1. Monte Thompson
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    Monte Thompson Member

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    What is SciFi exactly?

    Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by Monte Thompson, Mar 17, 2014.

    If a story begins with the character being sent back in time but then spends the whole book in WWII, is it science fiction? How about stories about love relationships that take place between androids? Suppose the reader doesn't even know they're androids until the last paragraph. Is it Sci-Fi then?

    What makes a story SciFi to you?
     
  2. stevesh
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    stevesh Banned Contributor

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    Yes.

    Yes.

    Yes.

    I like to break science fiction into sub-genres, like space opera and near-future fiction.
     
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  3. outsider
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    outsider Contributing Member Contributor

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    By virtue of the fact that time travel is involved, then it has to be yes.
     
  4. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    So long as some form of advanced, speculative science is involved in the plot, it is science fiction. The only question is if the "science" is so far out there that it might never happen, or never could happen, then it might be (science) fantasy.

    Too many people think SF is robots and spaceships and time travel. It could something as simple as a new disease, or a new genetically modified food source, or a drug that extends human life.
     
  5. outsider
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    outsider Contributing Member Contributor

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    Or something involving science (all of the above) in a fictional story.
    Simple enough criteria.
     
  6. Bjørnar Munkerud
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    Bjørnar Munkerud Contributing Member

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    There are "mixed genres" too. Not every genre refers to the same aspect of a story, and most centrainly aren't mutually exclusive. You could have major fantasy, science fiction, romance and crime influences and call it a science fiction romance crime novel or something like that. You decide what to write, how to write it, what to focus on and what genre to refer to it as, though you will probably end up disagreeing with some readers about the exact genre it is at some point, but that doesn't mean it's bad or that they don't like it or that you were wrong or that you were too unconventional. Also consider terms such as Young Adult which is in many ways more of a target audience than an indicator of what kind of story or plot you've written; and almost every story every has at least some romance in it, but that doesn't mean most fiction novels are romance novels, it merely illustrates that identifying genres is difficult business.
     
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  7. AJC
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    AJC Active Member

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    I would call a story scifi if it includes some new technology or science concept that dominates the story. Anything that involves time travel is scifi by that definition.
     
  8. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    It doesn't matter what the characters do, if your story relies or includes technology or events that have not yet been invented or happened, then it is SF. If your story deals with historical events that happen differently from the history books, that is alternate history and is usually also considered SF. If the events are unlikely ever to happen, such as a nation of Elves, then most likely it is fantasy. Highly unlikely technology might be Science Fantasy.
     
  9. Storysmith
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    Storysmith Member

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    I wouldn't say that time travel always makes a story SF. If the time travel was achieved by casting a spell, for example, it would be fantasy.
     
  10. AJC
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    AJC Active Member

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    Good point, Storysmith. Yes, the method does make a difference.
     
  11. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    Sci-fi is fantasy that has made an attempt to be real.
     
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  12. Bryan Romer
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    Magic by definition cannot be explained or ever duplicated by science, otherwise it is just very advanced science. If you introduce magic at all, then your story is fantasy, even if everyone is in a spaceship.
     
  13. Smoke Z
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    Smoke Z Active Member

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    There is hard scifi, which deals with math or scientific in-jokes... might be enjoyable to the common nerd. I would think that for a time-travel story to go into soft scifi territory, they would have to try and explain how it happens. Doctor who is soft scifi because they do try to explain, or say that there is a reason but it's too complicated to explain.
     
  14. vera2014
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    Neuromancer is very Sci-Fi to me.
     
  15. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    I haven't read the book, but from summaries on the Net, I would think it is. No one mentions real Magic. None of the characters can simply recite a spell and cause something to happen that does NOT involve the cyber world. Everything happens because of advanced science or in someone's mind and perceptions.

    For instance, if Captain Kirk set up a Dungeons and Dragons scenario in the Holodeck and is able to throw lightning bolts from his fingers as a result, that is not magic or fantasy. It is science, and the story is still SF.

    If, on the other hand, someone finds a Grimoire in the street, reads it and is able to summon demons, that is fantasy, even if the character also surfs the Net with a tablet computer.
     
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  16. Caeben
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    Caeben Member

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    So what's Shadowrun? Sci-fi or fantasy or science fantasy?
     
  17. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Most likely science fantasy. (I'm a fan of Shadowrun by the way. Have all the books.)
    It is fantasy (wizards, dragons, elves, etc) with the trappings of science (the elves use guns and computers). Just as Christopher Stasheff's "Warlock" series is SF dressed up to look like Fantasy.
     
  18. Terry D
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    Terry D Active Member

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    Just having an element of science in a story does not make the book science fiction any more than Paul's love for Chani makes Dune a romance. The plot of the book must be directly driven by the fictional technology to qualify a book as science fiction. It doesn't have to be plausible (hard-SF), but it must be more than a gimmick to get character 'A' to situation 'B'.
     
