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"Problematica"
http://www.heinleinsociety.org/thsnexus/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=702
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Author:  georule [ Thu Jun 10, 2010 8:16 am ]
Post subject:  Re: "Problematica"

beamjockey wrote:
I'm puzzled, because I have not heard the arguments in favor of "Heinlein Is Not a Hard SF Writer."



Ah, but no one said that. You have ventured into binary thinking of the exclusionary sort. To attack one position is not to support another position --unless they are the only two positions available and additionally are exclusionary (i.e. you can't be sometimes one, and othertimes the other).

Any pigeon-hole you try to put Heinlein in at a macro level is almost certain to be uncomfortable.

I would never argue that Heinlein wasn't an excellent hard sf writer when he wanted to be, and wrote some excellent examples. I just don't think it was primarily where his interest was other than when it suited him, usually for financial reasons, and often still laced thru with social agenda of one sort or another.

Now, individual works might characterize in a pigeon-holeable way. But even then he wrote some genre benders, as Bill mentioned.

Author:  georule [ Thu Jun 10, 2010 8:42 am ]
Post subject:  Re: "Problematica"

BillPatterson wrote:
. . .and it always turns out that the definition of "hard sf" isn't very coherent, either.



I do think there is a very narrow set of stories that you can get people to agree are "hard sf". The puzzle/problem story that relies on science to be solved.

But I'd agree that is still a smallish subset of what some people appear to mean when they say "hard sf".

For instance, is there a select list of social agendas that it is appropriate for a "hard sf" author to be advocating and keep his hard sf credentials, but if he ventures outside that list then he is engaged in inappropriate (for a hard sf guy) social engineering and has crossed the great divide to the icky place where his old friends and fans will yearn for his younger days when he knew his proper place?

Say, the juveniles. If we demonstrate there was a conscious effort there to interest young people in the sciences, and space, and encourage outbound migration of the race for the purpose of making humanity functionally immortal. Can we call that a social agenda? I'd have to call it a social agenda.

But would "the hard sf" crowd kick it out of bed on that score? I think not.

Anti-religion would be another example of "acceptable hard sf social agendas", in my estimation, and explains why the blatantly social agenda-driven "If This Goes On--" (as you know, essentially an expanded bit of FUTL) is embraced as "hard sf".

Author:  BillPatterson [ Thu Jun 10, 2010 5:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: "Problematica"

georule wrote:
I do think there is a very narrow set of stories that you can get people to agree are "hard sf". The puzzle/problem story that relies on science to be solved. <snip>
Oh, there are a couple of other categories, at least. I think Hal Clement really occupies the center of that category; I've never heard anyone question the hard-science credentials of say Mission of Gravity.

And Asimov wrote a number of hard-sf stories, too -- didja hear the one about the goose who was a transmuting nuclear reactor? Or the one about a billiard ball that suddenly becomes inertialess - and can therefore be used as a murder weapon? A number of his mysteries fall into that classification.

Author:  BillMullins [ Thu Jun 10, 2010 8:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: "Problematica"

Heinlein, at least after 1947, referred to himself as a writer of "speculative fiction". (He more or less invented the term as it is now used; except for a nonce 1889 appearance, no one has found it in print before his 1947 usages. See the OED SF Project website for details.)

Quote:
Speculative fiction (I prefer that term to science fiction) is also concerned with sociology, psychology, esoteric aspects of biology, impact of terrestrial culture on the other cultures we may encounter when we conquer space, etc., without end.
RAH, 1947 letter in Grumbles.

Did he ever refer to himself as a "hard science fiction" writer? Did he refer to himself, either before or after 1947, as a "science fiction writer"?

Author:  BillPatterson [ Fri Jun 11, 2010 6:49 am ]
Post subject:  Re: "Problematica"

ISTR he used the term "science fiction writer" or some variant in letters fairly frequently after 1947, but clearly speaking casually and privately, rather than for public consumption.

Author:  georule [ Fri Jun 11, 2010 6:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: "Problematica"

BillPatterson wrote:
I think Hal Clement really occupies the center of that category; I've never heard anyone question the hard-science credentials of say Mission of Gravity.

And Asimov wrote a number of hard-sf stories, too -- didja hear the one about the goose who was a transmuting nuclear reactor? Or the one about a billiard ball that suddenly becomes inertialess - and can therefore be used as a murder weapon? A number of his mysteries fall into that classification.


A mid-list pure fantasy writer of my acquaintance (she killed me in one of her novels, because published use as cannon-fodder is one of her love-gifts to friends), has a huge crush on Hal Clement. No argument there. One can admire purity without wishing to emulate it.

Yeah, I've read those Asimov stories.

