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#1 2022-01-27 03:49:28

Terraformer
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From: Ceres
Registered: 2007-08-27
Posts: 3,848
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Let's build a hard sci-fi space opera setting!

Space opera is fun. Star kingdoms, trade wars, dogfights... unfortunately, in almost all depictions, it's also physically impossible by current knowledge.

But there's no reason is has to be. When you look at a classic of the genre, Star Wars, they don't actually visit that many planets throughout the entire six movies. The Phantom Menace has Naboo, Tatooine, and Coruscant. A New Hope has Tatooine and Yavin IV (and, briefly, Alderaan, but no-one goes there anymore). It is not necessary to have hundreds and thousands of planets, especially when other habitats are considered (it would make more sense for rebels to hide out inside a cold asteroid).

And our own solar system has, within 5AU of its star, nine sizeable rocky (eh, icy in some cases) bodies, one (two?) dwarf planets, an asteroid belt, and two asteroid clusters (Trojans). All of which are very different from each other, enough to provide the diversity of settings that are needed for proper adventures IN SPACE! If you can get the speed of your ships up, there's another system of moons another 5AU out. And 10AU after that, a planet that one could turn supramundane without needing dynamic support loops, just atmospheric buoyancy...

So our own solar system is perfectly fine as a setting. You don't even need to go that far out to make it work.


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#2 2022-01-27 04:07:58

Terraformer
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From: Ceres
Registered: 2007-08-27
Posts: 3,848
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Re: Let's build a hard sci-fi space opera setting!

Now, to make a setting work we need some ground rules. Being space opera, these rules have to ensure human primacy and adventure friendliness. We want to see people doing stuff, not being watched over by machines of loving grace.

So my ground rules are:

- No AGI. We want humans to be the dominant species here, not the pets of some stargod that's busy dismantling Mercury to construct a Matrioshka brain. Frank Herbert solved this by having a religious prohibition on thinking machines; I will solve it simply by not letting them be developed. We don't have them now, so it's not inevitable that a future setting would have them.
- No self-replicating swarms. Again, we want the planets to stay around, not be devoured by people looking to build a ringworld. Like AGI, we don't have these now, so there's no requirement to explain why we wouldn't have them in the future.
- Neo-medievalism rules the day. The more factions there are, the better. Dune, Star Wars, Warhammer 40K, all of these understand this. Rather than having a few superpowers, as in The Expanse, there should be a proliferation of independent colonies, guilds, religious organisations, Great Houses, trading blocs... the friction between these is where we find Plot. The more factions, the more they step on each others toes and start low-intensity interplanetary conflict that provide work for independent contractors.
- Technology is a straightforward development from present day. This is connected to the No Singularity rule mentioned above. It should not be too alien a world. Anything that is used should have its roots in what we have today.

It *should* go without saying that there is no FtL in this, or time travel, or psychic powers, with it being hard scifi. Unfortunately, very few people actually understand what hard scifi is, and put works that have these things in this category...


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#3 2022-01-27 04:33:46

Terraformer
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From: Ceres
Registered: 2007-08-27
Posts: 3,848
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Re: Let's build a hard sci-fi space opera setting!

Now, the planets we have available to us (inner edition)...

Mercury. Metal rich, energy rich, and desolate. Perfect for a mining world. Vast solar power farms, constructed from the materials of the planet itself, cover the surface and orbit, the power dedicated to producing more and more aluminum and titanium and other valuable elements from export. Over time, with so much energy available and space to construct particle accelerators, the planet has become the primary source of antimatter in the system. But this is not a place for independent settlers. Megacorps rule here, the only ones with the resources to establish operations.

Venus. The surface is scorching hot. But the clouds... up in the clouds, where temperature and pressure are at Terran norms, aerostat city-states drift around the world. The water level is increasing as ice is directed inwards, and sulfur is being gradually removed from the atmosphere, with the goal of enabling engineered life forms to survive on the outside of vast flying islands.

