The definition of science fiction has been, and remains to this day, an ill-defined genre littered with semi-real and futuristic themes that have advanced technology, alien beings, alternate universes, and metaphysical abilities.
Generally, when an author writes a paper or novel that is considered science fiction it is usually based on plausible reality. Many aspects of science fiction are quite similar to fantasy; unreal events, supernatural happenstance, and highly imaginary settings. Although, a key element of science fiction that separates itself from fantasy writing is its feasible scientific basis. Essentially, although requiring a dormancy of one’s own disbelief, science fiction is more likely to be possible from a futuristic and technological standpoint when directly compared with fantasy. One of these reasons is because science fiction is largely based in the future and cannot be as easily dismissed as fantasy can. We have evidence that most elements of fantasy cannot or have never existed due to mankind’s nature to document everything that goes on. This can obviously not be done with most science fiction.
There are several subgenres to science fiction but there are almost always some factors about the stories that set that “science fiction mood”. I think a few great examples are:
- Science fiction is often set in some sort of alternative timeline, the future, or in a bizarre past that does not coincide with known history and records in archaeology.
- Often science fiction is set on other planets, worlds in outer space, space itself, nether worlds, or even underground settings.
- Many of the different characters you will find in science fiction include mutated creatures, advanced robots, extraterrestrial creatures and android type beings.
- Science fiction is also defined by advanced technology; Laser weapons, incredibly advanced electronic intelligence, teleporting technology, and things of that nature.
- In science fiction writing many authors include scientific axioms that are either completely new to the field of science, or whole new ideas that contravene modern scientific theories. Some really great examples of this are traveling through time, holes in space you can travel through (wormholes), different dimensions of reality, and vehicles that have the ability to travel faster than the speed of life.
- A very common theme in science fiction is the existence of entirely new or quite unique types of socio-political systems and economies; places where almost everything is in the worst state possible, an economic society where almost all goods and services are free or essentially free, a world or universe that is themed with apocalypse, or a utopian society where everyone has the best and most desirable features or qualities usually themed by a dark lining of government control or an oppressed underclass.
- Although these are elements of fantasy, paranormal skills and abilities are often found in science fiction. These abilities might include telepathic skills, the ability to control minds, telekinetic powers and the ability to make objects move with the mind, and the ability to physically teleport objects and beings.
Most of us are very familiar with the concepts I have just described. These are often themes in science fiction, but science fiction is still ill-defined. A story about a man who travels back to the 18th century in a time machine, although set partially in the past, can still be considered science fiction, but why? If the majority of this story took place in the past most would still consider it science fiction and I believe there are many good reasons for this. One of my absolute favorite science fiction writers, Isaac Asimov, said that “Science fiction stories are extraordinary voyages into any of the infinite supply of conceivable futures.” and that “Science fiction can be defined as that branch of literature which deals with the reaction of human beings to changes in science and technology.” These two quotes are logical definitions of the scientific fiction genre and embody the foundation of this form of literature.
I believe one can easily sum these to quotes in to one simple definition of science fiction; Science fiction can be viewed as the exploration of possible futures and the beings within these futures reacting to the changes that have occurred. Therefore, as I mentioned in the previous paragraph, the man who travels back to the 18th century in a time machine can be considered science fiction because he is reacting to the unreal technology of the future he is present in. That is of course according to Isaac Asimov and should not be considered as the ultimate definition of science fiction. There are many other definitions of science fiction and one of the things that stand out is that, although science fiction cannot always be defined, is that almost everyone recognizes science fiction when they see or read it. I believe people are able to recognize science fiction when they read it due to the seven simple factors I described above.
In conclusion, if you have trouble selecting a genre for a story you have written for our website, or have simply come to our website to figure out a little bit more about science fiction, I hope this article really helps you in both.
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