Essay 1: What is Science Fiction?

Essay 1: What is Science Fiction?2021-05-16T16:01:37-05:00

What is Science Fiction?

The world of science fiction often appears glitzy and futuristic: full of spaceships and robots, aliens and clones, time machines and parallel worlds. While these and other tropes give recognizable color to the genre of science fiction, they are not necessarily of the utmost narrative significance. For, science fiction is a genre of allegory. The settings, the creatures, and the technologies belonging to these stories matter only in that they provide a unique narrative context to explore contemporary issues and ideas.

In the introduction to her novel The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula Le Guin suggests that the work of a science fiction story is that of a thought-experiment. She explains: “the purpose of a thought-experiment…is not to predict the future…but to describe reality, the present world”. Le Guin’s assertion has a few immediate implications. Firstly, a writer can only create from her own present; her fictional stories naturally reflect the […]

By |February 4th, 2020|Categories: Sarah Jane, What is SF|0 Comments

What is Science Fiction?

Science fiction under the umbrella of fiction, describes imaginary plots and characters and more specifically, refers to futuristic concepts like advanced technology, space, and time travel. However, like all stories, science fiction is a genre that incorporates some form of truth surrounding the essence of what it is to be a human being. What’s more incredible is that science fiction authors are able to use science fiction as a tool to remove readers from their existing perceptions of their lives and world and instead see an alternative interpretation. Writers are also able to make powerful statements surrounding stereotypes, relationships, social, economic and political views, and any other ‘hard-to-discuss’ topic. Ultimately, science fiction authors are able to carve out a space for individuals to free themselves from their existing mentality and perhaps identify with a viewpoint that they would not have otherwise been able to consider.

To me, what’s even more fascinating […]

By |February 4th, 2020|Categories: Lina, What is SF|0 Comments

What is Science Fiction? A Test of Human Fallacy

When thinking of science fiction, or a work considered to be science fiction, one might think of media or texts that involve technology that is beyond what humans are capable of creating or have not created yet. While I think this idea is a staple of the science fiction genre, I believe the genre can fully be defined as a text or media that deploy steps within the scientific method, and are focused around branches of science and how they function in our universe, in order to highlight human fallacy as well as the human inclination to seek answers while resisting change or reorder. To clarify, the steps of the scientific method are as follows: Ask a question, do background research, construct a hypothesis, test your hypothesis with an experiment, analyze data and draw a conclusion, and report your results. Therefore, science fiction texts describe things that have not happened, […]

By |February 4th, 2020|Categories: Madison, What is SF|0 Comments

What is Science Fiction?

Defining science fiction has long been inherent to the genre itself, as authors of science fiction have proposed what makes the genre distinct from naturalistic fiction and other kinds of fiction other than simple thematic concerns. One such attempt that I find useful in thinking through the nature of science fiction is a theoretical framework proposed by Samuel Delany in his book of essays The Jewel-Hinged Jaw. Delany proposes that what defines science fiction is the linguistic distance it has from reality, from the world of the reader. He calls this framework “subjunctivity,” or “the tension on the thread of meaning that runs between word and object.” Where reportage is what is actually happened in the world, naturalistic or so-called realist fiction is defined by the possibility that it could happen. If in reportage, we read that “The man disappeared,” we read this with the understanding that the man actually disappeared, […]

By |February 4th, 2020|Categories: Nick S., What is SF|0 Comments

What is science fiction?

I have a different answer on what science fiction means and is depending on what aspect of my experience the question is being asked to. For example, as an editor I’m going to go on about how that a work of fiction would be categorized in marketing, as a writer I’m going to tell you I have no idea, it’s just what I like to write. I think the answer that is if not the most boring, the most over-discussed, is the one that digs deeply into genre taxonomy. Yes, I could make a list of what space fantasy is vs hard sci fi vs speculative literary fiction, but it’s more interesting for me to examine what science fiction is in terms of what I most passionately think it is for. What I think it is for is: imaginative ways to conceptualize human emotions and experience, by filtering them […]

By |February 3rd, 2020|Categories: Meredith, What is SF|0 Comments

It only has to be the tiniest bit plausible

I think what makes a story “science” fiction as opposed to the other kinds is that it includes something that doesn’t exist but could. As in, the idea invented by the author only has to be the tiniest bit plausible on the spectrum of things that we believe, to the best of our knowledge and positivism, to be possible. Science fiction is stories about everything that we as a society haven’t yet ruled out as definitively “not real.” That’s why straight-up magic doesn’t count, but wormholes and hive minds do. That’s why dragons from Earth are pure fantasy (until someone discovers one) and resurrected dinosaurs are essentially just bad science (highly disappointing), but aliens from space are the uncontested charismatic megafauna of the genre.

Since there’s no such thing as literary phylogenetics, though, we’ve settled for a taxonomy based mostly on morphology – that is, content. But it seems to me […]

By |February 3rd, 2020|Categories: Francis, What is SF|0 Comments

What is Science Fiction and why we read it?

It is hard to define science fiction since there are multiple explanations of science. Science in science fiction can be read both as based on scientific knowledge and storytelling in a logical system. With these extensions, I agree with definition in Le Guin’s introduction, science fiction is a description of the real world, in the present or in the future.

