' War of the Worlds]] Science fiction (often shortened to SF or sci-fi) is a genre of speculative fiction, typically dealing with imaginative concepts such as futuristic science and technology, space travel, time travel, faster than light travel, parallel universes, and extraterrestrial life. Science fiction often explores the potential consequences of scientific and other innovations, and has been called a "literature of ideas". It usually avoids the supernatural, and unlike the related genre of fantasy, historically, science-fiction stories were intended to have a grounding in science-based fact or theory at the time the story was created, but this connection is now limited to hard science fiction.
Definitions, August 1958]] Science fiction is difficult to define, as it includes a wide range of subgenres and themes. Author and editor Damon Knight summed up the difficulty, saying "science fiction is what we point to when we say it", a definition echoed by author Mark C. Glassy, who argues that the definition of science fiction is like the definition of pornography: you do not know what it is, but you know it when you see it. Hugo Gernsback, who suggested the term "scientifiction" for his Amazing Stories magazine, p. 190 described his vision of the genre: "By 'scientifiction' I mean the Jules Verne, H. G. Wells and Edgar Allan Poe type of story—a charming romance intermingled with scientific fact and prophetic vision."Hugo Gernsback. "A New Sort of Magazine", Amazing Stories, Vol. 1, No. 1 (April 1926), p. 3. In 1970 or 1971, William Atheling Jr. (James Blish) wrote about the English term "science fiction": "Wells used the term originally to cover what we would today call ‘hard’ science fiction, in which a conscientious attempt to be faithful to already known facts (as of the date of writing) was the substrate on which the story was to be built, and if the story was also to contain a miracle, it ought at least not to contain a whole arsenal of them."James Blish, More Issues at Hand, Advent: Publishers, 1970. Pg. 99. Also in Jesse Sheidlower, "Dictionary citations for the term «hard science fiction»". Jessesword.com. Last modified 6 July 2008. According to science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein, "a handy short definition of almost all science fiction might read: realistic speculation about possible future events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world, past and present, and on a thorough understanding of the nature and significance of the scientific method." Rod Serling's definition is "fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science fiction is the improbable made possible." Lester del Rey wrote, "Even the devoted aficionado—or fan—has a hard time trying to explain what science fiction is", and that the reason for there not being a "full satisfactory definition" is that "there are no easily delineated limits to science fiction."
CharacteristicsScience fiction is largely based on writing rationally about alternative possible worlds or futures. It is related to, but different from fantasy in that, within the context of the story, its imaginary elements are largely possible within scientifically established or scientifically postulated physical laws (though some elements in a story might still be pure imaginative speculation). The settings of science fiction are often contrary to those of consensus reality, but most science fiction relies on a considerable degree of suspension of disbelief, which is facilitated in the reader's mind by potential scientific explanations or solutions to various fictional elements. Science fiction elements include:
- A time setting in the future, in alternative timelines, or in a historical past that contradicts known facts of history or the archaeological record.
- A spatial setting or scenes in outer space (e.g. spaceflight), on other worlds, or on subterranean earth.
- Characters that include aliens, mutants, androids, or robots and other types of characters arising from a future human evolution.
- Futuristic or plausible technology such as ray guns, teleportation machines, and humanoid computers.
- Scientific principles that are new or that contradict accepted physical laws, for example time travel, wormholes, or faster-than-light travel or communication.
- New and different political or social systems, e.g. utopian, dystopian, post-scarcity, or post-apocalyptic.
- Paranormal abilities such as mind control, telepathy, telekinesis (e.g. "The Force" in Star Wars.)
- Other universes or dimensions and travel between them.
HistoryAs a means of understanding the world through speculation and storytelling, science fiction has antecedents which go back to an era when the dividing line separating the mythological from the historical tended to become somewhat blurred. A True Story, written in the 2nd century AD by the Hellenized Syrian satirist Lucian, contains many themes and tropes that are characteristic of modern science fiction, including travel to other worlds, extraterrestrial lifeforms, interplanetary warfare, and artificial life, and is considered by some to be the first science fiction novel.
- Fredericks, S.C.: "Lucian's True History as SF", Science Fiction Studies, Vol. 3, No. 1 (March 1976), pp. 49–60
- Georgiadou, Aristoula & Larmour, David H.J.: "Lucian's Science Fiction Novel True Histories. Interpretation and Commentary", Mnemosyne Supplement 179, Leiden 1998, , Introduction
- Grewell, Greg: "Colonizing the Universe: Science Fictions Then, Now, and in the (Imagined) Future", Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature, Vol. 55, No. 2 (2001), pp. 25–47 (30f.)
- Gunn, James E., The New Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Viking, 1988, , p. 249, calls it "Proto-Science Fiction."
- Swanson, Roy Arthur: "The True, the False, and the Truly False: Lucian's Philosophical Science Fiction", Science Fiction Studies, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Nov. 1976), pp. 227–239 Some of the stories from The Arabian Nights, along with the 10th century The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter and Ibn al-Nafis's 13th century Theologus Autodidactus also contain elements of science fiction.
- Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726), Ludvig Holberg's novel Nicolai Klimii Iter Subterraneum (1741) and Voltaire's Micromégas (1752) are some of the first true science fantasy works,
- Khanna, Lee Cullen. "The Subject of Utopia: Margaret Cavendish and Her Blazing-World." Utopian and Science Fiction by Women: World of Difference. Syracuse: Syracuse UP, 1994. 15–34. which often feature the adventures of the protagonist in fictional and fantastical places, or the moon. Isaac Asimov and Carl Sagan considered Kepler's work the first science fiction story.
- It depicts a journey to the Moon and how the Earth's motion is seen from there.
