I will declare (with pride) that what I write is considered “soft” science fiction. For many people, there is a certain hierarchy to science fiction, with hard sci fi–fiction that is based on realistic physics/chemistry/biology–inherently “better” than soft sci fi. I call fig-newtons on that as I enjoy both reading and writing soft sci fi.
What is soft science fiction?
There are many types of soft science fiction. Fiction that concentrates on the “soft” sciences of psychology and sociology are considered soft sci fi. As I am a sociologist, you can imagine most of my interest lies in understanding group trends.
A second type of soft sci fi is fiction that takes a general science idea and then runs deep into the realms of fiction. Heck, out of the realms of reality. This includes things like sci fi-fantasy (blending of sci fi with fantasy elements) and sci fi that could never happen.
Many people take an issue with the second kind of soft science fiction. Some go as far as saying it should be in a category of its own, not tainting the pure science of hard sci fi. To that, I generally shrug. For me the story is always more important than the science.
Real science as a jumping off point
Why even write science fiction if I’m not going to stick to real science? Because science–the way we understand the world around us–is absolutely fascinating. Over the years basic theories of physics have made me rethink my religion and the way I interact with people. Biology, and the way our understanding of it has changed, has driven complex social theories. In other words, art and science are deeply connected and science creates some of the best writing prompts available.
Where does your science come from?
Here I’ll be honest and admit I don’t dive as deeply into the hard sciences as I would like to. Thankfully, I have a geeky husband who loves pop iterations of science and shares many videos with me.
One of my favorite shows he has shared with me is Physics Girl with Dianna Cowern. She breaks down complex ideas into easy to understand bites. Also, her enthusiasm is addiction. Here’s an example of one of my favorites of hers:
Other than that, some of my ideas come from articles that pop up on my news feed. These tend to deal with psychological issues, such as the premise for my latest novel, Casual.
I guess this is a long way of saying: write what you love, read what you love. And let science inspire those great stories in you.