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Science Fiction

Science Fiction

Science fiction is a genre of fiction with imaginative but more or less plausible content such as settings in the future, futuristic science and technology, space travel, parallel universes, aliens, and paranormal abilities. Exploring the consequences of scientific innovations is one purpose of science fiction, making it a "literature of ideas". Science fiction has been used by authors and film/television program makers as a device to discuss philosophical ideas such as identity, desire, morality and social structure etc.

Science fiction is largely based on writing rationally about alternative possible worlds or futures. It is similar to, but differs from fantasy in that, within the context of the story, its imaginary elements are largely possible within scientifically established or scientifically postulated laws of nature though some elements in a story might still be pure imaginative speculation.

The settings for science fiction are often contrary to consensus reality, but most science fiction relies on a considerable degree of suspension of disbelief, which is facilitated in the reader's mind by potential scientific explanations or solutions to various fictional elements. Science fiction elements include:

  • A time setting in the future, in alternative timelines, or in a historical past that contradicts known facts of history or the archaeological record.
  • A spatial setting or scenes in outer space (e.g. spaceflight), on other worlds, or on subterranean earth.
  • Characters that include aliens, mutants, androids, or humanoidrobots.
  • Futuristic technology such as ray guns, teleportation machines, and humanoid computers.
  • Scientific principles that are new or that contradict accepted laws of nature, for example time travel, wormholes, or faster-than-light travel.
  • New and different political or social systems, e.g. dystopian, post-scarcity, or post-apocalyptic.
  • Paranormal abilities such as mind control, telepathy, telekinesis, and teleportation.
  • Other universes or dimensions and travel between them.

Science fiction is difficult to define, as it includes a wide range of subgenres and themes. Author and editor Damon Knight summed up the difficulty, saying "science fiction is what we point to when we say it", a definition echoed by author Mark C. Glassy, who argues that the definition of science fiction is like the definition of pornography: you don't know what it is, but you know it when you see it. Vladimir Nabokov argued that if we were rigorous with our definitions, Shakespeare's play The Tempest would have to be termed science fiction.

According to science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein, "a handy short definition of almost all science fiction might read: 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. Rod Serling's definition is "fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science fiction is the improbable made possible. Lester del Rey wrote, "Even the devoted aficionado or fan has a hard time trying to explain what science fiction is", and that the reason for there not being a "full satisfactory definition" is that "there are no easily delineated limits to science fiction

As a means of understanding the world through speculation and storytelling, science fiction has antecedents back to mythology, though precursors to science fiction as literature can be seen in Lucian's True History in the 2nd century,some of the Arabian Nights tales,The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter in the 10th century and Ibn al-Nafis' Theologus Autodidactus in the 13th century.

A product of the budding Age of Reason and the development of modern science itself, Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels was one of the first true science fantasy works, together with Voltaire's Micromégas (1752) and Johannes Kepler's Somnium (1620–1630).Isaac Asimov and Carl Sagan consider the latter work the first science fiction story.It depicts a journey to the Moon and how the Earth's motion is seen from there. Another example is Ludvig Holberg's novel Nicolai Klimii iter subterraneum, 1741. (Translated to Danish by Hans Hagerup in 1742 as Niels Klims underjordiske Rejse.) (Eng. Niels Klim's Underground Travels.) Brian Aldiss has argued that Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) was the first work of science fiction.

Forrest J Ackerman used the term sci-fi (analogous to the then-trendy "hi-fi") at UCLA in 1954.As science fiction entered popular culture, writers and fans active in the field came to associate the term with low-budget, low-tech "B-movies" and with low-quality pulp science fiction. By the 1970s, critics within the field such as Terry Carr and Damon Knight were using sci-fi to distinguish hack-work from serious science fiction,and around 1978, Susan Wood and others introduced the pronunciation "skiffy".

Peter Nicholls writes that "SF" (or "sf") is "the preferred abbreviation within the community of sf writers and readers".
David Langford's monthly fanzine Ansible includes a regular section "As Others See Us" which offers numerous examples of "sci-fi" being used in a pejorative sense by people outside the genre
Science fiction has criticised developing and future technologies, but also initiates innovation and new technology. This topic has been more often discussed in literary and sociological than in scientific forums. Cinema and media theorist Vivian Sobchack examines the dialogue between science fiction films and the technological imagination. Technology impacts artists and how they portray their fictionalized subjects, but the fictional world gives back to science by broadening imagination.
How William Shatner Changed the World
is a documentary that gave many real-world examples of actualized technological imaginations. While more prevalent in the early years of science fiction with writers like
Arthur C. Clarke, new authors still find ways to make currently impossible technologies seem closer to being realized

Hard science fiction, or "hard SF", is characterized by rigorous attention to accurate detail in quantitative sciences, especially physics, astrophysics, and chemistry, or on accurately depicting worlds that more advanced technology may make possible. Many accurate predictions of the future come from the hard science fiction subgenre, but numerous inaccurate predictions have emerged as well.Some hard SF authors have distinguished themselves as working scientists, including Gregory Benford, Geoffrey A. Landis and David Brin, while mathematician authors include Rudy Rucker and Vernor Vinge. Other noteworthy hard SF authors include Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Hal Clement, Greg Bear, Larry Niven, Robert J. Sawyer, Stephen Baxter, Alastair Reynolds, Charles Sheffield, Ben Bova, Kim Stanley Robinson and Greg Egan.

