007 (UTC)

Been a long time since I read 2001, but that's not the point as this is listed as the film. The movie ends in a mystical LSD trip. Warp drive is not hard SF. You can't add these films back in without either consensus or a reliable source (respected reviewer or academic) defining them as hard SF, because most people don't consider them such. Avt tor 16:58, 28 February 2007 (UTC)
  • In Poland Lem and Dukaj are considered as representative hard SF writers.
  • Oh really?? Most people don't consider "2001" as hard SF?
  • Warp drive is not hard SF. FTL existxisted in many hard SF novels (yes, i don't like this too). Q Original 17:12, 28 February 2007 (UTC)
  • Yes, really, most people don't consider 2001 as hard SF, because of its ending.
  • "Representative" has to be global. You can certainly refer to non-English authors, but you can't prove global notability with non-English sources.
  • FTL is pretty much the definition of what is not hard SF. It is possible for works to be considered by reviewers to be hard SF if they have other significant hard SF elements. No such assertion is made here with a reliable source. Avt tor 17:17, 28 February 2007 (UTC)

most people don't consider 2001 as hard SF Most people, or mister Avt tor?? Q Original 17:50, 28 February 2007 (UTC)

Now you're being insulting. As someone who works on Worldcon convention programming, I can speak with authority ion what community opinion is, in that I have spoken to a significant proportion of authors, reviewers, and other active fans. However, I'm not asserting personal knowledge on the actual article, I'm simply asking for a verifiable source here. Avt tor 18:44, 28 February 2007 (UTC)
And by the way, using anonymous sock puppets is bad form. Avt tor 18:45, 28 February 2007 (UTC)

Non-consensus edits[edit]

The following points have been established here by consensus in the past:

  • The list of authors is intended to be representative, not comprehensive. "Other" writers by definition are not representative.
  • Carl Sagan is not considered representative on the basis of a single work.
  • 2001 and Star Trek are not considered hard SF.

I add the following comment (already noted above)

  • Global notability cannot be established for the purpose of English Wikipedia using non-English sources.

I have made a last edit in support of these points, which I believe reflect past consensus. Consensus can change, so it's now up to other editors have to express opinions here. If consensus here wants to change "representative" to something broader, I won't argue that point. However, edits which repeatedly ignore verifiable sources and consensus could eventually be considered vandalism and could require a request for administrative intervention. Avt tor 17:36, 28 February 2007 (UTC)

  • You can certainly refer to non-English authors, but you can't prove global notability with non-English sources.,Global notability cannot be established for the purpose of English Wikipedia using non-English sources. Dude, you are nationalist or ethnocentrist?

Q Original 17:37, 28 February 2007 (UTC)

One could take offense at being accused of ethnocentrism (especially since I bought airline tickets for the Japanese Worldcon this morning!). I'm not going to debate, say, market share. However, I will simply point out that this is the English Wikipedia. Non-English sources are fine for many statements of fact, but for statements about global cultural importance, I think you have to use a source in the same language as Wikipedia. Avt tor 18:40, 28 February 2007 (UTC)
Ok. I create new last and least ;-) section: Other notable writers of hard science fiction. This is good consensus for you? Q Original 19:05, 28 February 2007 (UTC)

This is getting a bit theological[edit]

There are plenty of scholarly/critical explanations and explorations of what constitutes hard SF and which are the representative writers and texts, so rather than offering competing opinions/lists, why not just report on the range of explanations in the authorities? When I redrafted this article a couple of months back, I started with Clute & Nicholls and Wolfe, along with the Jessesword lexicography site and added a bit from the excellent intro to Hartwell & Cramer's Hard SF Renaissance anthology. I didn't have to agonize over which particular bit of SF extrapolation might disqualify a particular text or which writer might be considered beyond the pale by one faction or another.

A handful of random details/nits:

  • Godwin's "Cold Equations" is often mentioned as an exemplar of hard SF, though the rest of his work is generally not. (See his entry in Clute & Nicholls.)
  • The term "hard SF" was coined (see this article's second sentence) in 1957, in Campbell's own Astounding (though JWC was no longer the only important magazine editor in the field at this time).
  • Clarke's The City and the Stars/Against the Fall of Night isn't (aren't?) considered hard SF--the mystical strain runs through his whole career (see the ending of Childhood's End). I'd make a non-trivial wager that the space-travel sections of 2001 are considered "hard SF" by many or even most commentators, even if the trippy ending isn't.
  • The problem with a statement like "FTL is pretty much the definition of what is not hard SF" is that there is no such consensus in the body of commentary/criticism/scholarship. It might be the opinion of a particular subset of hard-SF readers, but I can find authorities that argue against just that kind of single-factor categorizing (see, for example, the "Hard SF" article in Clute & Nicholls).

Part of the problem here is terminological: if "hard SF" is a hard-edged genre or category, then genus-and-species or at least a properties list would be sufficient to define it. If, however, it is a decorum or taste or tendency or style, then the boundaries are very fuzzy and the shape of the thing depends on viewpoint. Hard SF exists, but since "hardness" is not a constant, both writers and readers can have a range of opinion on what it is. I'm seeing this kind of problem with a number of SF/F-related terms: there's a tendency to treat a quality (gothic, noir, spiritual) or a motif or a decorum rule (hard, soft, mundane) as a (sub)genre-defining property. This isn't the place for an essay on genre theory, but treating a quality term (e.g., "thriller") as a genre-definging term is generally going to make for problems. And really, all we need to do is report on what the authorities say, even if they don't always agree with each other. RLetson 18:23, 28 February 2007 (UTC)

Godwin's "Cold Equations" is often mentioned as an exemplar of hard SF, though the rest of his work is generally not.. Ok. I move this author to the new section: Other notable writers of hard science fiction. Q Original 19:07, 28 February 2007 (UTC)
Note that my main objection is to adding this new section, more than the individual names. Avt tor 20:17, 28 February 2007 (UTC)
And when someone came up with a source that quoted David Hartwell, I didn't argue the inclusion of Tom Godwin.
My specific argument is:
  • WP:V and WP:RS: We should use reliable sources to verify points of possible disagreement. WP:
  • WP:NOT: Wikipedia is not an indiscriminate collection of information, therefore
    • an "Other notable writers" section is out of scope of this article, as by being "other" they are not representative
    • cited sources must establish that writers listed here do not merely meet the criterion of "hard SF" but also of "representative"
You wrote "The problem with a statement like "FTL is pretty much the definition of what is not hard SF" is that there is no such consensus in the body of commentary/criticism/scholarship. It might be the opinion of a particular subset of hard-SF readers, but I can find authorities that argue against just that kind of single-factor categorizing (see, for example, the "Hard SF" article in Clute & Nicholls)." But your argument doesn't respond to the statement. I believe Clute's point is that a story which is lacking in one area might still be considered hard SF because of other aspects of the story. I agree with citing authorities. Star Trek is often cited as being not hard SF (as is even acknowledged by the other editor), so any claim that it is would have to be verified by an authoritative source. Avt tor 20:17, 28 February 2007 (UTC)

Should we have an "Other" section at all?[edit]

Okay, let's do this formally, with a vote about this section, with Oppose, Favor, and Neutral being the choices. The question to be resolved is: "Should this article contain a section in which non-representative writers of hard science fiction, such as Sagan, Lem, Godwin, etc., are listed? This section would be in addition to the section called Representative writers of hard science fiction." Please cast your vote, with your reasoning (if desired) below my own opening vote below.

Oppose, strongly, for the reasons that Avt tor gives above, primarily that Wikipedia should not be a dumping ground for every bit of available information but should exercise some judgment and discernment about what is put into each article. Hayford Peirce 20:45, 28 February 2007 (UTC)

Oppose, pretty much along the lines of Avt tor and Hayford. If the information is useful enough (e.g., to use something like "Cold Equations" as a singleton example), then it can be worked into the body of the article. After all, if the writers are not representative, why list them? RLetson 21:35, 28 February 2007 (UTC)

That seems reasonable, I haven't read any other Godwin that I can rememebr, if it is his only hard SF story then put it in the main text. I found the essay claiming it wasn't Hard SF interesting but basically absurd. Aslo Lem's output generally is not Hard SF so he's a very bad example. Crichton is generally a typical Hard SF writer. 2001 is hard SF right through until he gets to the hotel at the end of the universe. I cannot believe you would exclude it on that ground, as all the rest is done so realsitically. Greglocock 23:47, 28 February 2007 (UTC)
It isn't 100% clear as to whether you Oppose, Favor, or are Neutral about the proposal. Would you please insert one of these words in front of your comments. Thanks! Hayford Peirce 02:15, 1 March 2007 (UTC)
Lem's output generally is not Hard SF No. Maybe most of his books publicated in USA is not Hard SF, but most of his all books are good Hard SF. Q Original 01:27, 1 March 2007 (UTC)
It isn't 100% clear as to whether you Oppose, Favor, or are Neutral about the proposal. Would you please insert one of these words in front of your comments. Thanks! Hayford Peirce 02:15, 1 March 2007 (UTC)

Oppose - I've simply distilled arguments made on this topic by previous editors. Avt tor 03:06, 1 March 2007 (UTC)

Oppose Greglocock 05:44, 1 March 2007 (UTC)

Oppose This will just cruft up the article. There is no right answer for many authors as to whether they are Hard SF or not. -- Jon Dowland 11:27, 12 March 2007 (UTC)

The issue has moved to a category now[edit]

