Tag Archives: Hard Science Fiction

I Love the Fuzzy Edges of Science Fiction

The other day I was having a conversation with someone about the types of science fiction we both like. After explaining to them the novels and TV shows from this genre that I’ve enjoyed the most over the years, they made a comment about how interested I seem to be in hard science fiction.

Well, yes. I do love hard science fiction.

There’s something inside of me that comes alive when an author or screenwriter takes a problem that scientists are currently attempting to solve and tries to guess where they’ll be on that issue twenty, a hundred, or five hundred years from how.

However, that isn’t where my love of this genre ends.

I love the fuzzy edges of science fiction, too.

The line between sci-fi and fantasy exists, but often it’s so wispy that I barely feel the difference at all when I move between them. Neither one of these genres would be the same if it hadn’t been so heavily influenced by the other over the years. While I do tend to stick closer to the sci-fi side of the fence in general, I’m often pleasantly surprised when fantasy tropes wander over to say hello or when I notice a common science fiction plot twist in something I thought was going to be pure fantasy.

I’m pleased with how this cross-pollination works in other genres, too.  While I still don’t believe that every sci-fi story should have a romantic subplot, I appreciate the fact that authors are introducing audiences to things they might have not otherwise thought they’d enjoy. Mysteries aren’t my favourite genre, but I have started reading them on occasion thanks to repeated exposures to these types of storylines in science fiction and fantasy books that I otherwise found to be a perfect fit.

This is also a technique I’ve been using on friends and relatives in a straightforward sort of way. I’d never trick or push anyone into reading something that they’d find objectionable, but I have recommended stories to people that included elements of genres they don’t normally read if I thought they’d enjoy the plot in general.

For example, earlier this year I was discussing Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre with someone who has no interest at all in the romance genre. There were so many other things going on in that tale that I thought they’d really love it. In the end, they read it and thought it was well-worth their time.

The beautiful thing about science fiction is how difficult it can be to draw the line between where this genre ends and another one begins. There is sc-fi that politically motivated, apolitical, humorous, serious, hopeful, dystopian, barely there, the sole reason any of the characters bother to stumble out of their sleeping pods in whatever counts for morning on a planet with three suns, and so much more. It has crossed over with everything from romance to horror to mysteries to stories that are loosely based on real historical events.

It is this wide range of possibilities that keeps me coming back for more. Sometimes I wander into one corner of the genre and set up camp for a few months or years. Right now I have almost no interest at all in the dark, violent, or dystopian sections, for example, but there are so many other places to explore that I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of seeking out new stories that somehow have sci-fi elements in them no matter how far they roam from home.

What’s your favourite kind of science fiction to read? How do you feel about stories that mix two or more genres together in general?

 

Rest in Peace, Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking in 2006. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

I’m assuming all of my readers heard this news yesterday, but the famous physicist Stephen Hawking is dead.

The world is a dimmer and sadder place without him. I doubt any of his friends and loved ones will read this, but I’d like to extend my sincere condolences to them if they do.

A Brief History of Time was one of my all-time favourite pop-science reads. The only science classes I took in high school were Biology and Chemistry, so he was my first introduction to Cosmology and Physics.

He explained everything so clearly and concisely in the things he wrote for a general audience. By far the best part of A Brief History of Time in particular was the section on black holes. Mr. Hawking’s theories about how they worked and why it’s actually possible for some material to escape a black hole blew my mind.

It sounded like something from a science fiction novel, yet it was happening in our universe and it could be explained in purely scientific terms. There’s something special about touching the far reaches of current human knowledge like that.

Not every physicist is capable of explaining his or her work so well to people who have little to no understanding of what physics is about or how physicists are slowing figuring out more and more details about how the universe works and how it began.

In 2014, Stephen Hawking asked science fiction writers to incorporate his ideas about imaginary time into their stories.  To the best of my knowledge, no one has taken him up on that challenge yet.

(If any of my readers know of any plausible hard science fiction books, movies, or TV shows that are based on Stephen Hawking’s work, do mention them in the comment section below! Everything I could find online about this topic involved soft science fiction like Futurama or Doctor Who.

Mr. Hawking, thank you for everything you did for the scientific community. Thank you for inspiring generations of science fiction authors, too. May you rest in peace.

I’ll end this post with a quote from Mr. Hawking himself:

It surprises me how disinterested we are today about things like physics, space, the universe and philosophy of our existence, our purpose, our final destination. It’s a crazy world out there. Be curious.