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Sunday, 25 February 2018

Sci-fi I Read; Hard vs. Soft

In this week's post, I thought I'd look at something I've been struggling with in terms of both my personal tastes and my writing preferences with science fiction (hereafter sci-fi). There are two major branches of sci-fi: "Hard" and "Soft", or at least those are names for them. Hard sci-fi is characterised by a reliance on and accuracy to scientific facts, while Soft sci-fi explores other aspects of science such as psychology and is often not scientifically accurate. Each has its merits, each has its drawbacks, and I like them both. The two I've decided to use for this piece are A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C. Clarke and Dune by Frank Herbert.

I first read A Fall of Moondust on the recommendation of my father, and to be frank I didn't expect to enjoy it. My only real contact with Arthur Clarke at that point was 2001: A Space Odyssey, which I consider to be one of the most boring and nonsensical movies it's been my misfortune to watch. But as I read, I was pleasantly surprised. While the difficulties of performing the major rescue operation in the book are amazing on their own, it's the believably of a future where lunar tourism is commonplace and vehicles such as the tourist-cruiser Selene make regular trips across our satellite's dusty surface. It also predates the Apollo 11 million, and is still noted for its accurate depiction of lunar life despite some elements being impacted by time and advancing scientific knowledge. It pushed me a little further towards my current attitude towards sci-fi; be as accurate as possible to current practical and theoretical scientific theory. So not Avatar, basically.

Dune is a huge book, and while I might've gotten round to it sooner, the edition we had used a difficult typeface. It was a while before I a) had an edition I could read and b) had the energy and inclination to dive into the book. It's not the most scientifically-accurate book in the world. Alright, it borders on fantasy. But it's a sweeping epic which tells a tale as old as time; of warring families and politico-religious struggles. I also managed to find plenty of likable characters and complex situations in its vast cast. And given the context and actions of all the cast from main protagonists down, that's saying something. It ends on a pseudo-cliffhanger, but I've yet to read its sequels Dune Messiah and Children of Dune.

Well, that's it for this week. Next week, we'll be talking to a man who was recently launched into space...after failing to meet his work deadline at NASA. Good night!

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