- Later, Edgar Allan Poe wrote a story about a flight to the moon. More examples appeared throughout the 19th century.
- Stargate, a movie about an ancient portal to other gates across the galaxy, was released in 1994. Stargate SG-1, a TV series, premiered on 27 July 1997 and lasted 10 seasons with 214 episodes. Spin-offs include the animated television series Stargate Infinity, the TV series Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe, and the direct-to-DVD films and . Stargate SG-1 surpassed The X-Files as the longest-running North American science fiction television series, a record later broken by Smallville.s world record |publisher= GateWorld |date=10 May 2011 |accessdate=23 February 2014}}
"sci-fi"Forrest J Ackerman is credited with first using the term sci-fi (analogous to the then-trendy " hi-fi") in 1954. As science fiction entered popular culture, writers and fans active in the field came to associate the term with low-budget, low-tech " B-movies" and with low-quality pulp science fiction.
- By the 1970s, critics within the field such as Terry Carr and Damon Knight were using sci-fi to distinguish hack-work from serious science fiction.
InnovationScience fiction’s great rise in popularity in the first half of the Twentieth century was closely tied to the respect paid to science at that time, as well as the rapid pace of technological innovation and new inventions at the time.Astounding Wonder: Imagining Science and Science Fiction in Interwar America, John Cheng, University of Pennsylvania Press, Mar 19, 2012 pages 1-12. Since that time science fiction has both contributed to the innovation of new technologies and criticized their possible harmful effects. This topic has been more often discussed in literary and sociological than in scientific forums. Cinema and media theorist Vivian Sobchack examines the dialogue between science fiction films and the technological imagination. Technology impacts artists and how they portray their fictionalized subjects, but the fictional world gives back to science by broadening imagination. How William Shatner Changed the World is a documentary that gave a number of real-world examples of actualized technological imaginations. While more prevalent in the early years of science fiction with writers like Arthur C. Clarke, new authors still find ways to make currently impossible technologies seem closer to being realized.
Hard science fictionby Jules Verne, one of the earliest examples of hard science fiction.]] Hard science fiction, or "hard SF", is characterized by rigorous attention to accurate detail in the natural sciences, especially physics, astrophysics, and chemistry, biology or on accurately depicting worlds that more advanced technology may make possible. Some accurate predictions of the future come from the hard science fiction subgenre, but numerous inaccurate predictions have emerged as well. Some hard SF authors have distinguished themselves as working scientists, including Gregory Benford, Fred Hoyle, Geoffrey A. Landis, David Brin,
- Scientist science fiction authors and Robert L. Forward, while mathematician authors include Rudy Rucker and Vernor Vinge. Other noteworthy hard SF authors include Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Hal Clement, Greg Bear, Larry Niven, Robert J. Sawyer, Stephen Baxter, Alastair Reynolds, Charles Sheffield, Ben Bova, Kim Stanley Robinson, Anne McCaffrey, Andy Weir and Greg Egan.
Soft science fiction, one of the earliest examples of soft science fiction]] The description "soft" science fiction may describe works based on social sciences such as psychology, economics, political science, sociology, and anthropology. Noteworthy writers in this category include Ursula K. Le Guin and Philip K. Dick. The term can describe stories focused primarily on character and emotion; SFWA Grand Master Ray Bradbury was an acknowledged master of this art. The Eastern Bloc produced a large quantity of social science fiction, including works by Polish authors Stanislaw Lem and Janusz Zajdel, as well as Soviet authors such as the Strugatsky brothers, Kir Bulychov, Yevgeny Zamyatin and Ivan Yefremov.
- Encyclopædia Britannica. Science fiction
- Some writers blur the boundary between hard and soft science fiction.
CyberpunkThe cyberpunk genre emerged in the early 1980s; combining cybernetics and punk, the term was coined by author Bruce Bethke for his 1980 short story Cyberpunk. The time frame is usually near-future and the settings are often dystopian in nature and characterized by misery. Common themes in cyberpunk include advances in information technology and especially the Internet, visually abstracted as cyberspace, artificial intelligence, and cybernetics and post-democratic societal control where corporations have more influence than governments. Nihilism, post-modernism, and film noir techniques are common elements, and the protagonists may be disaffected or reluctant anti-heroes. Noteworthy authors in this genre are William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Neal Stephenson, and Pat Cadigan. James O'Ehley has called Ridley Scott's 1982 film Blade Runner a definitive example of the cyberpunk visual style.
Time travelTime-travel stories have antecedents in the 18th and 19th centuries. The first major time-travel novel was Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. The most famous is H. G. Wells' 1895 novel The Time Machine, which uses a vehicle that allows an operator to travel purposefully and selectively, while Twain's time traveler is struck in the head. The term time machine, coined by Wells, is now universally used to refer to such a vehicle. Back to the Future is one of the most popular movie franchises in this category; Doctor Who is a similarly popular long-running television franchise. Stories of this type are complicated by logical problems such as the grandfather paradox, as exemplified in the classic Robert Heinlein story " —All You Zombies—" and the Futurama episode " Roswell That Ends Well". Time travel continues to be a popular subject in modern science fiction, in print, movies, and television.
Alternate historyAlternative history stories are based on the premise that historical events might have turned out differently. These stories may use time travel to change the past, or may simply set a story in a universe with a different history from our own. Classics in the genre include Bring the Jubilee by Ward Moore, in which the South wins the American Civil War, and The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick, in which Germany and Japan win World War II. The Sidewise Award acknowledges the best works in this subgenre; the name is taken from Murray Leinster's 1934 story Sidewise in Time. Harry Turtledove is one of the most prominent authors in the subgenre and is sometimes called the "master of alternate history".