So, okay, there is an (generally accepted, I think) avatar in Clement. How many degrees of separation from the avatar can one get without having the Adjudicators starting to harrumph and fingering their stun guns? My point is, social content is not necessarily the metric used in determining degrees of separation from the avatar. . . unless the social content gets outside of some accepted bounds.

Author:  BillPatterson [ Sat Jun 12, 2010 6:53 am ]
Post subject:  Re: "Problematica"

georule wrote:
<snip>So, okay, there is an (generally accepted, I think) avatar in Clement. How many degrees of separation from the avatar can one get without having the Adjudicators starting to harrumph and fingering their stun guns? My point is, social content is not necessarily the metric used in determining degrees of separation from the avatar. . . unless the social content gets outside of some accepted bounds.

I'm not entirely sure "social content" is the metric; I've never heard anyone object to social speculation so long as it is included within the "hard-science" content -- which is another term that doesn't seem to mean what it seems to mean (if you know what I mean). Larry Niven's Known Space series would be the test case. The State/Corpsicle series seems to reside in the hard-science area, as it uses STL.

Some engineering-heavy stories seem to be accepted; others are not. I've seen some people reject alternate worlds stuff, even though it's based on a pure physics concept.

Author:  BillMullins [ Sat Jun 12, 2010 1:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: "Problematica"

BillPatterson wrote:
Some engineering-heavy stories seem to be accepted; others are not. I've seen some people reject alternate worlds stuff, even though it's based on a pure physics concept.

And some folks consider time-travel and faster than light to be fantasy.

"Hard SF" is one of those "I know it when I see it" things, like porn.

Author:  georule [ Sat Jun 12, 2010 5:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: "Problematica"

BillPatterson wrote:
georule wrote:
<snip>So, okay, there is an (generally accepted, I think) avatar in Clement. How many degrees of separation from the avatar can one get without having the Adjudicators starting to harrumph and fingering their stun guns? My point is, social content is not necessarily the metric used in determining degrees of separation from the avatar. . . unless the social content gets outside of some accepted bounds.

I'm not entirely sure "social content" is the metric; I've never heard anyone object to social speculation so long as it is included within the "hard-science" content -- which is another term that doesn't seem to mean what it seems to mean (if you know what I mean). Larry Niven's Known Space series would be the test case. The State/Corpsicle series seems to reside in the hard-science area, as it uses STL.

Some engineering-heavy stories seem to be accepted; others are not. I've seen some people reject alternate worlds stuff, even though it's based on a pure physics concept.


Was SIASL accepted as hard sf? The core concept --the difference in viewpoint of an exceptional human (VMS genome rates that) raised by aliens surely should qualify? Speaking of various above, am I mis-remembering, or were you and I (and Robert James, and George R.R. Martin, if that helps you place the moment I have in mind) in a greenroom in San Jose where Hal Clement sadly opined in the watershed difference in Heinlein in this regard starting with SIASL?

Sometimes it is a matter of distance in time/race that can allow you to get away with social engineering in "hard sf" without tripping the yowls of the Adjudicators, it seems to me. But I would argue that is often more a matter of "plausible deniability" than a real separation.

Author:  BillPatterson [ Sun Jun 13, 2010 8:08 am ]
Post subject:  Re: "Problematica"

georule wrote:
Was SIASL accepted as hard sf? The core concept --the difference in viewpoint of an exceptional human (VMS genome rates that) raised by aliens surely should qualify? Speaking of various above, am I mis-remembering, or were you and I (and Robert James, and George R.R. Martin, if that helps you place the moment I have in mind) in a greenroom in San Jose where Hal Clement sadly opined in the watershed difference in Heinlein in this regard starting with SIASL?

Sometimes it is a matter of distance in time/race that can allow you to get away with social engineering in "hard sf" without tripping the yowls of the Adjudicators, it seems to me. But I would argue that is often more a matter of "plausible deniability" than a real separation.

I remember the occasion well. The reaction of Harry Stubbs to SIASL is a demonstration of the fact that Stranger was regarded as a radical departure from the hard-sf Heinlein. So we have a metric: Starship Troopers was to some degree within the range as it existed at the time, and Stranger in a Strange Land was not.

However, I don't think you can look much for objective factors in this judgment. What I think had really ended was that Heinein went through a period in the 1950's of deliberately being "pleasing," of stroking and coddling his readership (more in the nonfiction, I think, but it fits the whole concept he had of the juveniles, and he probably learned it from doing the juveniles), and that ended in the editorial rooms of Scribner's in 1959. Stranger was the first thing written after the extremely traumatic rejection by Scribner's, and the first thing written under his new rubric of writing "my own stuff, my own way" (which pretty much tells us what he thought was going on in at least the immediately preceding books).

I think Robert James has the straight of it here: that is the moment at which Heinlein flung off commercial restraints and became the artist he had always been in potentia.

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