Science fiction (often shortened to Sci-Fi or SF) is a genre of speculative fiction, typically dealing with imaginative concepts such as advanced science and technology, space exploration, time travel, and extraterrestrial life. Science fiction often explores the potential consequences of scientific and other innovations, and has been called a "literature of ideas".
Spelculative fiction and fatasy novels have a long tradition which goes back historically at least a century to Jules Verne and H. G. Welles. "Science fiction" is difficult to define, as it includes a wide range of subgenres and themes such as space travel, time travel, speculative social issues and feminism, artificial intelligence and genetic enhancement. James Blish wrote: "Wells used the term originally to cover what we would today call ‘hard’ science fiction, in which a conscientious attempt to be faithful to already known facts (as of the date of writing) was the substrate on which the story was to be built, and if the story was also to contain a miracle, it ought at least not to contain a whole arsenal of them."
Isaac Asimov said: "Science fiction can be defined as that branch of literature which deals with the reaction of human beings to changes in science and technology." According to 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."
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." Author and editor Damon Knight summed up the difficulty, saying "science fiction is what we point to when we say it", while author Mark C. Glassy argues that the definition of science fiction is like the definition of pornography: you do not know what it is, but you know it when you see it.
Science fiction had its beginnings in the time when the line between myth and fact was blurred. Written in the 2nd century AD by the Hellenized Syrian satirist Lucian, A True Story contains many themes and tropes that are characteristic of modern science fiction, including travel to other worlds, extraterrestrial lifeforms, interplanetary warfare, and artificial life. Some consider it the first science fiction novel. Some of the stories from The Arabian Nights, along with the 10th century The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter and Ibn al-Nafis's 13th century Theologus Autodidactus also contain elements of science fiction.
Products of the Age of Reason and the development of modern science itself, Johannes Kepler's Somnium (1634), Francis Bacon's The New Atlantis (1627), Cyrano de Bergerac's Comical History of the States and Empires of the Moon (1657) and The States and Empires of the Sun (1662), Margaret Cavendish's "The Blazing World" (1666), Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726), Ludvig Holberg's novel Nicolai Klimii Iter Subterraneum (1741) and Voltaire's Micromégas (1752) are some of the first true science fantasy works. Isaac Asimov and Carl Sagan considered Somnium the first science fiction story. It depicts a journey to the Moon and how the Earth's motion is seen from there.
Following the 18th-century development of the novel as a literary form, Mary Shelley's books Frankenstein (1818) and The Last Man (1826) helped define the form of the science fiction novel. Brian Aldiss has argued that Frankenstein was the first work of science fiction. Edgar Allan Poe wrote several stories considered science fiction, including one about a trip to the Moon. Jules Verne was noted for his attention to detail and scientific accuracy, especially Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870) which predicted the modern nuclear submarine. In 1887 the novel El anacronópete by Spanish author Enrique Gaspar y Rimbau introduced the first time machine.
Many critics consider H. G. Wells one of science fiction's most important authors, or even "the Shakespeare of science fiction". His notable science fiction works include The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), and The War of the Worlds (1898). His science fiction imagined alien invasion, biological engineering, invisibility, and time travel. In his non-fiction futurologist works he predicted the advent of airplanes, military tanks, nuclear weapons, satellite television, space travel, and something resembling the World Wide Web.
By 'scientifiction' I mean the Jules Verne, H. G. Wells and Edgar Allan Poe type of story—a charming romance intermingled with scientific fact and prophetic vision... Not only do these amazing tales make tremendously interesting reading—they are always instructive. They supply knowledge... in a very palatable form... New adventures pictured for us in the scientifiction of today are not at all impossible of realization tomorrow... Many great science stories destined to be of historical interest are still to be written... Posterity will point to them as having blazed a new trail, not only in literature and fiction, but progress as well.
In 1928 E. E. "Doc" Smith’s first published work, The Skylark of Space written in collaboration with Lee Hawkins Garby, appeared in Amazing Stories. It is often called the first great space opera. In 1928 Philip Francis Nowlan's original Buck Rogers story, Armageddon 2419, appeared in Amazing Stories. This was followed by a Buck Rogers comic strip, the first serious science fiction comic.
In 1937 John W. Campbell became editor of Astounding Science Fiction, an event which is sometimes considered the beginning of the Golden Age of Science Fiction characterized by stories celebrating scientific achievement and progress. In 1942, Isaac Asimov started his Foundation series, which chronicles the rise and fall of galactic empires and introduced psychohistory. The "Golden Age" is often said to have ended in 1946, but sometimes the late 1940s and the 1950s are included.
In 1949 George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four was an important example of dystopian science fiction. Theodore Sturgeon’s 1953 novel More Than Human explored possible future human evolution. In 1957 Andromeda: A Space-Age Tale by the Russian writer and paleontologist Ivan Yefremov presented a view of a future interstellar communist civilization and is considered one of the most important Soviet science fiction novels. In 1959 Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers marked a departure from his earlier juvenile stories and novels. It is one of the first and most influential examples of military science fiction, and introduced the concept of powered armor exoskeletons. The German space opera series Perry Rhodan, by various authors, started in 1961 with an account of the first Moon landing and has since expanded to the entire Universe and billions of years; becoming the most popular science fiction book series of all time.
In the 1960s and 1970s New Wave science fiction was known for its embrace of a high degree of experimentation, both in form and in content, and a highbrow and self-consciously "literary" or artistic sensibility. In 1961 Solaris by Stanisław Lem was published in Poland. The novel dealt with the theme of human limitations as its characters attempted to study a seemingly intelligent ocean on a newly discovered planet. 1965's Dune by Frank Herbert featured a much more complex and detailed imagined future society than had been common in science fiction before. In 1968 Philip K. Dick’s best-known novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was published. It is the literary source of the film Blade Runner. 1969's The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin was set on a planet in which the inhabitants have no fixed gender. It is one of the most influential examples of social science fiction, feminist science fiction, and anthropological science fiction.