Military science fictionMilitary science fiction is set in the context of conflict between national, interplanetary, or interstellar armed forces; the primary viewpoint characters are usually soldiers. Stories include detail about military technology, procedure, ritual, and history; military stories may use parallels with historical conflicts. Heinlein's Starship Troopers is an early example, along with the Dorsai novels of Gordon Dickson. Joe Haldeman's The Forever War is a critique of the genre, a Vietnam-era response to the World War II–style stories of earlier authors. Other military science fiction authors include John Scalzi, John Ringo, David Drake, David Weber, Tom Kratman, Michael Z. Williamson, S. M. Stirling, and John Carr. The publishing company Baen Books is known for cultivating several of these military science fiction authors.
SuperhumanSuperhuman stories address the emergence of humans who have abilities beyond the normal. This can stem either from natural causes such as in Olaf Stapledon's novel Odd John, Theodore Sturgeon's More Than Human, and Philip Wylie's Gladiator, or be the result of scientific advances, such as the intentional augmentation in A. E. van Vogt's Slan and Frederik Pohl's Man Plus. These stories usually focus on the alienation these beings feel, as well as society's reaction to them. The stories have played a role in the real life discussion of human enhancement.
Apocalyptic and post-apocalypticApocalyptic fiction is concerned with the end of civilization through war ( On the Beach), pandemic ( The Last Man), astronomic impact ( When Worlds Collide), ecological disaster ( The Wind from Nowhere), or some other general disaster or with a world or civilization after such a disaster. Typical of the genre are George R. Stewart's novel Earth Abides and Pat Frank's novel Alas, Babylon. Apocalyptic fiction generally concerns the disaster itself and the direct aftermath, while post-apocalyptic fiction can deal with anything from the near aftermath (as in Cormac McCarthy's The Road and Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake) to centuries in the future (as in Stephen Vincent Benét's By the Waters of Babylon and Octavia Butler's Lilith's Brood) to hundreds or thousands of years in the future, as in Russell Hoban's novel Riddley Walker and Walter M. Miller, Jr.'s A Canticle for Leibowitz. Apocalyptic science-fiction is a popular genre in video games. The critically acclaimed, role-playing, action-adventure, video-game series Fallout is set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, where civilization is recovering from a nuclear war as survivors struggle to survive and seek to rebuild society.
Space operaSpace opera is adventure science fiction set mainly or entirely in outer space or on sometimes distant planets. The conflict is heroic, and typically on a large scale. It is also used nostalgically, and modern space opera may be an attempt to recapture the sense of wonder of the golden age of science fiction. A pioneer of this subgenre is generally recognized to be Edward E. (Doc) Smith, with his Skylark and Lensman series. Isaac Asimov built his Foundation series along these lines. George Lucas's Star Wars series is among the most popular and famous franchises in cinematic space opera. It covers epic battles between good and evil throughout an entire galaxy. Alastair Reynolds's Revelation Space series, Peter F. Hamilton's Void, Night's Dawn, Pandora's Star series, Stephen Hunt's Sliding Void series, Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep, A Deepness in the Sky are newer examples of this genre.
Space WesternThe space Western transposes themes of American Western books and films to a backdrop of futuristic space frontiers. These stories typically involve colony worlds that have only recently been terraformed and/or settled, serving as stand-ins for the backdrop of lawlessness and economic expansion that were predominant in the American west. Examples include the Sean Connery film Outland, Heinlein's Farmer in the Sky, Sparks Nevada: Marshall on Mars from the Thrilling Adventure Hour, the Firefly television series, and the film sequel Serenity by Joss Whedon, the animated series BraveStarr, the videogame series Borderlands as well as the manga and anime series Cowboy Bebop, Outlaw Star, and Trigun.
Social science fictionSocial science fiction focuses on themes of society and human nature in a science-fiction setting. Since it usually focuses more on speculation about humanity and less on scientific accuracy, it is usually placed within soft science fiction.
Climate fictionClimate fiction is a genre based around themes of reaction to major climate change. It is sometimes called "cli-fi", much as "science fiction" is often shortened to "sci-fi". Cli-fi novels and films are often set in either the present or the near or distant future, but they can also be set in the past. Many cli-fi works raise awareness about the major threats that global warming and climate change present to life on Earth.
Mundane science fictionMundane science fiction is a subgenre that is set on Earth and does not include outer space adventures or alien life. Because it focuses on modern day aspects, it is typically associated with hard science fiction.
BiopunkBiopunk focuses on biotechnology and subversives. The main underlying theme within these stories is the attempt to change the human body and engineer humans for specific purposes through enhancements in genetic and molecular makeups. Many examples of this subgenre include subjects such as human experimentation, the misuse of biotechnology and synthetic biotechnology. This subgenre also includes works involving human cloning and how clones might exist within human society in the future.
- Anthropological science fiction is a subgenre that absorbs and discusses anthropology and the study of human kind. Examples include Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer, and Neanderthal by John Darnton.
- Kaiju is a Japanese word that literally translates to "strange beast". The word has been translated and defined in English as "monster" and is used to refer to a genre of tokusatsu entertainment. Kaiju films feature large creatures of any form, usually attacking a major city or engaging another (or multiple) monster(s) in battle. The subgenre began in 1954 with Godzilla.
- Libertarian science fiction is a subgenre focuses on the politics and social order implied by libertarian philosophies with an emphasis on individualism.
- Comic science fiction is a subgenre that exploits the genre's conventions for comic effect.
- Feminist science fiction poses questions about social issues such as how society constructs gender roles, the role reproduction plays in defining gender and the unequal political and personal power of men over women. Some of the most notable feminist science fiction works have illustrated these themes using utopias to explore a society in which gender differences or gender power imbalances do not exist, or dystopias to explore worlds in which gender inequalities are intensified, thus asserting a need for feminist work to continue. Joanna Russ's work, and some of Ursula K. Le Guin's work can be thus categorized. Magical feminism is a subgenre of feminist science fiction.
