Monday, May 21, 2012

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#172) -- Hard of Soft Sci-Fi?

Do you prefer hard sci-fi (science-based) or soft sci-fi (space fantasy)?

War of the Worlds is more than just
a rollicking good romp. It says
something about us.
Actually I like them both, but only when either of them uses science as a jumping-off point to speculate about concepts like human nature and other less technological concerns.

I thinks that's why I like Ray Bradbury's work so much. He didn't get bogged down in the science of how a time machine worked. Instead he used the "fact" of the time machine in the story to present a tale about human greed and how it has a farther reaching impact than merely the person who is being greedy.

It's why I enjoy the work of Asimov when he address religious blindness that seeks to serve itself and it's traditions rather than the people it passes over everyday. 

It's why I love the work of Gary Kilworth, who shows via the same kind of time-travel trappings how we need look any further than ourselves to see whose sin is screwing up the world.

It's why I love the science fiction of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. when he satirized the culture of automation and how it destroys little by little the value of the human individual like a certain self-playing musical instrument.

It's why I love the involvement of Le Guin's researchers who try to learn about other cultures without impacting them negatively or becoming too ingrained in their politics. (Kudos and a free copy of my SHOW ME A HERO e-book to anyone who can name the first four works referenced and any of the Le Guin novels contained in that reference.)

I'm not a huge fan of fantasy stories in a space setting, such as the Pern series or the like. Other than the original Star Wars (A New Hope), that kind of story usually leaves me flat. But neither am I a fan of stories that are merely scientific extrapolations with a sugar-coated dressing of fictionalized story. I want sci-fi that speculates not just technology, but what it means to (and for) and says about the humans who use that technology. That's what get my sci-fi geek going.