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Soft Science Fiction

What is Soft Science Fiction?

An imprecise term that is used analogously with Hard Science Fiction. This term is applied liberally to Sci Fi that deals with the soft sciences, social sciences and those that are concerned with human affairs, and to Sci Fi that is less concerned about science and more about humanity. As a result, Soft Sci Fi tends to be more focused on story and character.

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Other Features of Soft Science Fiction

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  • Level of Real Science

    Minimal. Real science in Soft Sci Fi is unimportant to the development of the story. However, the science in these stories is often (though not always) grounded in sound scientific theory—it's just not the focus of the story.

  • Level of Grand Ideas/Social Implications

    High. Soft Sci Fi is concerned with the human side of the sciences and their impacts. Grand ideas and the exploration of social implications are this sub-genre's bread and butter, so to speak.

  • Level of Characterization

    High. Soft Sci Fi doesn't feature the hard science in its stories so there is room for character development. In fact, well developed characters help explore the social implications of whatever idea or invention the story is revolving around.

  • Level of Plot Complexity

    Variable. The level of plot will depend greatly on the kind of story the writer wants to tell. A writer wanting to explore the long-term effects of living among alien species may look at huge spans of time where plot becomes unimportant. On the other hand, a writer may develop a strong and complex plot to explore the relationship between humans and aliens.

  • Level of Violence

    Variable. A Soft Sci Fi story can take many forms and violence may or may not be a part of that journey.

Related Science Fiction subgenres

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    Science Fantasy is a version of Soft Sci Fi that has been taken to an extreme because the science has become so soft it appears magical. Social Science Fiction is another sub-genre that is part of the Soft Si Fi family. Both sub-genres are concerned with social implications, but where Soft Sci Fi covers a broad spectrum, Social Sci Fi focuses on the social aspects more exclusively. For the polar opposite of soft science fiction, check out the Hard Science Fiction genre.

Soft Science Fiction isn't for you if...

You like detailed scientific explanations about future technologies. If you don't like the social sciences and prefer the harder sciences like physics and biology.

Popular Soft Science Fiction Books
  • 1 Babel-17


    By Samuel R. Delany. A bit anthropological, this series explores human interactions over several time periods and cultures. 3. Ursula K. Le Guin The Left Hand of Darkness. A noteworthy novel that explores the many impacts of sexual identity through an encounter with an androgynous alien race.

  • 2 Riverworld


    By Philip Josè Farmer. A bit anthropological, this series explores human interactions over several time periods and cultures.

  • 3 The Left Hand of Darkness


    By Ursula K. Le Guin. A noteworthy novel that explores the many impacts of sexual identity through an encounter with an androgynous alien race.

  • 4 This Immortal or ...And Call me Conrad


    By Roger Zelanzy. Humans just about destroyed Earth until an alien species stepped in to help. This is a post-apocalyptic novel that also deals with history, myth, politics, and the ruling class.

  • 5 Dune


    By Frank Hubert. This is an award winning and best selling series that addresses issues of empire by exploring ideas and interactions of politics, religion, technology, humanity, and the environment.

  • 6 Out of the Silent Planet


    By C.S. Lewis. This is the first novel in The Space Trilogy and takes place on Mars. This novel, and the sequels, explore religious and philosophical questions rather than scientific ones.

  • 7 Ender's Game


    By Orson Scott Card The first in a long series of novels that have hard science elements, but the emphasis on character, the concern with the impacts on society, and the thorough philosophical inquiries of the series make it a great example of Soft Sci Fi.

  • 8 The Vorksoigan Saga


    By Lois McMaster Bujold. A long running and award winning series that mixes politics, romance, medical ethics, personal identity, and hierarchies.

  • 9 Fahrenheit 451


    By Ray Bradbury. A novel that is also an alternate history where books have become censored to the point that they are all burned. It is a novel that touches on some societal issues including the complacency of society and the alienation of people by media.

  • 10 Hothouse or The Long Afternoon of Earth


    By Brian Aldiss. An example of Soft Sci Fi that doesn't pay particular attention to scientific theories—Earth has locked its rotation and cobwebs connect the Earth and moon, humans have shrunk, plants have become omnivores, and there are only four species of animals left.