Science Fact and Science Fiction: An Encyclopedia
According to legend, he first thought of the idea in his car on the way to meet with his editor. The encyclopedia contains a compendium of all knowledge. That way, a far-future society could use the vast collection of knowledge to rebuild after a galactic collapse. Thousands of researchers worked in isolation collecting this data. Sound familiar?
The Google mission statement is to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. You might think of Wikipedia as a better analogue to Asimov's idea, but Google comes closer to the lofty goal of "all knowledge. Predicted: Lexifone App. Book: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy , by Douglas Adams Here's one that seemed impossible back in but is appearing in many forms today.
In this classic of sci-fi comedy, the late Douglas Adams dreamed up the Babel Fish translator.
You stick the organic device in your ear, and when an alien speaks, you hear a translation in your mother tongue. Flash forward to about two weeks ago, when the Lexifone app debuted on Android phones. We know there are many other on-the-fly translators like Ortsbo and Loop, but this one actually works, and it's completely free.
When you speak during a call, the app translates from one language to another. If that's not a Babel Fish, we're not sure what is. Predicted: Earbuds. Book: Fahrenheit , by Ray Bradbury For an entire generation raised on portable MP3 players and smartphones, light and portable earbuds help us stay mobile.
They are also destroying our hearing. Ray Bradbury predicted such a listening device in his great work. He called them a "thimble radio" that had "an electronic ocean of sound, of music and talk" that occupied the listener.
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Interestingly, the book also mentions a wall of televisions. Oh, and how we would abandon all vestiges of analog life and embrace a digital dystopia. Advertisement - Continue Reading Below. More From Science Fact vs. Fact Vs. Writing about matters where one cannot make scientific errors, like inventing terms to cover scientific uncertainties, presumably does not involve much of a challenge. The third way to avoid scientific errors is to play it safe: set the story in the near future and feature scientific advances that are either already planned or plausible in light of current scientific and technological knowledge.
Such stories, which usually occur in outer space, have always been accepted as hard SF: one of the first works ever associated with the term was A Fall of Moondust , and all writers later identified with hard SF have sometimes written in this vein: Clement, "Fireproof''; Clarke, Islands in the Sky ; Anderson, "Sunjammer''; and Niven, "The Coldest Place. Such works are rarely offered as noteworthy examples of hard SF, and few would argue for the superiority of those works over Mission of Gravity , Rendezvous with Rama , Tau Zero , or Ringworld.
Still, since persons known as hard SF writers produce these works, and since these works have been called hard SF, they must be considered part of the subgenre. The fourth way to avoid scientific errors is to deliberately create the most spectacular and implausible environment or development possible while adhering to all known scientific facts.
I call this "world-building'' macrocosmic hard SF—involving large leaps into the future to envision large advances and new worlds: Brin's term for it is "scientific SF'' 30 9. This seems the most interesting form and can produce impressive results, like Mesklin and Ringworld.
In terms of Clement's game, though, it is a high-risk strategy; in Niven's case, knowledgeable readers noted that a structure like Ringworld could not maintain its position, which required Niven to awkwardly add stabilizing rockets in a sequel, Ringworld Engineers. Clement says "Whirligig World'' is not a "text'' on how to create such worlds, "since if the subject is teachable I'd be creating competition and if it isn't I'd be wasting time'' 13 , but texts later appeared: Anderson's "The Creation of Imaginary Worlds: The World Builder's Handbook and Pocket Companion'' and Clement's "The Creation of Imaginary Beings'' both in 7.
Clement fails to explain why Mesklinites were presented as businesslike traders or why the novel had humans recruiting them to retrieve a fallen space probe. In Bretnor's Science Fiction: Today and Tomorrow , Clement explained how world-building and story-building were related:. In the first case, the qualities of the various life forms have to a considerable extent already been determined I get most of the fun out of working out the physical and chemical nature of a planet or solar system, and then dreaming up life forms which might reasonably evolve under such conditions.
