March 28, 2009

How Do You Like Your Sci-Fi?

I'm a fan of science fiction, but not all science fiction. It's a little difficult to articulate the reasons why, but I think it best boils down to the difference between "soft" and "hard" sci-fi literature.

The sci-fi tales I've enjoyed reading most have been the ones that didn't bog themselves down with the schematics and intricacies of the technology. Isaac Asimov may be heralded as an icon in the genre, but I could hardly suffer through his novel, The Gods Themselves, because I felt there was just too much ink being used to describe the science instead of the fiction. I skipped through half the story, and I didn't feel like I missed a thing.

On the other hand, I loved Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. A fair big of text was dedicated to the technology used to train the children in the space station, but the core of the storytelling stayed with the relationships and hardships of Ender and the other children in the story. If I had felt as emotionally invested with the characters in Asimov's novel, I would have found it far more tolerable.

At the end of the day, it's the story that's going to hook me. If an author is spending so much time carrying on about a gadget or widget, instead of making me care about the characters using—or being used—the tech, the story simply will not resonate with me on any level.

Three more favorite sci-fi tales: Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451; Spider Robinson's The Free Lunch; Dean Koontz's Watchers

Three least favorite sci-fi tales: The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells; The Truth Machine by James L. Halperin; Man Plus by Frederick Pohl

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