In 1976 C. J. Cherryh published Gate of Ivrel and Brothers of Earth, which began her Alliance-Union universe future history series. In 1979 Science Fiction World began publication in the People's Republic of China. It dominates the Chinese science fiction magazine market, at one time claiming a circulation of 300,000 copies per issue, with an estimate of 3–5 readers per copy (giving it a total readership of at least 1 million) making it the world's most popular science fiction periodical.
In 1984 William Gibson’s first novel Neuromancer helped popularize cyberpunk, and the word "cyberspace" – a term he coined in his 1982 short story Burning Chrome. In 1986 Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold began her Vorkosigan Saga. 1992's Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson predicted immense social upheaval due to the information revolution. In 2007 Liu Cixin's novel, The Three-Body Problem, was published in China. It was translated into English by Ken Liu and published by Tor Books in 2014, and won the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novel. Liu was the first Asian writer to win "Best Novel."
Emerging themes in late Twentieth and early Twenty-first century science fiction include environmental issues, the implications of the global Internet and the expanding information universe, questions about biotechnology and nanotechnology, as well as a post-Cold War interest in post-scarcity societies. Recent trends and sub-genres include steampunk, biopunk, and mundane science fiction.
The first known science fiction film is 1902's A Trip to the Moon, directed by French filmmaker Georges Méliès. It was profoundly influential on later filmmakers, bringing creativity to the cinematic medium and offering fantasy for pure entertainment, a rare goal in film at the time. In addition, Méliès's innovative editing and special effects techniques were widely imitated and became important elements of the medium. The film also spurred on the development of cinematic science fiction and fantasy by demonstrating that scientific themes worked on the screen and that reality could be transformed by the camera.
In 1954 Godzilla, directed by Ishirō Honda, began the kaiju subgenre of science fiction film, which feature large creatures of any form, usually attacking a major city or engaging other monsters in battle.
1968's 2001: A Space Odyssey, directed by Stanley Kubrick and based on the work of Arthur C. Clarke, rose above the mostly B-movie offerings up to that time in scope and quality and greatly influenced later science fiction films. That same year Planet of the Apes, directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and based on the 1963 French novel La Planète des Singes by Pierre Boulle, was also popular and critically acclaimed for its vivid depiction of a post-apocalyptic world in which intelligent apes dominate humans.
In 1977 George Lucas began the Star Wars film series with the film now identified as "Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope". The series went on to become a worldwide popular culture phenomenon, and the third highest-grossing film series. From the 1980s science fiction films along with fantasy, horror, and superhero films have dominated Hollywood's big-budget productions. Science fiction films often "crossover" with other genres including animation (WALL-E), gangster (Sky Racket), Western (Serenity), comedy (Spaceballs), war (Enemy Mine), sports (Rollerball), mystery (Minority Report), film noir (Blade Runner), and romantic comedy (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). Science fiction action films feature science fiction elements weaved into action film premises.
Science fiction and television have always had a close relationship. Television or television-like technologies frequently appeared in science fiction long before television itself became widely available in the late 1940s and early 1950s; perhaps most famously in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. The first known science fiction television program was produced by the BBC's pre-war BBC Television service. On 11 February 1938 a thirty-five-minute adapted extract of the play RUR, written by the Czech playwright Karel Čapek, was broadcast live from the BBC's Alexandra Palace studios. The first popular science fiction program on American television was the children's adventure serial Captain Video and His Video Rangers, which ran from June 1949 to April 1955.
The Twilight Zone, produced and narrated by Rod Serling, who also wrote or co-wrote most of the episodes, ran from 1959 to 1964. It featured fantasy and horror as well as science fiction, with each episode being a complete story. Critics have ranked it as one of the best TV programs of any genre. The Jetsons, while intended as comedy and only running for one season (1962–1963), predicted many inventions now in common use: flatscreen television, newspapers on a computer-like screen, computer viruses, video chat, tanning beds, home treadmills and more.
In 1963 the time travel themed Doctor Who premiered on BBC Television. The original series ran until 1989 and was revived in 2005. It has been extremely popular worldwide and has greatly influenced later TV science fiction programs, as well as popular culture. Star Trek, produced by Gene Roddenberry, premiered in 1966 on NBC Television and ran through the 1969 season. It combined elements of space opera and space Western. Although only mildly successful it gained popularity through later syndication and eventually spawned a very popular and influential franchise through films, later programs, and novels; as well as by intense fan interest. Other programs in the 1960s included The Prisoner, The Outer Limits, and Lost in Space.
In 1987 Star Trek: The Next Generation began a torrent of new shows, including three further Star Trek continuation shows (Deep Space 9, Voyager and Enterprise) and Babylon 5. Red Dwarf, a comic science fiction series aired on BBC Two between 1988 and 1999, and on Dave since 2009, gaining a cult following. To date, eleven full series of the show plus one "special" miniseries have aired. The latest series, dubbed Red Dwarf XII, started airing in October 2017. The X-Files, which featured UFOs and conspiracy theories, was created by Chris Carter and broadcast by Fox Broadcasting Company from 1993 to 2002. Stargate, a film about ancient astronauts and interstellar teleportation, was released in 1994. Stargate SG-1 premiered in 1997 and ran for 10 seasons. Spin-off series included Stargate Infinity, Stargate Atlantis, and Stargate Universe.
