(Post #2 about My Genre)
I’ve always thought the answer to ‘what defines science fiction?’ was simple: Science.
If the protagonist’s journey is driven, enhanced or inhibited by some aspect of science, then it’s a sci-fi story. The trick though is that ‘science’ covers a lot of ground (biology, physics, chemistry, astronomy, sociology, anthropology…) so to clarify, let’s take a look at the types of science traditionally found in science fiction.
Technology – Kind of a no-brainer really isn’t it? But technology that doesn’t exist right now, or is in its infancy, has long been the core of science fiction and can be based on any physical sciences.
Society – Where society is formed, contained or disrupted by science is a common backdrop or driver in sci-fi. Sometimes it’s manipulated through gadgets, and sometimes through the science of people’s brains. Occasionally even through the science of behaviour.
Space – Space travel is such an obvious area for science fiction, and has been a standard for so long that I imagine it’ll be a part of sci-fi long after we’ve become space tourists.
Other Worlds – Aliens and their worlds as an exploration of planetary systems, planets and alternative biological systems, obviously have science theory and science imaginings written all over them.
Future Humanity – Human societies are always shaped to some degree by technology and scientific understanding, but the future of humanity is easily envisaged as a tech-ridden, body-modded virtual life. If not an apocalypse…
Apocalypse – Science is either the cause or the cure for any decent apocalypse. Excluding ones caused by aliens. Or the Devil.
So it’s not hard to see why people with an interest in science (and jobs in the sciences) often write sci-fi. Particularly the kind of sci-fi that has cool science at its heart.
In the next post, I’ll marry up the different sciences with examples of well known sci-fi books and movies, just to flesh it out for the non-sci-fi-ers out there.