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Tog
2008-Jul-14, 08:42 AM
A while back I read an article that said, as far as I can recall, that science fiction is not just the telling of stories set in space, or different times. "Real" science fiction is a tool used to describe some aspect of the modern world in a way that will let the reader draw their own parallels. It was something like that anyway.

I've got a few ideas for stories that fit this idea. One could be set in our time, but certain ideas and attitudes about law enforcement would have to be taken to extremes.

Something similar, setting-wise, might be the film Equilibrium (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0238380/) where there really isn't anything tech wise that sets things apart from the real world, but the environment itself is not ours.

A second would be something like Sliders or Stargate, where a person from a world that developed a very different set of values arrives in our world via dimensional travel or magic.

Is there a subtype for this kind of SF, if they even qualify?
If the social commentary is done in something that is not SF (fantasy, contemporary crime thriller), will it be seen in the same light?

I'm mainly interested in opinions here, but basically, what does it take for something to be "real" science fiction?

jokergirl
2008-Jul-14, 09:40 AM
That's correct - I have always understood SF to be a projection of our current world onto a future world. Space travel and other things are nice, but not essential to SF. Whereas "Space opera" like Star Wars is more like Space Fantasy, as it doesn't necessarily play in our future nor does it actuallt do more than tell a pretty story.

Of course, the popular opinion is elsewhere, but then the popular opinion is that SF is geeky so who am I to talk?
I'm curious about why someone introduced the distinction between Science Fiction abbreviated "SF" and the one abbreviated "Sci-Fi" which usually denominates the more fantasy, less hard science fare. Sounds elitist to me.

;)

astromark
2008-Jul-14, 09:55 AM
It is easy to over analyze this subject. Science fiction is not science fact., but it could be. That is the key to good science fiction; It could be real. It is the degree of could be that makes it good or bad. Believable fiction is a winning formula. Remembering that escaping the humdrum world of reality is a great entertainment.

Jeff Root
2008-Jul-14, 10:52 AM
For the last couple of decades, at least, my best attempt at "defining"
science fiction has been something along the lines of:

Stories about events which could happen in the future, or could be
happening right now, or could have happened in the past, but which
obviously either have not actually happened yet, or there is no good,
clear evidence that they have happened.

Events which took place in a galaxy far, far away obviously do not
provide us with evidence to show that they happened. If there was
a black, rectilinear, monolithic object on the Earth four million years
ago, there is no good, clear evidence of it.


I think Arthur Clarke said that in science fiction, the setting is the
protagonist. Although I also have a memory of his saying that time
is the protagonist. The former I take to be more general statement
and more applicable to science fiction as a whole. His comment
about time applied specifically to his own stories.

Isaac Asimov wrote that, unlike other genres, when a story contains
science fiction elements, it becomes a science fiction story. Other
genres tend to splinter off; science fiction engulfs and absorbs anything
it encounters like an amoeba, growing larger and ever larger until...

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

mugaliens
2008-Jul-14, 04:40 PM
From reading a wide variety of what's considered "science fiction," it's difficult to nail down into an all-encompassing definition.

But I'll try...

"Science fiction is fiction which may or may not bear a resemblance to history, present, or imagined future, but one that incorporates one or more elements of known, theorized, or imagined science."

Neverfly
2008-Jul-14, 05:08 PM
If it was up to me, a lot of what's currently categorized as Science fiction, would be categorized as Fantasy. Because the story lines deal with Psy power and things that are fantasy and not scientific by any means.

tdvance
2008-Jul-14, 05:52 PM
For me, to be SF it has to at least try to be consistent, even though some premises could be, well, "funny". So, you can have SF about ESP or talking trees or whatever as long as you keep it consistent (and at least imply a scientific explanation for it). A second ingredient is some kind of science that is essential to the story (not just a down-to-earth story translated into space, but where some things about space are essential to the story).

So, I think SF is a story that asks "what if" and explores the logical and scientific consequences. What if this guy Gil has a psychic "third arm"? Why does it work in some situations and not in others? Though as far as I remember, Niven never explored how it could possibly work--but if he had, that would have increased its rating on the SF meter.

mike alexander
2008-Jul-14, 06:22 PM
I thought Fred Pohl came up with these, but the only direct ref I've found is to Steve Barnes:

1) What if...?

