1. Aaron DC
    Offline

    Aaron DC Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2015
    Messages:
    2,554
    Likes Received:
    1,251
    Location:
    At my keyboard

    What is good science fiction?

    Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by Aaron DC, Jul 9, 2015.

    I found the following preface by Philip K Dick interesting, as I had never stopped to really consider what sci-fi is, let alone good sci-fi.

    To be honest, I had been feeling a little insecure about the sciency fictiony aspect of my intended major work. It felt more social drama (movie genre) than science fiction, although the science fiction aspects are definitely there and even more so in the later novels.

    Then I read this preface, and appreciate it because
    1. it made a lot of sense to me
    2. it showed me that space and tech do not have to be involved per se for a novel to be considered science fiction, and that the sci fi I have enjoyed was probably more space opera (lookin' at you, Dune)
    3. the goal of my novel is to engender that "chain-reaction of ramification-idea" experience in my readers

    I have not spent a lot more time thinking about it, but am curious what other writers consider to be good science fiction, or even what science fiction is for you.

    Apologies if it's too much copy+paste.

    From: Volume one of the collected stories.
     
    GingerCoffee likes this.
  2. Jack Asher
    Offline

    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2013
    Messages:
    3,571
    Likes Received:
    2,053
    Location:
    Denver
    I'd say the only real definition is "concept constraining story" once you have that, it's all science fiction from there.
     
  3. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,604
    Likes Received:
    5,877
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    From that interpretation of sci-fi, my story is more sci-fi than I thought. And here I'd been worried it wasn't sci-fi enough.
     
    Aaron DC likes this.
  4. Aaron DC
    Offline

    Aaron DC Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2015
    Messages:
    2,554
    Likes Received:
    1,251
    Location:
    At my keyboard
    I know right!?

    Phew!!

    I'm still kinda hoping to learn it's not just confirmation bias though...
     
  5. izzybot
    Offline

    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2015
    Messages:
    865
    Likes Received:
    954
    Location:
    SC, USA
    Star Trek is kind of my golden standard of what sci-fi should be, hahah. Far too deeply indoctrinated in that cult lifestyle fandom. It's much more about cultural stuff and I do feel that that's been part of sf maybe not from the beginning but for a long time, so ... textual equivalent of an uncertain shrugging motion?

    I honestly am not sure where this definition comes from but I've heard it put forward that it's not sf unless the plot cannot happen without your spacefuturey / technological / alien / whatever else trappings. I was actually thinking about that just last night, when I realized that my sf 'verse only squeaks by as sf on those grounds - it takes place in space but it's more about quite regular humans (and misc) and their various issues, and politics and whatnot. I had the thought that virtually everything that happens in that story could pretty much happen in building on the Earth just the way they happen in ships in space. The only real exception is one character's life being reliant on his being a cyborg, but even then I use his metal bits mostly to explore his dysphoria and identity issues. They're more of a tool for me as a writer than existing for their own purpose (if that makes sense).

    Meanwhile, the thing I started writing because I was like "I should take a break from writing about cyborgs and shit" has ended up more dependent on the sf ideas that ended up in it - plots and characters are defined and propelled by shit like genetic experimentation and mutation and cloning and, well, more bionics because I frankly have a problem. So what happens when Izzy stops writing sci-fi? He writes 'better' sci-fi. By one definition anyway.

    This may have just been a long tangent about the thing I was already thinking about, whoops. Main point, I guess, is that sci-fi is pretty diverse, even within the boundaries set up by 'hard' and 'soft' sci-fi. And we're all going to have different ideas of what's 'real' sf or really 'good' sf. I grew up on Trek and Wars and Gate and Farscape and Babylon5 and Dune and they all kinda melted together in my brain to form my concept of sf, and I don't know if there's a definition of sf that they'd all 'pass' so to speak. But that's sci-fi to me and if it's both good fiction and kinda like some of those things, I'll call it good sci-fi. But I think the good fiction part is the more important thing.
     
    jannert and Aaron DC like this.
  6. Aaron DC
    Offline

    Aaron DC Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2015
    Messages:
    2,554
    Likes Received:
    1,251
    Location:
    At my keyboard
    :rofl:
     
  7. tonguetied
    Offline

    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 23, 2014
    Messages:
    547
    Likes Received:
    219
    Location:
    Near Atlanta
    I think Jack Asher has said it pretty accurately, but I would emphasize that I expect a sci-fi to be based on some scientific concept(s), not just a love triangle for example. If you wander out of the constraints that Jack mentions it can become fantasy. Good Science Fiction is purely objective, IMO.
     
