When I was a kid, I loved this stuff. Star Trek was a weekly appointment. I still love the science, but….
I don’t like the box. You know, the box. “You can’t do that there according to string theory.” “Yeah, but do you mean a gravitational well or a graviton flux?”
I like the tech. I hate the rules. Rules have never been my strong suit, even as a kid. “Don’t read in class!” Tell me where the written word would be more appropriate! Soft scifi and SFR don’t put me in that box, and, of course, I try and keep everything somewhat possible. I don’t like glaring mistakes, and, by glaring, I mean even my unscientific mind knows that ain’t gonna happen.
Science fiction romance and soft scifi give me that outlet to dream anything. In Home is the Sailor, the big deal weapon everyone is chasing is a mobile EMP. Nothing new about that, right? Well, yeah, EMP hits everything, unless you can target it.
What I knew…
I knew that EMP as a weapon is wildly uncontrolled and space is … well, space. It’s big. It’s vacuum. I’ve always laughed at the notion of space battles anyway. To even have one, where any weapon could hit anyone would be a huge feat. Mostly, you’d hit air… so to speak.
The key was a targeting system and a contained power source. Any power source that could do it would have to be massive and hard to contain. In fact, that’s usually what holds us back. Scotty never really did have enough power. And, a weapon that fires wide helps no one, hence the need for a targeting system that can direct the resulting pulse exactly where you want it to go and narrow that strike range to minimize who you hit.
What I didn’t know…
This is mostly speculation. I don’t actually know if there’s hope for this tech in the future. I like to think so. EMPs we can make, but using them is dangerous. Of course, a nuke will make one that’s un-directed. I do know that even a little bit of anti-gravity will require power like we’ve never managed to produce. How will we direct it? Contain it? I don’t have a clue, but God, I love to dream about it. It’s all that possibility that does it for me.
Hard scifi means you have to stay in the bounds of science, or at least possible science, and I get the point. It should be something you can explain for the hard scifi fan. I just don’t have that boundary. I doubt any fans of SFR actually do.
We cut our science teeth on Star Wars and the Death Star. Do you know what something like that would require? NO. You know why? They didn’t explain it. I mean, we could guess. It needs artificial gravity, a waste system, a power source, defense shielding, fighter bays. I mean, we know nothing. We know very little because the story wasn’t about the science, and therefore, it didn’t qualify for hard scifi as the fans defined it.
But I think the issue isn’t hard or soft scifi for most fans. It’s the argument of what’s “real” scifi, right? One side argues it must have science, and the other that “Dude, it’s fiction.” It’s both, and there’s a spectrum. SFR is never wholly about the science. It is more about a relationship. Soft scifi is usually more about making a statement, analyzing society, looking at humanity, and generally finding meaning.
With age, I’ve become less worried about the how and more involved with why. I think that’s why I don’t really Trek anymore. I don’t read hard scifi novels. It’s just not my thing. I grew out of it. In fact, looking back, I find that some of the things I thought of as harder scifi may have been the precursors for what I know today as SFR. Andre Norton,The Dragonriders of Pern and Battletech were my faithful companions in my youth. None of them were the hardest scifi. Not really. Though, the Battletech novels focused on tech a lot.
I suspect the genre has been changing with each generation, with each discovery even. We see more as possible than we ever have. That’s kind of awesome to me. More people in love with possibility means more curiosity. Curiosity may kill the cat, but I bet he does it with a Death Star. Because that’s how you make the impossible possible.