Sunday, 13 March 2016

More Hard Fantasy

See here.

Robert Heinlein initiated hard fantasy.
John W Campbell edited it.
Anderson followed Heinlein's lead.
James Blish also wrote it.
Escape From Hell by Niven & Pournelle is in this category.

Has the Inferno been constructed by higher technology or effortlessly created ex nihilo by the will of a supernatural being?

If the former, sf.
If the latter, fantasy.
If the latter with logical consequences, then hard fantasy.

I think that Escape... is hard fantasy but it is always possible that a surprise ending will cause us to recategorize the novel.

Anderson's two Operation... novels are major contributions to this sub-genre.


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    You beat me to mentioning Poul Anderson's two OPERATION books! (Smiles)

    How would you categorize Anderson's THREE HEARTS AND THREE LIONS? Either fantasy or hard fantasy? I lean to the latter view.


  2. Replies
    1. Kaor, Paul!

      It's hard to decide, I agree! But Holger Carlsen was actually born in the Carolingian alternate world, where "magic" is real. And the magic seen there seems to be more like the "technological" magic of the OPERATION books.

      Secondly, Morgan Le Fay turned Holger into an infant and exiled him to our Earth, where he was raised to adulthood (a second time!) in a society knowing and using the scientific method and the sciences springing from that. Also, Holger studied to be an engineer, which also meant he needed to know a good deal from associated sciences like mathematics. And we see him using our kind of science in the incident with the dragon.

      All this leads me to believe THREE HEARTS AND THREE LIONS is at least half way over the border into hard fantasy.


  3. Paul and Sean:
    I'm inclined to agree about *Three Hearts and Three Lions* being hard fantasy or close to it. As supporting evidence I cite Holger's realization that when a carbon-based lifeform (in this case, a giant) is transformed to silicon (stone), the result is RADIOACTIVE, and that's why a sun-struck giant's hoard is cursed; his body is irradiating it (in *Operation: Chaos*, there's a similar effect if a basilisk "stones" you).

    Then, too, there's the part about the "Dagger of Burning" being made of magnesium, which burns with a strong UV light harmful to Faerie folk. PA didn't just decree that sunlight or whatever harms certain beings "because it does"; he came up with a rational mechanism for WHY it does.

    1. Hi, David!

      You made very excellent points! Ones I agree with and wish I had thought of as well. I did think of the "Dagger of Burning" but was too lazy to look up the relevant passages in THREE HEARTS.

      I should have also mentioned how THREE HEARTS has a preface written by a friend of Holger on our Earth describing how they attended a lecture by a British scientist speculating about alternate worlds/timelines. Another hard fantasy touch!

      Yes, I'm convinced now that THREE HEARTS AND THREE LIONS has to be classified as hard fantasy.

      And Poul Anderson's short story "Interloper" (1959)shows us long lived "elves" who could not endure sunlight and iron living on into our 20th century. And being instrumental in liberating our Earth from secret rule by heartless and conscienceless aliens.

      Yes, Poul Anderson wrote RATIONALLY thought out and scientifically plausible hard fantasy.


    2. Both,
      I think that "Interloper" is sf! The elves are scientifically rationalized. Hard fantasy means a fantasy premise but with rational consequences deduced from it.

    3. Kaor, Paul!

      Certainly! I agree "Interloper" is hard SF, not hard fantasy. The elves in that story were scientifically rationalized, with no fantasy elements. I also agree with your definition of hard fantasy.