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    Default Re: Hard Fantasy

    Quote Originally Posted by Lorsa View Post
    I am usually always concerned with how things work and why and with the fictional work being internally consistent and taking the included elements to its logical conclusion. At the very least for any work that tries to uphold itself to some level of "seriousness". That is, I don't actually care so much about how things work and why when I read Discworld or watch Dr. Who, but I will with ASoIaF or Star Trek (which is actually portrayed as serious).

    In any case, it is a bit problematic when moving the term "hard" from sci-fi to Fantasy. In science fiction, it corresponds to how much real world physics that has a place in the work, whereas for Fantasy, we often specifically do NOT want real world physics. So instead perhaps it would be better with a new term to reflect that we are rather talking about internal consistency, logical cause-effect and the like. Perhaps something like "strict" vs. "free" Fantasy or "causal" vs. ... something.
    For hard science fiction, it's not just physics. Or, from the essay: "In science fiction, that can mean physics, computing, biochemistry, etc. A hard SF story is one that takes the known facts of those sciences and extrapolates them, rigorously exploring the mechanisms by which they operate, and how they might be made to operate in new, expanded ways."
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RazorChain View Post
    Maybe I decided to go with a syllogism fallacy because your argument was nonsense?
    Perfect example of the chaos of the world:

    1. Decide the argument that the world is too chaotic to be well understood is nonsense.

    2. Rather than explain why this argument is wrong, which he should be able to do if he understands the world so well, posts something that is admittedly nonsense in order to...???
    Last edited by Vitruviansquid; 2017-12-14 at 10:14 AM.
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    Default Re: Hard Fantasy

    Quote Originally Posted by Vitruviansquid View Post
    Perfect example of the chaos of the world:

    1. Decide the argument that the world is too chaotic to be well understood is nonsense.

    2. Rather than explain why this argument is wrong, which he should be able to do if he understands the world so well, posts something that is admittedly nonsense in order to...???
    Or rather, he gave your assertion exactly the level of response it deserved.

    If you really want to discuss the blinkered notion that the world is so chaotic that no understanding is possible, I'm sure there are plenty of places to discuss that where it's not a complete and obvious attempt at a total off-topic derail.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2017-12-14 at 10:16 AM.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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    Default Re: Hard Fantasy

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    For hard science fiction, it's not just physics. Or, from the essay: "In science fiction, that can mean physics, computing, biochemistry, etc. A hard SF story is one that takes the known facts of those sciences and extrapolates them, rigorously exploring the mechanisms by which they operate, and how they might be made to operate in new, expanded ways."
    Yes, it's true that it's not just physics. I just happen to easily slip into using it as an umbrella term for understanding nature and the physical reality.

    In any case, Fantasy specifically do not want to follow natural sciences. You can change how biochemistry work, the laws of physics, chemical reactions and whatnot. This is why I think the term can easily become a little weird when as it has to be used differently in the two contexts. In Sci-fi, it means how much you stick to Science, whereas for Fantasy, it means how much you stick to your own, made-up science (as far as I understood it?). While I am certainly on board with internal consistency and taking things to their logical conclusion, I merely wish to avoid any future misunderstandings.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    I didn't say "soft", did I?
    Okay. Hard and "not hard". Whatever. If you are going to argue that there is a state that things can sometimes have, you necessarily imply the existence of the state those things have when they DON'T have the thing you define. It doesn't matter what you call it. Can you drop the needless semantics and talk about the actual problems with this?

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    I play a lot of pen and paper games that lack a lot of depth. I don't worry all that much about hard and fast rules or figuring out the how and why of most things. I do the minimum amount of extrapolation possible. I care about just a few things in this order:
    • Is it fun? If everyone is having fun, there's no need to change anything and any future changes should be in line with what I perceive is making things fun.
    • Does the scenario make sense to this point? I don't want to have to rely on fiat or hand-waving for the scenario to make sense.
    • Does everything follow an internal consistency? I maintain a strict sense of internal consistency - I play with rules that allow characters to create things or alter scenes, but those things cannot contradict what has already been established by me or another player or the rules of the setting.


    I do enjoy reading about the how's and why's of different settings. I even enjoy coming up with those sorts of things for my own worlds, but I find that the time that it takes is not worth while in many cases. The how and why is only for myself in those cases since the players rarely care and it won't come up most of the time. It doesn't add to the enjoyment of the game to do exposition on where the water goes after it falls off the edge of the world (and might make people fall asleep if done poorly!).
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    Default Re: Hard Fantasy

    Quote Originally Posted by Lorsa View Post
    Yes, it's true that it's not just physics. I just happen to easily slip into using it as an umbrella term for understanding nature and the physical reality.