Hi, I just noticed that the same sort of debate has been going on here as I recently raised on Category talk:Hard science fiction. I suspect there may be no simple way to determine whether something can be categorized as "hard" or not, which might mean we should delete the category or maybe name it something else. Anyone want to give some input over there? Bryan Derksen 05:24, 13 March 2007 (UTC)

See my comments over on that comment page--short version: it's a real term, and deleting the article would be a bad idea. RLetson 03:22, 14 March 2007 (UTC)

Just an update: the category was deleted. The consensus was that the criteria for inclusion were ill-defined. -- Jon Dowland 12:05, 28 March 2007 (UTC)

Movie "Contact"?[edit]

In my opinion movie (not novel) "Contact" is not Hard SF (sequences with "ghost of Ellie's father"). BTW: it is very poor movie... -- Q Original 17:45, 15 March 2007 (UTC)

In the book, the 'ghost' is explained as the creation of the alien intelligence. I forget if this is explained in the movie. I agree that the movie is not as good as the book. That said, even the book is at the edge of hard science fiction. Sagan thought everything through, but some of the tech is pushing it. Michaelbusch 18:35, 15 March 2007 (UTC)
The same applies to several of the authors cited on the page, so perhaps the book should be added but the movie left out. Michaelbusch 22:48, 15 March 2007 (UTC)
A movie being poor isn't good enough to exclude it from being classified as Hard SF. Sure, it didn't stick to the novel, and it probably pushed more scientific boundaries than the book, but even Gattaca can't claim to be completely scientifically accurate and precise. For the most part, just playing with genetics still has an element of chance that the traits one is engineering will actually be expressed, but that's not the message Gattaca puts forth. While the overall idea is a good one, some of the specifics don't exactly match up with reality, but I (and obviously others) still consider it Hard SF despite this. Why must we hold Contact to a higher standard? -Rhorn 23:27, 15 March 2007 (UTC)

In the book - yes, but in the movie - no. -- Q Original 18:42, 15 March 2007 (UTC)

The 'ghost' or whatever it is explains that it's not her actual father, in the movie. He doesn't explicitly state what he is but says he took a form from her memory. Someguy1221 21:09, 15 March 2007 (UTC)
"Contact" novel should be mentioned as HardSF, but not "Contact" movie" - Rollof1 (talk) 20:44, 8 December 2007 (UTC)

General question[edit]

Something that has been discussed on the category page, and should also be discussed here, is just how hard hard science fiction is. Do we limit ourselves to Clement and Asimov, where everything is worked out with logical precision, or do we extend it to include Forward's technological speculations and Sagan's (and the movie's) musings on alien intelligence? We need some quantifiable boundary. I realize that we are drawing lines in a multi-dimensional space, but still, we need to define the limits of the genre. So, where are they? Michaelbusch 00:04, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

I don't think we do need to draw the lines. The purpose of this article should be to document "Hard Science Fiction", which is the fact that there are no hard lines. -- Jon Dowland 11:23, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

We draw lines when we decide what is hard science fiction and what is not. This is problematic when it comes to NPOV, but seems necessary. Hard science fiction is not 'the fact that there are no hard lines', but I wasn't discussing that anyway. Michaelbusch 16:48, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

A word of advice. If people start getting too religious about definitions then your page will either be deleted permananently, or edited into meaninglessness, or both. So I strongly urge everybody to get a grip. It is obvious that there is no hard and fast line that separates hard from not-hard SF, and there is no authoritative definition (I think). The hardline removal of slightly un-hard SF films from the list seems to me to be a manifestaton of that problem. Having said all that, the fundamental question is, is it hard SF if it deviates even slightly from the 'known' laws of physics? Well that assumes that everyone even agrees on those laws. They don't. Therefore even that absolutist view is untenable.
The solution we were recommended was that if an authoritative accessible source describes a thing as being a member of the category, then it goes in, with a reference. That means, if you can't find an authoritative reference to Gattaca as hard SF, it gets kicked out. If you can find a reference to Contact as a hard SF film, it goes in. Fanzines, blogs and personal sites and so on would not qualify as references. Greglocock 23:28, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

This seems like a good place to start. Then we need sources, a lot of sources, because almost all of the current article isn't cited. Michaelbusch 23:38, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

Clarification: we need sources for the examples given. Michaelbusch 18:25, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

There are already sources for most of the central assertions of the first two paragraphs of the article--including the proposition that "hard SF" is not part of a rigorous taxonomy of SF. So I would caution against the tendency (quite strong in this topic area) to try to establish impermeable boundaries, as expressed by binary in-or-out lists or pseudo-botanical definitions. The term does not indicate a genre--it is a decorum term, a descriptor of texts that contain attributes that some writers and readers prefer, and the details of those attributes are not accepted even by all those who use the term. It is much more useful to think of hard SF as being part of a continuum or axis, or as a set with an agreed-upon center and a fuzzy periphery. Even the search for "authoritative sources" that include or exclude novel X or story Y will encounter disagreements among authorities, so we can wind up with a duelling-sources proxy war. Nearly all of this can be avoided by recognizing the nature of the term under consideration and settling for a brief list of representative works that indicate the range of texts that can be called "hard SF," preferably with some indication of why/how they might qualify for the label. RLetson 18:05, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

Laundry list, again[edit]

It's probably time to finally get the laundry list of "representative" writers and works under control. As Michaelbusch points out above, most of the entries are unsourced, and this situation makes for a straggly collection of everybody's personal favorite examples and endless additions, deletions, and arguments about who/what belongs on the list. Allow me to suggest the obvious solution: settle on a number of entries (it's a representative, not an exhaustive list) and check the candidates against a finite set of authorities--say, the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, canonical anthologies (the Hartwell & Cramer volumes might be a place to start), and professional critical/commentary works (e.g., the Westfahl book). (I have a strong bias in favor of print sources, which are more likely to be vetted by professionals than are websites, which often represent the opinions of [often smart and articulate] amateurs.) We can keep disagreements to a minimum by specifying that any candidate be identified in two sources, or by establishing a scoring system that indicates how strong the authorities' consensus is. This seems to me to satisfy Wiki criteria for reliable sourcing in this somewhat subjective area--and puts the selection criteria out where we can all talk about them. Any takers? RLetson 20:48, 27 March 2007 (UTC)

One cause of confusion is that the laundry list is of authors, not specific stories. I see no particular point in this, since it then leads to a subjective decision as to how much soft sf is allowed in a given author's output before she gets kicked off the list. If instead we were to list representative stories then the selection process is simplified. We then no longer need to care that say Crichton is not on the list, since we can simply put the spectacularly dull Andromeda Strain on the list and have done with it. Greglocock 00:32, 28 March 2007 (UTC)

I agree, and think we should remove the 'list' altogether and add "Representative writers and works" as a section in paragraph form. Perhaps something like the following:

There are a few authors, notably XXX, YYY and ZZZ, whose output is considered to be wholly or mostly hard science fiction. Other authors whose output includes some hard science fiction also produce other science fiction works. Some noteworthy contributions to the field include AAA by MMM, BBB by NNN and CCC by OOO.

I think the mere presence of a list format of presentation encourages the reader to focus on who is not on the list as much as who is on it, so is better removed. As suggested, the selection of XXX, YYY, ZZZ, AAA/MMM, BBB/NNN and CCC/OOO should be drawn from an authoritative citable source, so although I have some ideas (as doubtless everybody has) as to who they might be I've resisted the temptation to speculate yet. Mooncow 16:02, 1 April 2007 (UTC)

Kheper quote[edit]

I have again removed the quote. Please do not add it back without consensus. The problem with the quote is that Kheper is not a notable source (see also Wikipedia:I wouldn't know him from a hole in the ground). We can't include everything anyone has said on hard SF. Michaelbusch 02:47, 28 March 2007 (UTC)

I am well aware of your little tricks. (cur) (last) 02:46, 28 March 2007 Michaelbusch (Talk | contribs) (rv see talk.) (cur) (last) 02:43, 28 March 2007 Greglocock (Talk | contribs) (you asked for a cite. the relevance is obvious, as it defines the limit of what the article is about.) (cur) (last) 00:39, 28 March 2007 Michaelbusch (Talk | contribs) (that isn't the problem: why is this quote relevant to the article?) (cur) (last) 00:18, 28 March 2007 Greglocock (Talk | contribs) (←Undid revision 118331217 by Michaelbusch (talk) added ref to ref that already existed) (cur) (last) 19:30, 27 March 2007 Michaelbusch (Talk | contribs) (rv. please provide context for adding this quote, and citation) (cur) (last) 02:29, 27 March 2007 Greglocock (Talk | contribs) (Kheper quote)

Deleting it, and then Asking for a cite, and then deleting it and then deleting it again looks far more like an attempt to suppress a viewpoint than it does to establish a consensus.

To expand: one of the main problems with this article is that various editors seem to assume that Hard SF=Good SF, and the rest =skiffy. Therefore, to be mentioned on this page is the test of 'good' SF. The quote from Kheper empahsises the point that it is perfectly possible to write good soft SF, and hence a story does not need to be mentioned on this page to qualify as good SF.

So, let's go for a vote, Greglocock 03:35, 28 March 2007 (UTC)

I've already voted, but the idea at issue here is an interesting and useful one, and I'd make a modest wager that it (or one very like it) can be found somewhere in the published criticism/commentary/scholarship--an alternate source for this sentiment would render the vote below moot. Gentlemen, retire to your libraries and come out citing. RLetson 04:06, 28 March 2007 (UTC)

Attempt to establish consensus[edit]

does the sentence

"An important observation by Kheper (while discussing Dune) is : "... this hard to soft science rating has absolutely nothing to do with quality of the work in question. " [[1]]"

Belong in this article?