The story obviously, as some critics have been known to remark comes afterward. In other words, the process of world-building is sometimes undertaken to support a particular story, and is sometimes undertaken for its own sake, with a story tacked on later. Forward argues that the scientific background one develops effectively "writes the fiction. Forward thus offers a third model for the relationship between background and story: world-building not only motivates the story, but actually creates the story 30 Both explanations, however, seem disingenuous.
First, despite attempts to minimize the notion of a preconceived story, these writers did have vague conceptions of their stories before building their worlds. Why did Clement make Mesklin whirl rapidly to reduce its surface gravity to 3 Gs?
Obviously—as implied by his statement that its originally calculated surface gravity was "over three hundred times what we're used to''—Clement wanted a world which humans could land on and survive on. Why did he give Mesklin oceans of liquid methane? Obviously—as Clement said—he "want[ed] a native life form'' 13 , While the particulars of Mission of Gravity 's plot may well have developed at a later date, Clement from the very beginning was attempting to create a world where visiting humans could contact native aliens. Forward is forthright about how the demands of his story influenced how he made his world: "I knew I wanted the action to take place on a neutron star, and I knew that I wanted humans in the story, at least as bystanders'' 30 4.
Thus, while the process of world-building is constrained and shaped by scientific principles, it is also somewhat constrained by the demands of storytelling, whether the proposed story is vague or detailed— though one must grant Forward's point that a scientifically created environment can direct and influence the story in significant ways. Understanding the two forms of hard SF offers an answer to a recurring puzzle: apparent inconsistencies in the use of the term. In Bretnor's The Craft of Science Fiction , for example, after defining the subgenre as "science fiction written around known scientific facts,'' Spinrad raises these questions:.
Niven, for example, is generally considered a writer of "hard science fiction. Ballard is not. Niven's stories [have] two-headed aliens, telepathic powers, various flavors of time-travel, galactic cataclysms, hyper-drives, tractor beams, and so forth. Most of Ballard's novels have been rather tight extrapolations of a world drastically altered by one reasonably plausible meteorological change, and even his later more stylistically dense works don't ask the reader to swallow… scientific improbabilities whole.
Hal Clement's alien creatures are part of the hard science fiction canon, but Cordwainer Smith's Underpeople are not. Aficionados of hard science fiction accept Poul Anderson's medieval space cultures without a murmur but eschew the future worlds of Mack Reynolds which are worked out with a much more sophisticated and rigorous knowledge of economics and politics. The implication is that the term is being applied to certain writers in an arbitrary and illogical manner.
Part of the answer no doubt lies in what could be called the sociology of the field: that is, authors identify themselves as hard SF writers by announcing that fact and by associating with other hard SF writers; authors who do not do these things escape the appellation. Still, since Clement and Clarke were included in the subgenre without making efforts of this kind, there must be another explanation. Noting that the focus of attention in early uses of the term involved what I call microcosmic hard SF, I offer a tentative explanation without defending it : writing microcosmic hard SF defines a hard SF writer.
More extravagant works are accepted as part of the form, but one shows membership in the tribe by writing realistic, near-future space adventures, or by including such projections as part of more extravagant stories of constructed worlds.
That is, Clarke is accepted as a hard SF writer because he can write stories like A Fall of Moondust , not just stories like Childhood's End ; Clement because he can write stories like "Fireproof,'' not just stories like Mission of Gravity ; Anderson because he can write stories like "Sunjammer,'' not just stories like Tau Zero ; and so on.
On the other hand, if writers do not write stories of this kind, or apparently cannot write them, they will not be accepted as hard SF writers. That would explain why Ballard, Cordwainer Smith, and Reynolds are rarely associated with the form. This attitude—based on an incomplete knowledge of recent commentaries—seems to survive to the present: thus, recent writers like Benford, Forward, and James P. Hogan have each written examples of both forms of hard SF and hence are labelled as hard SF authors; but Ian Watson, who can be every bit as careful with his science as those writers, has not been so labelled, because he has not produced stories of microcosmic hard SF.