Science fiction's great rise in popularity during the first half of the twentieth century was closely tied to the respect paid to science at that time, as well as the rapid pace of technological innovation and new inventions. Science fiction has almost always predicted scientific and technological progress. Some works predict this leading to improvements in life and society, for instance the stories of Arthur C. Clarke and the Star Trek series. While others warn about possible negative consequences, for instance H.G. Wells' The Time Machine and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.
Brian Aldiss described science fiction as "cultural wallpaper." Evidence for this widespread influence can be found in a trend for academic researchers to employ science fiction as a tool for advocacy, generating cultural insights, and assisting teaching and learning across a range of academic disciplines not limited to the natural sciences.
The National Science Foundation 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." Carl Sagan wrote: "Many scientists deeply involved in the exploration of the solar system (myself among them) were first turned in that direction by science fiction. And the fact that some of that science fiction was not of the highest quality is irrelevant. Ten year‐olds do not read the scientific literature".
Science fiction is often said to generate a "sense of wonder." Science fiction editor and critic David Hartwell writes: "Science fiction’s appeal lies in combination of the rational, the believable, with the miraculous. It is an appeal to the sense of wonder." Carl Sagan said: "One of the great benefits of science fiction is that it can convey bits and pieces, hints and phrases, of knowledge unknown or inaccessible to the reader ... works you ponder over as the water is running out of the bathtub or as you walk through the woods in an early winter snowfall." Isaac Asimov in 1967 commenting on the changes then occurring in SF wrote: "And because today’s real life so resembles day-before-yesterday’s fantasy, the old-time fans are restless. Deep within, whether they admit it or not, is a feeling of disappointment and even outrage that the outer world has invaded their private domain. They feel the loss of a 'sense of wonder' because what was once truly confined to 'wonder' has now become prosaic and mundane."
Science fiction has sometimes been used as a means of social protest. James Cameron’s film Avatar was intended as a protest against imperialism, and specifically against the European colonization of the Americas. Its images were used by, among others, Palestinians in their protest against Israel.
Robots, artificial humans, human clones, intelligent computers, and their possible conflicts with humans has been a major theme of science fiction since the publication of Frankenstein. Some critics have seen this as reflecting authors’ concerns over the social alienation seen in modern society.
Feminist science fiction poses questions about social issues such as how society constructs gender roles, the role reproduction plays in defining gender and the unequal political and personal power of men over women. Some of the most notable feminist science fiction works have illustrated these themes using utopias to explore a society in which gender differences or gender power imbalances do not exist, or dystopias to explore worlds in which gender inequalities are intensified, thus asserting a need for feminist work to continue.
Libertarian science fiction focuses on the politics and the social order implied by right libertarian philosophies with an emphasis on individualism and private property, and in some cases anti-statism.
Climate fiction, or "cli-fi" deals with issues concerning climate change and global warming. University courses on literature and environmental issues may include climate change fiction in their syllabi, as well as it being discussed by the media, outside of SF fandom.
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 study science fiction 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.
Scholar and science fiction critic George Edgar Slusser said that science fiction "is the one real international literary form we have today, and as such has branched out to visual media, interactive media and on to whatever new media the world will invent in the 21st century... crossover issues between the sciences and the humanities are crucial for the century to come."
Science Fiction has historically been sub-divided between hard science fiction and soft science fiction – with the division centering on the feasibility of the science central to the story. However, this distinction has come under increasing scrutiny in the 21st century. Authors including Tade Thompson and Jeff VanderMeer have pointed out that stories that focus explicitly on physics, astronomy, mathematics, and engineering tend to be considered "hard", while stories that focus on botany, mycology, zoology or the social sciences tend to be categorized as, "soft," regardless of the relative rigor of the science.
Max Gladstone defined hard SF as being, "SF where the math works," but pointed out that this ends up with stories that seem, "weirdly dated," as scientific paradigms shift over time. Aliette de Bodard argued that there was a risk in the categorization that authors' work would be dismissed as not being, "proper," SF. Michael Swanwick dismissed the traditional definition of hard SF altogether, instead saying that it was defined by characters striving to solve problems, "in the right way – with determination, a touch of stoicism, and the consciousness that the universe is not on his or her side."
Ursula K. Leguin took a more traditional view on the difference between "hard" and "soft" SF but arrived at a divergent value-judgment from the one implied by de Bodard, saying, "The "hard" science fiction writers dismiss everything except, well, physics, astronomy, and maybe chemistry. Biology, sociology, anthropology—that's not science to them, that's soft stuff. They're not that interested in what human beings do, really. But I am. I draw on the social sciences a great deal."
Respected authors of main-stream literature have written science fiction. Mary Shelley wrote a number of science fiction novels including Frankenstein, and is considered a major writer of the Romantic Age. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932) is often listed as one of England's most important novels, both for its criticism of modern culture and its prediction of future trends including reproductive technology and social engineering. Doris Lessing, who was later awarded the Nobel Prize in literature, wrote a series of SF novels, Canopus in Argos, which depict the efforts of more advanced species and civilizations to influence those less advanced including humans on Earth. Kurt Vonnegut was a highly respected American author whose works contain science fiction premises or themes. Science fiction authors whose works are considered to be serious literature include Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke (especially for Childhood's End), and Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger, writing under the name Cordwainer Smith.
In her much reprinted essay "Science Fiction and Mrs Brown," Ursula K. Le Guin first asks: "Can a science fiction writer write a novel?"; and answers: "I believe that all novels, ... deal with character, and that it is to express character – not to preach doctrines, sing songs, or celebrate the glories of the British Empire, that the form of the novel, so clumsy, verbose, and undramatic, so rich, elastic, and alive, has been evolved ... The great novelists have brought us to see whatever they wish us to see through some character. Otherwise they would not be novelists, but poets, historians, or pamphleteers."
