Theoretically, the Republibot website is all about asking questions, and following them through to the answers, whether we like the ones we get or not. Sometimes the questions are big and lofty like “What is the nature of the good?” and sometimes of less abstract value, like “Are The Flintstones a ripoff of The Honeymooners?” Either way, though, the truth will win out in the end. For this reason – and also because it’s really easy to do, and fills up a lot of space quickly – we here at REPUBLIBOT present: The Roundtable!
Question # 1: There are a surprising number of things in life that are commonplace, but have no real definition. Recently we found out that "Planet" didn't actually have a fixed definition until the IAU slapped together a pretty poorly-thought-out one. Likewise, there's no solid, specific definitions of "Continent" or "Subcontinent," rather they fall in to the Supreme Court definition of "Obscenity" which basically is "I know it when I see it." So in your opinions, what *is* Science Fiction, anyway?
REPUBLIBOT 1.0: My understanding has always been that the "real" definition of Science
Fiction is literature in which science plays an integral part in the story – meaning that if the scientific conceit that is used was removed, the story would not be able to stand. Having said that, it seems that the common definition is anything that has a spaceship or laser gun somewhere in it, such as Star Wars which is actually, in execution, much more sword and sorcery fantasy than what the average person would expect from real Science
REPUBLIBOT 2.0: What he said. Although the definition seems to expand whenever some
discipline gets added to the science tent, I like to stick to the 'harder' sciences. Sociological skiffy is interesting, but only if there’s some hard science behind whatever situation generates the sociological crisis. Maybe we can refine this to a more Campbellian definition: "Science fiction speculates on the future implications of present science or engineering." This does not include 'Alternate Universe' stories though...
REPUBLIBOT 3.0: So what? You’re excluding Alternate Universe stories from the SF Genre? I disagree with that. I also disagree with the definition of SF as presented above - if we take REPUBLIBOT 1.0's definition of what SF is, then pretty much that includes at least half the Hardy Boys novels. I mean Chet Morton was always slapping together some gadget - a rocket-powered bicycle that used Model Rocket engines he bought from the store - that kind of thing. Also, if we follow REPUBLIBOT 1.0's definition of SF then any story involving the Apollo Program even tangentially ("There's a soviet spy who wants to
blow up a Saturn V") is automatically SF simply because it integrally involves some big science. I don't think that's the case. I agree that the Science aspect has to be integral in the story, but I don't believe Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman is SF simply because it's fictional, and because medical science is at the heart of the show.
I think the science or technology involved has to be (A) plausible and (B) something we haven't actually done yet. So when Jules Verne wrote about submarines, that was science fiction. When *We* write about submarines, it's merely slice-of-life or, at best, a "Techno-thriller." But not SF.
Obviously, though, there's some lattitude between "Hard" and "Soft" SF. I mean, Ray Bradbury is as soft as they come, but no one's going to argue that "The Maritan Chronicles" isn't brilliant.
REPUBLIBOT 1.0: Whoa there, Nellie – It is not *my* definition, it is just the definition
I hear most often to try to narrow down what Scifi is, having said that if a Hardy Boys novel had them a rocket-powered bicycle then yeah, that would probably qualify. I think though, it would probably be better to say the story is dependent upon a futuristic extrapolation of current scientific trends. Of course, as trends change and we move or get passed by, we get left with a lot of stuff that no longer qualifies. My opinion then is SciFi
takes place starting tomorrow and into the future and contains at least one fantastical element – either based on a hard scientific principal, but not necessarily hardware centric. Fantasy includes magic, regardless of when it is set (Midi-Chlorians not withstanding).
Ray Bradbury has always been an interesting enigma I agree – but I think we can agree that what he writes is more art than