Luna. The Ecumenopolis. Most of the surface remains as it has always been, but extending from the poles are two vast cities, the cultural hearts of the solar system. These are the Lunar Republics. Here you will find the full diversity of humanity on display. Just take care when visiting the underhives, the air filters aren't always maintained correctly...

Mars. Partial terraforming has taken place. It is not somewhere you can take off your breathing mask, and may never be, but the atmosphere is thick enough for engineered plant life to survive on the surface. Boreal forests cover the equatorial regions, tundra in the higher latitudes. With the greater ease of growing food, and the ability to pull oxygen from the atmosphere for life support, it is a far more hospitable planet than it used to be, which has paved the way for homesteaders. It is a planet of microstates -- some democratic, some despotic, some aristocratic; the full spectrum of political systems can be found here.


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#4 2022-01-27 07:24:30

tahanson43206
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Registered: 2018-04-27
Posts: 18,084

Re: Let's build a hard sci-fi space opera setting!

For Terraformer re new topic ....

Quaoar is a resident science fiction writer .... he's asked about real-Universe design in the past, so he must have ** some ** inclination toward hard science.

Best wishes for success with this interesting new topic.

Of course you must be familiar with Analog.  We have a topic dedicated to that hard science/fiction magazine.

(th)

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#5 2022-01-27 07:36:03

tahanson43206
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Registered: 2018-04-27
Posts: 18,084

Re: Let's build a hard sci-fi space opera setting!

For Terraformer ...

Here's a carefully thought out setting, if someone wants to build a story ...

https://www.yahoo.com/news/meet-ukraini … 24527.html

Even though the architects seem to have creatively addressed any potential threat to human life on Mars, the planet that’s a whopping 141 million miles away from the sun isn’t livable for humans just yet. That said, it’s the most similar to Earth—even though temperatures can dip as low as negative 220 degrees Fahrenheit. So, perhaps Makhno Studio’s vision for a future away from Earth isn’t that far off. And for all the design enthusiasts, rest assured that the architects are taking Plan C’s look seriously. Hopefully, we can all stay on Earth for at least a little while longer, but it’s still good to know that perhaps one day, when our beloved planet is no longer livable, we have a stylish backup plan on Mars. And maybe even more of the world’s most creative architecture firms will join forces to bring these unique developments to the formerly uninhabitable planet.

Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest

(th)

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#6 2022-01-28 01:37:31

clark
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Registered: 2001-09-20
Posts: 6,363

Re: Let's build a hard sci-fi space opera setting!

Science fiction bozos think environment is key, but no, it's character. People make the world go round. You think otherwise, f@ck off.

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#7 2022-01-28 04:37:57

Terraformer
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From: Ceres
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Posts: 3,848
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Re: Let's build a hard sci-fi space opera setting!

As soon as I saw your name I knew you'd come here to be an asshole, clark. Nice to see you again.


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#8 2022-01-28 08:08:16

tahanson43206
Moderator
Registered: 2018-04-27
Posts: 18,084

Re: Let's build a hard sci-fi space opera setting!

For Terraformer re #7

You recruited me to join this forum, after you persuaded Dr. Dartnell to give you membership in the Knowledge Forum. I still marvel at your achievement, because Dr. Dartnell had closed off admissions due to the high number of spammers.

It is difficult to know if I have lived up to your expectations, but you may have put in a good word here or there.

In any case, I am now willing and able to help you maintain decorum in your topic.

Here is a course of action we might take, subject to your concurrence and SpaceNut's approval:

1) Move clark's post to the new clark Postings topic
2) Move your friendly reply to the same topic
3) Remove this advisory post
4) Remove your reply if the answer is yes

Your decision will provide a model for other Topic Managers, who might wish to maintain a semblance of order in their topics.

(th)

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#9 2022-01-28 09:30:56

Terraformer
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From: Ceres
Registered: 2007-08-27
Posts: 3,848
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Re: Let's build a hard sci-fi space opera setting!

