Hard SF and Hyperrealism

I had a good time at Readercon, and saw several old friends.  I did not come up through SF fandom, and the field is not the center of my social life, but I have such a good time whenever I do go to a convention that I should it more.

As I mentioned last week, my one panel was on the narrative voice of hard SF.  Of course, the discussion wandered all over, though I tried to keep it back on the ostensible topic, not to be a control freak (I wasn't even the moderator) but because I was interested in the topic:  does hard SF derive its authority from its content, or from its form?  For those of you not conversant with the various subgenres in science fiction, hard SF is that variety whose writers pride themselves on playing by the known rules of the various sciences, though physics has always been the most obvious one.  That this does not banish faster-than-light travel is just one of the problems with any vigorous definition of this branch of SF.

I brought up a Nabokov quote, from Pnin: "Dali is really Norman Rockwell's twin brother kidnaped by gypsies in babyhood."  This manages to slam both Dali and Rockwell at the same time (when the novel was written, both were working and popular).  Both practiced an absolute fidelity to the specific details of representation, at an incredible level of technical skill.  Both (as I read Nabokov) used that skill to provide a completely false image, Dali obviously, Rockwell less obviously but perhaps more dangerously.

So I said that hard SF was socialist realism kidnapped by fairies in babyhood.  Getting the scientific details write provides a presumptive authority to convey an image of a social reality that is usually false.

Why go on a panel if you can't cause trouble?