  • Yes Greglocock 03:35, 28 March 2007 (UTC)
  • No Who is Kheper and why is this notable? Michaelbusch 03:47, 28 March 2007 (UTC)
  • No I can't see how it is relevant. (Emperor 03:53, 28 March 2007 (UTC))
  • No (somewhat reluctantly)--The Kheper site has lots of intelligent observations and well-worked-out opinions, but it doesn't carry the kind of weight that a Wiki-style reliable source should. That's one reason I suggested the kinds of authorities I did above. On a different topic (since I'm typing here), I think Greglocock's suggestion about the contents of the list is a good one: it's the works that allow us to map the hard-SF space, not the writers (who produce in all directions, sometimes simultaneously). Then one might include "The Cold Equations" without having to characterize Tom Godwin as a "representative hard-SF writer." And again, we should keep it short and rooted in the critical/scholarly consensus. RLetson 04:00, 28 March 2007 (UTC)
  • No, agreeing with RLetson above -- but keep the Kheper article as an external link. Pete Tillman 22:31, 28 March 2007 (UTC)

Confusing reference[edit]

I'm confused by reference #4, Hard science fiction:

^ a b c Ward, Cynthia. The Hard SF Renaissance: Books: David G. Hartwell, Kathryn Cramer. Retrieved on 2006-11-07.

-- which simply leads to the Amazon sales page for this (very good) book. ??

And who is "Cynthia Ward"?

Cheers, Pete Tillman 22:41, 28 March 2007 (UTC)

As I figured it out, the ref is meant to serve as justification for the writers being on the list (inclusion in a hard-SF anthology edited by a couple of authoritative folk being the point). Don't know why whoever set up the ref chose to point to the Amazon site, except that it's a web-accessible contents list. Cynthia Ward's "review" mentions a number or writers. One more example of preferring on-line sources to more conventional (and often more reliable) print sources. RLetson 01:00, 29 March 2007 (UTC)

Toward a body of sources[edit]

The Cynthia Ward/Amazon issue got me to thinking about reliable on-line sources of bibliographic data. For the contents of any given anthology or collection, a Google search on the title plus "contents" will probably include a hit for the Locus magazine bibliographies. When I entered Hard SF Renaissance this way, I got Another fairly authoritative historical anthology devoted to hard SF is The Ascent of Wonder, ed. David G. Hartwell & Kathryn Cramer (Tor 0-312-85062-X, 1994), which has three introductions (Cramer, Hartwell, and Greg Benford). Contents at For academic takes on the topic, one might look at a special issue of Science-Fiction Studies from 1993 ( with essays by Gary Westfahl and John J. Pierce and an extensive bibliography of essays on the nature and development of hard SF. (The print incarnation also has an essay by Greg Benford.) The truth, as someone said, is out there. RLetson 18:14, 29 March 2007 (UTC)

Add discussion of why non-hard SF sometimes gets called hard?[edit]

I have occasionally seen books (such as Donaldson's Gap series) described as hard SF despite the science in them being utterly squishy. This appears to happen because actual hard SF tends to have certain other tropes (a tendency to grittiness and ordinary people as protagonists, rather than the flashiness and Buck Rogers-type heroes of space opera), and a book with those tropes thus "looks like" hard SF, even if the science is squishy.

Plus, there's the tendency, mentioned above repeatedly, for people to equate good SF with hard SF.

Should there be some discussion of these issues in the article? A look at the sorts of SF that sometimes gets called hard SF, even when it's not?

The endless, quasi-theological arguments about the hardness index of various stories, or the point at which science goes squishy, or what constitutes "real" hard SF are part of the readership's discussions. But the while the fact of such discussions can be sourced and included, it's probably beyond the scope of this kind of article to go into detail about them--let alone to give in to the temptation to reproduce them here. Look at the article's history to see what happens when that door is opened--it's a demonstration of how subjective the whole notion is, how much people get invested in their own theories, and how easily discussion devolves into wrangling. I'd advise anyone addressing this topic to do so with a light touch and utter reliance on sources rather than personal observations. (BTW, it might be useful to sign comments, if only so I don't have to address my response to "Hey, you.") RLetson 00:59, 5 May 2007 (UTC)

Edit in need of refinement[edit]

I cut the sentence below from the first paragraph of the article because it 1) reads like a caboose rather than an integral part of the paragraph, and 2) could use a source. The passive-voice construction immediately poses the question "taken to mean by whom?" It's a reasonable point to include in the article, but I'd invite the editor to provide a reference and maybe rethink where it might be integrated. (I'd look at the second paragraph myself.)

Hard Science Fiction is also often taken to mean science fiction that could theoretically happen, usually at some point in the future- in the sense that the technology or events it features do not violate known physical laws.

RLetson 18:46, 3 June 2007 (UTC)

Asimov is not a hard sci-fi writer![edit]

I really think Isaac Asimov should NOT be considered a hard scifi writer. I've read most of his books, and not only does he leave all of the magical technologies completely unexplained ("positronic" brains, psychohistory, etc.), but many of his books also feature many soft-scifi-like things like telepathy, and as it is noted on Asimov's own article, he prefers to develop the story through dialoque and character interaction, which is usually considered a sign of soft scifi. --- Navelfluffman, July 15. 2007

However, if you accept the idea Asimov puts forward as a premise - for example, robots with positronic brains - the rest of the story follows more or less realistically from that idea. So for Asimov's works it's not that the premise is completely in line with contemporary scientific understanding that makes it hard SF, it's that the "rubber science" is dealt with as though it were part of that real scientific understanding. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:56, 28 July 2008 (UTC)
I agree completely with Navelfluffman, who said it really well, at least concerning Asimov's Foundation and Robot novels, which stressed social issues rather than hard science. Foundation consists of politics and war set in the distant future, which happens to have the usual soft scifi technologies like faster than light travel and artificial gravity. I agree that it's nice when an author's story is self-consistent given his technological premises, but when so little time is spent on science, it fails to qualify as hard science. It certainly doesn't fit the description set forth in the first sentence of this article, "emphasis on scientific accuracy or technical detail or both". SureJohn (talk) 15:54, 17 January 2016 (UTC)

An editorial challenge[edit]

The editor signing himself Jeandré du Toit has tagged the article as in need of references for both the copy and the author/example lists. While I agree that the lists are a problem (too long, no criteria for inclusion), I'm not sure how much more annotating the points in the article proper need. I know that just about every substantive point made can be backed up by an authority, but I wonder whether it's necessary to supply a footnote for every assertion (for example, that engineering isn't a science in the proper sense). I would propose adding a multi-source note to the first sentence, citing the relevant entries/passages in Clute & Nicholls, Wolfe, Hartwell & Cramer, and so on, to supplement the Jessesword/OED material. My take on the term (that it does not indicate a "genre" but a range of possibilities; that it is not a single, universally-agreed-upon quality) derives from those sources, and while it would be tiresome to winkle out every bit of evidence for that position (and to supply sources for the sense of "genre" I rely on), it could be done. The result would be rather cumbersome, though it might be necessary to forestall future tagging by editors unfamiliar with the field.

As for the various lists--I still think they need a complete overhaul, starting with an agreement about which categories are useful, how many examples constitute a reasonable sample of each, and what criteria apply to candidates. Otherwise the laundry lists grown indefinitely and indefensibly. RLetson 04:47, 22 August 2007 (UTC)

Well, as I've said before, a lot of the fanboy edits are because people assume that Hard SF is synonymous with good SF, which it isn't, but apparently the quote I found expressing that idea didn't meet with the approval of the Thought Police. I've also suggested before that a list of Hard SF authors is daft, few wrote only Hard SF for their entire career. Why not just have a list of Hard SF stories? For instance, Greg Bear wrote an SF ghost story. Does that exclude him from the list? If so the list is absurd. Finally, there seem to be some self appointed 'experts' here who have very fixed ideas about the films that qualify as Hard SF. Apparently anything more interesting than a present day police procedural is too wacky to be hard SF. Greglocock 06:04, 22 August 2007 (UTC)
There is almost no one who wrote only hard sf for their whole careers. The definition, whether you do it by stories or by author is highly variable based on how much you insist on the hard sf "attitude" and other such defining characteristics. I'm using a fairly light hand on this material because I wrote or co-wrote a lot of the primary source material. David Hartwell & I have our position. Gregory Benford mostly agrees with us, but with some important differences. Brian Stableford radically disagrees, in essays we published in The New York Review of Science Fiction, etc. Eric Raymond buys many of our arguments, but sees the politics of hard sf from a very different perspective. There has been fairly vigorous discussion since the mid-90s about what constitutes hard sf, most of which is not referenced here. Whether it be list of authors, or stories, or movies, I don't think any lists are going to make up from this lack.
I can get you a more exact list or references, but I'd get myself written up on the WP Conflict of interest Noticeboard if I simply solve this myself. And some of this is not available on the web, so it would need to be addressed by someone with access to an appropriate reference collection. --Pleasantville 20:45, 22 August 2007 (UTC) aka Kathryn Cramer

Added a few references and a "Further Reading" item. Will rummage around for more. RLetson 22:32, 23 August 2007 (UTC)

Deleted passage: fixable problems[edit]

I removed a recently-added passage because it was badly integrated and included a big chunk of OR-type commentary. Here's the passage, in case the original anonymous editor (or anyone else) would like to take a whack at fixing it.