Tom Shippey asks: "What is its relationship to fantasy fiction, is its readership still dominated by male adolescents, is it a taste which will appeal to the mature but non-eccentric literary mind?" He compares George Orwell's Coming Up for Air with Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth's The Space Merchants and concludes that the basic building block and distinguishing feature of a science fiction novel is the presence of the novum, a term Darko Suvin adapts from Ernst Bloch and defines as "a discrete piece of information recognizable as not-true, but also as not-unlike-true, not-flatly- (and in the current state of knowledge) impossible."
Orson Scott Card, best known for his 1985 science fiction novel Ender's Game and also an author of non-SF fiction, has postulated that in science fiction the message and intellectual significance of the work is contained within the story itself and, therefore, there need not be stylistic gimmicks or literary games; but that some writers and critics confuse clarity of language with lack of artistic merit. In Card's words: "...a great many writers and critics have based their entire careers on the premise that anything that the general public can understand without mediation is worthless drivel. [...] If everybody came to agree that stories should be told this clearly, the professors of literature would be out of a job, and the writers of obscure, encoded fiction would be, not honored, but pitied for their impenetrability."
Science fiction author and physicist Gregory Benford has declared that: "SF is perhaps the defining genre of the twentieth century, although its conquering armies are still camped outside the Rome of the literary citadels." Jonathan Lethem in an essay published in the Village Voice entitled "Close Encounters: The Squandered Promise of Science Fiction" suggests that the point in 1973 when Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow was nominated for the Nebula Award and was passed over in favor of Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama stands as "a hidden tombstone marking the death of the hope that SF was about to merge with the mainstream." Among the responses to Lethem was one from the editor of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction who asked: "When is it [the SF genre] ever going to realize it can't win the game of trying to impress the mainstream?"
David Barnett has remarked: "The ongoing, endless war between "literary" fiction and "genre" fiction has well-defined lines in the sand. Genre's foot soldiers think that literary fiction is a collection of meaningless but prettily drawn pictures of the human condition. The literary guard consider genre fiction to be crass, commercial, whizz-bang potboilers. Or so it goes." He has also pointed out that there are books such as The Road by Cormac McCarthy, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway, The Stone Gods by Jeanette Winterson and Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, which use recognizable science fiction tropes, but whose authors and publishers do not market them as science fiction.
Science fiction is being written worldwide by a diverse population of authors. According to 2013 statistics by the science fiction publisher Tor Books, men outnumber women by 78% to 22% among submissions to the publisher. A controversy about voting slates in the 2015 Hugo Awards highlighted tensions in the science fiction community between a trend of increasingly diverse works and authors being honored by awards, and a backlash by groups of authors and fans who preferred what they considered more traditional science fiction.
Among the most respected awards for science fiction are the Hugo Award, presented by the World Science Fiction Society at Worldcon; the Nebula Award, presented by the SFWA and voted on by the community of authors; and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for short fiction. One notable award for science fiction films is the Saturn Award. It is presented annually by The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films.
There are national awards, like Canada's Prix Aurora Awards, regional awards, like the Endeavour Award presented at Orycon for works from the Pacific Northwest, special interest or subgenre awards like the Chesley Award for art or the World Fantasy Award for fantasy. Magazines may organize reader polls, notably the Locus Award.
Conventions (in fandom, shortened as "cons"), are held in cities around the world, catering to a local, regional, national, or international membership. General-interest conventions cover all aspects of science fiction, while others focus on a particular interest like media fandom, filking, etc. Most are organized by volunteers in non-profit groups, though most media-oriented events are organized by commercial promoters. The convention's activities are called the program, which may include panel discussions, readings, autograph sessions, costume masquerades, and other events. Activities occur throughout the convention that are not part of the program. These commonly include a dealer's room, art show, and hospitality lounge (or "con suites").
Conventions may host award ceremonies; Worldcons present the Hugo Awards each year. SF societies, referred to as "clubs" except in formal contexts, form a year-round base of activities for science fiction fans. They may be associated with an ongoing science fiction convention, or have regular club meetings, or both. Most groups meet in libraries, schools and universities, community centers, pubs or restaurants, or the homes of individual members. Long-established groups like the New England Science Fiction Association and the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society have clubhouses for meetings and storage of convention supplies and research materials. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) was founded by Damon Knight in 1965 as a non-profit organization to serve the community of professional science fiction authors,
Science fiction fandom is the "community of the literature of ideas... the culture in which new ideas emerge and grow before being released into society at large." Members of this community, "fans", are in contact with each other at conventions or clubs, through print or online fanzines, or on the Internet using web sites, mailing lists, and other resources. SF fandom emerged from the letters column in Amazing Stories magazine. Soon fans began writing letters to each other, and then grouping their comments together in informal publications that became known as fanzines. Once they were in regular contact, fans wanted to meet each other, and they organized local clubs. In the 1930s, the first science fiction conventions gathered fans from a wider area.
The first science fiction fanzine, The Comet, was published in 1930. Fanzine printing methods have changed over the decades, from the hectograph, the mimeograph, and the ditto machine, to modern photocopying. Distribution volumes rarely justify the cost of commercial printing. Modern fanzines are printed on computer printers or at local copy shops, or they may only be sent as email. The best known fanzine (or "'zine") today is Ansible, edited by David Langford, winner of numerous Hugo awards. Other fanzines to win awards in recent years include File 770, Mimosa, and Plokta.
Artists working for fanzines have risen to prominence in the field, including Brad W. Foster, Teddy Harvia, and Joe Mayhew; the Hugos include a category for Best Fan Artists. The earliest organized fandom online was the SF Lovers community, originally a mailing list in the late 1970s with a text archive file that was updated regularly. In the 1980s, Usenet groups greatly expanded the circle of fans online. In the 1990s, the development of the World-Wide Web exploded the community of online fandom by orders of magnitude, with thousands and then literally millions of web sites devoted to science fiction and related genres for all media. Most such sites are small, ephemeral, and/or very narrowly focused, though sites like SF Site and SFcrowsnest offer a broad range of references and reviews about science fiction.
