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OA: 'Radical Hard Science Fiction'
Here's a rough draft of the text we might use, linked to the phrase 'hard science fiction' on our main page.

So, what do we mean by 'hard science fiction'? Anybody who has studied the genre knows that ‘hard sf’ is actually a soft term. Certainly it conveys the general idea that the focus is on staying close to what current scientific understanding tells us is probable, or at least possible, but in detail it means different things to different people, and it is rare for any two critics or any two authors to have exactly the same take on it. To make it worse, the term ‘hard’ tempts people into comparing different science fiction settings in terms of just how 'hard' they are, with the inevitable implication that one is somehow better than the other. In the early years of the project we settled for calling our setting ‘hard but not diamond hard’ in an attempt to capture the fact that the Orin’s Arm project leans somewhat into the ‘not impossible’ aspect of hard science fiction. That was good as far as it went, but still not quite on the money. Since then discovered an even better term for what we're doing, one that steps away from some kind of Mohs scale of science-fiction hardness: ‘radical hard science fiction’.

Radical hard science fiction best describes what the Orion’s Arm project strives for. The term was first invented by the good people at Steve Jackson Games. As part of their series GURPS (Generic Universal Roleplaying System) books they’ve covered the range of different kinds of science-fiction settings pretty thoroughly, just as you’d expect. In their GURPS Ultra-Tech rulebook they cover a number of different kinds of settings, or ‘technology paths’. Naturally that book speaks of all them favourably. They are, after all, each good clean fun in their own distinctive ways. Two of those possibilities are of special interest to the OA project: paths that they call ‘Conservative Hard SF’ and ‘Radical Hard SF’. Very briefly, conservative hard SF is hard SF based on cautious extrapolation from present-day knowledge, with perhaps at most one or two carefully justified and limited forays into something that's more speculative. Radical hard SF on the other hand takes on every hard SF technology ever imagined and then pushes the envelope further with a few ‘not impossible’ techs that may not get the nod from every current scientist but do at least get a serious hearing from some significant number of experts in the field.

The very early part of the Orion’s Arm setting’s timeline could be described as ‘Conservative Hard SF’. However, we are mindful that hard science fiction of any kind is a moving target. If there had been hard science fiction in the 18th century it might have featured steam powered mechanical horses and leather vacuum suits. We are imagining the progress of knowledge forward over thousands of years of future history, including the work of trillions of beings who are brighter and better educated than any human currently in existence. Further, we’re not setting human intelligence as the limit; we suppose that hyperintelligent beings are possible, and that means that some extraordinary things might be achieved that are presently at the edge of scientific speculation and are not (yet!) ruled out. This leads straight into the category of radical hard science fiction: we still strive to make everything probable, or at least possible, given current scientific opinions, but it is hard science fiction taken to the extreme: hard science fiction with all the dials turned up to the maximum!

Edit: added a the links that I propose we use.

Messages In This Thread
RE: OA: 'Radical Hard Science Fiction' - by Matterplay1 - 08-16-2014, 12:38 AM
RE: OA: 'Radical Hard Science Fiction' - by Rynn - 08-16-2014, 01:04 AM

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