  8. GuardianWynn
    Offline

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,088
    Likes Received:
    671
    I suck at genre stuff. I kind of want to jump on this topic to ask a question. Hope it is not in bad taste. If so just ignore me. lol

    I struggle with what my world is called. It is in the future and stems from people evolving to the point that they gain magic. This causes a world war 3. When the dust settles the world is now only about 5 nations remain. Places like Japan and Korea for example were conquered and now are just states in a greater nation. Nations with there own policy on what they think is needed in a future with magic!

    So? Some people tell me "Oh magic that is fantasy!" But the excerpt from above seems to support this is sci-fi? Or did I miss something? I suck at this. llol
     
  9. Aled James Taylor
    Offline

    Aled James Taylor Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2013
    Messages:
    784
    Likes Received:
    462
    Location:
    UK
    To classify a work as 'science-fiction' is something of a librarians task. "What shelf shall we put this on?" If it has space-ships or ray-guns in it, then the science-fiction shelf would be favorite.

    As for whether a work is good science-fiction or not, I'd ask: Is it meaningful? I suppose you could say the same for any good fiction. Do the events that unfold make a difference to the charterers and ultimately to the reader? When you finish the book and put it down, do you view the world in a new way? Does it make a difference to you, teach you a life-lesson, or give an insight into an aspect of life you previously took for granted, miss-perceived or overlooked? If it does, it's good.
     
  10. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,604
    Likes Received:
    5,877
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    It depends on how you define and describe the magic. If this is people throwing spells and enchantments, it's fantasy. If they biologically evolved ESP and telekinesis it might be sci-fi.
     
  11. Aled James Taylor
    Offline

    Aled James Taylor Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2013
    Messages:
    784
    Likes Received:
    462
    Location:
    UK
    I think the distinction between Science-Fiction and Fantasy is somewhat academic since 'Science-Fiction & Fantasy' is often a single category.

    Technically, anything supernatural would be fantasy, but if it's presented as science that hasn't been discovered yet, you might get away with calling it science-fiction. If you were to think along the lines of hard-sci-fi, you might think: Evolution is based on cause and effect, so the characteristics of those who parent the most children will be most passed on to the next generation. Your local car mechanic is the prime candidate, as he's the one who makes the teenage girls pregnant. (He's called Gary by the way, he's nearly always called Gary.) Gary and his teenage companions are not the brightest or most knowledgeable kids on the block and evolution will make their characteristics increasingly dominant in future generations. What happens when these people get to run your country?
     
    jannert likes this.
  12. Aaron DC
    Offline

    Aaron DC Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2015
    Messages:
    2,554
    Likes Received:
    1,251
    Location:
    At my keyboard
    In keeping with the tone, here's what Philip K. Dick said about this very thing:

    So the answer is a resounding YES! and NO!

    Basically you are placing the book in a metaphorical box and allowing probability waveforms to collapse in the reader's mind as to whether it is fantasy or sci-fi. :D

    Or more simply: the reader decides whether what you describe will ever be possible. If yes it may one day be possible, it's sci-fi. If no, it's impossible, it's fantasy. Completely reader-dependent.

    I like it. Coz, in the end, who cares how other author's judge your writing, yeah? What matters is what your readers think.
     
    jannert and GuardianWynn like this.
  13. GuardianWynn
    Offline

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,088
    Likes Received:
    671
    Doesn't help with the situation of people asking you what genre it is. lol
     
  14. Aaron DC
    Offline

    Aaron DC Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2015
    Messages:
    2,554
    Likes Received:
    1,251
    Location:
    At my keyboard
    Do you, as you read your novel, ever expect what you are writing to happen?
    Yes: sci-fi
    No: fantasy

    I personally never expect magic to happen, so would call it fantasy.
     
    jannert likes this.
  15. GuardianWynn
    Offline

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,088
    Likes Received:
    671
    Will happen? No
    Can happen? Yes

    I make a large point and dedicated a lot of time in effort in to giving the reasons for magic scientific idealisms. Calling magic is almost moot. I call it magic because I expect people would call it magic. Then again. Next centuries technology is this centuries magic right?
     
