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Thread: The definition of Science Fiction

  1. #16
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    Id be interested in a cogent argument against the idea that sci-fi is, at its core essentially about 'anything that could happen in the future'.

    Ballard is mostly about potential internal futures. Future psychology, future societies, future desires.

  2. #17
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    It was called speculative fiction at one point after all.
    Last edited by droid; 06-04-2017 at 09:08 AM.

  3. #18
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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.
    Maybe there isn't one single all-encompassing definition, but rather a number of distinct and arbitrary definitions including:

    1) Fiction that features a variety of characteristics which are indicative of technological and scientific development (aliens, lazers, clones, teleportation, robots, etc.). I'd count Star Wars as sci-fi and put it in this category.

    2) Embellished political and societal scenarios; 'the future', dystopias, alternative history, etc.

    I'm sure there are others, but I can't think of them.

    I suppose if you include social sciences those two I listed above are both about the possibilities of science (even if something like star wars has no scientific validity).

  4. #19
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    "fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science fiction is the improbable made possible."

  5. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by sadmanbarty View Post
    Maybe there isn't one single all-encompassing definition, but rather a number of distinct and arbitrary definitions....
    There's always a temptation to define things like "science fiction" or "classical music" in terms of traditions rather than styles. It's a bit like the "why isn't Scorn dubstep" argument.

  6. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by droid View Post
    COM is a dystopian future where most of the world has been destroyed, Britain is the only functioning society...
    Sounds more like a straight-up fantasy, put in those terms.
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  7. #22

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    someone should mention the difference between hard sci-fi and soft sci-fi

  8. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by you View Post
    someone should mention the difference between hard sci-fi and soft sci-fi
    "There is a difference between hard sci-fi and soft sci-fi."

    Howzat?
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  9. #24
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    I think it sci-fi is about a scientific/technological angle as has been said.

    But it's also that this angle is the dominant feature of the story.

    Orwell's 1984 was set in the future when it was published and also includes various technological innovations (like surveillance). But it's not sci-fi because the dominant feature is politics.

    Is "A Clockwork Orange" sci-fi though?

  10. #25
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    I think the difference is meant to be that 'hard' sci-fi is more about the implications of future technology while 'soft' is more about societal changes, right? So the latter would include 1984, which doesn't really feature any technology not available in the late '40s when it was written (edit: apart from some of the surveillance stuff, as JE mentions - although even then, it's mostly just a refinement of technology that already existed at the time, isn't it?). I guess this would put Gibson in a sort of intermediate position.

    In the broader definition, sci-fi doesn't have to be about futuristic technology per se, I think. So Neil Stephenson's Cryptonomicon can be called sci-fi, even though it's set partly in the 'present day' (or the late '90s, when it was written) and partly in WWII, and you could even make the case for his Baroque Cycle being sci-fi too, despite being set about 300 years ago, because of the central importance of science and technology to the plot(s)*. But that could be as much because Stephenson was already widely known as a sci-fi author when he wrote those books as for any other reason, I dunno.

    Conversely, a book about, say, the reawakening of King Arthur to fight ancient forces of evil would pretty clearly be a fantasy novel even if it were set in 2050.

    *then again, the stuff about the apparently immortal Enoch Root and the magical properties of the 'Solomonic gold' could almost be classed as fantasy, or at least magic realism.
    Last edited by Mr. Tea; 06-04-2017 at 11:23 AM.
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  12. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by droid View Post
    Id be interested in a cogent argument against the idea that sci-fi is, at its core essentially about 'anything that could happen in the future'.

  13. #27
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    Very nice list and decent essay on 60's new wave here: http://conceptualfiction.com/whenscifigrewup.html

  14. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by john eden View Post
    I think it sci-fi is about a scientific/technological angle as has been said.

    But it's also that this angle is the dominant feature of the story.

    Orwell's 1984 was set in the future when it was published and also includes various technological innovations (like surveillance). But it's not sci-fi because the dominant feature is politics.

    Is "A Clockwork Orange" sci-fi though?
    I am with you on this.

  15. #29
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    The technology/science-heavy aspect doesn't have to be projected into the future necessarily. Take many x-file episodes or the 2004 Manchurian candidate. Scenarios of present times, but with (just slightly) interpolated technology.

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  17. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by droid View Post
    It was called speculative fiction at one point after all.
    A decent "working definition" which would include most of the dystopian movies/stories that come to mind. Such as one of my all time favs ZARDOZ

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