  19. fmmarcy
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    fmmarcy Member

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    Science fiction introduces a scientific technology or idea (plausible, or implausible, either works) and then examines new ways in which human nature can be revealed and probed through people interacting with that technology or the situations that technology allows. To use Dune as an example, since it was just mentioned, the technology in Dune is not simply used for cool factor or as a plot advancing gimmick, but rather uses the technologies to examine a situation where an advanced interstellar society has ended up returning back to a system of society very much dependent on royalty and aristocracy for order. Also, the technology (particularly lasers) fundamentally changes the nature of warfare and Dune's environment and lack of water has fascinating implications.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2014
  20. Aled James Taylor
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    Aled James Taylor Contributing Member Contributor

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    For me, science-fiction includes science or technology that we do not currently possess and this forms an integral part of the story. But this definition may result in some anomalies. Suppose you have a story about astronauts who visit the international space station. It would be difficult to think of such a story as anything other than science-fiction, even though the science and technology would be current and factual.

    The Wikipedia definition of science-fiction can be found here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_fiction
     
  21. Caeben
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    Fair enough. I tend to consider it closer to sci-fi, whereas Warhammer 40K clearly falls at the extreme end of the science fantasy spectrum.

    Some people wouldn't find it that difficult. There is a clique - not a large group per se, but one that can be boisterous - that believes that science fiction can only be about "hard" science, about real science, and that anything outside of that is pure fantasy. I don't agree with that sentiment, but some do.
     
  22. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    The Hard SF approach is very limiting. SF used to be called "Speculative Fiction" by some people, and I like to think of it that way. Based upon what you already know, you can extrapolate a possible future. The further that future is away from today, the more extrapolation is involved and naturally the more possibilities for error come into play, but the more possibilities for discovery and invention there are too. But that does not make it fantasy, so long as you can demonstrate a logical chain of thought that led to the results. Hard SF would limit the forecasting to just a few years or even less of extrapolation. Basically cutting edge brought mainstream.

    Which brings me back to WH40K. The designers of the WH40k universe have put a lot of work and thought into it. Although it all looks garish and chaotic, all of it is backed up by a logical "what if". The Space Marines are the result of intense genetic engineering. The Orks are also a "created" race, biological ware machines, while the creators themselves have been lost in history. The religious aspects were deliberately introduced by the Emperor to create a cult of loyalty. The "demons" are explained as an alien race living on the other side of a dimensional gate. And so forth.

    So yes, they push it, but not as much as it might first appear. They don't have creatures that came out of Earth mythology such as Elves, or real Magic which is neither advanced science or psychic phenomenon. The basic premise of the Shadowrun universe on the other hand, was that Magic (as in the kind Merlin used) suddenly "returned" to the world, coexisting with modern science, so fantasy is the very basis of the Shadowrun concept.
     
  23. Daba
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    Daba Member

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    The thing about science fiction is that the "science" part must be crucial for the story itself. Why is a story set in an SF universe? Does it have to be SF? If someone writes about android love, the fact that they are androids must be critical for those characters and plot development, otherwise he could have written about two asocial teenagers falling in love and running away from home. It doesn't have to be hard SF, a writer doesn't need to be Asimov or Clark in order to write SF, but if he is writing about spaceships and lasers, he needs to prove that the only way that story can be told is with spaceships and lasers. Just my 2 cents.

    Oh, and hello everyone :oops:
     
  24. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    If nothing else, we see that the realm of Science Fiction is sufficiently large to include numerous definitions that describe some publications tagged as Sci-Fi, but invariably not all publications tagged as Sci-Fi.

    I don't think Science Fiction should be defined by the "Science" part of it so much as the "Science" must be present as a plot-driver or critical element in the story, and I most assuredly do not ascribe to the idea that a story must somehow prove itself tellable only in the given genre. To me, the Science bit means only that the story must refrain from entering into realms of Magic, for that is the land of Fantasy. Dune doesn't rely on its Science to be a tellable story. That story is all about resource allocation, which is told every night on the 6:00 pm national news. Herbert's other contemporaneously written series, the Voidship books, is also about resource allocation. In both of those series, the resources are both traditional (food, water, drugs) and more abstract (technology, knowledge, personal and civil rights). It's not about what happens when people can't use lasers because personal shields turn into thermonuclear bombs when hit by them, unless one is referring only to the godawful bastard of a film made by Lynch.

    For me, Science Fiction is a genre wherein a certain aspect of the human condition is magnified out of proportion to reality, stays away from realms of magic and sorcery, thus is forced to expand into a plausible future wherein this aspect of the human condition, now magnified, may be focused upon and considered in a fashion and at a magnification not afforded by a more pedestrian, real-world story.
     
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  25. Daba
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    I did not actually mean science part as in mathematical equations and physics formulae :)

    Everything you've said about Dune places it's story exactly where it belongs: SF. No matter how much other genre novels involve politics, economy and social questions, they are not talking about the future. They are not talking about what can happen and what humanity may become. What we may evolve into. Look at Zelazny's Lord of light or Creatures of light and darkness. On the surface they are more magical than scientific, but it's scifi and it can't be anything other than scifi. Do androids dream of electric sheep? Could that story have it's effect if it wasn't about androids...and electric sheep :)Because of the way it's written, because of what the writers were trying to tell us. They hold to the genre not without a reason. It's a genre where anything that is not improbable goes, but it needs to have a purpose for being there.

    Otherwise, why write it as SF?

    P.S. What Herbert was writing about in 1965 the 06:00pm news are talking about today :)
    That's SF.
     

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