- Steampunk is based on the idea of futuristic technology existing in the past, usually the 19th century, and often set in Victorian era England—but with prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy, such as fictional technological inventions like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, or real technological developments like the computer occurring at an earlier date. Popular examples include The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld, Bas-Lag series by China Miéville, as well as Girl Genius web comic by Phil and Kaja Foglio, although seeds of the subgenre may be seen in certain works of Michael Moorcock, Philip José Farmer and Steve Stiles, and in such games as and Marcus Rowland's Forgotten Futures. Machines are most often powered by steam in this genre (hence the name). Terry Gilliam's 1985 film Brazil is seen as inspiration for writers and artists of the steampunk sub-culture.
- Ruth La Ferla "Steampunk Moves Between 2 Worlds" Newsweek, 8 May 2008
- Peter Bebergal "The age of steampunk Nostalgia meets the future, joined carefully with brass screws" Boston Globe, 26 August 2007
- Brian Braiker "Steampunking Technology A subculture hand-tools today's gadgets with Victorian style." The New York Times, 31 October 2007
- Science fiction opera is an opera in a science fiction setting without an outer space or multi-planetary setting, thereby distinguishing it from Space opera.
- Sci-fi action - Sharing many of the conventions of a science fiction film, sci-fi action films emphasizes gun-play, space battles, invented weaponry, and other sci-fi elements weaved into action film premises. Examples include G.I. Samurai, , The Matrix, Total Recall, Minority Report, The Island, Star Wars, Aliens, I Robot, Transformers, The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, Equilibrium, District 9, Serenity, Akira, Paycheck, Predator, Robocop, Avatar, Mad Max 2, Divergent, They Live, Escape From New York, The Fifth Element and Super 8.
- Science fiction horror – Often revolves around subjects that include but are not limited to killer aliens, mad scientists, and/or experiments gone wrong.
- Dieselpunk takes over where Steampunk leaves off. These are stories that take over as we usher in the machine-heavy eras of WWI and WWII. The use of diesel-powered machines plays heavily. In this (like its steam counterpart), the focus is on the technology.
- Science-fiction poetry is poetry that has the characteristics or subject matter of science fiction. Science fiction poetry's main sources are the sciences and the literary movement of science fiction prose. An extended discussion of the field is given in Suzette Haden Elgin's The Science Fiction Poetry Handbook, where she compares and contrasts it to both mainstream poetry and to prose science fiction. The former, she maintains, uses figures of speech unencumbered by noncompliant details, whereas these details can be key elements in science-fiction poetry. Prose in science fiction has the time to develop a setting and a story, whereas a poem in the field is normally constrained by its short length to rely on some device to get a point across quickly. Elgin says that the effectiveness of this kind of poetry pivots around the correct use of presupposition. The Science Fiction Association is an international organization of speculative poets, which gives the annual Rhysling Awards for speculative poetry. An early example of science fiction in poetry is in Alfred, Lord Tennyson's Locksley Hall, where he introduces a picture of the future with "When I dipt into the future far as human eye could see...." This poem was written in 1835, near the end of the first Industrial Revolution. Poetry was only sparingly published in traditional science-fiction outlets such as pulp magazines until the New Wave.Stableford, Brian Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction Literature, "Poetry", p. 267 By the 1980s there were magazines specifically devoted to science-fiction poetry.
Other speculative fiction (e.g. fantasy, horror)The broader category of speculative fiction includes science fiction, fantasy, alternate histories (which may have no particular scientific or futuristic component), and even literary stories that contain fantastic elements, such as the work of Jorge Luis Borges or John Barth. For some editors, magic realism is considered to be within the broad definition of speculative fiction.
FantasyFantasy is commonly associated with science fiction, and a number of writers have worked in both genres, while writers such as Anne McCaffrey, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Marion Zimmer Bradley have written works that appear to blur the boundary between the two related genres. The authors' professional organization is called the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). SF conventions routinely have programming on fantasy topics,
- and fantasy authors such as J. K. Rowling have won the highest honor within the science fiction field, the Hugo Award.
Science fantasyScience fantasy is a genre where elements of science fiction and fantasy co-exist or combine. Stories and franchises that display fictional science as well as supernatural elements, sorcery or/and "magical technology" are considered science fantasy.
Horror fictionHorror fiction is the literature of the unnatural and supernatural, with the aim of unsettling or frightening the reader, sometimes with graphic violence. Historically it has also been known as weird fiction. Although horror is not per se a branch of science fiction, some works of horror literature incorporates science fictional elements. One of the defining classical works of horror, Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein, is the first fully realized work of science fiction, where the manufacture of the monster is given a rigorous science-fictional grounding. The works of Edgar Allan Poe also helped define both the science fiction and the horror genres. In H. G. Wells' science fiction The Invisible Man (1896), the titular protagonist Dr. Griffin has become an iconic character in the horror genre. Today horror is one of the most popular categories of films. Horror is often mistakenly categorized as science fiction at the point of distribution by libraries, video rental outlets, etc.
Spy-FiA subgenre of spy fiction that includes significant elements of science fiction.
