Science fiction is a literary genre that focuses on imaginative content based in science.
Traditionally, scientific principles and facts have been crucial to science fiction writing. These principles are set in surprising, fantastical, and unusual settings with characters and situations that make the story “fiction.” Depending on the novel, short story, film, or television show, the “science” part of the genre will be more or less accurate. Some stories only acknowledge science as a loose basis for what they’re proposing, while others are more strict in their use of theories.
Explore Science Fiction
Definition and Explanation of Science Fiction
Science fiction is a genre of literature in which writers use scientific elements in combination with fictional ones in order to craft new stories. The genre rose in popularly in the last 150 years, as did scientific progress. New advancements in the computer age and with the advent of space travel meant that writers had new content and a newly receptive audience to write for. The public’s minds were opened to the true possibilities of technology, and they had a new desire to read about some of those possibilities, even though some were only loosely based on science.
Why Do Writers Write Science Fiction?
Writers choose to write science fiction in order to reflect on human nature, our interactions with technology, and most importantly, where those things are taking the human race. Science fiction novels and stories put forward various visions of the future, some more appealing than others, and readers are allowed to explore and attempt to understand them. By basing science fiction stories on something real, such as the human desire to colonize other planets, real terraforming technology, or advancements in personal communication devices, readers are able to suspend their personal disbelief and see how real and possible these worlds are.
Examples of Science Fiction Novels
Foundation by Isaac Asimov
Foundation is one of the most important science fiction books ever written. It was published as part of the Foundation trilogy that later became the Foundation series. The novel is a collection of short stories that tell the story of the Foundation, an institute seeking to preserve the galaxy after the predicted collapse of the Galactic Empire. It was published in 1951.
A Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
A Stranger in a Strange Land was the first science fiction novel to enter The New York Times Book Review‘s best-seller list. It also won the 1962 Hugo Award for Best Novel. It was published the year before and told the story of Valentine Michael Smith, a man born and raised on Mars and returned to Earth by the Martians who cared for him. He spends the novel escaping captivity on earth, exploring the human world, and revealing powers he acquired on Mars.
Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
Rama is the first book in the Rama series. It was written in 1973 and took place in the 2130s after humanity discovers a cylindrical alien ship floating, presumably abandoned, through space. The investigation of the ship takes up the majority of the first novel. It turns out that the ship is almost unfathomably massive, at an incredible 31x 12 miles. The human scientists and astronauts who enter the ship initially believe the massive interior to be completely empty, but slowly, more and more oddities reveal themselves, including a crab-like creature, alien flowers, and more. The novel is usually recognized as one of the most important novels of Clarke’s career.
Examples of Science Fiction Short Stories
Nightfall by Isaac Asimov
Nightfall was published in 1941 and has been voted the greatest science fiction story of all time by a number of different organizations. It explores a new darkness on a planet, Lagash, that has only known light through one of its six suns.
The Million Year Picnic by Ray Bradbury
The Million Year Picnic is the story of William Thomas, a governor, who travels to Mars to escape the war. The story was published in Bradbury’s collection The Martian Chronicles.
The Weapon Shop by A.E. van Vogt
Published in 1942, The Weapon Shop is also considered to be one of the best sci-fi stories ever written. It follows Fara, a businessman, who encounters several issues after becoming enraged over the appearance of a weapon shop in his town. He tries and fails to get the shop removed, and as the story develops, his allegiance changes.
Examples of Science Fiction Films
2001: Space Odyssey
Based on what is commonly cited as one of the best science fiction books of all time, 2001: Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke, the film has been equally influential. Directed by Stanley Kubrick, the groundbreaking film was released in 1968 and is often considered an epic of the genre.
Gravity is a 2013 film that was praised after its release for its strict adherence to the science of space travel. It stars Sandra Bullock as the lone survivor of an accident in space and follows her attempts to get home.
Types of Science Fiction
Soft Science Fiction
Soft science fiction is based on the social sciences. These include politics, anthology, and any other revolving around human behavior rather than technological advancements. These stories address the consequences of specific social choices and focus more on the emotions of those involved.
Hard Science Fiction
Hard science fiction adheres strictly to scientific principles and theories. These stories involve a great deal of knowledge in the various fields important to the plotline and therefore appeal to real scientists who want to opportunity to address what they see in the future. Without elements of “soft” sci-fi, hard sci-fi would not appeal to the majority of readers. It’s important for the genre to contain emotions and human stories as well as thought-provoking scientific advancements of both.
Science Fiction Synonyms
Sci-fi, sci-fy, futurism, space fiction, SF, space opera, a space odyssey
Related Literary Terms
- Surrealism: a movement of literature, art, and drama in which creators chose to incorporated dreams and the unconscious.
- Genre: a type of art, literary work, or musical composition that is defined by its content, style, or a specific form to which it conforms.
- Conflict: a plot device used by writers when two opposing sides come up against each other.
- Dialogue: a literary technique that is concerned with conversations held between two or more characters.