Hard and Soft Science Fiction

Define ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ sci-fi. [See for distinction: (link) Why are they distinct? Where are each found (types of books, age/gender-demographics, or region)? Where does ‘soft sci-fi’ end and fantasy begin? Are they distinguished by authorial background? What trends have been seen in both over time (what are the trends right now?). Most importantly, what are their different narrative functions/potentials (are hard meant for commentary on humanity while soft are just set dressing? Vice versa?)? And why does the distinction matter?

Some examples of ‘hard sci-fi’: works of Isaac Asimov/H.G. Wells, The Martian, The Diamond Age, Interstellar (arguably)
Some Examples of ‘soft sci-fi’: Dune, Star Trek, Ender’s Game, Slaughterhouse-Five, most dystopians

  • Adding to the list above, I think Ted Chiang is an author who writes wonderfully in both soft and hard science fiction. Even his hard science fiction works still reveal a theme about humanity. I think these two distinctions are based on the social sciences vs. stem (chemistry, engineering, physics, etc.) but I think both groups are important. Soft is just as important as hard; the one biggest thing that truly differentiates them is the subject matter, but both types of fiction still tell a story. – seouljustice 7 years ago

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