Another Argument for Hard SF

  • by Gitabushi

I just finished reading “The Martian”, by Andy Weir.

martian.jpg

Great book.  GREAT book.  Must read. Go buy it or check it out from the library.

FWIW, the book adds some depth and explanations to what you see in the movie.  One big change that actually makes the book more scientific than the movie (thank goodness).

And this is the point.

In a story, you have to have conflict and obstacles. If the story is just “Hero wants treasure, and finds it. The End” no one is going to enjoy it. So you add in an obstacle, like a monster.

“Hero wants treasure, finds it, but has to kill a monster to get it. He kills the monster easily. The End” is not much better.

A good story has lots of obstacles that the hero must overcome in a believable manner.  If overcoming the problems is too easy, the protagonist is a boring Marty Stu/Mary Sue.

To make a good story, the protagonist has to struggle, and has to learn something.

This is one of the weaknesses of game-based stories: “You can almost hear the dice rolling.”  The main characters have battles, but it’s just swing and miss until the bad guys collapse.

One of the biggest challenges to writing is creating obstacles that seem realistic to the readers, that aren’t overcome too easily, and that don’t make trivial tasks seem difficult just to add drama.

In science fiction and fantasy, you are introducing concepts that break the rules of current reality. That makes it even more difficult to create a coherent, believable system of obstacles.

“The Martian” is so good *because* the author researched everything, did all the math, and ensured that every obstacle and every solution were as close to real-life as possible.

This is probably why it got a movie treatment, as well.

It’s Science Fiction, but only barely.  It’s the hardest of hard science fiction, but without getting too caught up in numbers, or the author showing off how much he knows.

Everything that happens to Mark is realistic, and every solution he comes up with is realistic, as well.  That adds to the greatness of the story.

Now, that doesn’t mean every story should be hard science fiction. Not at all.  It just means that if you avoid hard science fiction to avoid sticky problems of math, you create a different set of problems for yourself.

There is no good or bad choice in this.  But awareness by the author of what your goal is, and what is needed from you to reach the goal, is key.

I’m now reading “Artemis” by the same author.
 
Good book so far. Hard SF, again. And the better for it.

2 thoughts on “Another Argument for Hard SF

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