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Thread: The definition of Science Fiction

  1. #1
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    Default The definition of Science Fiction

    This is a thorny subject thats been on my mind for several years. Ive had some thoughts on the subject but Im interested to hear what other people think.

    I hate to start with a question, but here's something Ive mulled over: Can you name a film/book/comic set in the future which isnt generally considered to be some kind of sci-fi?

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    Star Wars comes to mind
    it is a space opera, not an exploration of the consequences of a scientific innovation

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    Youre right, star wars isnt Sci-Fi, its fantasy, but it also isnt set in the future.

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    Infinite Jest

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    Dunno.. Dystopia, the Great Concavity, O.N.A.N.

    You could make a case for it. Not a million miles away from a scanner darkly in some ways.

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    Quote Originally Posted by droid View Post
    Youre right, star wars isnt Sci-Fi, its fantasy, but it also isnt set in the future.
    It's also, if you think about it, a story mainly about some aliens who just happen to look, sound and act exactly like human beings.

    (Or rather, sound and act almost like human beings, given how shonky Lucas's script is in parts.)

    But yeah, it's pretty transparently a fairy story with spaceships, robots and ray guns.
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    Not a very Dissensian book, but Cold Comfort Farm? Written in 1932, it's set in the future with video phones and air-taxis, but that's not what anyone remembers about it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by droid View Post
    Dunno.. Dystopia, the Great Concavity, O.N.A.N.

    You could make a case for it. Not a million miles away from a scanner darkly in some ways.
    The thing I noticed about IJ was that, while DFW was dead right about our ever-more-severe addiction to entertainment, he was quite wide of the mark about the type of entertainment, in that he mostly describes people who are obsessed with entirely passive forms - films, TV shows, sports, porn, whatever. The acme of all these being the titular 'Entertainment' itself, of course. Whereas the real monkey on everyone's back is interactive, two-way entertainment, i.e. gaming and social media. The dopamine reward-circuit buzz of each Like, 'lol' and retweet.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slothrop View Post
    Not a very Dissensian book, but Cold Comfort Farm? Written in 1932, it's set in the future with video phones and air-taxis, but that's not what anyone remembers about it.
    Ive only seen the movie. Consensus from nerds seems to be that its some kind of sci-fi.

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    Rollerball?

    Children of Men?

    to me, Sci fi needs to include (somewhat heavy) influential role of (envisioned) "science" in the movies. The above mentioned don't rellay have that, nevertheless setin the future. Rollerball actually 2018

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    Quote Originally Posted by firefinga View Post
    Rollerball actually 2018
    Bring it on! Blade Runner and Akira are both set the year after that. Then it's only another decade to the events in the future plot line of The Terminator, followed by Demolition Man three years after that.
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    Quote Originally Posted by droid View Post
    Ive only seen the movie. Consensus from nerds seems to be that its some kind of sci-fi.
    What's the reasoning there? As far as I recall, you could rewrite it to be set at the time of writing (early thirties) without significantly changing the plot, the characters or the atmosphere, which seems like a reasonable first stab at an "is it SF" test.

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    Well it brings us back to the original question - the definition of sci fi.

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    Quote Originally Posted by firefinga View Post
    Rollerball?

    Children of Men?

    to me, Sci fi needs to include (somewhat heavy) influential role of (envisioned) "science" in the movies. The above mentioned don't rellay have that, nevertheless setin the future. Rollerball actually 2018
    Youre not even trying!

    COM is a dystopian future where most of the world has been destroyed, Britain is the only functioning society and humans have lost the ability to reproduce.

    Rollerball is a dystopian future in which nations have been replaced by corporations who compete for glory via violent gladiatorial competition.

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    Quote Originally Posted by droid View Post
    Well it brings us back to the original question - the definition of sci fi.
    Well yeah, that's why I asked! Presumably the people who consider Cold Comfort Farm to be SF do so because it meets some criteria? Whereas I've given a tentative criterion that it doesn't meet.

    To flip the question - can you be science fiction while being set in something that's essentially our present, with no alternative science, technology or history? I've always felt like there's a SF feel to stuff like Crash, Cocaine Nights, Super Cannes etc, despite the fact that it's not obviously inherent in the settings, but maybe that's just because I know that Ballard is (in his way) part of the science fiction tradition.

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