Science fiction elements can include:
Forrest J Ackerman is credited with first using the term "Sci-Fi" (analogous to the then-trendy "hi-fi") 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 Knight and Terry Carr were using sci-fi to distinguish hack-work from serious science fiction. Peter Nicholls writes that "SF" (or "sf") is "the preferred abbreviation within the community of sf writers and readers". Robert Heinlein found even "science fiction" insufficient and suggested the term speculative fiction to be used instead, which has continued to be applied to "serious" or "thoughtful" science fiction.
CJ Cherryh will be the guest of honor at LOSCON 14, this year's annual convention for Los Angeles-area science fiction and fantasy fans.
I’d had a similar reaction to yours when I’d first read The Origin of Consciousness and the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, and that, combined with the desire to use IT, were two elements from which Snow Crash grew.
The series had lots of interesting devices that marveled us back in the 60s. In episode one, we see wife Jane doing exercises in front of a flatscreen television. In another episode, we see George Jetson reading the newspaper on a screen. Can anyone say computer? In another, Boss Spacely tells George to fix something called a "computer virus." Everyone on the show uses video chat, foreshadowing Skype and Face Time. There is a robot vacuum cleaner, foretelling the 2002 arrival of the iRobot Roomba vacuum. There was also a tanning bed used in an episode, a product that wasn't introduced to North America until 1979. And while flying space cars that have yet to land in our lives, the Jetsons show had moving sidewalks like we now have in airports, treadmills that didn't hit the consumer market until 1969, and they had a repairman who had a piece of technology called... Mac.
[Doctor Who] is as thrilling and as loved as Jolene, or bread and cheese, or honeysuckle, or Friday. It's quintessential to being British.
Alien is a 1979 science fiction horror film directed by Ridley Scott and written by Dan O'Bannon. Based on a story by O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett, it follows the crew of the commercial space tug Nostromo who encounter the eponymous Alien, a deadly and aggressive extraterrestrial set loose on the ship. The film stars Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, and Yaphet Kotto. It was produced by Gordon Carroll, David Giler and Walter Hill through their company Brandywine Productions, and was distributed by 20th Century Fox. Giler and Hill revised and made additions to the script; Shusett was executive producer. The Alien and its accompanying artifacts were designed by the Swiss artist H. R. Giger, while concept artists Ron Cobb and Chris Foss designed the more human settings.
Alien was released on May 25, 1979 in the United States and September 6 in the United Kingdom. It was met with critical acclaim and box office success, winning the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, three Saturn Awards (Best Science Fiction Film, Best Direction for Scott, and Best Supporting Actress for Cartwright), and a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, along with numerous other nominations. It has been consistently praised in the years since its release, and is considered one of the greatest films of all time. In 2002, Alien was deemed "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. In 2008, it was ranked by the American Film Institute as the seventh-best film in the science fiction genre, and as the thirty-third greatest film of all time by Empire magazine.The success of Alien spawned a media franchise of films, novels, comic books, video games, and toys. It also launched Weaver's acting career, providing her with her first lead role. The story of her character's encounters with the Alien creatures became the thematic and narrative core of the sequels Aliens (1986), Alien 3 (1992) and Alien Resurrection (1997). A crossover with the Predator franchise produced the Alien vs. Predator films, which includes Alien vs. Predator (2004) and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007). A prequel series includes Prometheus (2012) and Alien: Covenant (2017).Black Mirror
Black Mirror is a British anthology science fiction television series created by Charlie Brooker, with Brooker and Annabel Jones serving as the programme showrunners. It examines modern society, particularly with regard to the unanticipated consequences of new technologies. Episodes are standalone, usually set in an alternative present or the near future, often with a dark and satirical tone, though some are more experimental and lighter.
Black Mirror was inspired by older anthology series like The Twilight Zone, which were able to deal with controversial, contemporary topics without fear of censorship. Brooker developed Black Mirror to highlight topics related to humanity's relationship to technology, creating stories that feature "the way we live now – and the way we might be living in 10 minutes' time if we're clumsy."
The series premiered for two series on the British television channel Channel 4 in December 2011 and February 2013, respectively. After its addition to the catalogue in December 2014, Netflix purchased the programme in September 2015. It commissioned a series of 12 episodes later divided into the third and fourth series, each six episodes; the former was released on 21 October 2016 and the latter on 29 December 2017. A fifth series was announced on 5 March 2018. A standalone interactive film titled Black Mirror: Bandersnatch was released on 28 December 2018.
The series has garnered positive reception from critics, received many awards and nominations, and seen an increase in interest internationally, particularly in the United States after its addition to Netflix. Two episodes, "San Junipero" (from the third series) and "USS Callister" (fourth series), won a total of six Emmy Awards, with both episodes winning Outstanding Television Movie.Cyberpunk
Cyberpunk is a subgenre of science fiction in a futuristic setting that tends to focus on a "combination of lowlife and high tech" featuring advanced technological and scientific achievements, such as artificial intelligence and cybernetics, juxtaposed with a degree of breakdown or radical change in the social order.Much of cyberpunk is rooted in the New Wave science fiction movement of the 1960s and 1970s, when writers like Philip K. Dick, Roger Zelazny, J. G. Ballard, Philip José Farmer and Harlan Ellison examined the impact of drug culture, technology and the sexual revolution while avoiding the utopian tendencies of earlier science fiction. Released in 1984, William Gibson's influential debut novel Neuromancer would help solidify cyberpunk as a genre, drawing influence from punk subculture and early hacker culture. Other influential cyberpunk writers included Bruce Sterling and Rudy Rucker. The Japanese cyberpunk subgenre began in 1982 with the debut of Katsuhiro Otomo's manga series Akira, with its 1988 anime film adaptation later popularizing the subgenre.
