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This brief definition takes a look at some of the interesting aspects of this wonderful genre.
Science fiction, sometimes called SF (meaning Speculative Fiction), is a genre of fiction dealing principally with the impact of actual or imagined science on society or individuals or having a scientific factor as an essential orienting component. This is a form of writing that is concerned with a world removed in some fundamental way from our own, whether in time, attitude or knowledge.
Science Fiction genre novels are literature about the future, telling stories of the marvels we hope to see, or for our descendants to see tomorrow, in the next century, or in the limitless duration of time. It doesn't just have to be about science, though. It has been described quite suitably as: "A controlled way to think and dream about the future." It can be about people, ideas, and where the world is going. It can also be about where people have already been.
The main problem with the concept of genre is that it is fairly ill defined by the literary community; This is often compounded by its uses in the film, comic, and gaming communities. The borders of this genre are also not well defined. It has proved difficult to define because it is not a run of the mill genre with the dividing lines between its sub-genres often fluid; It certainly can be described as a constantly shifting genre with blurred boundaries. Unlike the mystery, the western, the gothic, the love story, or the adventure story, to quote a few of the categories to which it is often compared, science fiction has no identifying action or place. Science fiction allows the writer to use his imagination; As Albert Einstein once said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge."
Depending on whom you ask, the line between Science Fiction and fantasy often tends to blur. To Quote Arthur C. Clarke on this: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Science fantasy is generally a fictional story in which the science elements are mistaken for magic by the characters.
One argument is that fantasy and science fiction are equally valid, but they do different things. They are not identical, they cannot even be compared. They are sometimes bracketed together because the ideas of science fiction generate images that affect us as strongly as any archetype in the vaults of fantasy.
The earliest beginnings of science fiction may be traced as far back as ancient Greece. The years-long journey of Odysseus in "The Odyssey" details his fantastic travels around strange, unknown lands bordering the Mediterranean.
Jules Verne's "voyages extrodinaires", which began in 1851 with A DRAMA IN THE AIR, and soon included A JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH (1864) and FROM EARTH TO THE MOON and A TRIP ROUND IT (1865 & 1874) brought him fame, and today he's known as the "father of Science Fiction".
Edgar Allan Poe and Fitz-James O'Brien were writing what is now considered "sf" in mid-19th century American periodicals and there were some singular works in the 1880's.
H. G. Wells pushed the envelope with his 1894 story that became THE TIME MACHINE. And of course his WAR OF THE WORLDS (1897). The imagination of H.G. Wells was stirred by the strange markings discovered on Mars. "The War of the Worlds" concerns the invasion of earth as two species, humans and aliens compete with the alien technology superior to that of earth. The invaders are eventually defeated by another species from earth, something small but lethal to the aliens...earth bacteria.
A Science Fiction novel can be generally a novel in which futuristic technology and sometimes even altered scientific values play a significant part in the exploits. Often the novel assumes a set of rules or principles or facts and then traces their logical consequences in some form. For example, given that a man discovers how to make himself invisible, what might happen as in the classic novel by H. G. Wells, 'The Invisible Man'.
A popular idea of science fiction is that it is, in general, attempting to predict the future. Certain observers would go so far as to assess the "accomplishment" of a work of science fiction on its accuracy as a prediction.
While most science fiction is set in the future, most authors are not attempting to predict; instead, they use the future as an open structure for their subject matter. It can be said that this is a branch of fiction is one that deals with the possible effects of an altered technology or social system on mankind in an imagined future, an altered present, or even an alternative past. A science fiction writer is generally not trying to write a history of the future that they believe will happen, any more than a writer of westerns is trying to create a historically accurate depiction of the old West. Science fiction not only offers a window to the future, but a mirror for the present.
Science fiction is a form of fiction which deals principally with the effect of actual or possible science upon society or individuals. In this world of rapidly changing technology, ethical questions raised by developments in biology and medicine and by increasingly sophisticated mass communication, serious science fiction may be better equipped than any other kind of literature to contemplate the predicament such changes present.
Some people add that ScFi should make you think about possible future worlds and alternatives, but to round off this definition, I'd simply like to say that in my humble opinion, I think that it's really quite nice to have some fiction that's purely just good entertainment.