In every genre, there will always be a subgenre that we just won’t like and will prefer others over it. In horror, I hate found footage but I love supernatural. And in sci-fi, I definitely refer soft sci-fi over hard sci-fi. There’s nothing objectively wrong with hard sci-fi and it has its fans, but it’s just not for me.
Hard sci-fi is a division of science fiction that focuses on what is called the hard sciences. Those are STEM subjects like maths, physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, and other sciences that are based on objective facts. Pretty much what you mind would go to when you think of science. Soft sci-fi, on the other hand, focuses on soft sciences or “social” sciences, like anthropology, sociology, or psychology.
Even though we’re all reasonable people with common sense, I always feel the need to say that my opinions are not facts. I’m not saying that one type of fiction is better than another because fiction is art and art is subjective. There are bound to be hard sci-fi books out there that I would enjoy but I haven’t found them yet because I don’t actively seek them out.
Obviously this is just me being self-deprecating, but hard sci-fi focuses a lot on the “hard” sciences and I’ve never really been the best at those. I have a BA and an MA in English so I think it’s fair to say that my style of academics is based more on interpretation and subjective things than relaying facts. I stopped being good at STEM subjects once I started GCSE science (and I’ve never been good at maths) so it’s a lot for me to take in.
Soft sci-fi is more escapist for me.
I think it’s fair to say that most people read to be entertained and be transported into a world that is more exciting than our own realities and I get that feeling a lot more with soft sci-fi. Stories of intergalactic travel are more exciting to me when the characters are dealing with fantastical racism and monsters than just doing maintenance on the spacecraft and observing rocks. Or whatever it is characters do in hard sci-fi. I wouldn’t know because I read two chapters of 2001: A Space Odyssey and then gave up because it was too much for me.
Going back to my point about me not being able to wrap my head around STEM subjects, soft sci-fi is more focused on social commentary and that’s something that does interest me and is something that I can understand. And I personally think that the point of sci-fi can sometimes be to reflect our current world and how it could be improved but by using science as a metaphor. And I love a good metaphor
Hard sci-fi is a little too dry for me.
I can’t really judge an entire subgenre based on the poor experiences I’ve had, but the biggest reason why I couldn’t get through 2001 is that I found Clarke’s writing to be a little dry and expositiony. Maybe that’s just Clarke but it has put me off reading any of his other books or any other hard sci-fi books.
I’m sort of picky when it comes to writing styles because while I don’t like prose to be dry, I also don’t like it to be unnecessarily flowery and purple. I like being able to find that balance, and I’ve found it in soft sci-fi more often than I have in hard-sci fi.
I prefer to watch hard sci-fi instead of reading it.
I obviously don’t hate hard sci-fi, it’s just not for me. However, it’s really only not for me when it’s in a written format because it can start feeling like a physics textbook. I’m more likely to watch a movie that is hard sci-fi because while there is still that emphasis on scientific accuracy and logic, a movie’s primary objective is to entertain its audience so it’s easier for me to take in the information that’s being thrown at me.
While I couldn’t get through the book of 2001: A Space Odyssey, I did enjoy the movie, which I was lucky enough to watch on the big screen at a special anniversary screening. However, I think for me the biggest appeal of watching hard sci-fi is seeing realistic spacecraft and technology on the screen and how it would look as opposed to just reading about it and being given a ton of specs. If you haven’t guessed, I don’t do well with technobabble.
talk to me!
Do you have a preference for how hard or soft sci-fi is?