Best "soft" scifi

  1. Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers by Harry Harrison. A little too soft. The whole thing was just absurd and most attempts at humor failed, but somehow all the failures added up to a success.

  2. Job: A Comedy of Justice by Heinlein. Funny, fast-paced (this is important in soft scifi and it’s an element in the rest of my favorites), original. Maybe more fantasy or satire than scifi, but it’s Heinlein.

  3. The Lensman series by Doc Smith. The first couple books in the series just blew me away. They eventually got repetitive and formulaic, but they endure. I love knowing that this is what inspired Star Wars. I could not stop smiling, especially during the first and third books.

  4. The Barsoom series by E.R. Burroughs. These are formulaic, but I love the formula! Knowing that they were written almost 100 years ago allows me to cut them much slack in the corny and cliched department. The blistering pace they keep doesn’t allow you time to get bored. John Carter will always be one of the greatest literary heroes to me.

  5. The Hitchhiker’s Guide series by Douglas Adams. For a long time, my favorite book. It’s got adventure, it’s got humor, it sends up religion, and the main character can fly. What else could you ask for? Every teenager should read this. It’s brain candy.

I’m looking for more.

Fredric Brown didn’t know any science, but he’s one of the best short story authors. Sadly, he’s pretty much out of print – I haven’t seen a book by him on a new bookstore shelf in years (and I’ve been looking). If you can find them via the used-book stores or websites, have a look at:

The Best of Fredric Brown – relatively late (1970s) anthology of his work

The Mind Thing

What Mad Universe – a classic. It pokes fun at sf fandom – in the early 1950s.
The Lights in the Sky are Stars --A long-retired crippled astronaut trying to get back into space in the far-off future of 2000. Poignant and well-written story from circa 1950.

Most of his fiction was short and anthologized – Honeymoon in Hell, Nightmares and Geezenstacks, Paradox Lost are all collections of fantasy and science fiction stories. Brown could turn out superb short fiction, usually with a twist.

(He also wrote superb mysteries. If you can, read The Fabulous Clipjoing or Knock 3-1-2 or The Night of the Jabberwock, or the collection Carnival of Crime)

Other great writers of the “soft” SF stories with humorous style and the twist ending (mostly from the 1950s) are:

**Robert Sheckley
William Tenn
Theodore Cogswell

Also short and punchy (but not usually funny):

Charles Beaumont
Richard Matheson
(These guys also wrote a lot of the original Twilight Zone scripts)
More recent stuff – virtually all of Jack Chalker’s ouevre is soft sf, but fun. Occasionally his history-teacher roots surface

Anne McCafferey and her son Todd

Lord of Light, Creatures of Light and Darkness… basically the entire Zelazny ouvre.

Lots and lots of stuff from Robert Silverberg.

Dune, obviously.

Still my all time favorite book. I couldnt recommend it more.

Pretty much anything by Ted Sturgeon, especially More Than Human.

Ditto for Clifford Simak, especially City.

Brain Wave by Poul Anderson – fantastic premise.

Wait – maybe we’d better define our terms.

By “soft sci-fi” (by which I presume we mean sf), do we mean stories that are less rigorous about their science than the “hard” classics, or stories dealing with the “soft” sciences, like psychology and sociology?

Indeed those less rigorous. I don’t believe any of the books in the OP deal extensively with psychology or sociology.

I think “Soft Sci-Fi” can be seen as referring to all science fiction that doesn’t really care all that much about science and technology, preferring to focus on plot, characters, cultures, philosophy, etc. The fact that it’s “soft” in no way makes it light or silly.

I’d define the new **Battlestar Galactica **series as “soft scifi”, although there is nothing *soft *about it.

Really? I would call Stargate Atlantis and Eureka soft, but Battlestar Galactica seems to be one of the harder shows, as far as tv shows go (none of which, that I know of, compare to hard sf books.)

The only real hard SF show on TV was the BBC’s Star Cops.

For recent soft SF, go out and read Kit Reed’s Thinner than Thou and The Baby Merchant.

It’s hard drama, but it’s not hard science fiction. Two completely different meanings of “hard”.

In fact, hard science fiction can be quite light and easy - take some of Asimov’s or Heinlien’s juvenile stories, for instance.