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Author Topic: Science fiction subgenres: hard vs soft vs mushroom fiction :D  (Read 417 times)

Trond

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Science fiction subgenres: hard vs soft vs mushroom fiction :D
« on: September 17, 2020, 11:12:56 PM »
I have talked about this a couple of times before (specifically the Dune thread). People often subdivide science fiction into "hard" (science focus) or "soft" (focus on human interactions). But I have often noticed that some science fiction is just completely "out there" and psychedelic. I first noticed this reading some comics by Jodorowsky and Moebius; there is hardly any "science" and they seemed to be high on something while making that stuff. Sure enough, in an interview they said that they were experimenting with mushrooms. Hence "mushroom SF". You could put hard, soft, and "mushroom" in a triangular coordinate system.

Here are a few examples in a triangular coordinate system:5th Element : almost complete mushroom, maybe a bit soft but everything seems exaggerated and "trippy"
2001 Space Odyssey film: I'd put this right between "hard SF" and "mushroom", not so much soft if I remember correctly
Dune (original book) : almost right in the middle or leaning a bit "mushroomy" over "hard", it has bits of everything but I don't think science really was Herbert's strength
Expanse: in the middle between hard and soft, not so much mushroom
Star Wars: between soft and mushroom, not hard at all

Seems to work?
« Last Edit: September 17, 2020, 11:15:42 PM by Trond »

Spinachcat

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Re: Science fiction subgenres: hard vs soft vs mushroom fiction :D
« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2020, 04:37:36 AM »
If hard sci-fi is science focus, and soft sci-fi is human interaction focus, then what is the focus of mushroom sci-fi?


And how does mushroom sci-fi differentiate from space fantasy?


Also, is there mushrooom fantasy? Is there psychedelic sword & sorcery?

jeff37923

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Re: Science fiction subgenres: hard vs soft vs mushroom fiction :D
« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2020, 06:39:02 AM »
Dudes, just about any story taken from either Heavy Metal magazine or Epic Illustrated magazine would be science fantasy or Mushroom Sci-Fi.

Trond

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Re: Science fiction subgenres: hard vs soft vs mushroom fiction :D
« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2020, 04:59:06 PM »
If hard sci-fi is science focus, and soft sci-fi is human interaction focus, then what is the focus of mushroom sci-fi?

And how does mushroom sci-fi differentiate from space fantasy?
I suppose it does not have to be in space. But those are pretty similar. The mushroom "future" is full of trippy visions of bizarre technologies rather than something that would "make sense" scientifically or even practically. Weird creatures often pop up without much logical sense as to why they are there. Star Wars (what I think of in terms of space fantasy) does have elements of this (less than 5th Element though), with some fantasy "knights" and princesses mixed in. 


Also, is there mushrooom fantasy? Is there psychedelic sword & sorcery?
Good question. I guess maybe there is. Some fantasy stories don't seem to make much internal sense to me at least, it's more about conjuring up weird fever fantasies. Contrast Lord of the Rings with Labyrinth, I suppose. But fantasy wasn't my main focus here.

Omega

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Re: Science fiction subgenres: hard vs soft vs mushroom fiction :D
« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2020, 05:01:01 PM »
5th Element falls into the really soft SF, and somewhere along the line slides into fantasy.
2001 is hard SF overall, as is overall 2010.

