Saturday, December 22, 2007

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What is Speculative Fiction? (Part One: Defining Science Fiction)

In a previous post we were discussing the necessity to have some sort of standardized definition of what science fiction actually is. This is somewhat of a question that has been asked of SF for such a long time, but we need to come to an agreement on this subject so we can proceed with the canons. The goal here is to come up with one sentence that defines science fiction that we can use to address the texts that are suggested for the canon.

So, let's start with what science fiction is to you? What elements must it include? What elements cannot be present? Do we still include works that are considered classic SF even if their futures haven't happened?

2 comments:

Ming said...

I think that the most important aspect of sf is that it be speculative. Obviously.

By speculative, I mean that it speculates on the future, the possible outcomes of scientific discoveries and social trends, and even the different outcomes that could have emerged in tha past.

SF is fundamentally about exploring the worlds that might happen or might have happened.

S.M.D. said...

So would we consider alternate history science fiction? I always see it as fantasy if it takes place in the past and science fiction if it takes place in the future. The reason I say that is because if the event in question and the story itself is set in 17th century England, it's not really science fiction, but if the event is in the 17th century, but the story is set in the 22nd, it is science fiction.

But I do agree on what you mean by speculation involving the future, outcomes of science and social trends, etc. Science fiction should speculate on things of the future. That could mean intergalactic empires or what the Internet will do to us in ten years. It could deal with what first contact with aliens will be like, or what happens when we start colonizing the moon and Mars. Things like that.

So, perhaps we need to iron out where to place alternate history. Is all of it SF? Or just some of it?