Mystery fictionWorks in which science and technology are a dominant theme, but based on current reality, may be considered mainstream fiction. Much of the thriller genre would be included, such as the novels of Tom Clancy or Michael Crichton, or the James Bond films. Modernist works from writers like Kurt Vonnegut, Philip K. Dick, and Stanisław Lem have focused on speculative or existential perspectives on contemporary reality and are on the borderline between SF and the mainstream. According to Robert J. Sawyer, "Science fiction and mystery have a great deal in common. Both prize the intellectual process of puzzle solving, and both require stories to be plausible and hinge on the way things really do work." Isaac Asimov, Walter Mosley, and other writers incorporate mystery elements in their science fiction, and vice versa. Distinct from the above, a full-fledged Science Fiction Mystery is one which is set in a completely different world from ours, in which the circumstances and motives of the crime committed and the identity of the detective(s) seeking to solve it are of an essentially science fictional character. An example is Isaac Asimov's The Caves of Steel and its sequels, set in a world thousands of years in the future and presenting the Robot detective R. Daneel Olivaw. An allied genre is the Fantasy Mystery, a detective mystery set in a world of fantasy - such as the Lord Darcy mysteries taking place in a world where magic works, or The Idylls of the Queen set in the mythical King Arthur's court.
Superhero fictionSuperhero fiction is a genre characterized by beings with much higher than usual capability and prowess, generally with a desire or need to help the citizens of their chosen country or world by using their powers to defeat natural or superpowered threats. A number of superhero fiction characters involve themselves (either intentionally or accidentally) with science fiction and fact, including advanced technologies, alien worlds, time travel, and interdimensional travel; but the standards of scientific plausibility are lower than with actual science fiction. Authors of this genre include Stan Lee (co-creator of Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Iron Man, the X-Men, and the Hulk); Marv Wolfman, the creator of Blade for Marvel Comics, and The New Teen Titans for DC Comics; Dean Wesley Smith ( Smallville, Spider-Man, and X-Men novels) and Superman writers Roger Stern and Elliot S! Maggin.
Fandom and communityScience fiction fandom is the "community of the literature of ideas... the culture in which new ideas emerge and grow before being released into society at large." Members of this community, " fans", are in contact with each other at conventions or clubs, through print or online fanzines, or on the Internet using web sites, mailing lists, and other resources. SF fandom emerged from the letters column in Amazing Stories magazine. Soon fans began writing letters to each other, and then grouping their comments together in informal publications that became known as fanzines. Once they were in regular contact, fans wanted to meet each other, and they organized local clubs. In the 1930s, the first science fiction conventions gathered fans from a wider area. Conventions, clubs, and fanzines were the dominant form of fan activity, or "fanac", for decades, until the Internet facilitated communication among a much larger population of interested people.
AuthorsScience fiction is being written worldwide by a diverse population of authors. According to 2013 statistics by the science fiction publisher Tor Books, men outnumber women by 78% to 22% among submissions to the publisher. ( See full statistics) A controversy about voting slates in the 2015 Hugo Awards highlighted tensions in the science fiction community between a trend of increasingly diverse works and authors being honored by awards, and a backlash by groups of authors and fans who preferred what they considered more traditional science fiction.
AwardsAmong the most respected awards for science fiction are the Hugo Award, presented by the World Science Fiction Society at Worldcon; the Nebula Award, presented by SFWA and voted on by the community of authors; and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for short fiction. One notable award for science fiction films is the Saturn Award. It is presented annually by The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films. There are national awards, like Canada's Prix Aurora Awards, regional awards, like the Endeavour Award presented at Orycon for works from the Pacific Northwest, special interest or subgenre awards like the Chesley Award for art or the World Fantasy Award for fantasy. Magazines may organize reader polls, notably the Locus Award.
Conventions, clubs, and organizations]] Conventions (in fandom, shortened as "cons"), are held in cities around the world, catering to a local, regional, national, or international membership. General-interest conventions cover all aspects of science fiction, while others focus on a particular interest like media fandom, filking, etc. Most are organized by volunteers in non-profit groups, though most media-oriented events are organized by commercial promoters. The convention's activities are called the "program", which may include panel discussions, readings, autograph sessions, costume masquerades, and other events. Activities that occur throughout the convention are not part of the program; these commonly include a dealer's room, art show, and hospitality lounge (or "con suites"). Conventions may host award ceremonies; Worldcons present the Hugo Awards each year. SF societies, referred to as "clubs" except in formal contexts, form a year-round base of activities for science fiction fans. They may be associated with an ongoing science fiction convention, or have regular club meetings, or both. Most groups meet in libraries, schools and universities, community centers, pubs or restaurants, or the homes of individual members. Long-established groups like the New England Science Fiction Association and the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society have clubhouses for meetings and storage of convention supplies and research materials. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) was founded by Damon Knight in 1965 as a non-profit organization to serve the community of professional science fiction authors, 24 years after his essay "Unite or Fie!" had led to the organization of the National Fantasy Fan Federation. Fandom has helped incubate related groups, including media fandom, the Society for Creative Anachronism, gaming, filking, and furry fandom.
Fanzines and online fandomThe first science fiction fanzine, The Comet, was published in 1930. Fanzine printing methods have changed over the decades, from the hectograph, the mimeograph, and the ditto machine, to modern photocopying. Distribution volumes rarely justify the cost of commercial printing. Modern fanzines are printed on computer printers or at local copy shops, or they may only be sent as email. The best known fanzine (or "' zine") today is Ansible, edited by David Langford, winner of numerous Hugo awards. Other fanzines to win awards in recent years include File 770, Mimosa, and Plokta. Artists working for fanzines have risen to prominence in the field, including Brad W. Foster, Teddy Harvia, and Joe Mayhew; the Hugos include a category for Best Fan Artists. The earliest organized fandom online was the SF Lovers community, originally a mailing list in the late 1970s with a text archive file that was updated regularly. In the 1980s, Usenet groups greatly expanded the circle of fans online. In the 1990s, the development of the World-Wide Web exploded the community of online fandom by orders of magnitude, with thousands and then literally millions of web sites devoted to science fiction and related genres for all media. Most such sites are small, , and/or very narrowly focused, though sites like SF Site and SFcrowsnest offer a broad range of references and reviews about science fiction.
