Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Poetry, Soft And Hard SF And The Sun

Some of us knew of "The Golden Apples of the Sun" by Ray Bradbury before we heard of "The Song of Wandering Aengus" by WB Yeats. The last line of Yeats' poem is the title of Bradbury's short story. It would be appropriate to bind both in a short volume with appropriate illustrations and some discussion of their content. A Lancaster comrade of Irish descent sings "Aengus" at parties.

If Heinlein, Anderson, Niven etc are hard sf writers, then who are soft? At least Bradbury, Simak and Lewis. Bradbury surely writes poetry in prose rather than speculative fiction? Instead of studying the Sun from a safe distance with a spectroscope, Bradbury's characters fly close enough to scoop some matter out of it. The captain uses a "...robot Glove..." (The Golden Apples Of The Sun, London, 1970, p. 167), really a waldo although not named as such, to control the giant hand that moves the Cup.

"'What time is it?' asked someone." (p. 165)

Wittgenstein discussed the time on the sun philosophically.

A soft sf writer can write about a Cup scooping solar matter but how do hard sf writers treat it? Alan Moore has Earth people colonizing Sun spots but this is just an out there idea. In The Mote In God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, a spaceship protected by a force field flies into a star. In "Iron," Poul Anderson has kzinti in a refidgerated space tug called Sun Defier flying close to a red dwarf to scoop closely orbiting asteroids:

"'Damn near half the sky a boiling red glow...the cabin is a furnace you can barely endure...'" (The Man-Kzin Wars, pp. 148-149)

This is Anderson's hard sf equivalent of The Golden Apples...

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