(Post #3 about My Genre)
Last time I defined my genre through the different aspects of science that feature in sci-fi. Here I’d like to illustrate that point just a bit further with some examples.
Brave New World is one of the most obvious examples of a sci-fi work that shows a society controlled by technology, with baby production-lines and society moulded through manipulated learning.
It is a very different world to the more recent Burning Chrome but no less dependant on technology and new social orders.
Societies moulded by technology but featuring less in-your-face tech can be seen in both 1984 and Farenheit 451. In these books, the screens on the wall are methods of control, while the rest of the world is much more 20th C.
Biology can also form societies in specific ways, as in the deliciously distopic Children of Men, the undermined privacy of My Destination the Stars (a future earth where people can ‘jump’ to any location they can orient themselves to) and the ‘perfect’ peace of Equilibrium.
Space travel and other worlds get a good run in everything from Dune to Star Trek and Firefly and are one of the most recognisable themes of science fiction. Alongside, in many cases, aliens.
Whether it’s humans in the aliens’ world as in Star Wars, Star Trek, Dr Who, The Last Starfighter, etc or aliens visiting us as in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Day the Earth Stood Still, District 9, Men in Black and Predator. Or notching up an apocalypse like in Battlefield Earth or Titan AE.
Most apocalypses, however, have either biological causes as in Blindness, or technological causes as in The Matrix. Though environmental destruction is more of a theme these days, as in Wall-E.
For futures that aren’t apocalyptic, but none-the-less pretty dire you could go back to Burning Chrome, but Surrogates and Gamer provide an equally icky conception of virtual living.
Along side other less virtual futures like Blade Runner, I Robot, Johnny Mnemonic, Moon and Replicant, you get the feeling our future is infinitely varied if likely to be unpleasant!
And that is what a great deal of sci-fi is about if you want to look at the meta-themes: The negative potential of scientific advancement.
Even the shoot-em-up boys with guns style pulp sci-fi often has overtones of this, and the inevitable exploration of the best and worst of human nature.
Which is why it’s a mystery to me that people dismiss my genre as bringing nothing to social discourse… but then those people frequently don’t think 1984 is science fiction!
And my apologies to the sci-fi fans, who’s favourite story isn’t listed here… there are just too many good examples.