Hard Science Versus Soft Science Fiction

Last week I gave my thoughts on the question of whether I write Science Fiction or Speculative Fiction based upon the criteria of how hard my science is.

Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

This raises a question many writers from all genres may face: How hard should I make the science in this story?

Do I go into detail on how the blaster my space pirate is pointing at the hapless pilot of the ship they’re taking over works?

How much detail does a fantasy writer need to include about the magic system their main character is learning works?

What about the why and wherefores that underly the poison used to kill the victim in that murder mystery?

I’ve enjoyed many books that went into exquisite detail on minute points, and many others that glossed over anything more than the bare facts.

Likewise, I’ve had trouble with many books that contained so much detail I lost track of the story, and many books that contained so little of anything I couldn’t get my head around what was happening.

What I do know is there is a market for books across the spectrum.

I tend toward the soft end of the spectrum even when I have detailed knowledge of the underlying tech. My goal is to showcase the characters involved, not the tools they are using to achieve their aims. Some readers will get their backs up because I haven’t explained what that critical part does, and others will say their eyes glossed over because the same description contained too much detail for their tastes.

As with the Science versus Speculative question, that is an aspect of writing I choose to accept, then move on.

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