Expanse seems to fall somewhere between hard and soft, with magic nanites and other neo-fantasy stuff popping up more and more frequently. I saw one episode and it was very firmly in the soft SF and then jumped into pretty much fantasy.
As for Heavy Metal. The stories in that covered everything from brutally hard SF to straight up fantasy and everything in between. Same with Epic. Though it had fewer hard SF stories. Then you have all the freakish stuff from Warren's SF lines of magazine comics which tended to be mostly sci-fantasy, or really soft SF. But occasionally youd get some hard SF stories in there. And pretty much same for DCs sci-fi anthology comic. Every possible type of SF and s-fantacy showed up at some point.
For me some good hard SF movies worth watching are...Silent Running: One of my favourite relatively hard SF movies. Though the linear ship design docks it several points. But its never explained so I just mark it off to the model designers not thinking it through. Which is really common.Outland: While I am not a fan of the movie, it was well presented.Star Cops: A short lived TV series from the UK. Pretty well done and overall stays firmly in the hard SF side of things.
Moonbase 3: Another really short lived british SF series from the same production crew as worked on Doctor Who. Surprisingly hard SF overall. They never mentioned the gravity issue that I recall but thats one I mark off to budgetary limits.2001: Fairly hard SF show. Since nothing is ever really explained about the trippy ending it could be anything really. Clark did love the idea of "sufficiently advanced science" so all bets are off on what the heck is going on. 2010 feels like it slides more into the soft SF moreso than the book did.And while not really a SF movie, Marooned still stands out to me as a really good little movie.And if you can find it, look up the failed hard SF pilot called Plymouth, about the residents of a town ruined by an industrial accident who are offered a new life as the first inhabitants of a Moon colony. Pretty good for a TV series pilot and touches on the various problems of trying to live on the Moon.
Theres others. But those are a few come to mind right off.
As for shows transitioning from Hard to Soft to Fantasy. That happens sometimes when you get a series that wants to do alot of things, or has different writers, or changes executive hands and now the tone changes.

Spinachcat

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Re: Science fiction subgenres: hard vs soft vs mushroom fiction :D
« Reply #5 on: September 19, 2020, 05:47:46 PM »
Would y'all agree Space:1999 (first season) was hard(ish) scifi?

Second season of Space:1999 had lots of mushroom, definitely went deep into space fantasy (which I do love).
 

VisionStorm

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Re: Science fiction subgenres: hard vs soft vs mushroom fiction :D
« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2020, 03:59:36 PM »
Also, is there mushrooom fantasy? Is there psychedelic sword & sorcery?

Wizards was pure mushroom fantasy. Not sure if Legend and maybe Dark Crystal may qualify as well. Lots of stuff from that era was pretty much mushroom fantasy, but not many come to mind right now, cuz my memory is shit and I was just a preteen kid back then.

Lurkndog

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Re: Science fiction subgenres: hard vs soft vs mushroom fiction :D
« Reply #7 on: September 20, 2020, 09:08:23 PM »
Historically, science fiction and fantasy and lovecraftian horror were all the same genre. My educated guess is that they only separated because the market grew large enough to allow some magazines to specialize.

In recent history, TV shows like Doctor Who and The Twilight Zone have tended to stray between hard sf, soft sf, mushroom sf and various types of horror.

I'm not a big fan of the term "mushroom sf" because I don't think the druggies have a monopoly on imagination. Most of what has been mentioned would fall under "science fantasy" for me.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2020, 09:11:43 PM by Lurkndog »

Ghostmaker

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Re: Science fiction subgenres: hard vs soft vs mushroom fiction :D
« Reply #8 on: September 21, 2020, 08:37:25 AM »
Most hard sci-fi, with rare exceptions, usually has one or two 'gimmes' (future tech, improbable event) to move things along.


A good example is The Martian. There are a few errors in the film, the most glaring being that Mars's atmosphere is too thin to generate that kind of tear-shit-up storm at the start. Still, it serves to boot the plot up, so I can forgive it.


2001, similarly, has the Monolith as well as HAL the artificial intelligence. Although humorously, there is one tiny but important special effects failure in the film; while riding the spaceplane, Heywood Floyd is served an in-flight meal. While sipping from his beverage, the fluid goes back down in the straw -- but in zero-g it wouldn't do that. A tiny and forgivable error, though, considering the limitations of filmmaking in that era (hell, I was impressed with the shot where the stewardess -walks up a wall- to the flight deck to deliver the crew's meals).

Spike

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Re: Science fiction subgenres: hard vs soft vs mushroom fiction :D
« Reply #9 on: September 22, 2020, 02:57:05 AM »
I have an issue with the breakdown you use between hard and soft first. I've always seen it argued that the difference between hard and soft was purely how sciency it was... all good fiction, and especially all good Sci-Fi focuses on 'human issues', or social interaction or what have you by default, so its all about the qualities of teh setting.


Beyond that the breakdown is also a bit weird, because while Star Wars, for example, is clearly labled as Sci-Fi by most people, it's so soft that fans (who make these sorts of distinction and will often fight to the knife over them) generally classify it as "Space Opera", mostly because space wizards with magic swords make a mockery of 'science' on the face of it.