Oh clark is always like that. He's a pathetic little thing that only comes here to insult people. Probably doesn't like hard sf because it's too plausible. Scares him. Thinks fiction should be nice and far away and impossible.

Anyway, don't feed the trolls is my usual approach. Just ignore him. He can post all the petty posts he wishes to post.


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#10 2022-01-28 10:59:52

kbd512
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Registered: 2015-01-02
Posts: 7,598

Re: Let's build a hard sci-fi space opera setting!

Terraformer,

I knew lots of guys like clark in the military.  After you understood them, you learned to take the point instead of the arrow.  He has a point, but doesn't know how to make it without being excessively rude for the reason you've already noted- certain ideas scare people with a very narrow view of the world.  They cloak their fear and paranoia of other people they don't understand in arrogance and rudeness.  It's a defense mechanism / character flaw, sort of like the character flaws that define the characters in any good story line.  As always, art will imitate life.  Anyway, I agree that the other planets within our own solar system are suitable for further development work and a reasonably realistic setting for the next great "space drama".  If all the world is a stage, then why not the universe?  In the near future, we will have the ability to both travel and live there.  We did a ton of development work to get to this point, but even more is required to live on Mercury / Venus / Mars.

We will have our own miniature version of "Star Wars" / "Star Trek", even if we lack hyperdrives and light sabers and photon torpedoes.  The replicators (turning energy into matter) would be the most useful of all the technologies to have, IMO.  Good progress is already being made on the "hyperdrive" / "warp drive" technology- our boffins have already created a real warp bubble, however small.  Even after we have usable warp drive technology, it's probable that we'll first use it to move about our own solar system.  We need accurate maps of the space around us to avoid "warping" through a planet or an asteroid, but we don't have those, so we're initially confined to "our own neighborhood".

Are technologies like warp drive really science fiction after we've already done it?

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#11 2022-01-29 07:26:39

tahanson43206
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Registered: 2018-04-27
Posts: 18,084

Re: Let's build a hard sci-fi space opera setting!

For Terraformer re new topic ....

The activities of the existing forum members might be input to a "space opera" for the right author....

Here are some scenarios off the top ...

Canadian imagines a space passenger vessel and persists despite many obstacles to achieve success.

Texan imagines a competitive space passenger vessel and persists despite many obstacles to achieve success.

Texan imagines a landing probe configuration and writes to Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos to offer plan.

Texan imagines an orbital refueling system and writes to Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos to offer plan.

New Hampshire citizen imagines a regolith scoop to collect water on Mars.

In the fantasy world of Space Opera, these swashbuckling heros can achieve the success that looks unlikely in the real Universe.

Update:  Last night's news commentary included a humor routine poking fun at Angela Merkel ... The joke was about Angela trying to tell a joke.

However, the line used fits here ...

Two Texans and a Canadian walk into a bar in New Hampshire ...

You'll have to supply the Swash and the Buckles!

What happens next?

(th)

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#12 2022-03-03 01:20:26

clark
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Registered: 2001-09-20
Posts: 6,363

Re: Let's build a hard sci-fi space opera setting!

I'm only slightly insulted that you think you know people like me. If originality hadn't died with Warhol, I would be in tears.

Before you reply, look up irony.

Anyways, science fiction isn't really considered literature because, like fantasy, the environment is entirely made up. Author is God, and you can wave a magic f*cking wand and just say this is how the universe works. Not saying I agree, but I do think there is a valid point.

Hard SF at least tries to apply the rules of our universe to the story, but the problem still is that we are all imagining how we might experience the human condition in the environment never experienced by human beings. It is contrived.

Anyways, my prior statement stands. Characters matter, a sunset or a mountain range never made a story someone wanted to read.

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#13 2022-03-03 15:34:13

Calliban
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From: Northern England, UK
Registered: 2019-08-18
Posts: 3,554

Re: Let's build a hard sci-fi space opera setting!