It is also debatable whether "hardness" is a useful definition at all. To quote from Cramers book (see "Further Reading", below):
In 1999, long-time Analog editor Stanley Schmidt, heir to John W. Campbell's job, remarked: 'Lately I've been saying I'd like the term 'Hard SF' to go away. Too many people use it to mean something much narrower than what I mean by it . . . science fiction is simply fiction in which some element of speculation plays such an essential and integral role that it can't be removed without making the story collapse, and in which the author has made a reasonable effort to make the speculative element as plausible as possible. Anything that doesn't meet those requirements is not science fiction at all, as far as I'm concerned, so there's no need for a separate term like 'Hard SF' to distinguish it from 'other' kinds of sf.'
Books such as Joe Haldeman's Forever War are undoubtedly "hard", but the most important aspect of the story is the social, political and human setting that is depicted. To classify such a book as "hard" on the basis of it's rigor is to reduce the importance of all other aspects of the story. If the broader definition of "hardness" relating to the types of science (hard sciences vs. soft sciences) is taken, then Forever War would be both "hard" and "soft". Neither definition of "hardness" seems particularly useful or informative.
One possible definition of the "hardness" of a science fiction novel is a measure of how much effort the author puts into technological detail at the expense of character development and other nuances.

While the quotation from Kathryn Cramer's essay (not book) is welcome, it doesn't strike me as being good research practice to just grab the on-line snippet without checking its context in the whole piece. And if the paragraph on Forever War is not OR, it needs a source. The last, short paragraph is tacked on rather than worked into the whole--and probably could use a source to prevent it getting an OR tag. (BTW, I wasn't signed in when I did the deletion, but it was indeed done by the undersigned.) RLetson 17:23, 24 August 2007 (UTC)

Comments from author of the above:

Having now actually read the wikipedia rules, I now agree with the deletion. My last paragraph was OR, the second should be referenced (I'm pretty sure I have read similar comment, but god knows where) and the first needs more complete discussion.

I do think some comment on the debatable value of the concept of hard sf is important. Would love to see someone do a more Rigorous treatment than mine!

I think the passage is in my Cambridge Companion essay. --Pleasantville (talk) aka Kathryn Cramer 12:00, 24 June 2009 (UTC)

Sunshine (2007 film)[edit]

People keep adding this film to the list of examples. They do not seem to understand just how bad the film is. It is worse that The Core, The Day After Tomorrow, Deep Impact, and Armageddon. Do I really need to debunk it? The critics already did that (see the article). Michaelbusch 19:02, 27 September 2007 (UTC)

Is this article named Good Science Fiction? No, it is named Hard Science Fiction. According to the introduction to the article, hard science fiction is characterized by an empashis on scientific or technical detail, or on scientific accuracy, or on both. Sunshine was made with the help of scientist advisers, including NASA employees and astrophysicists to keep the scientific aspects of the movie as realistic as they could. It doesn't matter if it is 100% correct in its scientific details, what it matters is that it tries to be as realistic as it can. 2001 also had scientific mistakes, but the movie TRIED to be accurate. So, yes, it IS an example of hard science fiction, regardless if you think the movie is bad or not. Stop being a child and erasing this information. --> George Pedrosa —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:00, 27 September 2007 (UTC)

No, it does not try to as realistic as it can: it is disjoint from reality by ten orders of magnitude (approximately). It is complete bollocks. The examples above also had science consultants. So did Babylon 5. But that doesn't make them hard SF. Michaelbusch 22:24, 27 September 2007 (UTC)

Now, instead of complaining that the movie is bad (as if that would make any difference) you're complaining that it's not scientific accurate. Look, any movie that sets itself to be realistic science fiction will eventually make some scientific mistakes... the thing is, the movie was made with scientific consultants and most aspects of the technology that don't already exist today are explained in the script. Hard science fiction is characterized by empashis on scientific or technical detail, OR on scientific accuracy. It doesn't matter if YOU think the movie makes mistakes. If Isaac Asimov and William Gibson's work are considered hard science fiction, than there is no reason that this movie shouldn't. ---> George Pedrosa 23:06, 27 September 2007 (UTC)
I've added sources to prove that this movie is hard sci-fi. Unless you claim to have more credibility than a Pulitzer prize winning writer (which I wouldn't be surprised), I believe this discussion is over. ---> George Pedrosa 23:13, 27 September 2007 (UTC)

Depends on the writer. If we're talking about astronomy and physics, and the author isn't a scientist, then I think I have some small amount of credibility. But this is not a matter of opinion: the movie violates all the laws of physics without justifying it. Asimov is at least open about the rules he is bending. Michaelbusch 23:39, 27 September 2007 (UTC)

That's YOUR opinion (POV). Unless you put here a source that says what you are saying, your opinion is absolutely IRRELEVANT. Just the fact that there are many sites that refer to Sunshine as a hard science fiction film prove that this movie should be in this category, wether or not there are people who disagree (there are ALWAYS people who disagree). Don't worry, I will just keep adding this information back here. ---> George Pedrosa 23:52, 27 September 2007 (UTC)

Agreed. Ebert is a noted cultural writer. I think he is wrong, in this case, but that is not how wiki works. The quote says he thinks it is hard SF. So, if you want to kick it off the list then you have to find an equally citable source saying it isn't Hard SF. Greglocock 00:50, 28 September 2007 (UTC)
Many thanks for the sources George, that's real progress, but
  • Ebert puts hard in scare quotes, sources imdb and writes about a Q-balls - I don't remember this being in the movie.
  • Rocchi's 'hard' is again put in scare quotes, and that part of the question seems to be ignored by Boyle.
  • Berardinelli comes closest. He writes about 'the absence of real "science" in "science fiction."', but that isn't quite the same as the current definition used by this article which contrasts hard sf with soft sf where "the science is incorrect or made-up". Berardinelli never uses the term hard science fiction, using "Die-hard science fiction buffs" and "Hard-core science fiction fans" instead. Also does this qualify as a reliable, notable published secondary source, and not just something someone wrote on his website?
Can you provide clear cites where they don't put hard in square quotes, maybe from scientists like Phil Plait or Tom Rogers? Also, gravity? -- Jeandré, 2007-09-28t15:53z
The Q-Ball is not explained in the movie, but it's the screenplay's original reason for the dying sun. So the dying Sun IS theoretically possible, even if it's not explained in the movie. The gravity on the ship is also explained in the script, but the scene was cut from the movie. Hard science fiction and soft science fiction do not constitute a binary classification, they just represent a position on a scale of "softer" to "harder". Sunshine is definitely not soft, since it tries as hard as it can to stick to scientific facts, even going so far as changing the original screenplay to adapt to the ideas of the researchers that helped the movie crew. So it is closest to being "hard" than "soft".
The square quotes don't mean that they don't believe the movie is hard science fiction. Ebert goes on and on about how the movie uses an actual existing theory (that of the Q-Ball) to explain the plot, and that he "bought" it. James Berardinelli (who is a respected online critic) also says the movie goes as far as it can to be scientific plausible, even contrasting it with works like Star Wars, Star Trek, and Battlestar Galactica, which are "soft"... the quotes are there probably because HARD science fiction is not a term most readers are used to...
I don't think there are many scientists who dedicate their time to analysing whether or not movies are hard science fiction. I'll try to find these types of sources, but I will probably not find them...
Also... doesn't anyone think A Scanner Darkly (the movie by Richard Linklater) should be in this list? Thanks for the comments. ---> George Pedrosa 16:17, 28 September 2007 (UTC)

The Sunshine (2007 film) article cites three critics noting the lack of scientific plausibility, writing in The Times, The Guardian, and New Scientist. The 'theory' in the movie is complete BS: if you want to shut down the Sun it takes a million years and if you want to restart it it takes just as long. If you want a scientist who analyzes movies for scientific validity, check out Phil Plaits 'Bad Astronomy' page: | here. He doesn't yet have a page on Sunshine, but he probably will add one. Michaelbusch 18:43, 28 September 2007 (UTC)

Does badastronomy have a reputation for establishing whether SF films are hard or not? If not then his opinion as to the hardness of a movie is not citeable. Greglocock 09:56, 29 September 2007 (UTC)
Q-balls and gravity: if the shooting script is closer to being hard SF, but the film is not, then the film is not hard SF.
No one is denying that the movie Sunshine is a movie - we don't need film critics to tell us its a movie. What is at issue is whether it's hard SF, hard SF being SF "characterized by an emphasis on scientific or technical detail, or on scientific accuracy" and where the science is not incorrect. So, lets look at what scientists say about the technical detail, scientific accuracy, and if the science is correct:
  • Astronomy researcher Chris Lintott says of the movie "From a scientist's point of view, it's complete rubbish."[2].
  • In NewScientistSpace Marcus Chown writes "Forget the fact that as the sun burns out, it will actually get hotter. Forget that the sun is powered by the equivalent of 4 billion H-bombs exploding every second, which gives you a feel for what would be needed to replace its heat source if it were failing. Forget that a replacement nuclear power supply would have to be delivered to the core of the sun, not the surface, and even then it would take about 30,000 years for the heat to ..."[3]
  • Anjana Ahuja who has a background in solar physics writes "while claiming scientific accuracy, it is a gauntlet I pick up with gusto. My verdict? Danny Boyle could have achieved the same level of scientific fidelity in Sunshine by giving a calculator to a schoolboy."[4]
I'm removing it for the 4th time: the sources arguing for it being hard SF is dicey, the sources against is convincing. -- Jeandré, 2007-09-30t17:47z
So we're going to remove all works where the science is wrong? Jules Verne? Sorry, citing a scientist's opinion of the science is fine, if they have a reputation for establishing the Hardness of SF. I don't think these people do, so they are not reliable sources. Sorry about that. Now to be honest neither does Ebert, but he is a lot closer to the matter (culture) than the scientists are, and he uses teh phrase itself. What you need is a recognised authority on SF saying it is not Hard SF. My bet - you won't find one, for political reasons. Greglocock 21:20, 30 September 2007 (UTC)

For God's sake! The science doesn't have to be 100% correct! Is 2001 - A Space Odissey completely scientific? What about that crazy trip in the end? Or the lack of gravity in the moon? Contact has a ghost (which is explained in the book, but not in the movie). Where's the scientific accuracy in that? Is Isaac Asimov 100% completely correct from a scientific point of view? A work doesn't have to be completely accurate to be hard sci-fi. As the introduction says, it just needs to have empashis on technical detail or scientific accuracy, and this movie has. I don't care about anyone's opinion here, either you find a reliable source saying this movie isn't hard sci-fi (and there are plenty of reliable sources saying IT IS) or you just accept the fact that this movie IS hard sci-fi, even though you don't like the movie. The first guy that came here to remove the movie from this category said he was doing it because the movie was bad!

