Science fiction (sometimes shortened to sci-fi or SF) is a genre of speculative fiction that typically deals with imaginative and futuristic concepts such as advanced science and technology, space exploration, time travel, parallel universes, and extraterrestrial life.
Science fiction (or sci-fi) is a film genre that uses speculative, fictional science-based depictions of phenomena that are not fully accepted by mainstream science, such as extraterrestrial lifeforms, spacecraft, robots, cyborgs, interstellar travel or other technologies.
- Early Science Fiction
- 19Th-Century Transitions
- Early 20th Century
- The New Wave and Its Aftermath
- Science Fiction in The 1980s
- Contemporary Science Fiction and Its Future
- See Also
- Further Reading
Ancient and early modern precursors
There are a number of ancient or early modern texts including a great many epics and poems that contain fantastical or "science-fictional" elements, yet were written before the emergence of science fiction as a distinct genre. These texts often include elements such as a fantastical voyage to the moon or the use of imagined advanced technology. Although fantastical and science fiction-like elements and imagery exist in stories such as Ovid's Metamorphoses (8 AD), the Old English epic heroic p...
One Thousand and One Nights
Several stories within the One Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights, 8th–10th century CE) also feature science fiction elements. One example is "The Adventures of Bulukiya", where the protagonist Bulukiya's quest for the herb of immortality leads him to explore the seas, journey to the Garden of Eden and to Jahannam (Islamic hell), and travel across the cosmos to different worlds much larger than his own world, anticipating elements of galactic science fiction; along the way, he encounters...
Other medieval literature
According to Dr. Abu Shadi al-Roubi, the final two chapters of the Arabic theological novel Fādil ibn Nātiq (c. 1270), also known as Theologus Autodidactus, by the Arabian polymath writer Ibn al-Nafis (1213–1288) can be described as science fiction. The theological novel deals with various science fiction elements such as spontaneous generation, futurology, apocalyptic themes, eschatology, resurrection and the afterlife, but rather than giving supernatural or mythological explanations for the...
Shelley and Europe in the early 19th century
The 19th century saw a major acceleration of these trends and features, most clearly seen in the groundbreaking publication of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in 1818. The short novel features the archetypal "mad scientist" experimenting with advanced technology. In his book Billion Year Spree, Brian Aldiss claims Frankenstein represents "the first seminal work to which the label SF can be logically attached". It is also the first of the "mad scientist" subgenre. Although normally associated with...
Verne and Wells
The European brand of science fiction proper began later in the 19th century with the scientific romances of Jules Verne and the science-oriented, socially critical novels of H. G. Wells. Verne's adventure stories, notably Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), From the Earth to the Moon (1865), and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1869) mixed daring romantic adventure with technology that was either up to the minute or logically extrapolated into the future. They were tremendous co...
Late 19th-century expansion
Wells and Verne had quite a few rivals in early science fiction. Short stories and novelettes with themes of fantastic imagining appeared in journals throughout the late 19th century and many of these employed scientific ideas as the springboard to the imagination. Erewhon is a novel by Samuel Butler published in 1872 and dealing with the concept that machines could one day become sentient and supplant the human race. In 1886 the novel The Future Eve by French author Auguste Villiers de l'Isl...
The next great science fiction writers after H. G. Wells were Olaf Stapledon (1886–1950), whose four major works Last and First Men (1930), Odd John (1935), Star Maker (1937), and Sirius (1944), introduced a myriad of ideas that writers have since adopted, and J.-H. Rosny aîné, born in Belgium, the father of "modern" French science fiction, a writer also comparable to H. G. Wells, who wrote the classic Les Xipehuz (1887) and La Mort de la Terre (1910). However, the Twenties and Thirties would see the genre represented in a new format. Robert Hugh Benson wrote one of the first modern dystopias, Lord of the World(1907). Rudyard Kipling's contributions to science fiction go beyond their direct impact at the start of the 20th century. The Aerial Board of Control stories and his critique of the British military, The Army of a Dream, were not only very modern in style, but strongly influenced authors like John W. Campbell and Robert Anson Heinlein, the latter of whom wrote a novel, Starsh...
Until about 1950, magazines were the only way authors could publish new stories. Only small specialty presses like Arkham House and Gnome Press published science fiction hardcover books, all reprints of magazine stories. With rare exceptions like the collections Adventures in Time and Space and A Treasury of Science Fiction, large mainstream publishers only printed Verne and Wells. Most genre books were sold by mail from small magazine advertisements, because bookstores rarely carried science...