  16. Aaron DC
    Offline

    Aaron DC Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2015
    Messages:
    2,554
    Likes Received:
    1,251
    Location:
    At my keyboard
    Well depends if people are going to have lightning firing from their fingertips and wands and incantations causing beasts to explode?

    That's what I think of when I see the word, "magic".

    If underneath all that there's a fusion generator plugged into my wand or subdermal energy transmission system, and my words are piped through a voice box control, converting words like Muad'ib to destructive kinetic energy, then, yes, it may look like magic but will decidedly be sci-fi.
     
  17. GuardianWynn
    Offline

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,088
    Likes Received:
    671
    Again I sit in the middle.
    No wands or incantations but also no fusion generators. lol At least most of the time.

    The idea is simply that the human body evolved to the point to be able to mentally control the radiate energy around them. So someone can fire lightning from there finger tips. lol
     
  18. Aaron DC
    Offline

    Aaron DC Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2015
    Messages:
    2,554
    Likes Received:
    1,251
    Location:
    At my keyboard
    If you see this as possible - through evolution - then yeah go for sci-fi.

    In a sense if you're looking for publication, the editor or publisher may make the decision and anything you tell people now is moot.
    I'd probably go with what someone suggested above and say sci-fi/fantasy.
     
    GuardianWynn likes this.
  19. Sack-a-Doo!
    Offline

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2015
    Messages:
    2,231
    Likes Received:
    1,511
    Location:
    [unspecified]
    By that definition, what I write is not science fiction. Good thing I'm doing the whole tongue-in-cheek thing as well. :)
     
  20. Song
    Offline

    Song Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2015
    Messages:
    191
    Likes Received:
    76
    Location:
    Hearts in China, Heads in the UK
    My favourite Sci Fi are the ones that make us question where we are going as human beings. Clockwork Orange, Farenheit 451, 1984 and even Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
     
    Wreybies, Sack-a-Doo! and jannert like this.
  21. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,788
    Likes Received:
    7,302
    Location:
    Scotland
    I'm drawn to these kinds of sci-fi myself. I also like to read the speculative ones based on science—what it would be like to visit or live on a gaseous world, or one that's frozen, or whatever—but the strongest stories I remember are always about 'earth.' They don't usually take place on earth, but they stem from what we do here on earth today.

    Take Bradbury's Martian Chronicles, as an example. Many of the stories are of wonder, and of an alien kind of life we can only imagine and revere. But what happens? Mars gets colonised, the alien life gets wiped out, and Mars becomes Earth Mark Two. Now isn't that exactly what WOULD happen, given our species' history?
     
  22. Song
    Offline

    Song Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2015
    Messages:
    191
    Likes Received:
    76
    Location:
    Hearts in China, Heads in the UK
    Most likely, but before that happens there would be 'free mars' movements and protests and probably people buying products that secretly support the increased colonisation of mars etc. It's great that sci fi gives people the chance to explore other ideas and controversial topics in a safe environment. I love star wars too, but the deep sci fi stories are much more memorable.
     
    jannert likes this.
  23. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,865
    Likes Received:
    10,037
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    Or what it means to be human at all. Octavia Butler, I'm looking at you, dearest, and very fondly indeed. :)
     
    Aaron DC and Steerpike like this.
  24. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,865
    Likes Received:
    10,037
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    Tread lightly, you. My gom jabbar is ever at the ready. :ohno::bigtongue:
     
  25. Song
    Offline

    Song Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2015
    Messages:
    191
    Likes Received:
    76
    Location:
    Hearts in China, Heads in the UK
    The first 3 books were good, then it went a bit nuts.
     

Share This Page