I admit that if the only science fiction you’re aware of is what you see in movie theaters or on television, you have every right to be skeptical. That stuff isn’t based on scientific fact; it’s based on comic strips or the dreams of juveniles.Man, this guy believes in the hardest of hard SF. I obviously disagree with what he is saying, but then, he's a well known author, while I post in some forsaken corner of the internet...but I'm a consumer of SF, too, which gives me some rights, yeah? I always value insight into others' mode of thought, besides.
When I say “real science fiction,” I mean stories based solidly on known scientific facts. The writer is free to extrapolate from the known and project into the future, of course. The writer is free to invent anything he or she wants to — as long as nobody can prove that it’s wrong.
But specifically--what's wrong with comic strips? The word used to compare them is 'juvenile,' wielded in a manner that drips condescension. I suspect that Mr. Bova thinks that all comics are basically The Family Circus, and therefore unworthy of his attention, which is an attitude that is very much prevalent in the American public. Some of the most interesting SF storytelling today is being told through an animated medium, and is often only tenuously related to scientific fact. I love it precisely because there is no pressure of reality upon it, either visually or thematically, and imagination is allowed to run free.
But enough about anime and comics for now. What about this requirement that science fiction be based upon something that cannot be 'proven false'? I find this silly for very similar reasons to the other assertion, but there's something more to this belief than simple condescencion. Ben Bova made his name in 'hard' SF and man, I can see why. That's a hard goal to live up to; virtually impossible, I would think, but it seems to work for him. I also think, though, that this is a remarkably narrow view, and more importantly potentially ignores the very function of writing, that of storytelling. Not saying that he has failed on this account, but there's a reason that I don't much enjoy the diamond end of hard SF and I suspect that this is it.
Ben Bova's viewpoint is that of a minority, however, and part of me is a little saddened by this. I see him and his ilk--Benford and...and...well, there's others that I can't think of right now--as being the ballast of the SF community, keeping it distinct and separate from other more fantastic genres by injecting a dose of (over)realism into the mix. I am a consumer, but I am not the consumer base...good thing, eh?