Creative writing, or the speculative fiction genre, has long leveraged something called the MICE quotient. I first came across this when I was reading an Orson Scott Card book on how to write science fiction and fantasy (I think it was even titled How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy). The premise is that stories in the speculative fiction genre can be broadly binned as having one or more of four, primary drivers: milieu, idea, character, and event. Although most good stories will incorporate multiple of these components, with different ones emphasized at different times, there is usually one that drives the story forward.
I love classic, hard science fiction (we've talked about the difference between hard and soft science fiction before). Verne, Wells, Asimov: I've read most of what they wrote. These stories, exploring scientifically rigorous possibilities and ideas, hold a unique place in the huge volume of work classified as science fiction. To use the MICE quotient, these are idea stories, through and through. I'd heard about Ringworld in a few different places, and decided that this was something I needed to read.