Early films in the genre include Ridley Scott's 1982 film Blade Runner, one of several of Philip K. Dick's works that have been adapted into films. The films Johnny Mnemonic and New Rose Hotel, both based upon short stories by William Gibson, flopped commercially and critically. More recent additions to this genre of filmmaking include the 2017 release of Blade Runner 2049, sequel to the original 1982 film, the 2018 body horror film Upgrade, and the 2018 Netflix TV series Altered Carbon.Doctor Who
Doctor Who is a British science fiction television programme produced by the BBC since 1963. The programme depicts the adventures of a Time Lord called "the Doctor", an extraterrestrial being, to all appearances human, from the planet Gallifrey. The Doctor explores the universe in a time-travelling space ship called the TARDIS. Its exterior appears as a blue British police box, which was a common sight in Britain in 1963 when the series first aired. Accompanied by a number of companions, the Doctor combats a variety of foes while working to save civilisations and help people in need.
The show is a significant part of British popular culture, and elsewhere it has gained a cult following. It has influenced generations of British television professionals, many of whom grew up watching the series. The programme originally ran from 1963 to 1989. There was an unsuccessful attempt to revive regular production in 1996 with a backdoor pilot, in the form of a television film titled Doctor Who. The programme was relaunched in 2005, and since then has been produced in-house by BBC Wales in Cardiff. Doctor Who has also spawned numerous spin-offs, including comic books, films, novels, audio dramas, and the television series Torchwood (2006–2011), The Sarah Jane Adventures (2007–2011), K-9 (2009–2010), and Class (2016), and has been the subject of many parodies and references in popular culture.
Thirteen actors have headlined the series as the Doctor. The transition from one actor to another is written into the plot of the show with the concept of regeneration into a new incarnation, a plot device in which a Time Lord "transforms" into a new body when the current one is too badly harmed to heal normally. Each actor's portrayal is unique, but all represent stages in the life of the same character. Together, they form a single lifetime with a single narrative. The time-travelling feature of the plot means that different incarnations of the Doctor occasionally meet. The Doctor is currently portrayed by Jodie Whittaker, who took on the role after Peter Capaldi's exit in the 2017 Christmas special "Twice Upon a Time".Dune (novel)
Dune is a 1965 science fiction novel by American author Frank Herbert, originally published as two separate serials in Analog magazine. It tied with Roger Zelazny's This Immortal for the Hugo Award in 1966, and it won the inaugural Nebula Award for Best Novel. It is the first installment of the Dune saga, and in 2003 was cited as the world's best-selling science fiction novel.Set in the distant future amidst a feudal interstellar society in which various noble houses control planetary fiefs, Dune tells the story of young Paul Atreides, whose family accepts the stewardship of the planet Arrakis. While the planet is an inhospitable and sparsely populated desert wasteland, it is the only source of melange, or "the spice", a drug that extends life and enhances mental abilities. As melange can only be produced on Arrakis, control of the planet is a coveted and dangerous undertaking. The story explores the multi-layered interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion, as the factions of the empire confront each other in a struggle for the control of Arrakis and its spice.The scion and heir of the Atreides family, Paul is believed to be a candidate for the Kwisatz Haderach, a messianic figure whose coming is fortold by the Bene Gesserit sisterhood. On Arrakis, Paul and his family are betrayed by the Emperor and the former overlords of the planet, House Harkonnen, and Paul seeks refuge with the Fremen, the nomadic natives of Arrakis. Paul becomes a messianic leader of the Fremen and is dubbed Muad'Dib. He is trained in the Fremen ways, including the riding of gigantic sandworms, whose life cycle is important in the production of melange. Paul trains the Fremen into a fighting force, and leads an assault on the Emperor and the Harkonnen for control of Arrakis. The book ends with Paul's defeat of the Emperor, and upon assuming the Imperial throne himself, he expresses doubt that even he can control the Fremen or stop the coming revolution that he has unleashed on the universe.
Herbert wrote five sequels: Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune, and Chapterhouse: Dune. The first novel also inspired a 1984 film adaptation by David Lynch, the 2000 Sci-Fi Channel miniseries Frank Herbert's Dune and its 2003 sequel Frank Herbert's Children of Dune (which combines the events of Dune Messiah and Children of Dune), a series of computer games, several board games, songs, and a series of followups, including prequels and sequels, that were co-written by Kevin J. Anderson and the author's son, Brian Herbert, starting in 1999. A new film adaptation directed by Denis Villeneuve is scheduled to be released on November 20, 2020.
Since 2009, the names of planets from the Dune novels have been adopted for the real-life nomenclature of plains and other features on Saturn's moon Titan.Fictional universe
A fictional universe is a self-consistent setting with events, and often other elements, that differ from the real world. It may also be called an imagined, constructed or fictional realm (or world). Fictional universes may appear in novels, comics, films, television shows, video games, and other creative works.
A fictional universe can be almost indistinguishable from the real world, except for the presence of the invented characters and events that characterize a work of fiction; at the other extreme, it can bear little or no resemblance to the real world, with invented fundamental principles of time and space.