    In any case, Fantasy specifically do not want to follow natural sciences. You can change how biochemistry work, the laws of physics, chemical reactions and whatnot. This is why I think the term can easily become a little weird when as it has to be used differently in the two contexts. In Sci-fi, it means how much you stick to Science, whereas for Fantasy, it means how much you stick to your own, made-up science (as far as I understood it?). While I am certainly on board with internal consistency and taking things to their logical conclusion, I merely wish to avoid any future misunderstandings.
    At the core, as far as I can tell, it is about internal coherence and consistence, and following things to their conclusion -- that the worldbuilding is rigorous, especially in those areas that the work is going to concentrate on. It doesn't have to be accurate to real-world physical science, especially as it applies to things that need to change to support the premise... even "hard SF" has the concept of "conceits" in order to allow the premise and/or story to be possible in the first place.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2017-12-14 at 12:37 PM.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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    Default Re: Hard Fantasy

    I get what you're going for.

    For me, the difference is that hard sci-fi attempts to operate within the known constraints of physics.

    "Hard fantasy" is similar, but the difference is that we allow for suspension of disbelief in a few significant areas, but then expect everything outside of that to logically follow.

    That's why "but dragons!" doesn't work for some people. The existence of one fantastical element does not, to people that enjoy this, suggest that everything else is up for suspension of disbelief - in fact, the suspension of disbelief granted to dragons relies upon everything else acting in a consistent and believable way.
    Last edited by kyoryu; 2017-12-14 at 12:26 PM.
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    I know I've mentioned him before, as I am a fan of his works, but Brandon Sanderson (and his eponymous "laws") seem relevant, here. For discussion, I'm just going to copy in the laws:

    1) An author's ability to solve conflict with magic is DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL to how well the reader understands said magic.
    2) The limitations of a magic system are more interesting than its capabilities. What the magic can't do is more interesting than what it can.
    3) Expand on what you have already, before you add something new.

    Now, of these, only the first and third are closely related to making it "hard fantasy" as described in the OP, but I think the set taken together leads to hard fantasy settings.

    Magic need not have all things explained, but it needs to have laws the same way our real-world physics does, and those laws need to be understandable at least on the level of Newtonian physics. When this happens, you can have hard fantasy magic. Things grow from those rules, rather than being invented anew.



    As a side note, I think this ironically makes it possible to argue that Piers Anthony's Xanth novels are hard fantasy. There are definite (albeit pun-based) rules to how it works. And a great deal of the development in any story - even the bad ones - is based on examining the consequences of the rules as established.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RifleAvenger View Post
    I'll take a crack. You probably won't think the answer is terribly worth considering. More of a me issue really.

    Time and effort. It takes a LOT of effort to truly follow something through to a logical and well researched conclusion. And in a role-playing game suddenly you need to be widely researched too to deal in politics, economics, sociology, geography, potentially linguistics, etc. Then you need to make sure any extraordinary features either fit in the world or changing the world to fit them without busting everything else. It's a time sink that I find frustrating as I add details and suddenly realize five others have to change to make it fit.

    The three areas I am educated enough in to be confident in my ability to write something realistically are geology, ecology, and evolutionary history (I'm a paleontologist). Besides geology for setting up the basic geography, one of those things is usually outside of the scope of most games (evolution) and the other is nothing but painful to deal with when you really tinker with it under the microscope (ecology). To the point where, because it being done poorly does bug me, I wound up making most of my games urban fantasy with human on human action or dreamscape settings/monsters where ecology is almost literally a non-factor.

    Then I stare at the meat of an RPG, communities and individuals, with no background in social science besides 100-200 level elective in undergrad or high school years ago. And how magic would change all that realistically. Or trying to invent a new physics system to deal with magic in a way that wouldn't require so much change. Basically having to create a new setting and metaphysics from the ground up constantly as things change or further supernatural abilities are added. It's work that I don't enjoy (I have a hard enough time justifying doing the needed prep work on shallower setting as it is), and with all the work I already do I don't want my entertainment to consist of even more work. Oh, and then I actually need to strain my weak creative writing skills to make the characters and plot interesting on top of all that.