Fan fictionFan fiction, known to aficionados as "fanfic", is non-commercial fiction created by fans in the setting of an established book, film, video game, or television series. This modern meaning of the term should not be confused with the traditional (pre-1970s) meaning of "fan fiction" within the community of fandom, where the term meant original or parody fiction written by fans and published in fanzines, often with members of fandom as characters therein. Examples of this would include the Goon Defective Agency stories, written starting in 1956 by Irish fan John Berry and published in his and Arthur Thomson's fanzine Retribution. In the last few years, sites have appeared such as Orion's Arm and Galaxiki, which encourage collaborative development of science fiction universes. In some cases, the copyright owners of the books, films, or television series have instructed their lawyers to issue "cease and desist" letters to fans.
Science fiction studiesThe study of science fiction, or science fiction studies, is the critical assessment, interpretation, and discussion of science fiction literature, film, new media, fandom, and fan fiction. Science fiction scholars take science fiction as an object of study in order to better understand it and its relationship to science, technology, politics, and culture-at-large. Science fiction studies has a long history dating back to the turn of the 20th century, but it was not until later that science fiction studies solidified as a discipline with the publication of the academic journals Extrapolation (1959), (1972), and Science Fiction Studies (1973), and the establishment of the oldest organizations devoted to the study of science fiction, the Science Fiction Research Association and the Science Fiction Foundation, in 1970. The field has grown considerably since the 1970s with the establishment of more journals, organizations, and conferences with ties to the science fiction scholarship community, and science fiction degree-granting programs such as those offered by the University of Liverpool and Kansas University. The National Science Foundation has conducted surveys of "Public Attitudes and Public Understanding" of "Science Fiction and Pseudoscience." They write that "Interest in science fiction may affect the way people think about or relate to science....one study found a strong relationship between preference for science fiction novels and support for the space program...The same study also found that students who read science fiction are much more likely than other students to believe that contacting extraterrestrial civilizations is both possible and desirable" (Bainbridge 1982).
As serious literatureMary Shelley wrote a number of science fiction novels including Frankenstein, and is considered a major writer of the Romantic Age. A number of science fiction works have received critical acclaim including Childhood's End and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (the inspiration for the movie Blade Runner). A number of respected writers of mainstream literature have written science fiction, including Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange and Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing wrote a series of SF novels, Canopus in Argos, and nearly all of Kurt Vonnegut's works contain science fiction premises or themes. The scholar Tom Shippey asks a perennial question of science fiction: "What is its relationship to fantasy fiction, is its readership still dominated by male adolescents, is it a taste which will appeal to the mature but non-eccentric literary mind?" In her much reprinted essay "Science Fiction and Mrs Brown," the science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin has approached an answer by first citing the essay written by the English author Virginia Woolf entitled Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown in which she states: Le Guin argues that these criteria may be successfully applied to works of science fiction and so answers in the affirmative her rhetorical question posed at the beginning of her essay: "Can a science fiction writer write a novel?" Shippey identifies and discusses the essential differences that exists between a science fiction novel and one written outside the field. He compares George Orwell's Coming Up for Air with Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth's The Space Merchants and concludes that the basic building block and distinguishing feature of a science fiction novel is the presence of the novum, a term Darko Suvin adapts from Ernst Bloch and defines as "a discrete piece of information recognizable as not-true, but also as not-unlike-true, not-flatly- (and in the current state of knowledge) impossible." In science fiction the style of writing is often relatively clear and straightforward compared to classical literature. Orson Scott Card, an author of both science fiction and non-SF fiction, has postulated that in science fiction the message and intellectual significance of the work is contained within the story itself and, therefore, there need not be stylistic gimmicks or literary games; but that some writers and critics confuse clarity of language with lack of artistic merit. In Card's words: Science fiction author and physicist Gregory Benford has declared that: "SF is perhaps the defining genre of the twentieth century, although its conquering armies are still camped outside the Rome of the literary citadels." This sense of exclusion was articulated by Jonathan Lethem in an essay published in the Village Voice entitled "Close Encounters: The Squandered Promise of Science Fiction." Lethem suggests that the point in 1973 when Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow was nominated for the Nebula Award, and was passed over in favor of Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama, stands as "a hidden tombstone marking the death of the hope that SF was about to merge with the mainstream." Among the responses to Lethem was one from the editor of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction who asked: "When is it SF genre ever going to realize it can't win the game of trying to impress the mainstream?" On this point the journalist and author David Barnett has remarked: Barnett, in an earlier essay had pointed to a new development in this "endless war": However, it was the Soviet era that became the genre's golden age. Soviet writers were prolific, despite limitations set up by state censorship. Early Soviet writers, such as Alexander Belayev, Alexey N. Tolstoy and Vladimir Obruchev, employed Vernian/Wellsian hard science fiction based on scientific predictions. The most notable books of the era include Belayev's Amphibian Man, The Air Seller and Professor Dowell's Head; Tolstoy's Aelita and Engineer Garin's Death Ray. Early Soviet science fiction was influenced by communist ideology and often featured a leftist agenda or anti-capitalist satire.
- The Quietus Cosmic Communism: Soviet Science Fiction on Film
- Andrei Lubensky.
