Science fiction is a really big place #scifi #hardsf #books #fantasy #review #bookreview #dragons

Science fiction is huge – there’s a story for everyone.

Amazon’s Kindle offers twenty categories of scifi. Here they are:

One of my favorites - scifi satire

One of my favorites – scifi satire

  1. Adventure
  2. Alien Invasion
  3. Alternative History
  4. Anthologies & Short Stories
  5. Classics
  6. Colonization
  7. Cyberpunk
  8. Dystopian
  9. First Contact
  10. Galactic Empire
  11. Genetic Engineering
  12. Hard Science Fiction
  13. LGBT
  14. Metaphysical & Visionary
  15. Military
  16. Post-Apocalyptic
  17. Space Exploration
  18. Space Opera
  19. Steampunk
  20. Time Travel

And that doesn’t include the separate “fantasy” categories.

Here are two books I read recently that seem to only marginally be science fiction.

Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro) is the story of orphans growing up in a boarding school and facing their miserable future with resignation. Amazon lists it as a scifi dystopian (though to be fair it’s also listed under Literary Fiction which seems a better fit to me.) Here’s the scifi part: the orphans are clones raised so their organs can be harvested. The book is so acclaimed that I had to finish it, but it left me feeling puzzled.

The Water Knife (Paolo Bacigalupi) is a tale of mean streets – gangs, prostitutes, drugs, corruption and intrigue, and a crusading journalist. Between murders and violence the characters do a lot of ruminating on their situation. It’s a scifi dystopian (and also Literary Fiction/Thriller). The scifi part is that all this misery is caused by climate change droughts that leave vast swathes of America uninhabitable. Not being big into murderous gang wars, I didn’t finish it.

After reading these books, I looked the term up on Google.

sci·ence fic·tion

noun: fiction based on imagined future scientific or technological advances and major social or environmental changes, frequently portraying space or time travel and life on other planets.

Since science and technology permeate our real world, the key for me is “future-advances-changes.”

Richard Treitel found this added element I like, attributed to Ben Bova:

A work shouldn’t count as SciFi unless the science is necessary to it.

Not just adventures (or romances, or …) with high-tech props, resembling science fiction the way Hamlet resembles a history of Denmark. Not just present-day fiction in an exotic setting.

Richard Treitel offers other quotes, too.

Hard science fiction is where science and technology seem real and are ‘characters’ in the story. [Brad Templeton]

Fantasy deals with the impossible, while SF deals with the possible. [Doug Tricarico]

Stories that show us a way of life that has been shaped by the science or technology in the story. [Anon]

Wikipedia says scifi is speculative, futuristic, and explores the consequences of scientific advances – while avoiding the supernatural. They note the original need to tie the story to science-based facts and theories has become “tenuous” over time. It seems hard to find a scifi story today without supernatural characters – and most authors give up altogether on the current physics that puts other star systems vastly out of our reach. We want “new worlds, new life, and new civilizations.”

Are Dragons Always Fantasy? Can They Be Scifi?

Specifically, the dragons in Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books. Humans journey todragonriders of Pern another planet, lose touch with Earth, and build a sort of medieval feudal society. They find creatures like small dragons with traits that say fantasy to me – they’re telepathic, and can travel instantly between places and times. They breed these little guys bigger until people can ride them to purge the skies of alien parasites that travel through space from a neighboring planet.

Hmm. Sounds like fantasy despite arriving in a space ship and fighting alien parasites. But on Amazon the books are called space opera, time travel, and colonization under science fiction – and never fantasy! BTW, the stories are still wildly popular after fifty years! I pass most of the books I read on to friends, but recently I picked up a used copy of The Dragonriders of Pern because I missed seeing it on my shelf.

GLORY Ebook 300 dpi

Original cover

Glory on Mars Kate Rauner

New cover – and I’ve jazzed it up a little more – click to see

I’m not so interested in gang warfare or boarding-school romance in my scifi. My own writing takes me to space, most recently to the first colony on Mars – all in a believable near-future. There are now five books in the series – stories of people who could be real, using both current technologies and some we may possess soon, doing things you might do yourself in their place – fighting to survive hostile worlds and human conflicts. Take a look. 🙂

Science fiction is a very big place. You’ll find a home here.

5 thoughts on “Science fiction is a really big place #scifi #hardsf #books #fantasy #review #bookreview #dragons

  1. I rarely read sci-fi to learn more about science (I read science books and blogs for that!) but I like when a story of people (or aliens or elves or cockroaches) gives me science that isn’t so painfully wrong that I need to put it down. But I’m a super big tent, I don’t really see much of a line between sci-fi and fantasy, more of a spectrum. On one end the iPhone 7 and on the other plot based magic.

    (Although admittedly I’m faster to accept faster than light travel than I am to accept glowing shimmering love at first sight.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • You sound like me – it’s more important for the world to be consistent inside the story – to make sense within itself. Sometimes the “science” of a novel sticks in my head better than reality, so I wonder what weird ideas I have. I read once about refugees coming to US who had never seen indoor plumbing or electric lights – one of them said the first time he saw Mr Ed on TV he believed it was real – after everything he’d seen in America, a talking horse seemed mundane.


  2. I label my Chaterre Trilogy (Star Bridge, Thunder Moon and Fire Island) sci-fantasy and my Sea Purrtector Files, while are from the POV of a sort of feline 007 fantasy. Labeling is very tricky.


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