    To draw an analogy to my actual job, paleontologists (all scientists really) do not always use the most cutting edge tools or strenuous methods, collect data on every last specimen of a taxon, or do all the additional checks for things like taphonomy, time-averaging, or preparation background (this one almost NEVER). Ideally, we should. But grant money and time is highly limited so we make choices and get on with the research best we can. Super matrices for phylogenetic studies are excellent and we now have the computing power to make them feasible; we still don't see them used on many studies because it's an enormous time investment to put the matrix together that alternative methods don't require (some people even today are hanging on to super-trees for dear life, despite them being TERRIBLE, because they make running analysis so much faster). It's the same for me when preparing game; I do what I feel is the minimum to prevent the facade from actively denigrating the game at a superficial level, but not enough to withstand sustained prodding because I don't have time and it's not fun to stress over it. That means I can't have people with tastes like yours as players, but I think we're both fine with that.


    I mean no offense, and this is likely off the mark. But in the time that I've lurked here, Max, it seems like the games you aspire to would need to be written by a panel of social scientists with a few phys. science PhD's thrown in for good measure. Oh, and an actual creative writing author too since a lot of scientists are terrible writers. No single author has the expertise it takes to truly create a realistic fictional world that doesn't fray at the seams somewhere. It's already been brought up that some "Hard" works are only so in specific aspects. I certainly don't have time for it when I have grants and papers to write, tests to grade, field and collections work to attend to, and still want to prepare and run tabletop games on the side.

    Oh, and I think "hard" aspects are easier to hit in novels and linear stories that neither have to support play mechanics nor players tugging at the threads of the fictional reality.

    So yeah, tl'dr "Ain't nobody got time for that. Or at least not me."
    Quote Originally Posted by NRSASD View Post
    @RifleAvenger Hello fellow scientist who digs up dead stuff!
    I think you hit the problem square on. Yeah, time and effort are such finite resources, especially for a game. This is why I tremendously appreciate the efforts of any DM who even tries to address the internal consistency angle, and don't get too worked up about it if they don't. I'm not so much concerned with the final product so much as the attempt. In my own games, I run low magic settings because I know that the road leading to magic also leads to OCD insanity about the internal consistency, at least for me.

    Two related factors behind some people's lack of concern with internal consistency are the theme of the campaign and the characters involved. If the game is lighthearted, in a monster of the week format, or not taking itself seriously, many people will cheerfully overlook the nitty gritty details and just accept whatever the DM puts in front of them. Othertimes, the characters are so interesting that the plot and world bends to accommodate them, which is likewise totally fine. It's just a game after all. Sure, I appreciate my actions have consequences down the road, but not in all of my games.

    The time issue is completely valid -- I'm running into it like brick wall on the setting I've been working on, especially as I've come to understand the real scope of what I'm trying to do.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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    Default Re: Hard Fantasy

    The problem with that is that, as I understand it from an outsider perspective, "hard" sci-fi is focused on scientific accuracy. If you tried to write a hard sci-fi novel with lightsabers, it wouldn't be hard sci-fi and the hard sci-fi crowd would pan it for having impossible and impractical laser swords.

    Fantasy is inherently soft, dragons are expected, magic is expected. The world those dragons and that magic can be gritty and down to earth, it can be a silly kitchen sink or anything in between, but it's fundamentally not a "hard" genre. Fantasy has a much higher suspension of disbelief requirement by default.

    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    IThat's why "but dragons!" doesn't work for some people. The existence of one fantastical element does not, to people that enjoy this, suggest that everything else is up for suspension of disbelief - in fact, the suspension of disbelief granted to dragons relies upon everything else acting in a consistent and believable way.
    The existence of giant fire breathing flying reptiles, sometimes giant fire breathing flying reptiles with genius level intellect, isn't just a single suspension of disbelief. It would totally destroy our understanding of physics and biology. A work of hard sci-fi might take place 500 years in the future, but it works on the fact that physics is still physics.
    Last edited by War_lord; 2017-12-14 at 02:33 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by EvilAnagram View Post
    Yeah, I think the only way it makes sense is if you picture Yeenoghu spreading his taint over every gnoll.

    Go ahead and imagine that.

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    Default Re: Hard Fantasy

    I'm not sure I'm a fan of the term "hard fantasy" because of obvious connotations with "hard sci-fi".