I agree with Clarke's point in Post #12.  I recommend the Expanse to anyone looking for a good hard sci-fi.  It is good precisely because it develops complex characters.  The character of Amos Burton, a sociopathic hard nut mechanic who grew up as a child sex worker on the streets of Baltimore, is probably the most intriguing.

It is set in the 23rd century.  Mankind has colonised the solar system, but not yet the stars.  Earth is united under the UN; Mars is an independent military power.  Belters are spread across numerous colonies in the asteroids.  Relatively poor and bitter at generations of mistreatment by Earth and Mars.  One of the things I like most is the way it realistically constrains human technologies with real physics.  There are no warp drives, no transporters, no inertial dampeners, no deflector shields.  Ships are made of steel and familiar alloys.  Acceleration is limited by human physiology.  Battles take place slowly, with ships firing missiles and rail guns at each other over thousands of kilometres of space.  It also provides a realistic view of human societies, which are unlikely to evolve into altruistic communist utopias.  All in all, the show comes across as a fairly realistic impression of where humanity could be a few centuries hence.  There is a gritty realism to it that sets it apart from shows like Star Trek, which are really just fantasies.

Last edited by Calliban (2022-03-03 15:37:08)


"Plan and prepare for every possibility, and you will never act. It is nobler to have courage as we stumble into half the things we fear than to analyse every possible obstacle and begin nothing. Great things are achieved by embracing great dangers."

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#14 2022-03-09 02:20:02

clark
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Registered: 2001-09-20
Posts: 6,363

Re: Let's build a hard sci-fi space opera setting!

Expanse is fun but fails once they add the "aliens" and worm gates. It fails like the rest of sci-fi when it engages in fantasy. Again, I don't agree necessarily, but the reality is that when you introduce non-reality elements to a story, it requires the reader to suspend disbelief. Literature in the classic sense is about engaging the human condition and experience. When the author introduces elements outside of either, it becomes something else, and something that isn't literature as currently defined.

Is it possible to write a sci fi based story that respects the human condition and human experience without succumbing to fantasy? I think so, but I haven't found it yet. When it is realized it will be the equivalent of Harry Potter in terms of financial success. Harry Potter isn't literature, but it does a pretty good job of breaking down the human condition within the framework of a defined and logical universe.

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#15 2023-01-14 04:46:49

Terraformer
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From: Ceres
Registered: 2007-08-27
Posts: 3,848
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Re: Let's build a hard sci-fi space opera setting!

Worldbuilding doesn't have be done at the expense of characters. So long as you resist the urge to show off. Then you'll detract from the actual writing, if you do what many SF writers have done (okay, Heinlein) and be all "we have a specific impulse of 642 seconds, and we need a delta-V of three point oh six kilometres per second, so that should leave us with...". Doing that also opens you up to nitpicking, since someone will pick up on any slight errors you make.

Hard SF is a rare find. Probably the best (only?) hard (ish, the big enabling technology is reliable suspended animation so YMMV) SF space opera I have found is Karl Schroeder's Lockstep, set on rogue worlds where everyone sleeps for 30 years and wakes for a month, enabling them to maintain a cohesive civilisation with slow (1-2% of c) starships.

In regards to worldbuilding and characters and plots, the last books I binge read were The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. Not hard SF (they have gravity manipulation and limited telepathy), still harder than anything that usually comes up when you search for hard SF. The plots and characterscome courtesy of the Grimm Brothers smile So we get a cyborg Cinderella and Cress locked up in her satellite and...

If you allow suspended animation, Sleeping Beauty should translate easily enough.


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#16 2023-01-14 09:34:36

Mars_B4_Moon
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Registered: 2006-03-23
Posts: 9,774

Re: Let's build a hard sci-fi space opera setting!

