What is Science Fiction?

Science Fiction literature centres on the speculative applications of the human intellect in the natural world for highly imaginative. Regardless of time, epoch, place or main species, what makes a story Science Fiction is a focus on fantastic fictional settings, events and technologies in which the laws of the natural world are never broken, suspended or in any way altered. Instead whatever is portrayed, regardless of how magical it may seem, must have a scientific explanation (explained or not) and must thus be plausible, if only within the logical mind-frame of the story.

A good parallel and often compared to genre is that of Fantasy, in which magic replaces science and imagination stands for explanation. The issue here is that while technology and applied sciences may resemble magic in every single way, the internal coherence of a magical setting is based on the application of made up rules. In science fiction these rules, so far as we know them, are immutable and established by the world we live in.

To explain this comparison further, when a writer comes up with a fantasy world and/or a magic system he is compelled to follow coherent rules within that imagined world that are functional and logical within its own contained shell. In opposition to this science fiction must make use of the natural world’s pre-established natural laws and its reasonable or logical speculative frontiers.

Star Wars, as an example, was a fantasy setting until the year 1999 when it officially became science fiction. Why? Because once the force was explained scientifically, that is, through midichlorians, then it is no longer a story in which the laws of nature are suspended and is thus based primarily on science. Further development of this trend is the need for fuel to travel in space as seen on the last two instalments of the saga.