    It sounds like the article is just talking about in-depth and internally consistent fantasy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by War_lord View Post
    The problem with that is that, as I understand it from an outsider perspective, "hard" sci-fi is focused on scientific accuracy. If you tried to write a hard sci-fi novel with lightsabers, it wouldn't be hard sci-fi and the hard sci-fi crowd would pan it for having impossible and impractical laser swords.

    Fantasy is inherently soft, dragons are expected, magic is expected. The world those dragons and that magic can be gritty and down to earth, it can be a silly kitchen sink or anything in between, but it's fundamentally not a "hard" genre. Fantasy has a much higher suspension of disbelief requirement by default.



    The existence of giant fire breathing flying reptiles, sometimes giant fire breathing flying reptiles with genius level intellect, isn't just a single suspension of disbelief. It would totally destroy our understanding of physics and biology. A work of hard sci-fi might take place 500 years in the future, but it works on the fact that physics is still physics.
    Quote Originally Posted by CharonsHelper View Post
    I'm not sure I'm a fan of the term "hard fantasy" because of obvious connotations with "hard sci-fi".

    It sounds like the article is just talking about in-depth and internally consistent fantasy.

    The author of the articles also suggests the terms "cultural fantasy" or "anthropologically rigorous". There's nothing inherently necessary about the term "hard fantasy".
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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    Default Re: Hard Fantasy

    Quote Originally Posted by CharonsHelper View Post
    I'm not sure I'm a fan of the term "hard fantasy" because of obvious connotations with "hard sci-fi".

    It sounds like the article is just talking about in-depth and internally consistent fantasy.
    ...Yeah, that's what "hard" fantasy is. In-depth and internally consistent. Like with hard sci-fi.

    Wich is a pretty logical choice of words considering there is almost no meaningful difference between sci-fi and fantasy. The main one is wether you use magic or sufficiently advanced technology.
    Or as the late sir Pratchett put it : science fiction is fantasy with bolts on.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cazero View Post
    Or as the late sir Pratchett put it : science fiction is fantasy with bolts on.
    He can say that - but I disagree with him.

    That's only at all true of "future fantasy" style sci-fi like Star Wars.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cazero View Post
    ...Yeah, that's what "hard" fantasy is. In-depth and internally consistent. Like with hard sci-fi.

    Wich is a pretty logical choice of words considering there is almost no meaningful difference between sci-fi and fantasy. The main one is wether you use magic or sufficiently advanced technology.

    Or as the late sir Pratchett put it : science fiction is fantasy with bolts on.
    Quote Originally Posted by CharonsHelper View Post
    He can say that - but I disagree with him.

    That's only at all true of "future fantasy" style sci-fi like Star Wars.
    IIRC Vonnegut said "Technology is magic that works."

    But while true as a backhanded way of explaining why magic "feels magical" in the real world (that is, it doesn't work), I don't think it's true in the context of this discussion.

    Star Wars is straight-up "future fantasy" or "science space fantasy", and not really science fiction unless one defines science fiction purely by superficial trappings.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2017-12-14 at 03:32 PM.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cazero View Post
    ...Yeah, that's what "hard" fantasy is. In-depth and internally consistent. Like with hard sci-fi.
    Hard Sci-fi follows the laws of physics, fantasy takes a crap on the laws of physics.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cazero View Post
    Wich is a pretty logical choice of words considering there is almost no meaningful difference between sci-fi and fantasy. The main one is wether you use magic or sufficiently advanced technology.
    Or as the late sir Pratchett put it : science fiction is fantasy with bolts on.
    Pratchett should have stayed in his lane. That take is so utterly incorrect that it's not even wrong. Calling it wrong would imply that it's in the same ballpark as a correct answer. Star Wars and Star Trek are science fantasy, they do use technobabble as a cover for magic. Neither of them are actually sci-fi, never mind hard sci-fi.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    The author of the articles also suggests the terms "cultural fantasy" or "anthropologically rigorous". There's nothing inherently necessary about the term "hard fantasy".
    "Anthropologically rigorious fantasy" doesn't make for catchy marketing, but it's probably the best term. Cultural fantasy makes me think of something like Earthbound, which is a fantasy story that uses Americana instead of Medievalism as a base.
    Last edited by War_lord; 2017-12-14 at 03:01 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by EvilAnagram View Post
    Yeah, I think the only way it makes sense is if you picture Yeenoghu spreading his taint over every gnoll.