Change something in science or society and see what happens.

2) If only....

Related; if only humans had not stopped going to the moon...

3) If this goes on...

Extrapolation. If we keep burning fossil fuel...


and

4) Once upon a time...


...there was a Martian named Valentine Michael Smith.

mugaliens
2008-Jul-14, 06:51 PM
You grok, Mike.

Tog
2008-Jul-14, 08:02 PM
Thanks for the replies.


I thought Fred Pohl came up with these, but the only direct ref I've found is to Steve Barnes:

I think that may have been what I was looking for, though what Jeff said about Isaac Asimov would seem to go the other way.

Murder on the Orient Express took place, aptly enough, on a train. If the exact same story, with the motive updated for the time change, were to take place on a transport ship to Mars, would it be a science fiction story? The way I read Asimov's definition (as posted by Jeff) it would be, but tdvance's definition would say no, as the setting was not essential to the story.

Jeff Root
2008-Jul-14, 09:06 PM
Good observation, Tog. I was just thinking a few days ago about almost
exactly that question of setting another type of story in Space, and whether
that makes it science fiction, yet it didn't occur to me to say anything about
it when writing my first reply.

I lump together stories which take place on other planets or in Space but
which don't depend on science fiction ideas into a category I think of as
"Space opera". Setting Murder on the Orient Express on a transport ship
to Mars would make it a Space opera rather than science fiction unless the
plot depended on some science fictiony concepts. Certainly there is no
boundary line separating science fiction from Space opera-- There is a
broad spectrum of possibilities. Isaac Asimov's short story C-Chute
takes place on an interstellar transport, and includes enough science
fictiony elements that I'd say it goes beyond Space opera into the
science fiction part of the spectrum, but not very far.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

SkepticJ
2008-Jul-15, 05:09 AM
"Science fiction is fiction which may or may not bear a resemblance to history, present, or imagined future, but one that incorporates one or more elements of known, theorized, or imagined science."

I really like that one.

I dislike all the elitism of "this is sci-fi, but this isn't". Why should the X-Men be excluded, but clockwork time machines be included? Both pose the question of "what if?"

Kaptain K
2008-Jul-15, 05:21 AM
I have heard (read) that science fiction requires one and only one "leap of faith". Something is posited to be "different" from the world as we know it. After that, it must be internally consistent with that one difference.

Tog
2008-Jul-15, 06:50 AM
I have heard (read) that science fiction requires one and only one "leap of faith". Something is posited to be "different" from the world as we know it. After that, it must be internally consistent with that one difference.

But wouldn't that mean that stories like Sixth Sense or Dawn of the Dead could be considered science fiction? Both take one idea out of the norm and ask "what if...".

No, I wouldn't put either of them in that category, X-Men, I might. It's just that the more I think about this, the harder it is to set a definite limit on the genre.

Jeff Root
2008-Jul-15, 07:50 AM
In what manner would a science fiction story incorporate one or more
elements of known, theorized, or imagined science? I think we would all
agree that science fiction stories do not need to involve scientists, or
the kinds of things that scientists characteristically do. So what do you
mean when you suggest that an element of "science" needs to be in the
story in order for it to be science fiction?

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

hhEb09'1
2008-Jul-15, 11:56 AM
Just last night, I was reading an old Asimov intro (to the anthology Choice: Dark Stars and Dragons) entitled Editorial: The Name of Our Field, where he goes into the definitions and history over four pages. The last paragraph is: "We can define "sci-fi" as trashy material sometimes confused, by ignorant people, with SF. Thus, Star Trek is SF while Godzilla Meets Mothra is sci-fi."

