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At a Baltimore-area convention back in 1997 (I think), I recall that J. Michael Straczynski spoke of a Four Point System that he had developed for rating the overall quality (hardness?) of a piece of science fiction (I do not think he was explicitly including fantasy in his categorization, but I believe much of this is applicable to most forms of fantasy as well). For a brief time in the late 90's, this system was popular -- at least among my circle of friends :), but I have seen nary a mention of it on the Internet these days. Since it's possible that some of you may know it by a different name, I'll reproduce the rules here. Each item may get a rating from 1-5:

  • Universe Size (Physical "size" of the fictional universe)
    1. Smaller than our universe
    2. Single "normal" universe (like ours)
    3. Single universe with multiple timelines
    4. Multiple universes
    5. Multiple universes with multiple timelines
  • Complexity/Attention to Detail
    1. Little or no discernable details
    2. ?? not sure, but I think it was "average"
    3. Cartographic maps
    4. Complete or mostly-complete developed language systems
    5. The way in which everything works down the molecular level (this may be a joke) is known and explained
  • Canon Size/Volumes of Work
    1. Single work in one medium
    2. Multiple works in one medium
    3. Multiple works in multiple media
    4. Meta-works available that discuss cannon
    5. Dedicated team maintaining canon
  • Continuity Errors
    1. Highly inconsistent; virtually no attempt at coherence
    2. Limited local consistency; continuity within a single episode for example
    3. Average consistency; most people won't notice the flaws
    4. Very consistent; may be some retconning or production errors
    5. Perfectly consistent; stands up to scrutiny

Are there any wikis/sites out there today that make use of this rating system? I haven't seen any myself, but I'm not familiar with much current sci-fi. Has this evolved into something else?

  • 2
    Quality is pretty subjective and not equatable to hardness. Also 2 and 4 are the only points directly applicable to hardness. – Sam Oct 21 '11 at 13:41
  • @Sam - I can't really disagree with that. It's possible I've oversimplified this quite a bit, since that was a long time ago and my memory isn't what it once was. – Frank Pierce Oct 21 '11 at 22:20
  • 1
    I would say "hardness" in Science Fiction speaks to the logical consistency of the underlying science (that there is some underlying science to begin with). So having stacks of timelines and universes don't provided hardness, and neither do multiple media and consistency. – Paul Nov 7 '11 at 9:11
  • Why dont ask his fans? forums.delphiforums.com/n/… – WizardOz Dec 7 '11 at 10:03
  • Complexity level 5 - just go read Peter F Hamilton, and you will see that this is probably not a joke... – HorusKol Dec 6 '13 at 3:06
2

It seems likely that this isn't in common use at this time. I've done a search for it, haven't found any reference to it anywhere except this site, nor has anyone been able to find anything in the past 3 months.

Sounds like an interesting solution, however.

  • I was going to write a very similar answer myself for this pretty soon. In this case, the lack of an answer is an answer in itself; it seems that this is not used at all anymore. – Frank Pierce Jan 31 '12 at 20:32

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