Good Hard Science Fiction

I love science fiction, but the definition of what is SF and what is Fantasy is often blurred.  Let’s face it, Star Wars is not science fiction by any definition.  It’s fantasy with lasers.

What is considered “hard” SF is very easy to make boring.  For example, many people consider 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) to be boring.

While I disagree, I can understand the sentiment.  2001 is SLOW, and you have to be in the right mindset to appreciate it.  The first act with the evolution of man is one you have to take as pantomime, and see how the proto-humans see the world in order to appreciate that spark of intelligence and all it symbolizes.  And the last act through the star gate… well I thought the journey part could have been done better – I think it’s TOO trippy until he ends up in the final room where Dave lives and dies and is reborn.  That part works fine, for me, mind you.

Anyway, that’s often the one people run to first when talking about serious science fiction, but it’s not the only one.  Here’s a few others you might not know of, or missed and really should check out.

Silent Running (1972)

Silent Running was Sci-Fi for the hippie generation.  The last of Earth’s nature reserves are on a ship going through the solar system.  When it’s ordered to jettison its cargo and return to Earth, the idealistic loner of the crew takes matters into his own hands.

It’s not the best SF movie, but it is worth watching.  You should check it out so you can compare the ideas it has of the future, both in terms of technology and the environment, to how we view them now.

Moon (2009)

What I love about this movie is that it is more like five or six movies.   Duncan Jones manages to take various story elements, tropes, expectations, and even outright cliches from the last 30+ years and work them into one movie.

Every time you think you know what the “big reveal” is going to be, rather than tease it out until the end, it just flat out tells you what you already suspect.  It does this a lot.  Each one could have been a single movie, and probably have in one form or another, but here they’re all connected, and they all make sense.  It turns your expectations on their head more than once, but never once it is a cheat.

I.  Love.  This.  Movie.  Definitely in my top 3.

Gattaca (1997)

This is one that looks at our future in terms of not the macro – space ships and mega technology, but the micro – our DNA.

The theme of this story is simple enough and universal in nature.  Who hasn’t been told they can’t pursue the job of their dreams for whatever reason.  Here you have a society that tells you what you can and can’t do because of your genetics.  It’s a different kind of oppression, and a story that could be told at any time in history, really.  Born with the wrong skin or wrong religion in the wrong era or government.

Contact (1997)

In some ways it’s hard to call this science fiction, because it’s more like a realistic look of “what if earth discovered an alien message now?”  Until the last act where they build an alien machine it’s all real technology, and they managed to make the machine (a massive device) look very believable, especially seen at a distance.

If I recall correctly, Wyatt didn’t buy into the idea that the religious factions would have so much sway over events, and the way things pan out in the end.  I dunno… the way things have gone these last ten years in the states, there might be more prophecy in this movie than they intended.

Well there are others, but that’s a good start.