What is the nature of science fiction? I consider it a description of details in the real-world under highly developed technology. These details are in the form of conflicts, it can be gradually changing, or strong comparison. Those conflicts exist before technology takes over the world, at least their seeds are buried beneath. Like the city in Folding Beijing by author Jingfang Hao, which contains three spaces assigned to different time zones. Each zones have specific occupies. This city structure is a metaphor for modern classes […]

By |February 3rd, 2020|Categories: Wei K, What is SF|0 Comments

What is Science Fiction – Austin Anderson

I am deeply suspicious of definitions. Definitions—like literary cannon formation—enable power actors to exclude voices outside of the power structure. Even seemingly helpful monikers like “afro-futurism” can be used to dismiss the rich history of black science fiction and these writers influence on the genre. The definition of science fiction is especially wrought—something made evident by the Wikipedia page dedicated to the subject. With these definitional difficulties in mind, it is perhaps best to begin with what science fiction is not.


Science fiction is not a fictional text rooted in the hard science. (The absurdist The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is certainly science fiction, but rarely attempts to rationalize its science.)

Science fiction is not a prediction as to what will happen in the future. (Le Guin makes this abundantly clear in her The Left Hand of Darkness introduction.)

Science fiction is not necessarily set in the future. (“A long time ago, […]

By |February 3rd, 2020|Categories: Austin A., What is SF|0 Comments

Making Sense of Science Fiction

What is science fiction? A student of fantastic literature would often find one’s object of study scrutinized, as its definitional boundaries do not always cohere with traditional literary standards. Fantasy, science fiction, speculative fiction, dystopias and utopias, and to some extent magic realism, among many others, share blurred boundaries as we might often find texts (both written and visual) unable to be placed in a single genre or sub-genre. While numerous writers have attempted to define what science fiction really is, the genre (and its neighboring sub/genres) has yet to “find” its definitive niche.

First, science fiction IS fiction, but unlike any other fiction, science fiction and its fantastic cousins take their fictionality on an entirely different level. While some fiction can more or less resemble real life to the tiniest detail, science fiction places the human imagination at the forefront—highlighting the possibilities, the what-ifs, the unusual and the new. […]

By |October 17th, 2018|Categories: F18, Gaeid, What is SF|0 Comments

What is Science Fiction

In my point of view, science fiction is not only the story of the future but also is the present. It is a great imagination about the future world. In most science fiction novels, the fear of unknown present many times. Such as Alien invasion, disasters because of too advanced technology, the nuclear war and so on.

How to create the unknown? It is a problem that challenges many writers. For science fiction, besides good writing skill, writers also need to acquire tons of scientific knowledge. If people write for the future, sometimes the future must be reasonable, or science fiction novel will change to the fantasy novel. 

However , only the fear cannot create a good science fiction novel; it must contain the discussion about humanity itself.  When I was in high school, I like to read science fiction novels, such as the Three-Body Problem. In the book, it has the alien- the Trisolarans. The Trisolarans never […]

By |September 17th, 2018|Categories: F18, James Dai, What is SF|0 Comments

As Above, So Below

“Tis’ true without lying, certain and most true. That which is below is like that which is above and that which is above is like that which is below to do the miracles of only one thing.” – from the Emerald Tablet of Hermes the Thrice-Greatest

If what we now call mythology was the effort of our ancient ancestors to make that which was above – the sky, the stars, the heavens, the divine – below, then are not science fiction and fantasy the effort of our historical ancestors and contemporaries to make that which is within – the imagination, lived experience, and perception of reality – without? And if I am reluctant to divorce the two genres from one another it is not mine alone as they still share shelves in book shops and joint categories with online vendors. Fantasy and science fiction occupy similar spaces in the literary world as […]

By |September 12th, 2018|Categories: F18, What is SF, Zemi|0 Comments

Slicing the Ephemeral Pie: Genre, Semantics, Just Desserts


“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

-Arthur C. Clarke.


Attempting to define any genre within firm, elegant parameters is a notoriously difficult task because the concept of ‘genre’ is an artificial construct better designed to serve consumers than accurately describe the work of creators; Nowhere is that more clear than in the long-running debate over what constitutes “Science Fiction.”

Asking a half-dozen educated people to define the term has, in my experience, returned six different answers. Some intrepid explorers of semantics offer typologies based on the accuracy and intensity of the “Science” or the “Fiction” portion of a piece, choosing to divide texts into ‘Hard Sci-Fi’ and ‘Soft.’ Others attempt to bridge the gap between Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Magical Realism, by touting the recent mantra of ‘speculative fiction,’ which is a more respectable and useful term to my mind than […]

By |September 12th, 2018|Categories: F18, Nathan, What is SF|0 Comments

Two Questions That Answer “What Is Science Fiction?”

In 1982, the British science fiction writer J.G. Ballard wrote a story called “Report on an Unidentified Space Station.” The title is a straightforward description of the plot: A crew of explorers navigates, and reports back on, an alien space station. The station is unusual for two reasons: First, it resembles a large airport waiting lounge. Second, the more time is spent within the station, moving forward, the longer you seem to travel – first feet, then miles, then hundreds, then thousands of miles. By the end of the story, the explorers have become enthralled with the space station, speaking of it in hushed, worshipful tones.

This is my favorite science fiction story of all time.

“Report on a Unidentified Space Station” contains the two characteristics essential to science fiction. Those characteristics are more questions: “What if?” and “Why not?” The first question plays into my own biases as a fan, and […]

By |September 12th, 2018|Categories: Brendan, F18, What is SF|0 Comments
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