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Entry updated 24 October 2022. Tagged: Theme.

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Certain "laws", principles or guidelines relevant to sf have become known by their authors' names, and the following examples have separate entries in this encyclopedia: Isaac Asimov's well-known Laws of Robotics, Clarke's Laws of Futures Studies as formulated by Arthur C Clarke, and Sturgeon's Law (also known as Sturgeon's Revelation), coined by Theodore Sturgeon. Though not widely referred to as a law, H G Wells's principle that an sf story should contain only a single fantastic assumption is quoted and discussed under Wells's Law.

The acronymic universal principle "Tanstaafl" ("There ain't no such thing as a free lunch"), repeatedly cited in Robert A Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (December 1965-April 1966 If; 1966), is sometimes called Heinlein's Law. Larry Niven has published numerous examples of "Niven's Laws", in Niven's Laws (coll 1984) and elsewhere, but few of these relate directly to sf. One such is "Psi and/or magical powers, if real, are nearly useless." Old-school Hard SF writers frequently cited the apocryphal Murphy's Law from engineering and scientific folklore: "Anything that can go wrong, will." Its effects in an editorial context were formulated by John Bangsund (whom see) as Muphry's Law. Douglas Hofstadter offered a characteristically recursive variation in the form of Hofstadter's Law: "It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law." [DRL]

see also: Prime Directive; Quotations.


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