Science Fiction is today’s genre.  Wikipedia places it under the genre of “speculative,” but I really feel like speculative is a category of genres and a genre in and of itself.  Science fiction has been so popular in various media in the last decades that it deserves its own post.

Science fiction:
n. fiction based on imagined future scientific or technological advances and major social or environmental changes, frequently portraying space or time travel and life on other planets.

n. a literary or cinematic genre in which fantasy, typically based on speculative scientific discoveries or developments, environmental changes, space travel, or life on other planets, forms part of the plot or background. (Found here.)


  • Hard sci-fi
  • Soft sci-fi
  • Space opera
  • Cyberpunk
    • Nanopunk
    • Postcyberpunk
  • Alternative universe
  • Scientific romance
  • Steampunk

Science Fiction

  • Characteristics (not all must be present, this is just a varietal list)
    • Imaginary elements are largely possible within the established or postulated laws of nature relevant to the work
    • Writing rationally about alternative possibilities
    • Settings are often opposite to reality and can include the future, alternative timelines, a historical “what if” following a secondary path, space, other worlds, alien cultures
    • Involve technology and/or science contrary to what is currently known
    • Discovery of new technology or principles, or of new social or political systems
    • Deals primarily with the impact of the new society, new technology, etc. on humanity
    • Always include a human element
    • Should have some basis in reality
    • Not written for the scientific community
    • Present or future
    • Assumptions of technology
    • Monsters as a result of human error or science gone awry
    • Individual conquering technology
    • Life on other planets
    • Fantastical but not magic
  • Examples
    • The works of Philip K. Dick
    • The works of Isaac Asimov

Characteristics taken from here, here, and here.

    Hard science-fiction
    • Emphasizes detail and/or accuracy in the science
    • Should try to be as accurate, logical, credible, and rigorous as possible in the ways the science is applied to the narrative and structure

    Resources found here, here, and here.

    Soft science-fiction
    • 3 senses of the term
      • More focused on the social sciences like anthropology and political science than on biology, etc.
      • More concerned with character, society or other ideas that aren’t critically tied to the science
      • Less rigorous in its application of science

    Resources found here, here, and here.

    Space opera

    • Emphasizes romantic, melodramatic action
    • Set largely or entirely in space
    • Involves conflict between powerful opponents with technologies and abilities equal to their character
    • Large-scale themes, action, etc.

    Resources found here.

    • Characteristics
      • Advanced science coupled with sociological breakdown
      • Conflict between hackers, artificial intelligence, and megacorporations or conglomerated governments
      • Near-future Earth, very dystopian with a great degree of technology use and a relative degree of social breakdown
      • Troubled futures
      • Action in some cyberpunk is set primarily in cyberspace
      • Sense of rebellion
    • Examples
      • William Gibson’s Sprawl trilogy (1984-88)
      • Starfish by Peter Watts (2009)

    Resources here and here.

    • Characteristics
      • Nanotechnology is the dominant technology of all those that are used in the book’s world
      • The promises that nanotechnology held in the past have become the present’s reality
    • Examples
      • Linda Nagata’s Tech Heaven
      • Michael Crichton’s Prey

    Resources here and here.

    Alternative universe
    • Takes place in any setting from a world within our own to something occurring in a different, parallel spatial axis that we can’t perceive from our own world

    Found here.

    Science fiction romance
    • Three categories
      • Romantic science-fiction
        • Romance is a strong sub-plot but the scientific stuff still drives the plot
        • HEA is not a guarantee
      • Science-fiction romance
        • 50/50 split between the romance and the scientific, both drive the plot forward
        • HEA of some kind is a given, but it won’t always be what the reader thinks
      • Futuristic romance
        • The romance drives the plot
        • HEA a given

    Found here.

    • Set in a world or era where steam power is still in use (i.e. 19th century, esp. Victorian Era England)
    • There is a prominence of science-fiction and/or fantasy elements like technologies that are existing but are incongruous with the time period it’s set in
    • Often contain alternate history what-if tales involving technologies like dirigibles

    Resources are here.

    Further reading:
    Whew.  We made it!  Now it’s time to let you loose into the comments section.  What’s your favorite science-fiction work?  Anything I missed?  Want to flay me open for overlooking something that you absolutely love?  Any recommendations?
    Hope you enjoyed this post.
    Oh, and because I couldn’t resist, here’s a parting photo.