Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Wells vs. Verne?

I missed an interesting conversation on hard vs soft and Wells vs. Verne yesterday on Twitter.

While a sense of "Hard SF" as "Scientific-marvelous" existed in the early 1900s, much of today's hard SF would also fail to meet that definition. The Martian, by Weir, is seen as a hard sf success story, but it is closer to the spirit of Verne than Wells, as it is the engineering of the near future, not the extrapolation of a discovery into the mists of the unknown. Even most of Wells' work fails to meet that lofty standard.

And it also must be pointed out that Verne denied that he wrote science fiction, or "scientific romance" in the parlance of the day. He was just looking for plausible methods to facilitate his fantastic voyages.

At best, Hard SF is an emerging genre at the end of Wells' career, without a sense of a soft SF to contrast against. It is the scientific-marvelous that was the idea of Hard SF in the pulps and digests, per Asimov and Ellison. Along the way, however, the definition of Hard SF turned into Verne's engineering of the future instead. Possibly during the 1970s, but certainly before the hard sf rebirth of the 90s.

So it is amusing to see talk of hard vs. soft SF framed in terms of Wells vs. Verne. Neither man embodies the Soft end of the spectrum, especially in this day of scientific-isekai, battle academies, zombies, "Cat Pictures, Please", and dinosaurs, my love.

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