Precursors to the New Wave
Samuel Beckett's The Unnamable and Waiting for Godot were influential upon writing in the 1950s. In the former all sense of place and time are dispensed with; all that remains is a voice poised between the urge to continue existing and the urge to find silence and oblivion. (The only other major writer to use "The Unnamable" as a title was H. P. Lovecraft.) In the latter, time and the paradoxes of cause and effect become thematic. Beckett's influence on the intelligentsia—as well as the gener...
The New Wave
In 1960, British novelist Kingsley Amis published New Maps of Hell, a literary history and examination of the field of science fiction. This serious attention from a mainstream, acceptable writer did a great deal of good, eventually, for the reputation of science fiction. Another milestone was the publication, in 1965, of Frank Herbert's Dune, a complex work of fiction featuring political intrigue in a future galaxy, mystical religious beliefs, and the ecosystem of the desert planet Arrakis....
By the early 1980s the fantasy market was much larger than that of almost all science fiction authors. The New Wave had faded out as an important presence in the science fiction landscape. As new personal computing technologies became an integral part of society, science fiction writers felt the urge to make statements about its influence on the cultural and political landscape. Drawing on the work of the New Wave, the Cyberpunk movement developed in the early 80s. Though it placed the same i...
Contemporary science fiction has been marked by the spread of cyberpunk to other parts of the marketplace of ideas. No longer is cyberpunk a ghettoized tribe within science fiction, but an integral part of the field whose interactions with other parts have been the primary theme of science fiction around the start of the 21st century. Notably, cyberpunk has influenced film, in works such as Johnny Mnemonic and The Matrix series, in anime such as Akira and Ghost in the Shell, and the emerging medium of video games, with the critically acclaimed Deus Ex and Metal Gear series. This entrance of cyberpunk into mainstream culture has led to the introduction of cyberpunk's stylistic motifs to the masses, particularly the cyberpunk fashion style. It has also led to other developments including Steampunk (a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery) and Dieselpunk (which combines the...Aldiss, Brian, and David Hargrove. Trillion Year Spree.Atheneum, 1986.Amis, Kingsley. New Maps of Hell.Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1960.Asimov, Isaac. Asimov on Science Fiction.Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1981.Cadigan, Pat. The Ultimate CyberpunkiBooks, 2002.
"Science fiction is that class of prose narrative treating of a situation that could not arise in the world we know, but which is hypothesized on the basis of some innovation in science or technology, or pseudo-science or pseudo-technology, whether human or extra-terrestrial in origin."
- Early Examples of Science Fiction
- 20th Century Science Fiction
- Different Types of Science Fiction
- Different Styles of Science Fiction
- FANDOM and Community
Science fiction changes over time. Some authors wrote SF books before this type of writing had a name. These writers and books were not called science fiction when they were published. But, they are often called science fiction today. 1. Jonathan Swift – Gulliver's Travels(1726) 2. Mary Shelley – Frankenstein(1818) 3. Jules Verne – Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea(1870) 4. H. G. Wells – The Time Machine(1895).Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarkeare seen as the big three science fiction authors of the 20th century.Philip K. Dick, Poul Anderson and William Gibsonare other well-known science fiction authors from the 20th century.
Two broad genres of science fiction are Hard SF and Soft SF. Although not everyone agrees on the exact definitions of these two types, the way they use science or the type of science used in the stories is different.
Within Hard or Soft SF, there are different types, or subgenres, of science fiction. Each subgenre is a group of stories that uses similar ideas or styles of writing. Publishing companies and criticsput works of SF into different subgenres to help describe the work to help readers choose which books to read or movies to watch. Assigning genres is not simple. Some stories can be in two or more genres at the same time. Other stories may not fit any genre.
Science 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 main fan activities, or "fanac", for decades, until the Internet improved communication among a much larger population of interested people.
Science in science fiction is the study or analysis of how science is portrayed in works of science fiction, including novels, stories, and films. It covers a large range of topics, since science takes on many roles in science fiction. Hard science fiction is based on engineering or the "hard" sciences, whereas soft science fiction is based on the "soft" sciences, and especially the social sciences. Likewise, the accuracy of the science portrayed spans a wide range - sometimes it is an extrapola
Other invaluable works include The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, edited by John Clute and Peter Nicholls (2nd. Ed. 1991), The Mammoth Encyclopedia of Science Fiction , edited by George Mann (1999) ( ISBN 0-7867-0887-5 or ISBN 1-84119-177-9 ), and Twentieth-Century Science-Fiction Writers , edited by Curtis C. Smith (1981) ( ISBN 0-312-82420-3 ).