The lesson for writers, then, is that if you wish to be called a hard SF writer, building worlds may not enough; you also must show that you can build spaceships. What unites these two apparently disparate forms of hard SF is an obsessive concern with complete accuracy8 and thorough development of all ideas—suggesting another point: contrary to recent patterns in usage, not all SF stories which significantly involve science have been accepted as hard SF.
Consider Hoyle. As a prominent astronomer who regularly employs his knowledge in writing novels, Hoyle would seem an obvious example of hard SF; yet he is rarely so identified—Miller's one mention of his work as hard SF is conditional. An answer lies in the "Preface'' to Hoyle and Geoffrey Hoyle's Fifth Planet , where they announce, "The very nature of the plot has forced us to set this story in the more distant future than we would otherwise have preferred.
It is hardly possible to foresee the shape of society a century or more ahead of one's own time, and we have not attempted to do so'' 22 v. Despite attentiveness to the scientific accuracy of his central idea, then, Hoyle lacks the compulsion to comprehensively develop all aspects of his story. Thus, if a story does not work out its scientific concepts completely, or if it intermingles its scientific concepts with large doses of gobbledygook and fuzzy science, it may not qualify as hard SF.
Adding together what commentators like Miller and Ellison, and practitioners like Clement, Forward, and Brin, have to say about hard SF, the following picture emerges: hard SF is a subgenre obsessed with total scientific accuracy which characteristically takes two forms—near-future space adventures and extravagant world-building; to be accepted as a hard SF writer, it is necessary to write hard SF of the first type, and it is necessary to be thorough, not selective, in scientific development in stories; and, noting that writers with scientific concerns who do not fulfill those two criteria have usually not been accepted as hard SF writers, one finds more logic and consistency in the typical use of the term than critics have noticed.
Having shown that the term, and the concept, of hard SF emerged with writers of the s and s, the next question to explore is exactly when this kind of writing emerged. Does hard SF in fact have a long and distinguished history, or is it actually a relatively recent development?
Encyclopedia of Science Fact and Science Fiction.pdf
O'Connor Sloane [sic] image of what a good science fiction story should be'' 14 , Miller and Ellison thus envision Clement, Clarke and Herbert as lonely survivors of an earlier form of SF; but is this characterization accurate? To be sure, the ideas that drive hard SF can be traced to earlier commentators. Hugo Gernsback was the first to emphasize that SF must "contain correct scientific facts'' 17 ; and recognizing the importance of that principle, del Rey begins a discussion of Clement's career by saying, "When Hugo Gernsback started the first science-fiction magazine back in , he didn't refer to hard science fiction; but he did claim that his stories were scientifically accurate'' 12 xi.
Readers quickly accepted the idea, and one complained about stories with "such obvious scientific mistakes in them that they seem more like fairy tales'' cited in 19 Since readers enjoyed finding errors in stories, Gernsback made a contest of it: publishing Geoffrey Hewelcke's "Ten Million Miles Sunward,'' he announced, "Frankly, though, there is something wrong with the story'' and challenged readers to "See if you can find out what that 'something' is'' 16 This seems to anticipate "the game'' Clement would later see at the heart of hard SF.
One can also find stories from this era that resemble microcosmic hard SF. Consider Gernsback's "The Magnetic Storm'' , a story set in the near future during World War I involving a logical application of then-current technology: a large-scale effort to generate magnetic fields to disable enemy equipment, endorsed as feasible by Nicolas Tesla. Liking such cautious visions, Gernsback once proposed them as a new category of SF in "Science Fiction vs.
Authors : Gernsback, Hugo : SFE : Science Fiction Encyclopedia
Science Faction'':. In time to come, also, our authors will make a marked distinction between science fiction and science faction, if I may coin such a term In science fiction the author may fairly let his imagination run wild and, as long as he does not turn the story into an obvious fairy tale, he will still remain within the bounds of pure science fiction In sharp counter-distinction to science fiction, we also have science faction. By this term I mean science fiction in which there are so many scientific facts that the story, as far as the scientific part is concerned, is no longer fiction but becomes more or less a recounting of fact.