The distinction between “hard science fiction” and “soft science fiction” means many different things to different people—but that doesn’t prevent people from turning it into a status game. Which science fiction has the most real science, or the most serious scientific discussions? Depends whom you ask.

Over in, a bunch of authors weigh in on the “hard vs. soft” debate, and it’s illuminating. I particularly like the responses from Max Gladstone, Ellen Klages and Michael Swanwick. You should definitely read this before your next argument over what science fiction qualifies as “hard.”

Top image: Larry Niven’s Ringworld.

Charlie Jane Anders is the author of All The Birds in the Sky, coming Jan 26 from Tor Books. Follow her on Twitter, and email her.