The subject is most commonly addressed in reference to fictional universes that differ markedly from the real world, such as those that introduce entire fictional cities, countries, or even planets, or those that contradict commonly known facts about the world and its history, or those that feature fantasy or science fiction concepts such as magic or faster than light travel—and especially those in which the deliberate development of the setting is a substantial focus of the work.Flowers for Algernon
Flowers for Algernon is a science fiction short story and subsequent novel written by Daniel Keyes. The short story, written in 1958 and first published in the April 1959 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 1960. The novel was published in 1966 and was joint winner of that year's Nebula Award for Best Novel (with Babel-17).Algernon is a laboratory mouse who has undergone surgery to increase his intelligence. The story is told by a series of progress reports written by Charlie Gordon, the first human subject for the surgery and it touches on ethical and moral themes such as the treatment of the mentally disabled.Although the book has often been challenged for removal from libraries in the United States and Canada, sometimes successfully, it is frequently taught in schools around the world and has been adapted many times for television, theatre, radio and as the Academy Award-winning film Charly.George R. R. Martin
George Raymond Richard Martin (born George Raymond Martin; September 20, 1948), also known as GRRM, is an American novelist and short story writer in the fantasy, horror, and science fiction genres, screenwriter, and television producer. He is best known for his series of epic fantasy novels, A Song of Ice and Fire, which was adapted into the HBO series Game of Thrones (2011–present).
In 2005, Lev Grossman of Time called Martin "the American Tolkien", and in 2011, he was included on the annual Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world.H. G. Wells
Herbert George Wells (21 September 1866 – 13 August 1946) was an English writer. He was prolific in many genres, writing dozens of novels, short stories, and works of social commentary, satire, biography, and autobiography, and even including two books on recreational war games. He is now best remembered for his science fiction novels and is often called a "father of science fiction", along with Jules Verne and Hugo Gernsback.During his own lifetime, however, he was most prominent as a forward-looking, even prophetic social critic who devoted his literary talents to the development of a progressive vision on a global scale. A futurist, he wrote a number of utopian works and foresaw the advent of aircraft, tanks, space travel, nuclear weapons, satellite television and something resembling the World Wide Web. His science fiction imagined time travel, alien invasion, invisibility, and biological engineering. Brian Aldiss referred to Wells as the "Shakespeare of science fiction". His most notable science fiction works include The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), The War of the Worlds (1898) and the military science fiction The War in the Air (1907). Wells was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature four times.Wells's earliest specialised training was in biology, and his thinking on ethical matters took place in a specifically and fundamentally Darwinian context. He was also from an early date an outspoken socialist, often (but not always, as at the beginning of the First World War) sympathising with pacifist views. His later works became increasingly political and didactic, and he wrote little science fiction, while he sometimes indicated on official documents that his profession was that of journalist. Novels such as Kipps and The History of Mr Polly, which describe lower-middle-class life, led to the suggestion that he was a worthy successor to Charles Dickens, but Wells described a range of social strata and even attempted, in Tono-Bungay (1909), a diagnosis of English society as a whole. A diabetic, Wells co-founded the charity The Diabetic Association (known today as Diabetes UK) in 1934.Hard science fiction
Hard science fiction is a category of science fiction characterized by an emphasis on scientific accuracy. The term was first used in print in 1957 by P. Schuyler Miller in a review of John W. Campbell's Islands of Space in the November issue of Astounding Science Fiction. The complementary term soft science fiction, formed by analogy to hard science fiction, first appeared in the late 1970s. The term is formed by analogy to the popular distinction between the "hard" (natural) and "soft" (social) sciences. Science fiction critic Gary Westfahl argues that neither term is part of a rigorous taxonomy; instead they are approximate ways of characterizing stories that reviewers and commentators have found useful.Stories revolving around scientific and technical consistency were written as early as the 1870s with the publication of Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in 1870 and Around the World in Eighty Days in 1873, among other stories. The attention to detail in Verne's work became an inspiration for many future scientists and explorers, although Verne himself denied writing as a scientist or seriously predicting machines and technology of the future.Hugo Award
The Hugo Awards are a set of literary awards given annually for the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year. The awards are named after Hugo Gernsback, the founder of the pioneering science fiction magazine Amazing Stories, and were officially named the Science Fiction Achievement Awards until 1992. Organized and overseen by the World Science Fiction Society, the awards are given each year at the annual World Science Fiction Convention as the central focus of the event. They were first given in 1953, at the 11th World Science Fiction Convention, and have been awarded every year since 1955. Over the years that the award has been given, the categories presented have changed; currently Hugo Awards are given in more than a dozen categories, and include both written and dramatic works of various types.
The Hugo Awards have been termed as "among the highest honors bestowed in science fiction and fantasy writing". Works that have won have been published in special collections, and the official logo of the Hugo Awards is often placed on the winning books' cover as a promotional tool. The 2018 Hugos were presented at the 76th Worldcon, "Worldcon 76", in San Jose, California, on August 19, 2018. The 2019 awards will be presented at the 77th Worldcon, "Dublin 2019: An Irish Worldcon", in Dublin on August 19, 2019.
For lists of winners and nominees for each category, see the list of award categories below.Inception
Inception is a 2010 science fiction action film written, co-produced, and directed by Christopher Nolan, and co-produced by Emma Thomas. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a professional thief who steals information by infiltrating the subconscious, and is offered a chance to have his criminal history erased as payment for the implantation of another person's idea into a target's subconscious. The ensemble cast additionally includes Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Dileep Rao, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, and Michael Caine.
After the 2002 completion of Insomnia, Nolan presented to Warner Bros. a written 80-page treatment about a horror film envisioning "dream stealers" based on lucid dreaming. Deciding he needed more experience before tackling a production of this magnitude and complexity, Nolan retired the project and instead worked on 2005's Batman Begins, 2006's The Prestige, and The Dark Knight in 2008. The treatment was revised over 6 months and was purchased by Warner in February 2009. Inception was filmed in six countries, beginning in Tokyo on June 19 and ending in Canada on November 22. Its official budget was US$160 million, split between Warner Bros and Legendary. Nolan's reputation and success with The Dark Knight helped secure the film's US$100 million in advertising expenditure.