Either a science fiction work is soft or is hard. If it doesn't give a shit about realism, it's soft. If it TRIES as hard as it can to be accurate, and succeedes most of the time, it's hard sci-fi. ---> George Pedrosa 01:11, 1 October 2007 (UTC)

And Sunshine doesn't care about realism or they wouldn't turn off the Sun or claim it can be restarted, arbitrarily have artificial gravity, or do any of many of the things in the film. Michaelbusch 04:08, 1 October 2007 (UTC)

For a reasonable and nuanced response to the film by a recognized SF critic, see Mark Kelly's July 3, 2007 entry on the Locus blog, "Muted Sunshine" [[5]]. (Mark was a longtime reviewer for Locus and is an engineer at a major aerospace corp.) The problem I see with this discussion is that an inordinate amount of energy is being expended on whether a single film is "really" hard SF and thus belongs on the blessed list--and it has quickly come to occupy those areas of personal taste and competing models that guarantee that there will be no consensus. I suspect that a survey of reviews by SF-savvy critics (mainstream critics are unlikely to pay much attention to the hard-soft spectrum) will yield mixed results rather than a clear aye/nay. If the hard/soft status of Sunshine were a crucial matter, it might be worth a paragraph examining why there is divided opinion, in what sense it is "hard," how Hollywood forces compromises in the creation of literary-style hard SF, and so on. But I don't think those topics are crucial to this entry. A better use of our collective effort might be to completely rework those miserable lists, starting with a recognition that it is examples of works, not writers, that will help to show the range of hard SF texts/films/artifacts. RLetson 04:31, 1 October 2007 (UTC)

Representative WORKS--a start[edit]

OK, gang, it's time to rework those bleeping lists, starting with the the "Representative writers," which, I agree with Greglocock, should be of works rather than writers. I propose that we 1) dump the writers list, 2) substitute a strictly limited list (10? 15?) of representative or illustrative books and stories, 3) include only items that some authority (scholar, critic, editor) has identified as "hard SF," 4) give highest priority for inclusion to those works that can show, say, two or three or more "nominations." I'll start things off with a very sketchy offering, checked only against the contents and introductory essays of the two Hartwell-Cramer anthologies (Ascent of Wonder and Hard SF Renaissance) that directly address the topic. It would be nice to have an historical spread (thus Wells on my items-in-waiting list--and probably some Jack Williamson should be as well--Seetee Shock?).

Authorities: AW=Ascent of Wonder; HSFR=Hard SF Renaissance

  • Poul Anderson, "Kyrie" AW
  • James Blish, "Surface Tension" AW
  • Hal Clement, Mission of Gravity AW intro
  • Tom Godwin, "The Cold Equations" AW intro
  • Nancy Kress, Beggars in Spain HSFR
  • Geoffrey A. Landis, "A Walk in the Sun" HSFR
  • Larry Niven, "The Hole Man," AW; "Inconstant Moon" AW intro
  • Frederik Pohl, "Day Million" AW intro
  • Vernor Vinge, "Fast Times at Fairmont High" HSFR

Items I think should have some authority naming them somewhere:

  • John Barnes, Orbital Resonance
  • Gregory Benford, Timescape
  • Joe Haldeman, The Forever War
  • Robert A. Heinlein, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, Farmer in the Sky
  • Damon Knight, "Rule Golden"
  • Kin Stanley Robinson, Antarctica
  • Allen Steele, Orbital Decay; Clarke County, Space; Lunar Descent
  • H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds

And that's just a start. A protocol like this should limit sprawl and minimize arguments over who to include, who's harder than whom, and the rest of those entertaining but unproductive activities. (The same process ought to be applied to the other media as well, hint, hint.) RLetson 03:02, 7 October 2007 (UTC)

Agreed on all points. I don't have a copy but could Gary Westfahl's Cosmic engineers: a study of hard science fiction be mined for more? If that book's good enough, then anything described as hard in it, and also in HSFR or AW could go into the list. -- Jeandré, 2007-10-07t17:41z

I agree that it ought to be a list of works rather than authors, but sprawl will need to be combatted anyway. (The entry Space opera, which uses this system, has a much worse sprawl problem which I have given up on trying to combat.) --Pleasantville 19:13, 7 October 2007 (UTC)

The first part of this list is a much better list than the examples originally listed in the article. (Red Mars as hard science fiction? Hard-sf readers with any knowledge of science have to grit their teeth at the science errors in it), and it cites references, so I've replaced the existing list with this list. I'll quibble about the second part of the list-- War of the Worlds? Great story-- still readable over a century later, which of us are likely to have that honor?-- but not hard sf. "Rule Golden"? (talk) 18:21, 28 January 2008 (UTC)

Middle ground between hard science fiction and soft science fiction?[edit]

Certainly there has to be a middle ground between hard science fiction and soft science fiction. Something needs to be written on that. Gringo300 07:16, 9 October 2007 (UTC)

It's called science fiction.
But seriously, the term "soft science fiction" is hardly ever used. --Pleasantville 17:10, 9 October 2007 (UTC)
There is no binary divide, no bright-line distinction between hard SF and whatever its opposite would be, despite the efforts of some commentators to establish precise hardness metrics (for example, the Kheper "Hard-Soft Sci Fi Gradational Scale"). And I would agree with Pleasantville that one does not much see the phrase "soft science fiction" any more, except in discussions of what "hard science fiction" might be. RLetson 18:13, 9 October 2007 (UTC)
The more I think about it, the less I can see there being a middle ground. The more time goes by, the more I realize that a huge proportion of science fiction isn't based on real science at all. Gringo300 (talk) 02:36, 3 May 2010 (UTC)

Heinlein hard enough? (And is it time to dump the writers list?)[edit]

Editor Michaelbusch removed Heinlein from the list of representative writers because RAH "strays away from plausibility." First, this is not a place to air our personal takes on which writers produce "real" hard SF, but to indicate which ones are considered to be writers of hard SF by reliable authorities. A casual Google search on "Heinlein" and "hard science fiction" (let alone examination of print sources) will produce enough such characterizations to justify RAH's inclusion. To cite a pair of adjacent Google hits, John Varley calls Heinlein "the Shakespeare of hard science fiction" (; and Dwayne Day writes, "Heinlein’s early hard science fiction stories, as typified by Destination Moon, were remarkably technically accurate" (; and so on.

The real problem, of course, is the list itself. As suggested here before, situations such as this would be reduced to a minimum by replacing the list of representative writers with one of representative works. The simple protocol of requiring N citations from reliable authorities (reference and critical works, anthologies, and so on) would make compilation a relatively simple job. Shall we proceed, or does everyone want to keep nitpicking over whether Heinlein's plausibility quotient is greater or lesser than Fred Pohl's? RLetson (talk) 06:03, 19 December 2007 (UTC)

Any list of authors is bound to be contentious, as you note. However, some of Heinlein's work isn't particularly technically accurate, it is merely very strange. E.g. Time Enough for Love. It might make more sense to just give examples of works, rather than authors. Michaelbusch (talk) 06:28, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
While these lists seem like they would be useful, they always cause problems. I say either go with the proposal to require an external citation for "hardness" or just drop the list. I think the root of the problem is that "hardness" is essentially POV; your POV will depend on what else you've read and probably your familiarity with science and technology. ike9898 (talk) 15:56, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
Actually anyone interested in this should look at the article, List of groups referred to as cults. This article has got around the problem of whether or not something belongs on the list by being VERY explicit about 'who' in the outside world says that it belongs on the list. If you can't find a source, but you think it belongs on the list, tough. Maybe this is a pain, but it manages to deal with a list on a topic that users will never come to concensus on. (I doubt our list is so contentious, but you never know, I've seen some pretty rabid fanboys). ike9898 (talk) 16:04, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
Ike, you speak truth. However, I don't think we should scrap the example list entirely - what's the point of naming the genre and not saying what is in it? My rationale for suggesting works rather than authors was that a single book/story can be hard scifi while an author can write things that are and things that aren't - Larry Niven is a good example (Footfall is hard, Ringworld is not so hard). Michaelbusch (talk) 18:30, 19 December 2007 (UTC)

