Hard science fiction

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Hard science fiction is a category of science fiction characterized by an emphasis on scientific or technical detail, or on scientific accuracy, or on both.[1][2] The term was first used in print in 1957 by P. Schuyler Miller in a review of John W. Campbell, Jr.'s Islands of Space in Astounding Science Fiction.[3][4][5] The complementary term soft science fiction (formed by analogy to "hard science fiction"[6]) first appeared in the late 1970s as a way of describing science fiction in which science is not featured, or violates the scientific understanding at the time of writing.

The term is formed by analogy to the popular distinction between the "hard" (natural) and "soft" (social) sciences. Neither term is part of a rigorous taxonomy—instead they are approximate ways of characterizing stories that reviewers and commentators have found useful. The categorization "hard SF" represents a position on a scale from "softer" to "harder", not a binary classification.

Contents

Scientific rigor

The heart of the "hard SF" designation is the relationship of the science content and attitude to the rest of the narrative, and (for some readers, at least) the "hardness" or rigor of the science itself.[7] One requirement for hard SF is procedural or intentional: a story should be trying to be accurate, logical, credible and rigorous in its use of current scientific and technical knowledge about which technology, phenomena, scenarios and situations that are practically and/or theoretically possible, and later discoveries do not necessarily invalidate the label. For example, P. Schuyler Miller called Arthur C. Clarke's 1961 novel A Fall of Moondust hard SF,[3] and the designation remains valid even though a crucial plot element, the existence of deep pockets of "moondust" in lunar craters, is now known to be incorrect.

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