Get ready to learn about a genre with all the cool science and technology of hard sci fi without the technical details.
Soft Science Fiction Definition
Soft science fiction or soft sci fi is a genre that consists of scientific or futuristic elements, but does not delve deep into the technical details of the science. It puts more focus on psychology, society/culture, and politics. There is less emphasis on math, engineering, biology, computer science, etc. Those sciences may exist, but they are not discussed in detail. In soft science fiction, there may be futuristic technology, but how it works is not necessarily explained.Soft sci fi focuses on characters, culture, and sociology. It has futuristic technology, but doesn’t explain the technical details.Click To Tweet
In my opinion, soft sci fi is not any less science fiction than hard sci fi. There are those who would disagree with that. Some say it’s not science fiction unless the science and/or technology is integral to the plot. I say, it’s silly to put such a tight restriction on any genre. I like futuristic stories and I don’t need to hear about the intricacies of the technology to enjoy them. Both hard and soft sci fi are great, but I personally prefer soft.
Why I Read (and Write) Soft Sci Fi
I love cool science and technology. I also love worlds different from our own, whether because of time period or location. But the thing I love most of all is people. Soft science fiction takes the time to study, not just technology, but society’s reaction to it. It focuses on change (both technological and scientific) and how that change affects humanity. It’s the relationships, culture, and back stories that are integral to the plot. To me, those make the most powerful stories. Are you a soft sci fi lover too? Let me know in the comments.
What’s the Difference Between Hard and Soft Science Fiction?
Hard sci fi deals with sciences such as math, physics, computer science, engineering, and chemistry. Soft sci fi deals more with sociology, history, politics, psychology, and economics. Both hard and soft science fiction include futuristic technology or elements, but hard sci fi is more concerned with having realistic science based on currently proven facts about the world.
Elements of Hard Sci Fi
- Science and technology is integral to the plot.
- The science must be realistic and based on currently proven facts. The technology must be theoretically possible.
- Often includes details from math, physics, engineering, computer science, biology, chemistry, etc.
- Details scientific advancements realistically and accurately. Does not include fantastic elements.
- The Martian (Andy Weir)
- The Enemy Stars (Poul Anderson)
- Wool (Hugh Howey)
- The Three Body Problem (Cixin Liu and Ken Liu)
Elements of Soft Sci Fi
- Characters, relationships, and culture are integral to the plot.
- Science is realistic, but can be based on un-proven facts or ideas
- Story is more concerned with social sciences like psychology, politics, history, sociology, economics, etc.
- Near future works, dystopia, science fantasy, space opera, alternative history, and time travel. Can include fantastic elements.
- Cinder (Marissa Meyer)
- Configured (Jenette Penner)
- The Forgetting (Sharon Cameron)
- Ready Player One (Ernest Cline)
Soft Sci Fi vs Science Fantasy
Science fantasy is a mixed genre that includes both science fiction and fantasy elements. The science and technology is futuristic, but may not be realistic based on currently proven facts. Even if it’s not realistic, the science and technology is still believable. Science fantasy may include fantasy elements like dragons or castles, but also include science fiction elements like aliens or futuristic technology. Check out my in depth post on Science Fantasy to learn more.Science fantasy is a beautiful blend of two genres too marvelous to choose between.Click To Tweet
What’s the difference between soft sci fi and science fantasy? Usually nothing. Science fantasy may lean a little more to the fantasy side than soft science fiction, but the terms can mostly be used interchangeably. I love this genre because you get all the believable science and technology, but you can have more fun with them. Don’t get me wrong, hard sci fi is an awesome genre in its own right, but my personal favorite is science fantasy/soft sci fi. 🙂
Soft Science Fiction Short Stories
If you want to try out soft science fiction, but you aren’t ready to commit to an entire book, short stories are a great way to test the waters. You can get my 8 chapter novelette for free when you join my email list. It’s a short, fast paced story about a girl who built an AI.
Want more soft sci fi short stories? Check out my short story series. Each month I write a new short story. The best part? You get to vote on the story elements to be included in my next short story. Go to my short story series now to vote! While you’re there, be sure to read my latest short story.
Soft Sci Fi Books
I know what you’re thinking. Now that you’ve learned about the coolest genre to ever exist (I’m clearly not biased), you want a list of soft sci fi books to read. Of course, I am here to oblige.
First, check out my list of Top 6 Sci Fi Books with Strong Female Leads. I did a lot of research for this post and included the best books I could find. If you’ve already read all those books, here’s a nice long list to keep you busy. You can also check out my books. Here’s my futuristic science fiction book, Truth Seer.
Being a human lie detector is great… until you realize how often people lie.
Find it here!
25 Soft Sci Fi/Science Fantasy Books
I haven’t read all the books on this list so I can’t guarantee they are all soft sci fi. But to the best of my knowledge, they are, so enjoy! 🙂
- Truth Seer, (Kay L Moody)
- Cinder, (Marissa Meyer)
- The Loneliest Girl in the Universe (Lauren James)
- These Broken Stars (Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner)
- Heart of Iron (Ashley Poston)
- Warcross (Marie Lu)
- Illuminae (Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff)
- Scythe (Neal Shusterman)
- Shatter Me (Tahereh Mafi)
- Skyward (Brandon Sanderson)
- The Darkest Minds (Alexandra Bracken)
- Aurora Rising (Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff)
- Atlas Fallen (Jessica Pierce)
- Red Queen (Victoria Aveyard)
- Renegades (Marissa Meyer)
- Children of Eden (Joey Graceffa)
- This Mortal Coil (Emily Suvada)
- Dare Mighty Things (Heather Kaczynski)
- Configured (Jenetta Penner)
- The Forgetting (Sharon Cameron)
- Ready Player One (Ernest Cline)
- Divergent (Veronica Roth)
- Numbers Game (Rebecca Rode)
- Influence (David R. Bernstein)
- The Glitch (Ramona Finn)
- Escape to Eden (Rachel McClellan)
- The Time Key (Melanie Bateman)
- Across the Universe (Beth Revis)
- The Bullet Catcher’s Daughter (Rod Duncan)
- Defy the Stars (Claudia Gray)
- Nyxia (Scott Reintgen)
- Secondborn (Amy A. Bartol)
- For Darkness Shows the Stars (Diana Peterfreund)
- Alienated (Melissa Landers)
- Unremembered (Jessica Brody)
- Dissonance (Erica O’Rourke)
- Unwind (Neal Shusterman)
Other Posts You Might Like
- Young Adult Fantasy Book Series
- Young Adult Dystopian Books
- YA Fantasy Romance Books
- Best Gifts for Book Lovers
Follow Kay L Moody on social media!
Want more from Kay L Moody?
Join her email list for a exclusive news and updates, a chance to join her ARC team, and for a FREE copy of her short story collection!
This is a great analysis! I love reading soft sci-fi because I’m way more story-oriented than caring about technical aspects. The Lunar Chronicles are one of my favorite YA series too. 🙂
Len Stage says
Science fiction is one of the most creative genres in literature. Under this genre, you can write about almost anything – from adventures in faraway galaxies to the underwater worlds and everything in between.