So I sort of screwed up my blogging agenda for this past week. I just had too much other stuff on my mind, and I guess I needed time to sort things out in my head. Such is life!
At least it’s good stuff, for a change. Writing stuff. World-building stuff. I’m not sure how much I want to reveal at this point; but since this is a Friday, and since we usually talk about the definitions of science or science-related terms on Fridays, I’ll tell you about one thing. It has to do with the definition of science fiction.
Or to be more precise, it has to do with the definitions of hard and soft science fiction. Hard science fiction tries to portray science as accurately as possible, while soft science fiction takes more creative liberties (sometimes a whole lot more creative liberties) with scientific facts. Pretty much every work of science fiction lies somewhere along a spectrum between hard and soft Sci-Fi. Or at least that’s what I always thought these terms meant.
But then a week ago, I read an article that seemed to be defining soft science fiction in a way that didn’t make much sense to me. I can’t find that article now (thanks for trying, Google), but when I turned to my trusty copy of Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction, I found that yes, indeed, soft science fiction (and by extension hard science fiction as well) can be defined in two very different, almost contradictory ways.
To quote from Brave New Words, soft science fiction may be defined as “science fiction that deals primarily with advancements in, or extrapolations based on, the soft sciences (e.g., anthropology, psychology, sociology, etc.).” And hard science fiction is, therefore, science fiction dealing with the hard sciences, like astronomy, physics, or chemistry.
So instead of being two ends of a spectrum that encompasses all of science fiction, hard and soft science fiction are merely two subgenres among a host of other subgenres like cyberpunk, space opera, alternative history, etc…. And weirdly, according to these new (or at least new to me) definitions, soft Sci-Fi is just as concerned with scientific accuracy as hard Sci-Fi. It’s merely a different branch of science that it’s trying to be accurate about.
Maybe this is old news to some of you, but for me this has been a huge revelation. Redefining hard and soft science fiction has been a major factor in all the re-thinking, re-writing, and re-world-building I’ve been doing this week. However, this is not the big, central idea that’s been on my mind. It’s more like a satellite thought orbiting that big idea, and its gravitational perturbations are being felt.
I’m going to leave it at that for now, but I’m sure I’ll have more to say in the coming weeks and months. My IWSG post this coming Wednesday should be interesting.