Beyond that, I also must take umberage at the Mushroom classification. Perhaps I'm being contrarian, but for example Philip K. Dick was tripping balls most of his damn life, but his science fiction could be quite grounded for all that, generally making an exception for his naming conventions (Bladerunner, or Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, is a prime example of why Dick should have let his editors name his books...).  The science we see in Bladerunner (or 'DADES?' which is unweildy as fuck) is generally quite plausibe (I've read the book so I'm trying (probably failing) to stick to that...), and the story is coherent and focused deeply on the human/social implications of the setting.


So should it be Mushroom, as Dick was perma-baked from psychadelics for most of his life? Should it be 'hard' because the science was/is plausible? Should it be 'Soft' because the emphasis is on how the setting shapes and reveals the human characteristics of its characters? Because it asks hard questions about the human condition through the medium of speculative fiction?


Genre is, or rather should be, at best a post-hoc thing, and you, my fine chapeau'd friend, are wading into a morass, I fear.
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Trond

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Re: Science fiction subgenres: hard vs soft vs mushroom fiction :D
« Reply #10 on: September 22, 2020, 08:56:10 AM »
I have an issue with the breakdown you use between hard and soft first. I've always seen it argued that the difference between hard and soft was purely how sciency it was... all good fiction, and especially all good Sci-Fi focuses on 'human issues', or social interaction or what have you by default, so its all about the qualities of teh setting.


Beyond that the breakdown is also a bit weird, because while Star Wars, for example, is clearly labled as Sci-Fi by most people, it's so soft that fans (who make these sorts of distinction and will often fight to the knife over them) generally classify it as "Space Opera", mostly because space wizards with magic swords make a mockery of 'science' on the face of it.


Beyond that, I also must take umberage at the Mushroom classification. Perhaps I'm being contrarian, but for example Philip K. Dick was tripping balls most of his damn life, but his science fiction could be quite grounded for all that, generally making an exception for his naming conventions (Bladerunner, or Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, is a prime example of why Dick should have let his editors name his books...).  The science we see in Bladerunner (or 'DADES?' which is unweildy as fuck) is generally quite plausibe (I've read the book so I'm trying (probably failing) to stick to that...), and the story is coherent and focused deeply on the human/social implications of the setting.


So should it be Mushroom, as Dick was perma-baked from psychadelics for most of his life? Should it be 'hard' because the science was/is plausible? Should it be 'Soft' because the emphasis is on how the setting shapes and reveals the human characteristics of its characters? Because it asks hard questions about the human condition through the medium of speculative fiction?


Genre is, or rather should be, at best a post-hoc thing, and you, my fine chapeau'd friend, are wading into a morass, I fear.


The last one is easy: if it’s more science -based it’s “hard”. As far as categorization goes I frankly don’t care what the author was taking at the time. The “mushroom” category is based on what you see (the name is just based on the origin of some of it).


What you say is exactly why I suggest Star Wars is not hard, but soft and mushroomy. Are you saying it isn’t Science Fiction at all? I have seen that argument before but I don’t agree. If it has space ships and such it’s science fiction IMO. Fifth element is even less science-based I think, not that there is much science in Star Wars of course.

Trond

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Re: Science fiction subgenres: hard vs soft vs mushroom fiction :D
« Reply #11 on: September 22, 2020, 10:36:35 AM »
As you  can see, it is all very scientific  ;D


Armchair Gamer

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Re: Science fiction subgenres: hard vs soft vs mushroom fiction :D
« Reply #12 on: September 22, 2020, 11:00:57 AM »
I'm not a big fan of the term "mushroom sf" because I don't think the druggies have a monopoly on imagination. Most of what has been mentioned would fall under "science fantasy" for me.



  Not only that, 'mushroom sf' makes me think of Star Trek: Discovery:)

Spike

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Re: Science fiction subgenres: hard vs soft vs mushroom fiction :D
« Reply #13 on: September 23, 2020, 01:48:49 PM »


The last one is easy: if it’s more science -based it’s “hard”. As far as categorization goes I frankly don’t care what the author was taking at the time. The “mushroom” category is based on what you see (the name is just based on the origin of some of it).


