4 hours ago
Friday, February 15, 2013
How Do You Like Your Sci-Fi?
My recent science fiction posts in multiple settings (Star Trek, Pulp Space, Talislantan Space) has got me thinking about the different levels of "hardness" in science fiction. (A topic that TV Tropes--unsurprisingly--has some thoughts on). This scale is a bit granular and more detailed (and perhaps a bit more judgey). Here's my sort of summary of the basics of both of these:
Hard: So, on one end we've got fairly plausible stuff that mostly extrapolates on current technology. This includes stuff like William Gibson's Sprawl series and the novels of Greg Egan (from the near future mystery Quarantine to the far future Diaspora). A game example is this category would be somethig like GURPS Transhuman Space.
Medium: Getting a little more fantastic, we arrive in the real of a lot of TV shows and computer games. One end of this pretty much only needs you to believe in FTL and artificial gravity but is otherwise pretty hard. Powerful but plausible nanotech might fall here, too (like in John C. Wright's Golden Age triology). The fewer impossible things you're asked to believe (and the better rationalized the ones you are asked to believe in are), the harder it is. The middle of this group adds in something like psionics (Traveller gets in here, and a lot of science fiction novels, like Dune and Hyperion). The softer end throws in a lot of too-human aliens and "pure energy" beings (Babylon 5, most Star Trek).
Soft: Here lies fantasy but with a science fiction veneer and context. Some Star Trek (the animated series, particularly) comes in here, and Farscape. This is also the domain of Star Wars. Simon R. Green's Deathstalker cycle turns up here, too.
Ultra-Soft: Some Star Wars tie-ins in other media come in here, as do things that include magic (or similar fantastic elements} mixed in with an otherwise soft sci-fi universe: This would include superhero sci-fi properties (the Legion of Super-Heroes and Guardians of the Galaxy) and comic book epic sci-fi (what might also be thought of as Heavy Metal sci-fi) like Dreadstar, The Incal, and The Metabarons. It's possible it stops beings science fiction on the mushiest end of this catgory and just becomes "fantasy."
So what consistency of sci-fi is your favorite--particularly in regard to rpgs?