What is Science Fiction? Science fiction is a writing style which combines science and fiction. It is constrained by what we presently regard as the basic physical laws of nature. It evolved as a response to fantasy.
Sci Fi Author ’ s Definitions Theodore Sturgeon, author: "'A good science-fiction story is a story about human beings, with a human problem, and a human solution, which would not have happened at all without its science content'"
Robert A. Heinlein, author: Science fiction is "realistic speculation 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"
Sam Moskowitz, fan and biographer: "Science fiction is a brand of fantasy identifiable by the fact that it eases the 'willing suspension of disbelief' on the part of its readers by utilizing an atmosphere of scientific credibility for its imaginative speculations in physical science, space, time, social science, and philosophy"
The first true science fiction novel was Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. She used a scientific rationale to persuade the reader that her story took place in the realm of the possible.
Frankenstein was the first novel in English to deal with the possibility that science will create a monster that can destroy science, and possibly mankind. Mary Shelley did not wish the story to be considered "supernatural" She made the main character a scientist and his scientific efforts a focal point of the reader's attention.
In mood the novel is a tale of terror, in plot a laboratory experiment gone awry. The fusion of Gothic materials and science in this novel brought the tale of terror clearly into the stream of science fiction and also gave it a more credible base. If not the first science fiction novel, Frankenstein is at least the first novel that showed what a science fiction novel would be (James Gunn).
Remember: Writers take scientific possibilities and develop them step-by- step from known data to form a story.
What is Extrapolation? Extrapolation is when a writer takes a known scientific fact and imagines what might happen if certain events or circumstances evolve. Ie: Man can build space shuttles. Man can travel to faraway planets.
Science Fiction VS. Fantasy In Science Fiction, there needs to be some possibility that the events could possibly happen. In Fantasy, the author can use far-fetched assumptions. ie; unicorns, three-legged creatures etc.
A Handbook to Literature defines science fiction as: "A form of fantasy in which scientific facts, assumptions, or hypotheses form the basis, by logical extrapolation, of adventures in the future, on other planets, in other dimensions in time, or under new variants of scientific law" (Holman).
The same Handbook defines fantasy as "a work which takes place in a nonexistent and unreal world, such as fairyland, or concerns incredible and unreal characters... or employs physical and scientific principles not yet discovered or contrary to present experience as in science fiction and utopian fiction" (Holman). Miriam Allen deFord explains the difference more succinctly: "'Science fiction deals with improbable possibilities, fantasy with plausible impossibilities" (Aldiss 26).
It is a common science fiction convention that authors should not contradict known scientific fact (e.g., humans flying without on their own without the use of devices), but may do what they wish with commonly- accepted scientific theory (e.g., humans flying to distant planets in a space shuttle). The author of fantasy does not feel such restraints.
Major Themes in Science Fiction Space travel to and from other planets (ie: Star Wars, Star Trek) Time travel to the past and future (ie: Back to the Future) Psychological/biological changes to man brought about by scientific changes (ie: The Incredible Hulk)
Supernormal powers/talents (ie: Superman, Spiderman, Batman) Science applied to human relations for constructive or destructive purposes (ie: Weird Science) Battle with alien life forms (ie: Signs) Alternate Universe (ie: Star Wars)
Plot Conventions of Science Fiction Examples of Story Ideas: The Last Man/Woman on Earth The Robot The First Landing Story Time Travel The Alternate World The Lost Civilization
The Alien Encounter The Colonization of a New Planet The End of the World The Long Spaceship Voyage The Computer From the point of view of an alien
Why should we study Science Fiction? Entertaining Makes the audience wonder “What If?” Encourages creativity in writing and role- playing Introduces students to a new literary genre Teaches lessons about the value and dangers of advanced technology Enhances imagination