What you say is exactly why I suggest Star Wars is not hard, but soft and mushroomy. Are you saying it isn’t Science Fiction at all? I have seen that argument before but I don’t agree. If it has space ships and such it’s science fiction IMO. Fifth element is even less science-based I think, not that there is much science in Star Wars of course.


I think you missed the point in my wall of text: When discussing the relative rockwell scale placement of Sci-Fi there is literally only one consideration: The science.


Starwars is at one extreme end of squishy because there is literally no science in it. Parsecs are units of time not distance, space wizards use laser swords because they work better than guns. Guns are blasters. What's a blaster? Its a gun in star wars.  Robots have personalities that need to be wiped occasionally because fuck programming.


On the extreme of the other end you have sci-fi mired in the rocketry of the 1970s, where man can never escape the solar system of his birth because we have learned all there is to know about space travel in 1964 and no speculation can occur because by its definition speculation is fantasy.  Examples escape me at hte moment, because I find that pedantic obsession with 'realism' utterly misguided and more than a little nihilistic.


Every other consideration you named, from 'people issues' to 'psychadelic head trip presentation' are entirely removed from the 'hardness' spectrum.   


If you need spectrums for them, I'd consider that 'people issue themes' falls on 'good fiction' vs 'bad fiction' spectrum, with all good fiction handling people issues.


For the psychadelic mushroomland I'd say that's purely a stylistic consideration, with psychadelic mushroomland on, or near,  one end of the spectrum, with the other end being... I dunno... ruthlessly, aggressively grounded in the empirical reality? 
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Trond

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Re: Science fiction subgenres: hard vs soft vs mushroom fiction :D
« Reply #14 on: September 23, 2020, 05:06:29 PM »


The last one is easy: if it’s more science -based it’s “hard”. As far as categorization goes I frankly don’t care what the author was taking at the time. The “mushroom” category is based on what you see (the name is just based on the origin of some of it).


What you say is exactly why I suggest Star Wars is not hard, but soft and mushroomy. Are you saying it isn’t Science Fiction at all? I have seen that argument before but I don’t agree. If it has space ships and such it’s science fiction IMO. Fifth element is even less science-based I think, not that there is much science in Star Wars of course.


I think you missed the point in my wall of text: When discussing the relative rockwell scale placement of Sci-Fi there is literally only one consideration: The science.


Starwars is at one extreme end of squishy because there is literally no science in it. Parsecs are units of time not distance, space wizards use laser swords because they work better than guns. Guns are blasters. What's a blaster? Its a gun in star wars.  Robots have personalities that need to be wiped occasionally because fuck programming.


On the extreme of the other end you have sci-fi mired in the rocketry of the 1970s, where man can never escape the solar system of his birth because we have learned all there is to know about space travel in 1964 and no speculation can occur because by its definition speculation is fantasy.  Examples escape me at hte moment, because I find that pedantic obsession with 'realism' utterly misguided and more than a little nihilistic.


Every other consideration you named, from 'people issues' to 'psychadelic head trip presentation' are entirely removed from the 'hardness' spectrum.   


If you need spectrums for them, I'd consider that 'people issue themes' falls on 'good fiction' vs 'bad fiction' spectrum, with all good fiction handling people issues.


For the psychadelic mushroomland I'd say that's purely a stylistic consideration, with psychadelic mushroomland on, or near,  one end of the spectrum, with the other end being... I dunno... ruthlessly, aggressively grounded in the empirical reality?
Thing is, I have noticed two kinds of "science" in science fiction, and you can have more or less of either. One is actual science (as perceived at the time it was written) and the other is a hodgepodge of ideas and "mushroomy" fever dreams presented as "science". Still, we tend to call it "science fiction" if it includes planets, futuristic weapons and such. That was the point of this thread actually, but I guess your objection helped to pinpoint what's going on.

For instance; have you noticed science fiction stories where a planet seems to have a "soul" and react like a living being? (there was one film with George Clooney if I remember correctly) We think of it as science fiction because it has space flight and planets in it, but aint very scientific (pretty trippy actually). In a number of others, such as Dune, they talk about "genetic memories" going back innumerable generations. So it sounds science-ish, but it really isn't. I guess that in Dune the idea is that it is so far in the future that they have discovered something entirely different in the genes, but it still seems highly unlikely. The Dune books are still among my favorites though.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2020, 05:13:39 PM by Trond »