Every story stood on the shoulders of another, it is rare to find anything truly unique. The tv show Babylon-5 had some 'Hard' or hardish scifi elements and at times clever moments of humor and maybe real world commentary. The movie 'Gravity' had some hard scifi-ish element or current science, people like to read Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Andy Weir, Stephen Baxter they are liked by readers and I like the 'Dune' universe. I'm not sure what made Dune unique maybe the exotic world and subtle political commentary for its time or because it combines elements of Fantasy with some hard scifi concepts. If you are looking for success I feel 'drama' sells more and the world building just happens to be a setting in a story, I think most people like to read and watch real people interact, however the Hal-9000 or a big Dinosaur in the cartoon 'Primal' or WALL-E might be exceptions to that rule, the monsters or aliens or machine still display human traits like emotion, fear etc it is rare to see scifi write about something truly alien like some basic organic goo on a planet, or the Star Trek TNG crystalline entity. I found the living 'talking' blackhole Gargantua in movie Interstellar kind of interesting even if it was 'out there' it was interesting like a Living Planet Mind with ego telepathy in Tarkovsky's critically acclaimed 1972 film Solaris.  I think most people don't care about 'hardness' and just read or watch a series for the gossip and human drama and a story that involves a repeat of previous fables or previous story. They say every human story on Earth can be traced back to maybe 14 books, some say it is as little as 7 or 6 or even five stories, plots will repeat the revenge story, the tragic love story, the rags to riches, the villain, the monster appears, the jester or joker, the hero, gruff wise grandpa, the Path of Rebirth before its too Late? the whole universe is a joke path the Comedy route When Harry Met Sally, Monty Python, man against nature is another trope, metaphors maybe a commonly occurring situation or the Cinderella path of rise, fall, rise, the adventure type with an adventure plot, the bratty annoying younger sibling. etc as Cliché as these characters and plots sound they are important to sell your story, these elements of drama and gossip and overused predictable story elements they will often make a story sell because people identify with something familiar. The latest place I seen Hard-Scifi elements pop up was in the medium of cartoons and video games, 'Planetes' a Japanese anime manga cartoon Media franchise involves cleaning up space debris, the genre of post Apocalypse video games involve rebuilding damaged worlds that have been ripped apart by war the game 'Observation' has players interact with the crew of a space station.

I know a lot of people rank the Expanse as a very good show or very good read, I read one book I just wasn't really into the story and it was a bit of a chore maybe I was distracted at the time or too busy for reading, maybe the previous scifi/fantasy book I read was better. I have tried the Expanse and I tried the tv show for a while but gave up. Each person will have their own personal tastes so maybe it just not for me, I feel it would have worked better as a 'game'. I'm not sure how to class or rank the books or series, I might try return and watch the show again sometime.

kbd512 wrote:

Are technologies like warp drive really science fiction after we've already done it?

I don't own a 'genre' so I can not speak for people but fantasy and scifi can be broke down into many sub genres. I think the whole point to 'Hard Scifi' is that it is plausible tech in the very near future. While spooky weird innovative stuff happens in our real world like A.I simulations or 'Quantum Entanglement' or 3-D printing, remaking something down to the atom and replicating it like Star Trek or flying a Ship Faster than Light or at multiples FTL speed seem impossible for now.