Spain(1905), directed, written and special effects by Segundo de Chomón, can be considered the first Spanish science fiction film, even though the film was made for Pathé.]] Spanish science fiction starts mid 19th century; depending on how it is defined, Lunigrafía (1855) from M. Krotse or Una temporada en el más bello de los planetas from Tirso Aguimana de Veca — a trip to Saturn published in 1870-1871, but written in the 1840s — is the first science fiction novel. As such, science fiction was very popular in the second half of the 19th century, but mainly produced alternate history and post-apocalyptic futures, written by some of the most important authors of the generations of '98 and '14. The influence of Verne also produced some singular works, like Enrique Gaspar y Rimbau's El anacronópete (1887), a story about time travel that predates the publication of The Chronic Argonauts by H. G. Wells; Rafael Zamora y Pérez de Urría's Crímenes literarios (1906), that describes robots and a "brain machine" very similar to our modern laptops; or Frederich Pujulà i Vallès' Homes artificials (1912), the first in Spain about "artificial people". But the most prolific were Coronel Ignotus, and Coronel Sirius, who published their adventures in the magazine Biblioteca Novelesco-Científica. The 19th century up to the Spanish Civil War saw no less than four fictional trips to the Moon, one to Venus, five to Mars, one to Jupiter, and one to Saturn. The Spanish Civil War devastated this rich literary landscape. With few exceptions, only the arrival of pulp science fiction in the 1950s would reintroduce the genre in Spanish literature. The space opera series La Saga de los Aznar (1953-1958 and 1973-1978) by Pascual Enguídanos won the Hugo Award in 1978. Also in the 1950s started the radio serial for children Diego Valor; inspired by Dan Dare, the serial produced 1200 episodes of 15 min., and spinned a comic (1954-1964), three theater plays (1956-1959) and the first Spanish sf TV series (1958), that has been lost. Modern, prospective, self-aware science fiction crystallized in the 1970s around the magazine Nueva Dimensión (1968-1983), and its editor Domingo Santos, one of the most important Spanish sf authors of the time. Other important authors of the 70s and 80s are Manuel de Pedrolo (Mecanoscrit del segon origen, 1974), Carlos Saiz Cidoncha (La caída del Imperio galáctico, 1978), Rafael Marín (Lágrimas de luz, 1984), and Juan Miguel Aguilera (the Akasa-Puspa saga, 1988-2005). In the 1990s the genre exploded with the creation many small dedicated fanzines, important SF prizes, and the convention HispaCon; Elia Barceló (El mundo de Yarek, 1992), became the most prolific. Other recent authors are Eduardo Vaquerizo (Danza de tinieblas, 2005), Félix J. Palma (The Victorian trilogy, 2008-2014), and Carlos Sisí (Panteón, 2013). Spain has been continuously producing sf films since the 1960s, at a rate of 5 to 10 per decade. The 1970s was specially prolific; the director, and sreenwriter Juan Piquer Simón is the most important figure of fantaterror, producing some low budget sf films. La cabina (1972) is the most awarded Spanish TV production in history. In the 90s Acción mutante (1992), by Álex de la Iglesia, and Abre los ojos (1997), by Alejandro Amenábar, represent a watershed in Spanish sf filming, with a quality that would only be reached again by Los cronocrímenes (2007), by Nacho Vigalondo. The most important sf TV series produced in Spain is El ministerio del tiempo (2015-), even though Mañana puede ser verdad (1964-1964) by Chicho Ibáñez Serrador, and Plutón BRB Nero (2008-2009), should also be mentioned.
Other European countriesPoland is a traditional producer of science fiction and fantasy. The country's most influential science fiction writer of all time is Stanisław Lem, who is probably best known for his science fiction books, such as Solaris and the stories involving Ijon Tichy, but who also wrote very successful hard sci-fi such as The Invincible and the stories involving Pilot Pirx. A number of Lem's books were adapted for screen, both in Poland and abroad. Other notable Polish writers of the genre include Jerzy Żuławski, Janusz A. Zajdel, Konrad Fiałkowski, Jacek Dukaj and Rafał A. Ziemkiewicz. Czech writer and playwright Karel Čapek in his play R.U.R. (1920) introduced the word robot into science fiction. Čapek is also known for his satirical science fiction novels and plays, such as War with the Newts and The Absolute at Large. Traditions of Czech science fiction were carried on despite the general political climate by writers like Ludvík Souček, Josef Nesvadba, Ondřej Neff and Jaroslav Velinský. In the years 1980 - 2000 a new vawe of young writers appeared (J. W. Procházka, F. Novotný, E. Hauserová, V. Kadlečková, J. Rečková, E. Dufková). Early writers of Yugoslav science fiction were mid-19th century Slovene writer Simon Jenko, late 19th century Slovene writers Josip Stritar, Janez Trdina and Janez Mencinger (who, in 1893, published a notable dystopian novel Abadon) and late 19th century Serbian writers Dragutin Ilić and Lazar Komarčić. Since the beginning of the 20th century, a large number of authors incorporated science fiction elements into their work. Scientist Milutin Milanković wrote the book Through Distant Worlds and Times (1928), which mixes elements of autobiography, scientific discussion and science fiction. In the 1930s, Vladimir Bartol wrote a series of science fiction novels. The period after World War II brought the appearance of a large number of writers, most notably the duo Zvonimir Furtinger and Mladen Bjažić, Vid Pečjak and Miha Remec, with some academically acclaimed writers, like Dobrica Ćosić, Erih Koš and Ivan Ivanji, occasionally turning towards science fiction. Zoran Radisavljević, "Roman koji nema pretka", Politika.rs Serbian writer Borislav Pekić published several science fiction works: Rabies (1983), 1999 (1984), The New Jerusalem (1988) and Atlantis (1988). Zoran Živković wrote a large number of essays on science fiction and one of the first encyclopedias of science fiction in the world. His early novels and stories featured elements of the genre. The films The Rat Savior (1977) by Krsto Papić and Visitors from the Galaxy (1981) by Dušan Vukotić won awards at international festivals. In the first half of the 20th century comic book authors such as Andrija Maurović and Đorđe Lobačev published a number of science fiction works, and since the 1980s comic book artists like Željko Pahek, Igor Kordej and Zoran Janjetov became internationally well known.
