November 6th, 2010

modern lit

Long Hard SF Against the Wall

We spill a lot of ink on where the dividing line between fantasy and science fiction is these days. I think about it a lot myself. And then I think about a conversation Peter Watts and I had at the pre-Hugos cocktail party (where they have food but you're too nervous to eat it) and I think in that exchange is possibly the answer--at least to the difference between hard SF and soft SF/fantasy. (I do maintain that if you are male, you get a +8 to your Hard SF stat, where a female writer gets a -8.)

I hope Peter won't mind my reproducing the dialogue--I thought it was brilliant and hilarious.

So there I was, talking to Watts, having just finished Blindsight and hearted the hardcore vampire biology in it, and he asked me what I was working on and I proceded to do what I've been doing a lot lately, which is to say, geeking out about Prester John. And I got into the part where there's these awesome medieval beasties that were sort of allegorical and sort of not and my main character is a blemmy.

Peter: What's a blemmy?
Me: They don't have heads but instead their face is in their chests. Eyes, er, in the chest area, nose in belly, mouth in navel.
Peter: *looks slightly upset by this information* But...but...how would they handle thermal regulation?
Me: Um...

And there, I think, you have it.