Discovering Science Fiction’s Re-emergence and Re-assessment in the USA

Science fiction has emerged as acceptable in the literary cannon with the inclusion of a wide selection of science fiction writers as worthy of studying. At least this was one of the facts I learnt of a genre which I had for long associated with popular thrillers when we discussed Contemporary American Literature in the US a year or so ago.

Science fiction is a broad genre of fiction often involving speculations on current or future science or technology usually in books, art, television, films, games, theater, and other media. In the age of television, computers and other technology, the fascination of contemporary fiction writers with technology has become an extension of the sphere of social realism for the exploration of writers..

Science fiction is akin to fantasy. But it differs from it in that, its imaginary elements are largely possible within scientifically postulated laws of nature though some elements might still be pure imaginative speculation.

Science fiction is largely then writing entertainingly and rationally about alternate possibilities in settings that are contrary to known reality including:

o A setting in the future, in alternative time lines, or in a historical past that contradicts known historical facts or archaeological records

o A setting in outer space, other worlds, or one involving aliens.

o Stories that contradict known or supposed laws of nature.

o Stories that involve discovering or applying new scientific principles, such as time travel or psionics,

o Stories that involve the discovery or application of new technology, such as nanotechnology, faster-than-light travel or robots,

o Stories that involve the discovery or application of new and different political or social systems

Science fiction also involves imaginative extrapolations of present day phenomena, such as the thoughtful projection forward of contemporary medical practices such as organ transplants, genetic engineering, and artificial insemination or the evolving social changes such as the rise of the suburb and the growing disparity between the rich and poor.

Science fiction has a widening range of possibilities in themes and form. It embraces many other subgenres and themes.

Science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein defines it as “realistic speculations about possible future events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world, past and present, and on a thorough understanding of the nature and significance of the scientific method.” For Rod Serlin whilst “fantasy is the impossible made probable, Science Fiction is the improbable made possible.There are thus no easily delineated limits to science fiction. For even the devoted fan- has a hard time trying to explain what it is.

Hard science fiction, gives rigorous attention to accurate detail in quantitative sciences producing many accurate predictions of the future, but with numerous inaccurate predictions emerging as seen in the late Arthur C. Clarke who accurately predicted geostationary communications satellites, but erred in his prediction of deep layers of moondust in lunar craters. For more details, please visit these sites:-

“Soft” science fiction its antithesis describes works based on social sciences such as psychology, economics, political science, sociology and anthropology with writers as Ursula K. Le Guin and Philip K. Dick. and its stories focused primarily on character and emotion of which; Ray Bradbury is an acknowledged master.

Some writers blur the boundary between both. Mack Reynolds’s work, for instance, focuses on politics but anticipates many developments in computers, including cyber-terrorism.

The Cyberpunk genre, a portmanteau of “cybernetics” and “punk” ,emerged in the early 1980s.” First coined by Bruce Bethke in his 1980 short story”Cyberpunk,” its time frame is usually the near-future and its settings are often dystopian. Its common themes include advances in information technology, especially of the Internet (visually abstracted as cyberspace (possibly malevolent), artificial intelligence, enhancements of mind and body using bionic prosthetics and direct brain-computer interfaces called cyberware, and post-democratic societal control where corporations have more influence than governments. Nihilism, post-modernism, and film noir techniques are common elements. Its protagonists may be disaffected or reluctant anti-heroes. The 1982 film Blade Runner is a definitive example of its visual style with noteworthy authors in the genre being William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Pat Cadigan, and Rudy Rucker.

Science fiction authors and filmmakers draw on a wide spectrum of ideas. Many works overlap into two or more commonly-defined genres, while others are beyond the generic boundaries, being either outside or between categories.The categories and genres used by mass markets and literary criticism differ considerably.


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