Skip to main content

Setting some boundaries for Science Fiction

Given that in the previous 2 posts I have taken each of the tropes and rules I had set forth as the ones governing Science Fiction, and analyzed them in detail, and found them too broad, I feel it is necessary to expand each of them in order to better reflect what it is we mean when we refer to them as the defining aspects of SF.

As Paul Kincaid has stated, there is no ONE element that can be identified as clearly defining of the genre, but rather it is a multitude of intertwined threads, coming from a multitude of origins and sources, which define the genre.

This sits in well with the tropes and rules I have mentioned as the constitutive elements of SF. However, in order to use them as the guidelines for selecting texts clearly belonging to Science Fiction, it is necessary to refine them. Based on the expansion of the tropes to see their relationship with works of other genres, a new expanded version of them would be as follows:

- The story takes place in a different time than that of the author and in such a manner as to be clearly different from historical facts or a strict continuation of our own reality.
- The story revolves around a given "scientific" discovery or theory, whether this be a known fact at the time of the writing or an inexistent one, it has to be presented in a plausible manner. It can belong to either the "hard" or "soft" sciences.
- It involves technologies not found in our world, which can be identified as deriving from scientific theories, real or not, ans with a credible explanation.
- Extraterrestrial beings are involved. The type of being has to be understood as inhabiting a universe rationally and "scientifically" connected with the universe of the story; paranormal beings are not considered as extraterrestrial in this instance, but trans-dimensional ones (albeit in a "scientific" context) do.
- The story takes place on other planets (one or more), that can be identified as being located in our universe, even if earth is not mentioned. The story can also take place in outer space, and once again this has to be explicitly an expression of our own universe.
- Technological innovation plays a central role in the story, or as Darko Suvin has called it the "Novum". Technology is more than just a convenience used by the characters in the story, and
is in fact not found in our everyday world, and can also be a variation on an ancient technology we no longer use.
- Society changes up to a point where we can no longer recognize it as our own. More than just a change it's an evolution (which can in fact be a regression), and has to have an explanation as to how it came about, and this in turn has to comply with rationality.
- When the story takes place in time very close to our own, and in our planet, the setting for the story (backdrop)is not something found in everyday life, but has to be
identifiable as a plausible, credible, and coherent scenario.

As for the expanded rules, these should probably be more like the following:

- The setting must be coherent within itself in terms of compliance with its own physical and theoretical rules, set in the guise of real world scientific discourse.
- There must be a clear set of rules within the setting, and they must be made clear, not necessarily in full detail, and must rely on rationality for its explanation, not on faith or emotional arguments. (I.e, if pigs fly there has to be a rational explanation)
- Technological or social changes must be plausible, and be presented in such a way as to be a logical explanation of the resulting state of affairs, and respecting the rules and coherency of the setting.

These boundaries are not be all inclusive, since you can probably find stories labelled as science fiction which do not fit entirely into them. It is also worth noting that not all tropes must be found within a story for it to be science fiction, but most stories do have more then one trope; as to the rules they are mandatory, and when a story fulfills only one or two of them, then that's when problem cases arise, for they are in a harder to define situation, being at the same time science fiction and something else, be it paranormal romance o horror, and these will be the issue of a latter posting, for some of them might be suitable matter of study for a look at the relationship between science fiction and political thought, and certainly if you want to look at the much broader category of speculative fiction.


Popular posts from this blog

My top 5 political science fiction books

I have been working for a long time on this post, and I'm still not 100% sure about it, but one thing is certain, if I keep on waiting for it to be "perfect" it will never be published, and besides this is my personal list, so if you disagree with the inclusion (or exclusion) of a given book, please let me know in the comments. These are five individual novels that have shaped political science fiction over the past century, and as such I have chosen them as five must reads for anyone interested in this subject; I am working also on a post about sagas, trilogies and series, so you will not find here some titles that would seem obvious otherwise.
1. A Brave New World - Aldous Huxley. Coming from a society as structured and divided by social class as early 20th century England, this is one sharp critique of the direction society was taking at the time, and even today it still has some troubling warnings to be heeded. If you haven't read it be sure to grab a copy of it…

George Orwell's 1984... Defining Government Surveillance and Citizen Paranoia since 1948

This blog cannot not be complete without an article that deals with probably one of the best known political sci-fi stories of all times: George Orwell's 1984 (Signet Classics). This is probably the best known authoritarian model in contemporary literature, as it gave us terms we now use colloquially, such as "Big Brother Is Watching", and evidently the whole concept of government as an unwanted Big Brother snooping into our private lives, looking for ways to control us through propaganda and mass media.

One of the most interesting details about this story is the fact that Orwell was a member of the British Communist Party, and had been highly critical of them, as can be seen in Animal Farm, where he portrays the communists as the pigs who overthrow the human masters, only to become just like them in the end, which is a theme he will go on to expand on in 1984, when he talks about the way that revolutions work, and how they are nothing more than a change in the name of …

Rediscovering a love for Space Opera

Recently I decided that dystopias, post-apocalyptic scenarios and deep examinations of the human spirit were tiring me, I decided to look for something a little less demanding intellectually, and decided to turn to space opera, looking for fast paced, thrilling, action packed stories that were straight forward and didn't need to be read two or three times to find the hidden meaning behind the characters words and actions, but being the kind of reader that I am, and despite my earlier decision to keep space opera out of these little forays into the deeper meanings of Speculative Fiction, I find myself writing this article.

First off, there is a ton of Space Operas out there, many of them so bad that I couldn't go beyond the first chapter, in which the scantily clad heroine is chased by the bug-eyed monster... oh wait, that was actually a 50's movie, but you get my meaning. Those are precisely the kind of things that had led me away from space opera as a worthwhile sub-genr…