There is that whole Grim Cyberpunk Crapped up world Genre like 'Dredd' a recent-ish movie from 10 years ago by Pete Travis, Alex Garland with Karl Urban and it has mostly plausible science. Dredd is not 100% hard scifi because maybe it does have some 'fantasy' stuff like 'telepathy' and new special projectile rounds fired from a gun, but maybe with chips in peoples heads or engineering people to listen to body and electrical signals. Maybe there will be new bullets and shells and maybe one today it is possible we could 'read' other people? For example if you said in your book they in this cyberpunk world have psychic ability because of a 'nano bot' injection would that make it 'hard' scifi? There is also Soft scifi or very Soft scifi, that Futurama cartoonish super comicbook world, While often clever, there’s nothing scientifically hard about Futurama in the slightest, its mostly a funny cartoon, same for Marvel and DC although Ironman and Batman are exception. Batman and Ironman try to be 'grounded' and maybe one day soldiers could be engineered to fly with devices. Comicbooks and Space Opera like Futurama, Star Wars, Superman, 'Fantatsic Four' rank very low on the hardness scale with 'Superpower' plot there is nothing science in 'Use the Force' plot devices while Batman or Bruce Wayne driving a tank-like Humvee Tumbler vehicle is more realistic, the physics of the car moving are based on real world science and plausible. There is also that whole speculative timeline where they re-write history using 'Steampunk' and imagine we still use 'Steam' for a much longer time instead of computers and steam or clock is used instead of our modern engines, or we also have a genre of grim cyber tech or future Dystopian 'Cyberpunk' speculation like William Gibson's Neuromancer books. A video game Deus Ex is like a Cyberpunk book come to life. Steampunk visuals can be seen in that French movie 'The City of Lost Children' the Japanese 'Steamboy' or Sherlock Holmes book. Even if the cyberpunk or steampunk timeline is wrong it ranks higher in scifi 'Hardness'.

Time Travel is displayed in a silly way in movies, Scientists agree time travel is indeed a real thing yet not quite what we have all seen in the movies, which is why Back to the Future ranks 'Low' in scifi hardness even if it is a great movie. There might be a way to bend rules rather than break them through Wormholes or 'Tachyon' or do some real-time communication with objects on other planets by entanglement or exotic matter or dimensional strings or “spooky action at a distance”.
They say a Japanese cartoon or comic called 'Steins;Gate' explores the idea of time travel much better, some Japan guy gets a message maybe through Cern or a 'god particle' I only watched the trailer but it explores the concept of cause and effect as the protagonist receives some 'message in a bottle' text that travels back and forward and back again and forward in time, I think its plot is a neuroscience researcher trying to prevent a murder. Odd things are explained because the main character is also slightly 'mad' and might observe the world in a strange way. The more 'exotic' unexplained plot points involve a strange microwave, a phone and text messages.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gaOvEIkeyzU
It is reviewed here.

https://web.archive.org/web/20201127222 … teinsgate/

Set in the geek paradise of Tokyo’s Akihabara district, 2011 anime series Steins;Gate follows the misfortunes of Okarin Rintaro, amateur inventor, part-time madman and full-time Lab Member 001 of the Future Gadget Laboratory.

Some would argue that Japanese 'Psycho-Pass' and Gattaca is a  dystopian scifi thriller with  Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman with Jude Law has elements of science 'hardness'.

'Atompunk' another genre for example is another speculated timeline where there were no 'Fukushima' or Three Mile Island or Chernobyl Nuclear Disasters, the world fixed the Nuke Waste problem and there is an abundant supply of energy like a Jetsons animated cartoon sitcom, the genre seems to have its own visual aesthetic like old propaganda or retro scifi books or a Raygun Family Gathering poster from the 1950s. In a video game 'Fallout' the world starts as bright 'Atom Punk' happy but then shockingly changes into a post Apocalypse nuked 'Mad Max' world with mutant monsters, I think Star Trek has some 'Atom Punk' aesthetic but is more of a Utopia-ish world with pseudoscience tech babbling used as Deus ex machina 'plot devices'.

Terraformer wrote:

Mars. Partial terraforming has taken place. It is not somewhere you can take off your breathing mask, and may never be, but the atmosphere is thick enough for engineered plant life to survive on the surface. Boreal forests cover the equatorial regions, tundra in the higher latitudes.

Good luck with your story and building of an opera in space, it sounds like a very interesting world!

Terraformer wrote:

Hard SF is a rare find.

I would argue that 'Cyberpunk' at times is 'Hard SF' and Cyberpunk itself is a massive genre.

'Blade Runner'
https://newmars.com/forums/viewtopic.php?id=1235

vs

'The Martian'
https://newmars.com/forums/viewtopic.php?id=7148

some people who comment on history say reality itself has become more Blade Runner-ish

Last edited by Mars_B4_Moon (2023-01-14 11:21:04)

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