In episode 1 of the newest season, Jeni and Melissa talk about soft science fiction.
Listen in here: EPISODE 1- Soft Science Fiction
Welcome to the new season of the Indie Chicks show! I’m Melissa Koberlein, an author and professor of publishing and she’s Jeni Chappelle, a freelance novel editor.
Indie Chicks celebrates and supports independent women in publishing. We’re a place for writers at all stages of the publishing process. So, whether you’re on the traditional route to publication or self-publishing, you’ve come to the right place for advice.
On our season 5 premiere episode:
We’re talking about soft science fiction
End with an author tip of the week
Here's the Q&A
Melissa: I know you enjoy soft sci-fi. Could you talk a little bit about what soft sci-fi is? How does it differ from hard sci-fi?
Jeni: Hard science fiction focuses more on the “hard” sciences like physics, astronomy, mathematics, engineering, and chemistry. Soft science fiction usually focuses more on the “soft” sciences such as sociology, anthropology, and psychology. The rules of what’s possible in science are more important to hard SF, whereas soft SF can take more artistic license and doesn’t have to go heavily into the explanations of how things work as long as it makes sense within the context of the story. Hard SF focuses on concepts directly tied to those “hard” sciences and technology more than characters or setting. Soft SF is more about people than technology and uses technology to frame the story and as the catalyst for exploring society and the human condition.
Jeni: What attracts you to soft sci-fi as a reader and writer?
Melissa: I’m a geek, so I enjoy all the science fiction elements of a story, but I want a good story. I also really enjoy reading and writing about relationships set amidst the strange and unusual. How do the character react to the sci-fi elements? What do they do? How does it make them feel? That for me is at the center of what I like to read and write as far as soft sci-fi goes.
I also want science fiction to be approachable to new readers. I’ve had lots of readers tell me that one of my books was their first attempt at anything science fiction. So many people are afraid to pick up a sci-fi novel. That’s where soft sci-fi can really shine. It’s approachable, and if the world building is good, it isn’t difficult for a reader to be engaged.
Melissa: What are some of your favorite sub-genres of soft sci-fi?
Jeni: Dystopian/utopian. The Hunger Games is a great example of dystopian, but the popularity of dystopian has declined in the last few years. Instead, it's shifted to utopian, which focuses on a "perfect" society but generally shows the dark side and that it's not really perfect after all. Comedic SF always makes me think The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I feel like that's really the classic example. The Handmaid's Tale is slipstream/literary SF, and the Outlander series is more romance/historical but is still considered to have some elements of soft SF because of the time travel
Jeni: What advice do you have for authors who might want to write soft sci-fi?
Melissa: Three things. 1. Relax. Let go of all your anxiety about ‘getting it right.’ Voracious readers of sci-fi can be hard on new sci-fi authors. Own your soft sci-fi. 2. Do your research. You know your process with writing, but if you aren’t sure about how something should work in your world, do the research. It can be before you start writing, during drafting, or in edits. 3. Take chances. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. This is also why I love to write soft sci-fi. There are so many interesting things you can do. You write the rules for your world. Okay, I lied. There’s a 4th. Let the world build around your characters as they move through it. If you do that, the reader is along for the ride rather than you narrating it to them.
Tip of the week: Research the industry standards for your genre. It’s not always enough just to read in your genre. You need to know what readers and publishers expect so you can market and advocate for your work.
On our next podcast, we are talking with Lara Lillibridge about representation of queer and marginalized characters in children's literature.
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Indie Chicks out.