The description "soft" science fiction may describe works based on social sciences such as psychology, economics, political science, sociology, and anthropology. Noteworthy writers in this category include Ursula K. Le Guin and Philip K. Dick. The term can describe stories focused primarily on character and emotion; SFWA Grand Master Ray Bradbury was an acknowledged master of this art. The Eastern Bloc produced a large quantity of social science fiction, including works by Polish authors Stanislaw Lem and Janusz Zajdel, as well as Soviet authors such as the Strugatsky brothers, Kir Bulychov, Yevgeny Zamyatin and Ivan Yefremov.[50][51] Some writers blur the boundary between hard and soft science fiction.

Related to social SF and soft SF are utopian and dystopian stories; George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, and Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale are examples. Satirical novels with fantastic settings such as Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift may also be considered science fiction or speculative fiction.

The cyberpunk genre emerged in the early 1980s; combining cybernetics and punk, the term was coined by author Bruce Bethke for his 1980 short story "Cyberpunk".The time frame is usually near-future and the settings are often dystopian in nature and characterized by misery. Common themes in cyberpunk include advances in information technology and especially the Internet, visually abstracted as cyberspace, artificial intelligence, and prosthetics and post-democratic societal control where corporations have more influence than governments. Nihilism, post-modernism, and film noir techniques are common elements, and the protagonists may be disaffected or reluctant anti-heroes. Noteworthy authors in this genre are William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Neal Stephenson, and Pat Cadigan. James O'Ehley has called the 1982 film Blade Runner a definitive example of the cyberpunk visual style

Time travel stories have antecedents in the 18th and 19th centuries. The first major time travel novel was Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. The most famous is H. G. Wells's 1895 novel The Time Machine, which uses a vehicle that allows an operator to travel purposefully and selectively, while Twain's time traveler is struck in the head. The term "time machine", coined by Wells, is now universally used to refer to such a vehicle. Stories of this type are complicated by logical problems such as the grandfather paradox. Time travel continues to be a popular subject in modern science fiction, in print, movies, and television such as the BBCtelevision seriesDoctor Who.

Military science fiction is set in the context of conflict between national, interplanetary, or interstellar armed forces; the primary viewpoint characters are usually soldiers.
Stories include detail about military technology, procedure, ritual, and history; military stories may use parallels with historical conflicts. Heinlein's Starship Troopers is an early example, along with the Dorsai novels of Gordon Dickson. Joe Haldeman's The Forever War is a critique of the genre, a Vietnam-era response to the World War II–style stories of earlier authors. Prominent military SF authors include John Ringo, David Drake, David Weber, and S. M. Stirling. The publishing company Baen Books is known for cultivating military science fiction authors

Apocalyptic fiction is concerned with the end of civilization through war (On the Beach), pandemic The Last Man, astronomic impact When Worlds Collide, ecological disaster The Wind from Nowhere, or some other general disaster or with a world or civilization after such a disaster. Typical of the genre are George R. Stewart's novel Earth Abides and Pat Frank's novel Alas, Babylon. Apocalyptic fiction generally concerns the disaster itself and the direct aftermath, while post-apocalyptic can deal with anything from the near aftermath as in Cormac McCarthy's The Road to 375 years in the future as in By The Waters of Babylon to hundreds or thousands of years in the future, as in Russell Hoban's novel Riddley Walker and Walter M. Miller, Jr.'s A Canticle for Leibowitz.

The study of science fiction, or science fiction studies, is the critical assessment, interpretation, and discussion of science fiction literature, film, new media, fandom, and fan fiction. Science fiction scholars take science fiction as an object of study in order to better understand it and its relationship to science, technology, politics, and culture-at-large. Science fiction studies has a long history dating back to the turn of the 20th century, but it was not until later that science fiction studies solidified as a discipline with the publication of the academic journals Extrapolation (1959), Foundation - The International Review of Science Fiction (1972), and Science Fiction Studies (1973), and the establishment of the oldest organizations devoted to the study of science fiction, the Science Fiction Research Association and the Science Fiction Foundation, in 1970. The field has grown considerably since the 1970s with the establishment of more journals, organizations, and conferences with ties to the science fiction scholarship community, and science fiction degree-granting programs such as those offered by the University of Liverpool and Kansas University.

The National Science Foundation has conducted surveys of "Public Attitudes and Public Understanding" of "Science Fiction and Pseudoscience". They write that "Interest in science fiction may affect the way people think about or relate to science.one study found a strong relationship between preference for science fiction novels and support for the space program.The same study also found that students who read science fiction are much more likely than other students to believe that contacting extraterrestrial civilizations is both possible and desirable Bainbridge 1982.


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