Re: Social Science Fiction?

Anders Sandberg (
15 Mar 1999 21:48:04 +0100

"Eliezer S. Yudkowsky" <> writes:

> Iain M. Banks: Player of Games (Duh! Duh! Duh!)

<WHAP> Forgot the entire Culture. Now who is absent-minded? :-)

> John Barnes: Mother of Storms

Well, partially. But most of society looked surprisingly normal despite the huge changes that had occured between now and the book. Still, the posthuman pieces are great (if a deus ex machina).

What about Ursula Le Guin? I seem to recall some different societies in her books, but it was a long time ago I read them.

> And I would say: No, it's not easy to build a story around a soft
> science. "They require, not thinking, but scholarship." Soft sciences
> don't have sufficiently generalized rules. You can't vary conditions
> creatively in a soft science because they're tuned to the
> here-and-now-and-human, and are too fragile and inelegant to be taken
> out of it.

Hmm, I think I see the problem: you want to write "hard soft science", the kind of books Greg Egan or Robert Forward would have written if they were economists or anthropologists (imagine a Forward-style technical appendix afterwards, explaining the economic basis for the story :-).

Actually, even if the rules are hard to generalize, that doesn't make it uninteresting or impossible to come up with a good book that even says something significant. A true artist would not just "turn the knobs" to generalize our society, but invent a plausible or interesting one. Soft science seems much more amenable to roleplaying and scenario building than hard science.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
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