AustraliaAmerican David G. Hartwell noted there is "nothing essentially Australian about Australian science-fiction." A number of Australian science-fiction (and fantasy and horror) writers are in fact international English language writers, and their work is published worldwide. This is further explainable by the fact that the Australian inner market is small (with Australian population being around 24 million), and sales abroad are crucial to most Australian writers.
- David G. Hartwell, Damien Broderick (ed.), Centaurus: The best of Australian science fiction, Damien Broderick, Introduction, p.10-21 Tor Books, 1999m
- David G. Hartwell, Damien Broderick (ed.), Centaurus: The best of Australian science fiction, David. G. Hartwell, The other editor's introduction, ibid., pp. 22-25, Tor Books, 1999,
CanadaIn Canadian Francophone province Québec, Élisabeth Vonarburg and other authors developed a tradition of French-Canadian SF, related to the European French literature. The Prix Boreal was established in 1979 to honor Canadian science fiction works in French. The Prix Aurora Awards (briefly preceded by the Casper Award) were founded in 1980 to recognize and promote the best works of Canadian science fiction in both French and English. Also, due to Canada's bilingualism and the US publishing almost exclusively in English, translation of science fiction prose into French thrives and runs nearly parallel upon a book's publishing in the original English. A sizeable market also exists within Québec for European-written Francophone science fiction literature.
Latin AmericaAlthough there is still some controversy as to when science fiction began in Latin America, the earliest works date from the late 19th century. All published in 1875, O Doutor Benignus by the Portuguese Brazilian Augusto Emílio Zaluar, El Maravilloso Viaje del Sr. Nic-Nac by the Argentinian Eduardo Holmberg, and Historia de un Muerto by the Cuban Francisco Calcagno are three of the earliest novels which appeared in the region. Up to the 1960s, science fiction was the work of isolated writers who did not identify themselves with the genre, but rather used its elements to criticize society, promote their own agendas or tap into the public's interest in pseudo-sciences. It received a boost of respectability after authors such as Horacio Quiroga and Jorge Luis Borges used its elements in their writings. This, in turn, led to the permanent emergence of science fiction in the 1960s and mid-1970s, notably in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, and Cuba. Magic realism enjoyed parallel growth in Latin America, with a strong regional emphasis on using the form to comment on social issues, similar to social science fiction and speculative fiction in the English world. Economic turmoil and the suspicious eye of the dictatorial regimes in place reduced the genre's dynamism for the following decade. In the mid-1980s, it became increasingly popular once more. Although led by Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, Latin America now hosts dedicated communities and writers with an increasing use of regional elements to set them apart from English-language science-fiction.
- Outline of science fiction
- Fantastic art
- List of science fiction authors
- List of science fiction films
- List of science fiction novels
- List of science fiction television programs
- List of science fiction themes
- List of science fiction and fantasy artists
- List of science fiction universes
- Non-Aristotelian logic—use in science fiction
- Science fiction libraries and museums
- Sense of wonder
- Timeline of science fiction
- Transhumanism (a school of thought profoundly inspired by SF)
- Technology in science fiction
- Weapons in science fiction
- Robots in science fiction
- Political ideas in science fiction
- Religious ideas in science fiction
- Aldiss, Brian. Billion Year Spree: The True History of Science Fiction, 1973.
- Aldiss, Brian, and Wingrove, David. Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction, revised and updated edition, 1986.
- Amis, Kingsley. New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction, 1958.
- Barron, Neil, ed. Anatomy of Wonder: A Critical Guide to Science Fiction (5th ed.). Westport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited, 2004. .
- Broderick, Damien. Reading by Starlight: Postmodern Science Fiction. London: Routledge, 1995. Print.
- Clute, John Science Fiction: The Illustrated Encyclopedia. London: Dorling Kindersley, 1995. .
- Clute, John and Peter Nicholls, eds., The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. St Albans, Herts, UK: Granada Publishing, 1979. .
- Clute, John and Peter Nicholls, eds., The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. New York: St Martin's Press, 1995. .
- Disch, Thomas M. The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of. New York: The Free Press, 1998. .
- Jameson, Fredric. Archaeologies of the Future: This Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions. London and New York: Verso, 2005.
- Milner, Andrew. Locating Science Fiction. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2012.
- Raja, Masood Ashraf, Jason W. Ellis and Swaralipi Nandi. eds., The Postnational Fantasy: Essays on Postcolonialism, Cosmopolitics and Science Fiction. McFarland 2011. .
- Reginald, Robert. Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, 1975–1991. Detroit, MI/Washington, D.C./London: Gale Research, 1992. .
- Suvin, Darko. Metamorphoses of Science Fiction: on the Poetics and History of a Literary Genre. New Haven : Yale University Press, 1979.
- Weldes, Jutta, ed. To Seek Out New Worlds: Exploring Links between Science Fiction and World Politics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. .
- Westfahl, Gary, ed. The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Themes, Works, and Wonders (three volumes). Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2005.
- Wolfe, Gary K. Critical Terms for Science Fiction and Fantasy: A Glossary and Guide to Scholarship. New York: Greenwood Press, 1986. .
- Science Fiction (Bookshelf) at Project Gutenberg
- SF Hub—resources for science-fiction research, created by the University of Liverpool Library
- Science fiction fanzines (current and historical) online
- SFWA "Suggested Reading" list
- Science Fiction Museum & Hall of Fame
- Science Fiction Research Association
- A selection of articles written by Mike Ashley, Iain Sinclair and others, exploring 19th-century visions of the future. from the British Library’s Discovering Literature website.