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"Soft" Sci Fi?

In the grading for realism scale I use the term "soft sci fi" a lot, as a counterpoint to "hard" (in the sence of scientifically realistic) sci fi. It should be emphasised that in this context "Soft Sci Fi" is not to be confused with the proper Science Fiction genres of (traditional) Soft SF (dealing with the "soft" sciences (sociology, psychology, etc) rather than the "hard sciences"), Literary SF (SF that focuses more on literary style and character than on science or tech), or Humanistic SF (focuses on the personal or interpersonal elements of the story rather than the scientific). And while Soft/Literary/Humanistic SF may indeed be "soft" as defined here, it may just as easily also be "hard" (e.g. Kim Stanley Robinson explores character development in his hard science external link Mars trilogy). It is just as important in SF to focus on the "soft" or "social sciences" just as much as on the "hard sciences", and on the humanistic element just as much as the physics and scientific side of things.

Now what it is. "Soft Sci Fi", as defined here, is Science Fiction that incorporates one or more of the following.

As it generally appears, especially in the popular media, Soft Sci Fi is usually based on any of a number of common themes and tropes, which are copied and imitated in almost every new soft sci fi universe. Some of these are patently absurd or unrealistic; others are quite plausible on their own, but become absurd in association with the other elements. Although the grading scale lists things that more or less correspond to from more to less realistic, these are just a convenient grading system; it should not be taken as dogma and it is not intended as a definitive statement or a serious critique or classification of science fiction.

Also, none of what is said on this page (except for the last point - stupid cliches) is intended as a criticism of Soft Sci Fi as pure storytelling entertainment. We are here concerned only with realism, or lack thereof.

Related Pages:

Hard Science SF - the opposite to soft sci fi

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