Soft science fiction

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Soft science fiction, or soft SF, like its complementary opposite hard science fiction, is a descriptive term that points to the role and nature of the science content in a science fiction story. The term first appeared in the late 1970s and early 1980s and indicated SF based not on engineering or the "hard" sciences (for example, physics, astronomy, or chemistry) but on the "soft" sciences, and especially the social sciences (anthropology, sociology, psychology, political science, and so on).[1] Another sense is SF that is more concerned with character, society, or other speculative ideas and themes that are not centrally tied to scientific or engineering speculations[2].

In The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Peter Nicholls writes that "soft SF" is a "not very precise item of sf terminology" and that the contrast between hard and soft is "sometimes illogical."[3] In fact, the boundaries between "hard" and "soft" are neither definite nor universally agreed-upon, so there is no single standard of scientific "hardness" or "softness." Some readers might consider any deviation from the possible or probable (for example, including faster-than-light travel or paranormal powers) to be a mark of "softness." Others might see an emphasis on character or the social implications of technological change (however possible or probable) as a departure from the science-engineering-technology issues that in their view ought to be the focus of hard SF. Given this lack of objective and well-defined standards, "soft science fiction" does not indicate a genre or subgenre of SF but a tendency or quality--one pole of an axis that has "hard science fiction" at the other pole.

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