Inception's première was held in London on July 8, 2010; it was released in both conventional and IMAX theaters beginning on July 16, 2010. Inception grossed over US$828 million worldwide, becoming the fourth highest-grossing film of 2010. The home video market also had strong results, with US$68 million in DVD and Blu-ray sales. Inception opened to acclaim from critics, who praised its screenplay, visual effects, score, and ensemble cast. It won four Academy Awards for Best Cinematography, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects, and was nominated for four more: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Art Direction, and Best Original Score.Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov (; c. January 2, 1920 – April 6, 1992) was an American writer and professor of biochemistry at Boston University. He was known for his works of science fiction and popular science. Asimov was a prolific writer who wrote or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards. His books have been published in 9 of the 10 major categories of the Dewey Decimal Classification.Asimov wrote hard science fiction. Along with Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, Asimov was considered one of the "Big Three" science fiction writers during his lifetime. Asimov's most famous work is the "Foundation" series; his other major series are the "Galactic Empire" series and the Robot series. The Galactic Empire novels are set in earlier history of the same fictional universe as the Foundation series. Later, with Foundation and Earth (1986), he linked this distant future to the Robot stories, creating a unified "future history" for his stories much like those pioneered by Robert A. Heinlein and previously produced by Cordwainer Smith and Poul Anderson. He wrote hundreds of short stories, including the social science fiction novelette "Nightfall"; in 1964, it was voted the best short science fiction story of all time by the Science Fiction Writers of America. Asimov wrote the Lucky Starr series of juvenile science-fiction novels using the pen name Paul French.Asimov also wrote mysteries and fantasy, as well as much nonfiction. Most of his popular science books explain concepts in a historical way, going as far back as possible to a time when the science in question was at its simplest stage. Examples include Guide to Science, the three-volume set Understanding Physics, and Asimov's Chronology of Science and Discovery. He wrote on numerous other scientific and non-scientific topics, such as chemistry, astronomy, mathematics, history, biblical exegesis, and literary criticism.
He was president of the American Humanist Association. The asteroid 5020 Asimov, a crater on the planet Mars, a Brooklyn elementary school, and a literary award are named in his honor.Ray Bradbury
Ray Douglas Bradbury (; August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012) was an American author and screenwriter. He worked in a variety of genres, including fantasy, science fiction, horror, and mystery fiction.
Widely known for his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 (1953), and his science-fiction and horror-story collections, The Martian Chronicles (1950), The Illustrated Man (1951), and I Sing the Body Electric (1969), Bradbury was one of the most celebrated 20th- and 21st-century American writers. While most of his best known work is in speculative fiction, he also wrote in other genres, such as the coming-of-age novel Dandelion Wine (1957) and the fictionalized memoir Green Shadows, White Whale (1992).
Recipient of numerous awards, including a 2007 Pulitzer Citation, Bradbury also wrote and consulted on screenplays and television scripts, including Moby Dick and It Came from Outer Space. Many of his works were adapted to comic book, television, and film formats.
Upon his death in 2012, The New York Times called Bradbury "the writer most responsible for bringing modern science fiction into the literary mainstream".Saturn Award
The Saturn Award is an American award presented annually by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films; it was initially created to honor science fiction, fantasy, and horror on film, but has since grown to reward other films belonging to genre fiction, as well as on television and home media releases.
The award was originally referred to as a Golden Scroll. The Saturn Awards were created in 1973.Science fiction film
Science fiction film (or sci-fi film) is a genre that uses speculative, fictional science-based depictions of phenomena that are not fully accepted by mainstream science, such as extraterrestrial lifeforms, alien worlds, extrasensory perception and time travel, along with futuristic elements such as spacecraft, robots, cyborgs, interstellar travel or other technologies. Science fiction films have often been used to focus on political or social issues, and to explore philosophical issues like the human condition. In many cases, tropes derived from written science fiction may be used by filmmakers ignorant of or at best indifferent to the standards of scientific plausibility and plot logic to which written science fiction is traditionally held.The genre has existed since the early years of silent cinema, when Georges Melies' A Trip to the Moon (1902) employed trick photography effects. The next major example in the genre was the film Metropolis (1927) - being the first feature length science fiction movie. From the 1930s to the 1950s, the genre consisted mainly of low-budget B movies. After Stanley Kubrick's landmark 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), the science fiction film genre was taken more seriously. In the late 1970s, big-budget science fiction films filled with special effects became popular with audiences after the success of Star Wars and paved the way for the blockbuster hits of subsequent decades.Science fiction on television
Science fiction first appeared in television programming in the late 1930s, during what is called the Golden Age of Science Fiction. Special effects and other production techniques allow creators to present a living visual image of an imaginary world not limited by the constraints of reality.Space opera
Space opera is a subgenre of science fiction that emphasizes space warfare, melodramatic adventure, interplanetary battles, chivalric romance, and risk-taking. Set mainly or entirely in outer space, it usually involves conflict between opponents possessing advanced abilities, futuristic weapons, and other sophisticated technology. The term has no relation to music, but is instead a play on the terms "soap opera" and "horse opera", the latter of which was coined during the 1930s to indicate clichéd and formulaic Western movies. Space operas emerged in the 1930s and continue to be produced in literature, film, comics, television and video games.
An early film which was based on space opera comic strips was Flash Gordon (1936) created by Alex Raymond. In the late 1970s, the Star Wars franchise (1977–present) created by George Lucas brought a great deal of attention to the subgenre. After the convention-breaking "New Wave", followed by the enormous success of the Star Wars films, space opera became once again a critically acceptable subgenre. Throughout 1982–2002, the Hugo Award for best science fiction novel was often given to a space opera nominee.