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"How Much Science in Your Sci-Fi?" Topic

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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian08 Apr 2021 10:01 p.m. PST

On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being least and 10 being most, how much 'hard science' do you want in your science fiction?

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP08 Apr 2021 11:06 p.m. PST

I don't want wizards with magic swords (I'm looking at you, Star Wars!) unless it's unabashedly fantasy.

Arjuna09 Apr 2021 1:50 a.m. PST

Since it's completly dependend on my personal suspension of disbelieve [1], my education and my mood the time I consume it, it changes constantly and regurlary from -1 to e^(i*pi) [2] with an average of about 0.
For a good measure add up 1 as a rule of thump.

You think 'Star Wars' is realistic?
Well you're probably pre-school watching it with your daddy a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
Fear not, that's fine, space-time is relativistic [2].

You think 'The Martian' is realistic?
Well you probably don't know enough about planet Mars.

Personally I prefer 'Flash Gordon (1980)' over '2001 (1968)' because the former does not pretend to be more than shiny entertainment.
Space flight with PanAm business class, but phone booths on the moon…
And don't talk to me about its psychedelic star child ending for the sake of money grabbing in esoteric circles.

Suspension of disbelief on Wikipedia

Euler's identity

Relativistic Space Time on Wikipedia

45thdiv Supporting Member of TMP09 Apr 2021 2:12 a.m. PST

I like there to be quite a bit of real science. The Expanse is by far the best show that sticks with real physics the most.

Star Wars is not sci-if, it is fantasy and I like it.

Personal logo Lluis of Minairons Sponsoring Member of TMP09 Apr 2021 2:12 a.m. PST

I'm with John the OFM.

At my humble personal preferences top is 'The Expanse' series, years light beyond 'Star Wars' or even 'Star Trek'.

PzGeneral09 Apr 2021 4:50 a.m. PST

Like those above, I loved Star Wars (till it became a cash cow). Agree, it is Space Fantasy like Flash Gordon (which is also Space Fantasy and which I also love).

But I also agree The Expanse is the best thing going right now.

Along with the Traveller (original black box) role playing game.

Every time I watch an episode of The Expanse, I keep thinking of the space fairing days of my young adulthood playing Traveller.

So, to answer the question, my number is 7, 8…..

Blount Supporting Member of TMP09 Apr 2021 5:19 a.m. PST

What, exactly, counts as "hard" science?

Stryderg09 Apr 2021 5:43 a.m. PST

Anywhere between 5-7.

Laser guns, Plasma guns, Particle Cannons, and all the other pew-pew paraphernalia are fine with me even if their possibility of existence is questionable. Same for FTL, shields, etc. All of this stuff makes for cool visuals on-screen and tactical challenges on-table.

pzivh43 Supporting Member of TMP09 Apr 2021 5:46 a.m. PST

Yeah, I'm good with 5-7. Much of what we knew as sci-fi back in the day, is reality now. So who really knows?

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP09 Apr 2021 8:03 a.m. PST

X, where 0<X<=10

I love it all. It's the quality of the story that matters, not the quantum mechanics.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP09 Apr 2021 9:13 a.m. PST

1. It's a skirmish game, and for skirmishes, you want Edgar Rice Burroughs, Leigh Brackett Doc Smith and Andre Norton, not Heinlein and Poul Anderson.

Personal logo javelin98 Supporting Member of TMP09 Apr 2021 9:43 a.m. PST

It all depends, of course.

Rich Bliss09 Apr 2021 9:53 a.m. PST


Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP09 Apr 2021 10:35 a.m. PST

I tended to run a GASLIGHT campaign under the assumption that anything that hadn't been disproven in 1885 was legitimate. Thus, perpetual motion machines and so on.
Not that anything bothered anyone, and I was the only one who gave it any thought. In fact, it never came up.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP09 Apr 2021 10:56 a.m. PST

8 – I am with John on this

And The Expanse is a great show!

USAFpilot Supporting Member of TMP09 Apr 2021 1:32 p.m. PST

If I'm reading a sf book, I want a 9. Nothing should violate the laws of physics as we know them except for that one thing which makes it science fiction story versus science reality.

If I'm playing a game, it's probably around a 5 because it's probably more sci-fi fantasy than it is science fiction.

And if it's Hollywood, well, good luck.

Personal logo cloudcaptain Supporting Member of TMP09 Apr 2021 1:36 p.m. PST

8..and another ravenous Expanse fanboy here

Patrick Sexton Supporting Member of TMP09 Apr 2021 2:59 p.m. PST


Oberlindes Sol LIC Supporting Member of TMP09 Apr 2021 5:28 p.m. PST

The original post actually asks multiple questions:

" … how much 'hard science' do you want in your science fiction?"

"your science fiction" may have different answers for different media: movies, books, and games, for example, which themselves are divisible at least into movies and television series, books and comic books, role-playing games and miniatures games.

In general, though, I'm with Parzival. I mostly want a good story.

For gaming, Traveller has about the right amount of science for me.

zircher10 Apr 2021 9:49 a.m. PST

I love everything from space fantasy to alternate-space-history. So, I'm an X > 0 kind of guy.

DalyDR10 Apr 2021 2:35 p.m. PST


Augustus10 Apr 2021 5:01 p.m. PST

Don't really care. "X" works for me.