OK, then--maybe the representative-works notion is finally getting some traction. Not too far above this spot is a suggested starting list, including a possible rationale for inclusion and a few initial candidates. Would anybody plotz if I were to dump the writers list and insert some of these works instead, with the heading "Representative Works"? BTW, one qualification I neglected to include in that earlier proposal was historical distribution--I think that a case can be made for including works by Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and any other early writers who were considered to be trying for scientific accuracy and rigor. I don't know whether it's possible to eliminate fanboy enthusiasm altogether, but a clear-cut set of criteria for inclusion should cut it down significantly. (Of course, there's the counter-example of the Sunshine wrangle just above.) RLetson (talk) 05:44, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

Silly me, going on without checking the status of the article. Jeandré du Toit has already inserted a starter list of works. Huzzah! Now I think I'll add one or two my own self. RLetson (talk) 06:01, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

Representative works.[edit]

How about limiting it to 10? Short stories and novelletes from Ascent of Wonder, novella and novels with very good sources; works from different decades; non stub articles for work and author; award winners only? -- Jeandré, 2007-12-19t19:44z, -- Jeandré, 2007-12-19t19:58z

Very good suggestions--the items I listed in "Toward a Body of Sources" are solid, and even without seeing it (yet) I suspect that Westfahl's Cosmic Engineers (suggested by Jeandré du Toit a while back) would offer plenty of useful advice. The double filter of expert vetting of "hardness" and some sort of award-winner/nominee status would take care of the NPOV/no-OR and notability issues. (Though there are going to be good examples that haven't won awards, so maybe that should be a bias rather than an absolute requirement.) RLetson (talk) 05:56, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

I don't have time to format these right now using Jeandré du Toit's template, but here are five strong candidates. Not all are "certified" as hard SF yet, but they all should be with a bit more looking around.

  • The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman, Hugo Best Novel 1976,Nebula Best Novel 1978, Locus Poll Novel 1976
  • "Beggars in Spain," by Nancy Kress, Nebula Best Novella 1992, Hugo Best Novella 1991 (novel version was nominee for both awards); Hard SF Renaissance
  • Mission of Gravity, by Hal Clement, International Fantasy Award nominee, 1955; Locus All-Time Poll
  • Cyteen, by C. J. Cherryh, Hugo Best Novel 1989, Locus Poll Novel 1989
  • "Inconstant Moon," by Larry Niven, Hugo Best Short Story 1972; Ascent of Wonder intro

RLetson (talk) 07:11, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

I like the idea (obviously) and I rather like the idea of making the list historical. This would perhaps emphasise that hard SF is a product of its times- that is, the science doesn't have to be right, merely believable in the knowledge of the times. What especially interests me is that the best SF of the 60s and 70s was not, generally, hard SF. Greg Locock (talk) 10:10, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
Greg--When I was checking candidates against the Locus awards lists, I was struck by how few Nebula winners were what I thought of as hard SF--and the Hugos didn't do all that much better. That says something about the audience(s) for the various strains of SF/F--and makes me wonder about the intensity of discussions about the nature/importance of hard SF. What is it about hard SF that brings out the fanboys? (It's almost never fangirls, is it?) RLetson (talk) 18:53, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
Geez, you gonna say that Ringworld and The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress ain't hard SF and ain't award winners!? Hayford Peirce (talk) 00:56, 21 December 2007 (UTC)
Now, now, Hayford--"how few" isn't quite "none." Still, scroll through the award nominees lists at and ask yourself how many you would consider sure-nuff hard SF, and/or that you would choose for a list of representative works of same. BTW, the only thing keeping me from putting a Heinlein title on the list right away was a decent authoritative source or two--probably for Moon or some of the juveniles. As for a Niven title, for me some of the short stories show the hard-SF mind at work a bit better--I'm personally fond of "Neutron Star" (Hugo, 1967), even though its science/logic has since been undermined. RLetson (talk) 01:12, 21 December 2007 (UTC)
Well, I just felt that if you're gonna mention *some* works, you might as well mention the very best of them (or at least the best known). Anyway, why are you still wasting your time here at Wiki when you could be at: doing stuff that won't be edited/destroyed/vandalized/moronized down to a third-grade level by all the folk you consort with here? Someone like you can write an article (or edit one) with having to put in a "citation" for every single statement you make. Hope to see you there one of these days! Hayford Peirce (talk) 04:19, 21 December 2007 (UTC)
You can edit the Citizendium article on hard science fiction...oh, wait, there is none. Well, you could start the article, but you might wonder what license applies to your, Larry will decide sometime. It might be easier just to dig into the literature and find some published articles that discuss hard science fiction in a scholarly way and cite those here at Wikipedia. Its not that hard, really. --JWSchmidt (talk) 06:35, 21 December 2007 (UTC)
Citizendium will use CC-by-sa. Hopefully, all the barriers between Wikimedia and Citizendium content will soon be down. --JWSchmidt (talk) 07:16, 22 December 2007 (UTC)

It would be nice to include some representative works from film and television. Can anybody manage that? Capedia (talk) 19:40, 19 May 2008 (UTC)

Three comments: 1) Not much attention is paid to the hard-soft axis in the film/TV realm, and it is works that are cited by authorities and commentators as "hard SF" that go on a "representative works" list. Find movies or TV shows with the same kinds of sources as the print works and there should be no problem. 2) While it shouldn't be too hard to come up with sources for calling, say, 2001 or Destination Moon hard SF, I can't think of a lot of other films that would have similar authoriative comments. Film and TV just have not developed SF tropes in that direction, and critical commentary has emphasized other aspects of media SF. And 3) note the wrangle about Sunshine, above, when considering any candidate. RLetson (talk) 04:25, 22 May 2008 (UTC)

Batman Begins?[edit]

I haven't added anything to the article itself because I haven't been able to find any other sources...but I still wanted to ask the question as a point of the minds of people here, does Batman Begins qualify as hard science fiction? I know virtually none of the other material ever produced about Batman would...yet this film is probably the single most rational interpretation of the character that I've ever seen.

Petrus4 (talk) 01:30, 10 January 2008 (UTC)

Rationalizing a comic-book hero doesn't strike me as something that qualifies a work as hard SF--unless, as in Larry Niven's "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex," the point of the exercise is to point out the ways in which superpowers and such are bogus. The Niven piece is an essay that applies hard-SF-style thinking to a fictional invention and thus illustrates the hard-SF mindset--but isn't itself a hard-SF story. I don't see how introducing the Batman movie would add to the entry either as an example or as a critique of comic-book SF. RLetson (talk) 18:01, 11 January 2008 (UTC)
I wouldn't count it. I would see Hard Science Fiction as a different genre then a Comic Book Based genre. Mathiastck (talk) 18:55, 11 February 2008 (UTC)
The point that it comes from a comic is irrelevant. Jumper movie comes from a comic and it is science fiction (quantum wormholes). Batman Begins could be science fiction, at least for me, because it depicts a world using science and technology. The debate would be in the fact that only Batman uses that science; usually, science fiction works show the society as a whole using the technology. But it is obviously science fiction and not fantasy as Superman could be. Batman is a normal man with martial arts knowledge and using science to defeat the enemies of Gotham city. Plus, we see many inventions, like the machine using waves to vaporize water, his ability to fly, the advanced tank he uses as a car, as a tank and as a jumping machine. So, Batman Begins IS science fiction. It is hard too, because it is probable and stick to science rules. Unless Jumper movie, for instance, they control the wormholes with mind, which makes it soft SF. What I say is debatable, of course, but with arguments... a comic book can also treat science fiction themes. Davichito (talk) 16:21, 10 October 2008 (UTC)

I would think that the Wikipedian point is whether any reliable and authoritative sources have characterized Batman in any medium as hard SF. If yes, then the point might fit; if no, then it doesn't. Ours is not to produce new arguments or analyses; ours is but to report on what the sources say. RLetson (talk) 19:59, 21 October 2008 (UTC)

No novels in the representative works?[edit]

Hey why aren't their any novels in the representative works? I would suggest Heart of the Comet, but I'm just as happy with any Asimov from Robots-Foundation spin off. Or better yet the Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Mathiastck (talk) 18:53, 11 February 2008 (UTC)

Heart of the Comet's own article claims it's representative of Hard Science Fiction, atm. "

As an example of the hard science fiction subgenre, the story is meant to be scientifically plausible." Mathiastck (talk) 20:55, 11 February 2008 (UTC)

I'd say that the absence of novels (other than Beggars in Spain) is a temporary situation, mainly the result of the first, easily-accessed authorities-for-inclusion being anthologies of short fiction. When someone (koff) has the time to rummage through some other authorities, candidates from the "Representative WORKS" section above will surely be added. (Not that the list is the most important part of the article, of course.) RLetson (talk) 04:27, 14 February 2008 (UTC)

How about Red Mars? An IP above was upset by it, but it has an WP entry, two hard SF refs, and 2 awards. Formating?

