Bill MacKenty

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Genres of science fiction

Posted in Writing on 09 - May 2024 at 08:42 PM (2 weeks ago). 276 views.

I've been re-reading "Microworlds" by Stanislaw Lem. He has a very opinionated perspective about science fiction...

...Essentially that science fiction must have plausible science! He eviscerates most science fiction as fantasy, and includes a disdain for the latter in no uncertain terms!

I think this book is a love letter to science fiction. That it is so unforgivingly harsh I think speaks to a desire for writers and publishers to seek out and create good science fiction - a genre that can uniquely explore what it means to be human in incredible ways. I think what Lem is asking us to do is treat the genre with respect and gravitas; not to be lazy or to write fantasy and call it science fiction. In this book, we are treated to a literati who has glimpsed what science fiction can be and points to the trash heap (his words) of current science fiction which is churned out for mass profit and mass consumption.

Each of these genres deserves depth:

  • Hard Science Fiction
  • Soft Science Fiction
  • Space Opera
  • Cyberpunk
  • Steampunk
  • Biopunk
  • Military Science Fiction
  • Time Travel
  • Alternate History
  • Apocalyptic and Post-Apocalyptic
  • Space Western
  • Superhero Fiction
  • Dystopian
  • Utopian
  • Cli-fi (Climate Fiction)

Lem might say: Speculative science fiction, though often liberated from the stringent requirements of hard science, should not be dismissed as mere fantasy. It offers a canvas to explore the more abstract, often philosophical questions that hard science may skirt around. This genre allows us to ponder 'what if' without the tether of current scientific limitations, exploring the vast potential of human imagination. However, it requires a delicate balance—to wield unreality with care, ensuring that it serves as a tool to reveal deeper truths about our reality, rather than an escape from it. For in these narratives, the focus shifts from how things happen to why they might happen, and what that means for humanity.