    Go ahead and imagine that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by War_lord View Post
    Hard Sci-fi follows the laws of physics, fantasy takes a crap on the laws of physics.
    I'd say that hard science fiction attempts to extrapolate from, and not carelessly violate, the known science on the subjects it touches on.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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    Default Re: Hard Fantasy

    Quote Originally Posted by War_lord View Post
    The existence of giant fire breathing flying reptiles, sometimes giant fire breathing flying reptiles with genius level intellect, isn't just a single suspension of disbelief. It would totally destroy our understanding of physics and biology. A work of hard sci-fi might take place 500 years in the future, but it works on the fact that physics is still physics.
    Uh, yeah, that's why I pointed out that hard sci-fi works within the boundaries of our understanding of physics/etc., while fantasy, of any stripe, doesn't.

    "Hard" fantasy, then, takes the impossible elements (be they dragons, magic, whatever), and attempts to extrapolate a believable world provided you accept the unbelievable elements. GoT has dragons, which are unbelievable, but it at least makes an attempt to consider the implications (being used as WMDs, their feeding, etc.).

    So, yeah, dragons require suspension of disbelief. If you can't get your head around that, great!

    But there's a number of people that can accept dragons, but still want the rest of the world to make sense given the presence of dragons. I think this is an understandable stance, and it's at least worth understanding that some people have it even if it's not something you, in particular, care about.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    I'd say that hard science fiction attempts to extrapolate from, and not carelessly violate, the known science on the subjects it touches on.
    That's probably a better definition, yes.
    Quote Originally Posted by EvilAnagram View Post
    Yeah, I think the only way it makes sense is if you picture Yeenoghu spreading his taint over every gnoll.

    Go ahead and imagine that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by War_lord View Post
    Star Wars and Star Trek are science fantasy, they do use technobabble as a cover for magic.
    I was more thinking about the Dune books and the Ender trilogy, sold as sci-fi as far as I know, but I guess they're actualy science fantasy. Either book publishers and authors lie on what their books are about, or there are two wildly different definition of what the sci-fi genre is.

    Mostly irrelevant to the point, but I feel like science fantasy is a poor classification. Science is pretty much meaningless here. Why not use a qualifier more helpful, like medieval/contemporary/dystopian/futuristic/space fantasy?
    Last edited by Cazero; 2017-12-14 at 03:30 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    "Hard" fantasy, then, takes the impossible elements (be they dragons, magic, whatever), and attempts to extrapolate a believable world provided you accept the unbelievable elements. GoT has dragons, which are unbelievable, but it at least makes an attempt to consider the implications (being used as WMDs, their feeding, etc.).
    No, you fundamentally don't understand what it means to be "hard" sci-fi. Dragons, obsidian candles that grant foresight and telepathy when lit, changing the weather through blood magic, Necromancy, a massive man made wall of ice that's 300 miles long and 700 feet tall. None of these are single suspensions of disbelief, there's a huge number of implications that should exist but need to be handwaved to make any fantasy story work.
    Quote Originally Posted by EvilAnagram View Post
    Yeah, I think the only way it makes sense is if you picture Yeenoghu spreading his taint over every gnoll.

    Go ahead and imagine that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cazero View Post
    I was more thinking about the Dune books and the Ender trilogy, sold as sci-fi as far as I know, but I guess they're actualy science fantasy.
    Actually - both of those are reasonably hard sci-fi. I've even heard Dune used as an example of hard sci-fi when explained as the opposite end of the spectrum from Star Wars (likely to contrast the sci-fi melee excuses).

    Dune's only fantasy element is the spice - everything else has a LOT of explanation. Melee is important because of shield belts mostly cancelling all ranged weapons - and it was one of the first settings I know of that did the whole premise of lost technology explaining the gaps in tech. (for a more modern setting - 40k took the idea and ran with it)

    Ender doesn't explain what all the tech is (since none of the main characters know) but it actually worries about stuff like relative time due to near-light speeds etc.
    Last edited by CharonsHelper; 2017-12-14 at 04:14 PM.

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    Default Re: Hard Fantasy

    A better name for this would be "Plausible fantasy".
    I'm not a native english speaker and I'm dyslexic(that doesn't mean I have low IQ quite the opposite actually it means I make a lot of typos).

    So I beg for forgiveness, patience and comprehension.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    It's like somewhere along the way, "freedom of speech" became "all negative response is censorship".