Paul Leeks
2008-Jul-16, 02:38 AM
a lot of science is fiction.A big difference between what happens in a lab and what happens in reality(Psychology).Statistics is fiction..."you can prove with statistics except the truth" Scientific method is fiction..it can be very black and white..it doesnt take into account the grey areas of life...you know what people really keep to themselves,science is fiction...quite often the logic doesn't fit the facts...

science is fiction,become a real person...it's experience!!

ginnie
2008-Jul-16, 03:07 AM
a lot of science is fiction.A big difference between what happens in a lab and what happens in reality(Psychology).Statistics is fiction..."you can prove with statistics except the truth" Scientific method is fiction..it can be very black and white..it doesnt take into account the grey areas of life...you know what people really keep to themselves,science is fiction...quite often the logic doesn't fit the facts...

science is fiction,become a real person...it's experience!!
Oh, Paul. You're pushing it. :lol: This is a science based forum after all.
Just because some experiences are unexplained, and knowledge is incomplete does not in any way diminish the efforts and methods of scientists throughout the centuries, and the contribution of science to our lives.
You know, you can have both - The Unexplained and Science if you'd like.

Paul Leeks
2008-Jul-16, 03:19 AM
Ginnie

Yes I am pushing it a bit,BELIEVE I KNOW what happens!!

good one mate!!

Paul

RalofTyr
2008-Jul-18, 08:45 PM
Futurism.

HenrikOlsen
2008-Jul-20, 02:22 PM
Science Fiction is the genre which, when you try to define it you fail.

I think part of the trouble with making a definition of Science Fiction is that the border between Fantasy and Science Fiction is a lot blurrier that writers of definitions like to believe, especially since a lot of them seems to make the definition for the specific purpose of distancing themselves from Fantasy.


To actually make a definition I'd use two steps, first an inclusive step trying to defined oth as one, then define the difference, so:
Fantasy and Science Fiction is a genre of stories taking place under the constrains of a world where the rules are different.
Science Fiction is the sub genre where the rule change is limited to the scientifically plausible.

For both SF and F a major requirement for quality is that the rule changes are consistent and pertinent .

Paul Beardsley
2008-Jul-20, 02:54 PM
Science Fiction is the genre which, when you try to define it you fail.
I’ve never been convinced by the claims that SF is undefinable.

IMO, there are two workable definitions for the genre:

1. Fiction that deals with the fantastic in a rational way (where “fantastic” means “something not known to be possible or suspected to be impossible”).

2. Fiction that uses the tropes, furniture, themes and so on introduced in the first definition in a way that can create a unique kind of story.

These cover pretty much everything.

Undoubtedly there is some blurring between SF and fantasy, but then again, SF writers have always liked to blur the boundaries. There has been SF/detective fiction (e.g. The Caves of Steel), there has been SF/hardboiled pulp (e.g. Neuromancer) and even SF/non-fiction autobiography (e.g. Slaughterhouse 5). In the late 70s I was impressed by a story that tried to demonstrate how vampires could work in the real world; now these things are commonplace. And even the likes of Edgar Rice Burroughs messed with genre crossing – one of his Carson of Venus stories was a riff on Arthurian legend.

hhEb09'1
2008-Jul-20, 03:14 PM
In the late 70s I was impressed by a story that tried to demonstrate how vampires could work in the real world; Faber?

Paul Beardsley
2008-Jul-20, 03:56 PM
Faber?

Argh, that's straining my memory cells!

Doesn't ring any bells. I just remember it was a short story in Isaac Asimov's SF Magazine. It might have been Nancy Kress.

hhEb09'1
2008-Jul-20, 08:07 PM
I just looked up Sharon Farber's Born Again from 1978. It has cellular creatures with hooks that could tug blood cells through the body without the heart beating.

Kaptain K
2008-Jul-21, 04:59 AM
Science Fiction is the genre which, when you try to define it you fail.

I think part of the trouble with making a definition of Science Fiction is that the border between Fantasy and Science Fiction is a lot blurrier that writers of definitions like to believe, especially since a lot of them seems to make the definition for the specific purpose of distancing themselves from Fantasy.


To actually make a definition I'd use two steps, first an inclusive step trying to defined oth as one, then define the difference, so:
Fantasy and Science Fiction is a genre of stories taking place under the constrains of a world where the rules are different.
Science Fiction is the sub genre where the rule change is limited to the scientifically plausible.

For both SF and F a major requirement for quality is that the rule changes are consistent and pertinent .

:clap: Bravo! Well put.