The anonymous editor's objection to Red Mars strikes me as picky--as though error count were the primary determiner of "hardness." I see that what he did was replace the 1/27/08 version of the list with one drawn only from the contents of two Hartwell-Cramer anthologies. That is where the novels went. I don't think it was anyone's intention to limit the examples to those mentioned in those (excellent and authoritative) collections, and I'm going to try to untangle this mess and restore the previous version, including Red Mars. RLetson (talk) 23:23, 17 February 2008 (UTC)

I see that someone re-inserted the Mars trilogy in the list, so I figured it was time to adjust the setup to indicate that sources other than Hartwell-Cramer are applicable and welcome. (Took some fiddling, but I think I finally got it to look OK.) RLetson (talk) 22:47, 18 February 2008 (UTC) link[edit]

The link to the blog entry does not strike me as of high enough quality to merit its inclusion in the Further Reading section. Revert this? (A number of other links to that site have been inserted by User: --Pleasantville (talk) 15:22, 17 September 2008 (UTC)

I have removed it, reverted all of the anon's other edits, and warned him for spamming. Cheers! ---RepublicanJacobiteThe'FortyFive' 15:53, 17 September 2008 (UTC)

Let's have some sources[edit]

User would like "some examples of hard SF film and tv" and has added a whole section that includes 2001, Blade Runner, Babylon 5, Eleventh Hour, and four paragraphs on the new Battlestar Galactica. Some of these points may be well taken, but unless some references can be supplied, the whole section comes across as OR. The new material also doubles the length of the article and spends rather too much space justifying the "hard SF" label for the TV series. That is not, I think, the point of the article. I suggest 1) cutting the "this is hard SF because" material; 2) limiting mentions of TV/film hard SF to a few prominent examples (2001 would be one) for the sake of illustration; and 3) supplying references for all of the material. RLetson (talk) 06:29, 16 November 2008 (UTC)

I thought exactly the same, adnd reverted the uncitzed additions. Would be nice to see examples cited, but even then, these seemed to show recentism, and were dubious (Blade runner and Battlestar Galactica are not Hard SF imo, and are sourced as being other genres in other articles: Cyberpunk and space opera, respectively. So i think the whole addition was OR).Yobmod (talk) 13:58, 16 November 2008 (UTC)

Needless citation-needed tags[edit]

I suggest removing the two tags from the "Scientific rigor" section. The term "enabling devices" is so common in SF commentary that a Google search on it +"science fiction" yields three Google Books hits for scholarly books and a quotation from a review in Science-Fiction Studies on the first page. The second page has another three books, four articles, and an author interview. I don't think there's much point in citing any particular authority--anyone who reads around in the literature is going to come across this term.

One might argue in favor of a tag for the sentence "There is a degree of flexibility in how far from 'real science' a story can stray before it leaves the realm of hard SF", but to me it seems unnecessary since it is a continuation of the "this is not a hard-and-fast definable category" point in paragraph 2. It's an observation (not OR) available to anyone who reads the reviews or commentary. Unless, of course, one wants to reproduce the whole what-is-hard-SF discussion in this article, which is not what I take its function to be. RLetson (talk) 20:29, 16 November 2008 (UTC)

The game[edit]

The paragraph added to the end of the "Scientific rigor" section gives the impression that "the game" is a kind of standard term for "find[ing] inaccuracies in stories." The pastime of testing the science in SF is certainly a real one, but I've never heard of it spoken of in that way as a set term. If you Google "the game" + "hard science fiction," what you will find is ordinary uses of phrases such as "playing the game seriously," "it's part of the game," "learning the rules of the game," "redefined the game of hard SF," and so on. This is a common metaphor rather than an actual term for the process of looking for glitches. I'd say that the Gary Westfahl passage that serves as the source is being over-read--or that Westfahl is overstating (note that there is no specific citation in his text). The sociological point is apt; the implication that it is called "the game" by participants is very questionable. I wouldn't fuss, but WP gets cited all over the place, and the last thing we need is to validate another faux term. RLetson (talk) 05:53, 19 December 2008 (UTC)

bottom of p 194 --Philcha (talk) 08:19, 19 December 2008 (UTC)
I'm certainly believe the cite given uses the term, but i also agree that it is not a widespread term. Definitely keep the paragraph, and maybe write "commentator xxx says this is known as the game", or leave the name out altogether. I think the searching for mistakes is the interesting point, the name some fans/writers give it adds little, unless it helped understand jargon in SF texts, which i don't think this one does, as it is so rarely used.Yobmod (talk) 09:45, 19 December 2008 (UTC)
a process which Gary Westfahl says writers call "the game" --Philcha (talk)

Actually, there's no need to mention "the game" or Westfahl in the body of the article. The paragraph's lead sentence can be reduced to "Readers of 'hard SF' often try to find inaccuracies in stories," the rest of the paragraph uses Westfahl's examples, and the footnote takes care of the source. If I were to add anything, it would be about how Niven has revised his Ringworld design specs in response to reader "research" and calculations. The topsoil migration, for example, has been "fixed" in later Ringworld novels and Niven has mentioned various revisions to his original designs. It will take a bit of digging, but I have the info somewhere in the office midden-heap. RLetson (talk) 05:03, 20 December 2008 (UTC)

It would be good to mention with a cite that Niven worked fixes into the later novels, and I'd put the details Ringword. --Philcha (talk) 09:43, 20 December 2008 (UTC)

Categorized representative works section[edit]

I came to this article looking for examples of hard science fiction novels I could read. I found myself clicking on the link for each entry trying to figure out which ones were novels. I thought other readers might find it valuable to have the list separated out according to literary forms. If the regular editors of this article object to this change, feel free to change it back. Other literary forms (novellas, poems, plays, etc.), if they exist and fit the article's scope, might also be a nice addition to this article. --Bryan H Bell (talk) 00:25, 24 April 2009 (UTC)

"Enabling device" and critical terminology[edit]

An unnamed editor has twice inserted "plot device" in the parenthetical phrase "sometimes called 'enabling devices' [. . .]" While both are narrative-mode elements and both can relate to plot or storyline, the two terms are not equivalent, nor even necessarily part of the same literary-device family. An "enabling device" is a literal invention or technical development or scientific notion--FTL or time travel, a mind-reading machine, a robot--that allows an action, a setting, a situation, or a character to work in a story. The punning sense of "device" is one that most users are aware of. The term is common in SF/F but not elsewhere in literary commentary, and some SF/F commentators (e.g., Ted Chiang in the citation for this phrase) use it to distinguish between ideas (or inventions or technological developments) that are being explored for their own sake and those that are there simply to allow some other element of the story to exist. RLetson (talk) 00:31, 13 July 2009 (UTC)

Movie section[edit]

Would like to add the movie Primer -, will do so if no objections. (talk) 12:19, 3 November 2009 (UTC)

The critical question is whether there are reliable authorities that call the movie hard SF. This is the first I've heard of it--though my beat is print, not film. Nevertheless, it's not what you or I think but what the consensus is out there in the world. RLetson (talk) 23:51, 10 November 2009 (UTC)

Heinlein? (not just because he is popular)[edit]

Sure, a lot of his novels include elements of semi-fantasy in terms of how the science will develop and/or how the science impacts life... but with the huge volume of novels and novellas and short stories, a large number of them having stories with a "hard science" core, I'm surprised that the final "short list" excludes his name. Especially since many of the author names are not as well known, therefore someone looking at the list and noticing this exclusion of RAH would likely presume that he is basically "never" considered "hard". I mean, the novella within "Time Enough For Love" that focuses on the "twins who were not related" has so much genetic verbiage that I suspect that alone might turn away folks who are NOT interested in "hard" sci fi, amirite? Heck, even the Wikipedia article itself on RAH says that, during the 1961-1973 period, "he began to mix HARD SCIENCE with fantasy, mysticism, and satire of organized religion" (talk) 20:52, 6 November 2009 (UTC)

How a controversy has arisen (has it?) that Robert Heinlein did not write 'hard SF' totally bumfuzzles me! When his SF contained hard science (accurate engineering physics about interplanetary flight is rampant in especially is early works, but continued to the end of his life) how is that not hard SF? Take for instance Destination Moon (Short Stories Magazine, Sept. 1950), somebody want to tell me that is not hard SF? One notes that Heinlein was Pal's technical adviser on the film Destination Moon. --aajacksoniv 19:57, 8 December 2009 (UTC)

Representative works[edit]

I notice that new examples are added to the list of representative works now and then. But how many titles do the article actually need? Adding a novel or short story just because it's hard science fiction does not feel like a reason good enough. About one title in the decade should be more than enough, and when a new one is added, it should be because it stands out from those who are already mentioned in one way or another. Or at least that's how I feel would suit the article best. (talk) 21:13, 11 February 2011 (UTC)

This is a judgement call - personally I don't think any list is needed. A couple of examples within the text, with discussion about why they are chosen, is what's needed, not just a bunch of titles - see, as an example, the article "trilogy", which once had a long list of examples for no good reason. - DavidWBrooks (talk) 21:36, 11 February 2011 (UTC)
A few notable examples couldn't hurt, or perhaps even a sort list, but it seems like we both agree that there is no need for some long list with random titles.
By viewing the article's history, I can see that more and more titles have been added, and sooner or later somebody has to say that enough is enough. I havn't read the triology article, but I know what you mean. Once a list has been created, it will usually continue to grow as the lesser experienced contributors decide to help by adding some examples on their own. (talk) 11:22, 14 February 2011 (UTC)
Check out trilogy and see how it's handled there. I've been involved with that article for many years, and it had this exact problem. Since the list was killed and examples discussed in the text, it has been much more manageable. - DavidWBrooks (talk) 15:15, 14 February 2011 (UTC)
Thanks for the tip. Such changes would require significan editing of the article, and some knowledge to the examples mentioned, so I'm not sure if I personally will have the chance to do so in the nearest future, but it's a starting point (and if nobody else makes a try, I will probably do it myself sooner or later). (talk) 15:40, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
Actually, the text has a decent beginning to such discussion, around A fall of moondust and Ringworld. Only a beginning, but it's something. I'm half tempted to kill the whole list as an incentive to get people to write text. As long as a list is there, it draws most editing attention away from the body of the article. - DavidWBrooks (talk) 18:42, 15 February 2011 (UTC)