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    Default Re: Hard Fantasy

    Quote Originally Posted by War_lord View Post
    No, you fundamentally don't understand what it means to be "hard" sci-fi. Dragons, obsidian candles that grant foresight and telepathy when lit, changing the weather through blood magic, Necromancy, a massive man made wall of ice that's 300 miles long and 700 feet tall. None of these are single suspensions of disbelief, there's a huge number of implications that should exist but need to be handwaved to make any fantasy story work.
    I've never had to use "suspension of disbelief" when reading "hard" fantasy. I don't have do suspend anything to believe the fantasy.

    The key point for me is that a fantasy world is not our world, and as such the rules of our world don't have to apply. It is a hypothetical, theoretical fantasy world. If there are dragons in that world, that is a simple fact that is "true" of that world. So with that in mind, the "laws of physics" (or chemistry or whatever) are completely irrelevant to me when I read fantasy. What is relevant is that this fantasy world does have laws, and that those laws are consistent. For me, a proper "hard" fantasy as suggested in this post would have clean, clear and consistent laws.

    I have always felt this way, and I was quite happy to read a quote from Tolkien with a similar view:
    Spoiler
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    "Children are capable, of course, of literary belief, when the story-maker's art is good enough to produce it. That state of mind has been called "willing suspension of disbelief." But this does not seem to me a good description of what happens. What really happens is that the story-maker proves a successful "sub-creator." He makes a Secondary World which your mind can enter. Inside it, what he relates is "true": it accords with the laws of that world. You therefore believe it, while you are, as it were, inside. The moment disbelief arises, the spell is broken; the magic, or rather art, has failed. You are then out in the Primary World again, looking at the little abortive Secondary World from outside. If you are obliged, by kindliness or circumstance, to stay, then disbelief must be suspended (or stifled), otherwise listening and looking would become intolerable. But this suspension of disbelief is a substitute for the genuine thing, a subterfuge we use when condescending to games or make-believe, or when trying ... to find what virtue we can in the work of an art that has for us failed."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aliquid View Post
    I've never had to use "suspension of disbelief" when reading "hard" fantasy. I don't have do suspend anything to believe the fantasy.

    The key point for me is that a fantasy world is not our world, and as such the rules of our world don't have to apply. It is a hypothetical, theoretical fantasy world. If there are dragons in that world, that is a simple fact that is "true" of that world. So with that in mind, the "laws of physics" (or chemistry or whatever) are completely irrelevant to me when I read fantasy. What is relevant is that this fantasy world does have laws, and that those laws are consistent. For me, a proper "hard" fantasy as suggested in this post would have clean, clear and consistent laws.

    I have always felt this way, and I was quite happy to read a quote from Tolkien with a similar view:
    Spoiler
    Show
    "Children are capable, of course, of literary belief, when the story-maker's art is good enough to produce it. That state of mind has been called "willing suspension of disbelief." But this does not seem to me a good description of what happens. What really happens is that the story-maker proves a successful "sub-creator." He makes a Secondary World which your mind can enter. Inside it, what he relates is "true": it accords with the laws of that world. You therefore believe it, while you are, as it were, inside. The moment disbelief arises, the spell is broken; the magic, or rather art, has failed. You are then out in the Primary World again, looking at the little abortive Secondary World from outside. If you are obliged, by kindliness or circumstance, to stay, then disbelief must be suspended (or stifled), otherwise listening and looking would become intolerable. But this suspension of disbelief is a substitute for the genuine thing, a subterfuge we use when condescending to games or make-believe, or when trying ... to find what virtue we can in the work of an art that has for us failed."
    Sounds like Tolkien was big on immersion.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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    Default Re: Hard Fantasy

    Quote Originally Posted by War_lord View Post
    No, you fundamentally don't understand what it means to be "hard" sci-fi. Dragons, obsidian candles that grant foresight and telepathy when lit, changing the weather through blood magic, Necromancy, a massive man made wall of ice that's 300 miles long and 700 feet tall. None of these are single suspensions of disbelief, there's a huge number of implications that should exist but need to be handwaved to make any fantasy story work.
    No, I really do.

    That's why I drew a distinction between hard sci-fi (follows the laws of physics, perhaps extrapolates current scientific knowledge, does not break the laws of physics) and hard fantasy (breaks the laws of physics in a few areas, tries to logically extrapolate from there).

