Genre in Depth: Science Fiction (National Science Fiction Day)
Genre in Depth is a new series on Fictionally Sam where we delve into different genre and see how they began, their characteristics, and books within that genre, etc. New genre every first and last Wednesday of the month!
Happy National Science Fiction Day Storytellers! It is a new year and I am so excited to be introducing a new series on the blog! This series was inspired by a question/discussion I had with a lovely friend of mine on Discord in which she expressed her desire for a breakdown of sorts of genres in order to help categorize her books properly. Genre in Depth is my way of fulfilling that wish. Every first and last Wednesday of each month I will be tackling a different genre and breaking them down to their bones essentially, finding out their history, their characteristics, what makes them unique, and finally some recommendations of books from within that genre.
As today is National Science Fiction day, I thought, what better genre to start with than one of my favorites?
Science Fiction, or to most known as Sci-fi, journey to existence has been the root of question for scholars and fans alike. The theories of the beginning of Science Fiction (SF) can be broken down into two camps: One believing that the birth of SF can be dated back almost 300 years ago during the booming age of scientific advances, specifically in Astronomy, Math, and Physics. The other, however, believes that Science fiction predates even the era of scientific revolution, with its roots going all the way back to Greek Syrian-born Satirist Lucian whose antecedent, Trips to the Moon, provided the public a popular way of scrutinizing society, the government, as well as religion without the harm of persecution. Lucian’s work can be dated back to the 2nd century-CE (Yeah, ancient times my friends–what a time).
“Science fiction is held in low regard as a branch of literature, and perhaps it deserves this critical contempt. But if we view it as a kind of sociology of the future, rather than as literature, science fiction has immense value as a mind-stretching force for the creation of the habit of anticipation. Our children should be studying Arthur C. Clarke, William Tenn, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury and Robert Sheckley, not because these writers can tell them about rocket ships and time machines but, more important, because they can lead young minds through an imaginative exploration of the jungle of political, social, psychological, and ethical issues that will confront these children as adults.” –
There is no dispute however, that a key and integral step for the genre was made in 1818 by the Mother of the genre herself–Mary Shelly. It was during the summer while visiting her husband’s friend, poet Lord Byron, that a contest of sorts was suggested–to write the best horror story that they could think of. It was during this contest to pass the time that Shelly would begin to pen her novel, Frankenstien: or, The Modern Prometheus, which unbeknownst to her would become an evolutionary piece of SF literature to date. Shelly’s novel accentuated her innovation of fictional scheme. Abandoning the traits of a typical Horror Gothic Novel, Shelly switched things up by making her lead character a practicing scientist with interests in electricity and animal dissection which were two of the many sciences that were beginning to gain traction and awareness in the early 19th century.
However, no matter when it was born, it is unanimously accepted that SF took flight during the 20th century, when the use of technology slowly became an integral part of the human existence. The term, Science Fiction, was invented/popularized during the roaring twenties by one of SF’s principal advocates, Hugo Gernsback, who made a living publishing technical magazines for enthusiasts of radio and anything electrical. His magazine gained so much popularity with the youth of America that in 1934, the Science Fiction League, an organization for fans, was born–to this day, the organization strives and has since included several chapters in the UK as well as Australia.
Conventions soon began to be held for the genre–where people would flock in the masses to congregate together to discuss the one thing they all had in common. Different literary groups also began discussions of ideology to amateur press groups, using SF to bridge the gap in communication. It was at this moment, that SF began its trek to mass acceptance around the world, and the point where it became an integral asset of literature itself.
Science fiction is really sociological studies of the future, things that the writer believes are going to happen by putting two and two together…Science fiction is a logical or mathematical projection of the future.” – Ray Bradbury
Science Fiction is a genre that is known to extrapolate current scientific trends and put them in literature in a way where the technology within the story becomes either the driving force of the piece or the setting for the story. However, in almost all pieces, science fiction is the center medium to predict, define, or analyze the future.
Branches within SF:
- Cyberpunk – explores the relationship between humans and machine.
- Military Science Fiction – It’s literally the military…but in space (a time I can tell you that)
- Hard Science Fiction – Science Fiction written by those with a strong background in the sciences. Stories are typically known to have a ridiculous amount of detail and research within the work; as most of the writers are scientific researchers.
- Space Opera – It’s a time and a half in space my friends. Typically considered a high adventure in space with encounters from beautiful woman and bug-eyed monsters. An example of this branch would be the world-famous, Star Trek fandom.
- Alternate or Parallel Universe Science Fiction – essentially what happens is when a decision/event happens in one universe, the opposite will happen in the alternate/parallel universe.
Themes within SF:
- Utopias and Dystopias
- Alien Encounters
- Space and Time Travel
- Sex and Gender
- Alternative histories and Parallel universes
- Alternative societies
- High Technology
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
- This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelly
- Dune by Frank Herbert
- Artemis by Andy Weir
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
What do you love about Science Fiction? Any Recommendations?