Especially given the WP take on OR and sourcing, quite a few of the "representative" works on the novels list strike me as questionable--specifically Solaris and Revelation Space. I'm not sure about The Star Rebel, since I haven't read any Busby for more than 30 years, and the very-far-future Between the Strokes of Night seems an odd choice from Sheffield's canon. In any case, who says these are hard SF, let alone representative hard-SF titles? Are they mentioned as such by critics or scholars? If not, we're in name-my-favorite-book territory, which is not what this project is about, no? RLetson (talk) 02:27, 18 December 2011 (UTC)

A More Realistic Short-Hand Definition of Hard Science Fiction (for Regular People)[edit]

Somewhere in here, dllu, speaking of Ben Bova as an example of hard SF, sought to prove it by noting that his work "extrapolated" from current science. I think this hits the nail on the head. As a career science editor and sci-fi fan, I have always thought of hard SF as: Any literature that extrapolates current physical science or technology into the future. Granted, that might be only a few seconds into the future when an advanced alien race arrives on Earth, or it might be a futuristic past of an ancient but far advanced alien race, but the "extrapolation of science or technology" is the main point, and the average reader of any type of literature would instantly recognize this as hard science fiction. Genepoz (talk) 00:21, 17 September 2012 (UTC)


It is in the section movies but I really don't see how anyone considers it hard science fiction. Your comments on this one? BaboonsButt (talk) 15:50, 29 March 2015 (UTC)

@Tim@: I don´t want to start an edit war thus I will not revert your revert. But you are wrong. Kip Thorne did never prove time travel would be impossible. In fact it´s not provable at all yet. However quantum gravity would make it possible theoretically.
Your second point is surviving a block hole. This is also not provable yet. In fact some theories exist which would allow it under certain circumstances. Especially a supermassive black hole like Gargantua could actually allow surviving it. Another theory (unfortunately I don´t know who postulated it) based on the information paradox even says that you would die and survive at the same time.
Astrophysics is still very speculative, especially such "extrema" like worm holes, black holes, time travel or quantum gravity. And those extrema make several bizarre effects theoretically possible. Because there is no possibility to really prove or disprove such bizarre effects many different and often contradictory theories exist. Additionally quantum physics and theory of relativity contradict themselves what makes those extremas largely unexplainable unless the theory of everything is found. Everything in the movie bases on existing and not yet disproven theories. "Based on facts" is almost impossible in this case (like often in astrophysics) thus this would be a way to high obstacle. Under this condition you would also have to remove several other movies from this article, i. e. Contact or even 2001: A Space Odyssey. Not to forget Gattaca as it´s not sure yet if we ever will be able to genetically design perfect humans.
But furthermore it´s quite unimportant what you or I think. That´s just original research. Wikipedia though bases on references. I found very less references that explicitly say Interstellar would be hard science fiction (i. e. [6] or [7]). But for any other movie in this article it´s similarly difficult to find references. I assume this results from "hard science fiction" being just rarely used in combination with movies in contrast to books. Also hard science fiction is quite a side issue in literature and film.
However there are many articles that investigate the scientific accuracy of Interstellar. Most of them (scientific and non-scientific articles) say that this movie is relatively accurate. Furthermore many sources even state that Interstellar is one of the most accurate movies in the field of astrophysics. Also a book written by Kip Thorne exists that explains the science Interstaller is based on (The Science of Interstellar).
All in all I know it´s a bit difficult to add Interstellar to this article. Not because the movie would not be hard science fiction but because there are not many references available to prove it. So it would be more or less original research. But exactly this is the problem of the whole article. Not even one single movie in this article has a reference that would prove it is hard science fiction... Thus we maybe have a bigger problem than the "Interstallar question". Chaddy (talk) 15:55, 29 September 2015 (UTC)

? Chaddy (talk) 20:16, 10 October 2015 (UTC)
Interstellar violates at least 3 core laws (Causality, First Thermodynamics, Special_relativity) that are currently thought to be unbreakable so currently its science fantasy.--Tim (talk) 16:52, 7 June 2016 (UTC)
You have way too narrow a definition of "hard science fiction". Practically no one uses it that strictly. Hard science fiction is science fiction that takes (known or speculative or even invented) physics seriously at some point. It's not limited to science fiction that never cheats a little for the sake of the story. There are almost no films in that category. --Trovatore (talk) 17:35, 7 June 2016 (UTC)
please provide examples.--Tim (talk) 12:52, 8 June 2016 (UTC)
Examples of no films? What does that mean? --Trovatore (talk) 18:31, 8 June 2016 (UTC)
I would consider it soft sci fi. There are multiple scientific errors such as the "frozen clouds" floating in a planet's atmosphere, unrealistic depictions of plant diseases, an impossible slingshot manouvere (you can't slingshot off a body you are already in orbit around), paradox inducing time travel, no spagettification from falling into a black hole, etc. It is certainly miuch softer than any of the other films listed. The Proffesor (talk) 04:25, 10 June 2016 (UTC)
@The Proffesor: It would be much appreciated if you or at least the likes of you (i.e. those sharing your views) could share scientific citations about why any of your pinpointed portrayals aren't theoretically-plausible. If the studies include much less of scientific-terms, it would be in everyone's best interest. Mohd.maaz864 (talk) 16:52, 1 August 2017 (UTC)

Blindsight by Peter Watts?[edit]

I'd heard recommendation of this novel as an example of hard science fiction oftenly, but haven't read it yet. There is a discussion on Goodreads to question that definition, though Google provides many sources referred the book as hard sci-fi. Should it be in the list of the examples too? - Santacloud (talk) 19:21, 4 November 2015 (UTC)

Well it's already categorized under "Hard science fiction" - the question is more about whether or not that novel is "representative". This would also be a good point to discuss the inclusion criteria for that list - what makes a hard science fiction novel representative (I guess it's its popularity in general and/or influence or novelty within the genre which may be estimated by count and content of external references)? There's been some discussion on this already further up though... --Fixuture (talk) 23:46, 29 November 2015 (UTC)


As another editor noted above some time ago, the absence of Heinlein from this article is pretty hard to understand. It's certainly true that he did a lot of softer-edged stuff (Stranger in a Strange Land, Job), but I don't know how you can deny the "hard" label to, say, Farmer in the Sky or Space Cadet or Misfit. Now, granted, I'm not extremely familiar with the sources (I'd generally rather read stories than read about stories), but this seems pretty odd to me. --Trovatore (talk) 22:06, 26 December 2015 (UTC)

Defying Gravity?[edit]

Hello folks, would you mind listing Defying Gravity (TV series) as an example for an hard sf TV show? They tried to explain stuff scientifically and it sounded all quite well. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2003:50:AB23:9900:1DE8:AEFE:469F:2420 (talk) 20:19, 26 May 2016 (UTC)

  • It belongs to soft-sci-fi because there is faster than light communication.--Tim (talk) 19:40, 6 July 2016 (UTC)
    • That's complete nonsense. FLT communication is part of lots of hard science fiction. --Trovatore (talk) 21:17, 6 July 2016 (UTC)

list of films[edit]

There are a lot of movies in the list that are totally inaccurate in the science part:

  • Sunshine - totally wrong from the main concept
  • Elysium - includes too much mistakes and fantasy to be considered "hard" sci
  • Gravity - may seem accurate to one without any scientific education. but in reality it totally wrong.
  • Solaris (1972) - very good movie, but barely can be called "Hard". Unlike the book, this masterpiece is totally "social" (and not "natural").

I see all of those based on one external link that made by some amateur author. Untranslatable source. (talk) 16:42, 31 January 2017 (UTC)

I would deny Gravity is even sci-fi in the first place Apollo The Logician (talk) 16:45, 31 January 2017 (UTC)
@ I suggest you remove them. --Fixuture (talk) 19:38, 1 March 2017 (UTC)

What hard SF is[edit]

Tim@ is operating off of a ludicrous definition, where to qualify as hard SF, a work has to conform to current physical theory.

Sorry, but that's complete nonsense. That would rule out, say, James P. Hogan's The Genesis Machine, which elaborates a detailed physics and makes key use of it. It's extremely hard SF. But it doesn't match current physical theory at all.

By Tim's definition, we might have to reclassify works if we found out something new about physics. That's silly for a literary classification. --Trovatore (talk) 19:40, 2 February 2017 (UTC)

  • If one were to define HSF any other way it would be called "soft science fiction" (science fantasy) and if the work did not focus on science one could call it "fiction" or "fantasy" if it was quite unrealistic. The definition used by Trovatore would make no distinction between hard and soft SF. --Tim (talk) 07:59, 22 April 2017 (UTC)
    • Not at all. Here's a good definition: Science fiction is "hard" if it has a corpus of natural science that it takes seriously. It doesn't have to be the science currently consider likely. The physical laws, for example, can be speculative or invented. But they should "feel like" physics, and once established they should be followed (with room for in-universe discoveries, of course). Conditioning a literary category on what scientists currently believe makes very little sense. --Trovatore (talk) 20:17, 22 April 2017 (UTC)
      • try drawing the lines between all of fiction, fantasy, soft science fiction, hard science fiction, and you will find you have just defined soft science fiction. --Tim (talk) 14:19, 24 April 2017 (UTC)
        • No, you are incorrect. --Trovatore (talk) 18:25, 24 April 2017 (UTC)
          • So define them all as you see them; draw the lines, convince others.--Tim (talk) 02:22, 5 May 2017 (UTC)