    That's also why your examples of how I don't "get" hard sci-fi point at my descriptions of "hard fantasy", which I've explicitly stated is not hard sci-fi, and does not follow the same rules as hard sci-fi.
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    Both of you are failing to grasp the problem. Lets try again.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aliquid View Post
    I've never had to use "suspension of disbelief" when reading "hard" fantasy. I don't have do suspend anything to believe the fantasy.
    "Hard" fantasy is an oxymoron created by trying to take a very specific term from sci-fi subgenres and trying to apply the term to something totally different. Hard sci-fi is called "hard" because the author of the work takes great care to work within the bounds of the "hard" sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics and so on). All fantasy works on a deliberate decision on the part of both author and reader to ignore the facts of these fields. You yourself don't contest this.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aliquid View Post
    The key point for me is that a fantasy world is not our world, and as such the rules of our world don't have to apply. It is a hypothetical, theoretical fantasy world. If there are dragons in that world, that is a simple fact that is "true" of that world. So with that in mind, the "laws of physics" (or chemistry or whatever) are completely irrelevant to me when I read fantasy. What is relevant is that this fantasy world does have laws, and that those laws are consistent. For me, a proper "hard" fantasy as suggested in this post would have clean, clear and consistent laws.
    That's not "hard" fantasy. What you're actually describing is a world that willfully ignores the "hard" sciences, but follows the conclusions of "soft" sciences. That's a coherent request, but calling it "hard" fantasy is just wrong. It's an inherent contradiction.

    Even if an author managed to handwave things enough to come up with an environment in which something like a Dragon could exist without using magic to explain it, that environment would be a totally alien planet, nothing like the typical fantasy setting.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aliquid View Post
    I have always felt this way, and I was quite happy to read a quote from Tolkien with a similar view:
    Spoiler
    Show
    "Children are capable, of course, of literary belief, when the story-maker's art is good enough to produce it. That state of mind has been called "willing suspension of disbelief." But this does not seem to me a good description of what happens. What really happens is that the story-maker proves a successful "sub-creator." He makes a Secondary World which your mind can enter. Inside it, what he relates is "true": it accords with the laws of that world. You therefore believe it, while you are, as it were, inside. The moment disbelief arises, the spell is broken; the magic, or rather art, has failed. You are then out in the Primary World again, looking at the little abortive Secondary World from outside. If you are obliged, by kindliness or circumstance, to stay, then disbelief must be suspended (or stifled), otherwise listening and looking would become intolerable. But this suspension of disbelief is a substitute for the genuine thing, a subterfuge we use when condescending to games or make-believe, or when trying ... to find what virtue we can in the work of an art that has for us failed."
    Tolkien's talking about plausibility in story telling here, not the application of the "hard" sciences to those worlds. Fairy tales work on children because, not only to they lack knowledge of the "hard" sciences, they lack the intuitive understanding of the social sciences that most adults develop a degree of simply by existing in the adult world.

    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    No, I really do.

    That's why I drew a distinction between hard sci-fi (follows the laws of physics, perhaps extrapolates current scientific knowledge, does not break the laws of physics) and hard fantasy (breaks the laws of physics in a few areas, tries to logically extrapolate from there).
    That's not what "hard" means in this context. I get the impression that some here are laboring under the assumption that the "hard" in "hard sci-fi" means "realistic" or "having verisimilitude". That's an incorrect assumption, if your work of fiction requires your audience to just ignore an unexplained breach of established physics, it's ignoring the "hard" sciences, and your work is therefore not "hard".

    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    That's also why your examples of how I don't "get" hard sci-fi point at my descriptions of "hard fantasy", which I've explicitly stated is not hard sci-fi, and does not follow the same rules as hard sci-fi.
    So then why describe it using a term that's literally derived from a specific sub-type of sci-fi? That's like inventing a new Cola and then marketing it as "cold coffee". Sure, it's black and it contains caffeine, but the similarities end there.
    Quote Originally Posted by EvilAnagram View Post
    Yeah, I think the only way it makes sense is if you picture Yeenoghu spreading his taint over every gnoll.