The story matters more than the window dressing.

Thought the Expanse was good…until the space magic appeared to make FTL a possibility and the last season was just plain bad, needed massive editing, and failed to move the story along much at all.

Sargonarhes10 Apr 2021 8:06 p.m. PST

I don't know, Gundam tries to use fake science to explain the giant robots and beam sabers. And Legend of the Galactic Heroes just tells a story and just goes with what they have.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP11 Apr 2021 1:19 p.m. PST

OK, this is just out of curiosity. You guys are almost as old as I am on average. You're presumably well-read. It's a pretty safe bet with miniature wargamers. So why is it that unless it's a poll question specifying writing, every time we talk SF, people jump to movies and TV?

As far as I'm concerned, most of the best stuff is still in books--and more so if we're talking something with enough explanation to understand the tactics.

The Last Conformist12 Apr 2021 3:15 a.m. PST

Wargamers are well-read outside Osprey and WRG? News to me.

I can enjoy sf almost anywhere on the scale, but I guess I tend to prefer more science in books than in movies, and more in movies than in games.

Arjuna12 Apr 2021 4:33 a.m. PST

@robert piepenbrink

That's a really interesting observation.
I'll have to give that some thought.
Thanks for that.

So for me, for books, it's 'John Carter of Mars' and 'Dune' vs. 'The Black Cloud' and 'Mission of Gravity'.
For comics, 'Valérian and Laureline' and 'Judge Dredd' vs. ???
I don't know, have I ever read a realistic SF comic?
Are there any that aren't derivatives of books and movies?

dragon6 Supporting Member of TMP12 Apr 2021 8:28 a.m. PST

OK, this is just out of curiosity. You guys are almost as old as I am on average. You're presumably well-read. It's a pretty safe bet with miniature wargamers. So why is it that unless it's a poll question specifying writing, every time we talk SF, people jump to movies and TV?
Robert are there any good books? Old ones yes, new ones? If so give me book names or writer names

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP12 Apr 2021 10:26 a.m. PST

dragon6, there are good books, and my question had nothing to do with the date of the material. No one's aging out TV and movies, but Star Trek is past 50, and Star Wars fast approaching it.

But treating "good new SF books" as a separate question--yeah, looks like a slump to me too. Scalzi and Correy do not appeal. I'd rate Lois McMaster Bujold among the best SF writers of all time, but she's pushing 70 and her output has gone down accordingly. David Drake's slightly older and never quite as good. The 2010's are represented on my shelves by those two and a little Stirling. At a first hack, the median year of publication of my "keeper" SF novels dates to late in the life of John W. Campbell, and the short stories slightly older.

That said, my SF films--especially those with miniature wargame potential--wouldn't make a decent film festival, nor my SF TV a respectable binge weekend, with a median date of release only 10 or 15 years more recent than the books. They're spending a lot of money in Hollywood, but they're not hiring a lot of capable scriptwriters.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP12 Apr 2021 12:19 p.m. PST

And this is what I get for consulting my shelves and not my kindle, and for thinking "military SF."

Try Jodi Taylor, dragon6. She seems to do everything well, but most of her output is time travel--well-written, funny and serious in turn and well thought-out. She's a "late vocation" if you will, but I think younger than anyone else I've mentioned except maybe Correy, and all her work is published in this century.

JimSelzer12 Apr 2021 1:49 p.m. PST

50/50 realistic but no slide rule needed

Sargonarhes12 Apr 2021 4:26 p.m. PST

@robert piepenbrink well Legend of the Galactic Heroes was a book in Japan before they animated it. I just never got to read the books until the last 4 years when they were translated into English.

And I've found the anime diverges very little from the books. The differences in the anime it's guessed most weapons are beam weapons, the books mentions the use of beam weapons, rail cannons and missiles. At one point they mention soldiers using .25 gauss rifles, I guess projectile size does matter very little with increased velocities.

The book also speaks a bit more about the armored suits worn, says they can work for 48 hours. But most people can only stand being inside one for 4. So they are powered suits. And the axes are used when Seffii particles are in use, because of the explosive nature of Seffi particles. Most rifles become just as dangerous to one side as the other.


chironex13 Apr 2021 5:57 a.m. PST

"Wargamers are well-read outside Osprey and WRG? News to me."

Why ever would anyone say that?
That said, what I have read doesn't lend itself well to tabletop gaming, apart from certain works by Stephen Baxter, Peter F Hamilton and Alastair Reynolds, though you won't really find a current game setting matching any of those (order a ship to manouevre, and roll to determine whether it kills all its crew?). Perhaps Tableau, by James White?

Or Bolo.

Most of my fiction reading, anyway, has been steampunk/VSF/AMF or modern fantasy. Some or other system could be adapted to suit Skulduggery Pleasant, I'm sure.

Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP13 Apr 2021 9:51 a.m. PST

I'm not really sure what would be more scientific than less so, but I'll say I'm around a 6. What's "fun" is most important.

Personal logo javelin98 Supporting Member of TMP15 Apr 2021 11:55 a.m. PST

Robert are there any good books? Old ones yes, new ones? If so give me book names or writer names

Try Britt Ringel's "This Corner of the Universe" series.

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