    Go ahead and imagine that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by War Lord
    "Anthropologically rigorious fantasy" doesn't make for catchy marketing, but it's probably the best term. Cultural fantasy makes me think of something like Earthbound, which is a fantasy story that uses Americana instead of Medievalism as a base.
    Anthropologically rigorous is probably the best term, especially because it is possible to be so without having a highly consistent magic system. Witness the works of Guy Gavriel Kay. His novels are historical fantasy set in 'not-Earth' at various points in history. They absolutely include fantasy elements - and those elements have an impact on the plot - which are wildly inconsistent and serve the demands solely of what the author wants them to do, but, critically, they are always absolutely in line with what the people living in those not-Earth societies would have believed at the time. So when Ren Daiyan has an encounter with an actual fox woman in River of Stars it doesn't require any real suspension of disbelief, because everyone living in the Song Dynasty absolutely believed fox people existed and behaved a certain way.

    For the overwhelming majority of human history almost all people believed absolutely in the existence of supernatural beings and the experience of supernatural phenomena. Some groups even made a point of recording them. So you can be on sociologically firm grounds as long as fantasy elements remain within the scope of what people actually believed, even if your mystical elements are inconsistent.

    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    "Hard" fantasy, then, takes the impossible elements (be they dragons, magic, whatever), and attempts to extrapolate a believable world provided you accept the unbelievable elements. GoT has dragons, which are unbelievable, but it at least makes an attempt to consider the implications (being used as WMDs, their feeding, etc.).
    It's also worth noting that GoT dragons are far less fantastical than D&D dragons, which has to do with the limitations imposed on fantastical elements when trying to make highly plausible fantasy settings.

    Large flying 'reptiles' aren't fantasy; they're called Pterosaurs. Some of them, like Quetzalcoatlus were quite large. Given that example, postulating an alternative evolutionary progression in which archosaurs evolved down a different path and ended up with much more bat-like wing-membranes and retained a saurian jaw structure instead of developing bills. That gets you something fairly close to a GoT dragon (admittedly the show went a little crazy with the spines and teeth and stuff in recent seasons).
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    Quote Originally Posted by War_lord View Post
    Both of you are failing to grasp the problem. Lets try again.
    Actually, I would argue that you are too fixated on your perception of reality.

    "Hard" fantasy is an oxymoron created by trying to take a very specific term from sci-fi subgenres and trying to apply the term to something totally different. Hard sci-fi is called "hard" because the author of the work takes great care to work within the bounds of the "hard" sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics and so on). All fantasy works on a deliberate decision on the part of both author and reader to ignore the facts of these fields. You yourself don't contest this.
    True, but the term "hard" science vs "soft" science is based on the amount of rigor applied to the scientific field. So, "hard" vs "soft" fantasy could equally be differentiated by the amount of rigor.

    Furthermore, the fact that you keep saying things like "ignore these fields" shows that you have a very different concept of a fantasy world. It appears that for you a fantasy world "should" follow our laws of physics, and since they don't you need to "suspend your disbelief". I personally don't see any reason why they should. It is a different reality with different rules.

    It isn't "ignoring" our reality's science. Rather, our science simply doesn't apply. You can't ignore something that doesn't exist.

    Even if an author managed to handwave things enough to come up with an environment in which something like a Dragon could exist without using magic to explain it, that environment would be a totally alien planet, nothing like the typical fantasy setting.
    Only if you are stuck with this obsessive need to apply "real world" science to explain things. Again, you don't need to "handwave" something that doesn't exist in the first place.

    Tolkien's talking about plausibility in story telling here, not the application of the "hard" sciences to those worlds. Fairy tales work on children because, not only to they lack knowledge of the "hard" sciences, they lack the intuitive understanding of the social sciences that most adults develop a degree of simply by existing in the adult world.
    That was a rather bizarre interpretation of his quote. It isn't about plausibility. It is about verisimilitude. It is about being able to transport your mind to another reality and accept it as real.

    To be honest I'm very glad that I am able to do that... I would miss out on a lot of the enjoyment of fictional media if I wasn't able to immerse myself into an alternate reality and accept it as true and real while I'm inside.

    That's not what "hard" means in this context. I get the impression that some here are laboring under the assumption that the "hard" in "hard sci-fi" means "realistic" or "having verisimilitude". That's an incorrect assumption, if your work of fiction requires your audience to just ignore an unexplained breach of established physics, it's ignoring the "hard" sciences, and your work is therefore not "hard".
    Note... the word "science" isn't being used in the phrase "hard fantasy", the word "fantasy" is being used... when you put the two words together "hard fantasy", it literally means "fantasy which is hard", and "hard" in this context means "rigor", or "extremely thorough". In no way does the phrase "hard fantasy" have any relation to science.
    Last edited by Aliquid; 2017-12-14 at 07:42 PM.

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