Science Fiction

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(For other uses, see Science Fiction (Disambiguation).)


The Greatest Form of Literature[edit]

Science fiction is a genre of fiction about imagined or future science and its potential impact on society, as well as extrapolation of the future in general. It was the raison d’être behind fandom’s conception and remains a strong focus for many fans.

It was once considered a subset of fantasy; now they are usually considered two separate genres, but in fandom, the phrase “science fiction” often means “science fiction and fantasy.”

Science fiction is a branch of fantasy identifiable by the fact that it eases the "willing suspension of disbelief" on the part of the readers by utilizing an atmosphere of scientific credibility for its imaginative speculations in physical science, space time, social science, and philosophy. 
— Sam Moskowitz, Explorers of the Infinite, 1963. 

The first science fiction novel was Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s 1818 Frankenstein.

Hugo Gernsback, publisher of the first prozine, popularized the term science fiction in the 1920s, though it’s not clear whether he coined it.

The preferred and most common modern abbreviation for science fiction, among fans, is SF (or sf). Sci-Fi is widely deprecated in fandom. Older, obsolete forms include scientifiction (abbreviated as stf), scientific romance and science-fantasy. Speculative literature is only for snobs. Unless usage clearly shows a different intent, SF includes all branches of the fantastic, including fantasy.

Subgenres include: Alternate History, Biopunk, Cyberpunk, Dystopian SF, Hard SF, Soft SF, Libertarian SF, Megalotropic SF, Military SF, New Wave, Paranormal Fiction, Recursive SF, Space Opera, Steampunk and Utopian SF, among others.

See also: Science fiction means what we point to when we say it.

From Fancyclopedia 2 ca 1959
The branch of fantasy which deals with "the results of the occurrence of some scientific phenomenon or invention which has never been known to occur, but is possible in the sense that it cannot be proved impossible". (That's the IPO definition.) Simpler is Lowndes': "an extrapolation on some scientific fact".

We exclude from "science-fiction" stories like "The Geometrics of Johnny Day"[1] and many of the "Hick's Inventions With a Kick" series[2] which are demonstrably possible right now; their misclassification as stf rests upon a misunderstanding of the term "science-fiction" as if it meant any fiction which involve science, like Arrowsmith.[3] It is also required that the story be scientifically plausible; that it not disregard accepted contemporary scientific knowledge, tho mere inaccuracies come under the heading of literary license -- a stfyarn does not become weird or fantasy because of them. (Similarly, statistical investigation -- like looking to see what's actually on the site where Heinlein's hero built his "Crooked House"[4] in LA -- does not change the classification.) And when further advance of science may show a story impossible, as with Charles Brockden Brown's Wieland (1789), based on ventriloquism, the tale should remain in the classification "science fiction".

The three fathers of science-fiction are Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne, and H. G. Wells. The latter explored almost all of the fields now exploited in science-fiction magazines, and raised SF to the level of a literary type. As authors have explored more fields of fantasy, and commentators have continued to divide the field into only three parts (stf, weird, and "pure" fantasy), "science-fiction" has come to mean other fiction besides that based on extrapolation of scientific fact into our future: virtually all tales of the future, the prehistoric past, or of alternate presents or pasts, even tho no connection with our present via time-machine is indicated (as H. G. Wells' The Brothers[5]). Marconette has suggested the class "political fantasy".

Other names for science-fiction are Scientifiction; pseudo-science stories (fiercely fought by our fraternity); scientific fiction (which some prefer because of a mistaken belief that the modifier [scientific] should be in adjectival form); and scientific romances (last word meaning imaginative novels such as grew up during the Romantic revolt, not necessarily connected with affection).

From Fancyclopedia 1 ca 1944
The branch of fantasy which deals with "the results of the occurrence of some scientific phenomenon or invention that has never been known to occur, but is possible in the sense that it cannot be proved impossible." (IPO). The usual definition is along the Lowndes formula, "an extrapolation on some scientific fact". For the Wollheim distinction, see the quote under fantasy.

It is important to exclude from "science-fiction", stories like "The Geometrics of Johnny Day" and many of the "Hick's Inventions with a Kick" series which are demonstrably possible (they rest on a misunderstanding of the term "science-fiction", as tho it were any fiction that involved science); it is also required that the story be scientifically plausible, that it not disregard accepted contemporary scientific knowledge. However, when further advance of science may show a story impossible, as with C B Brown's story (c.1800) based on ventriloquism, the tale should remain in the classification of "science-fiction".

As authors have explored more fields of fantasy, and commentators have continued to divide the field into only three parts, s-f, weird, and pure fantasy, "science-fiction" has come to include other fiction besides that based upon extrapolation of scientific fact: virtually all tales of the future, the prehistoric past, or of alternate presents or pasts, even tho no connection with our present via time-machine is indicated (example, H. G. Wells's "The Brothers"). Marconette suggested the class "political fantasy".

Other names for science-fiction are scientifiction, scientific romances, and pseudo-science stories.

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  1. A short story by Nelson Bond (Astounding, July 1941).
  2. Stories by Henry Hugh Simmons (a pseudonym for Clement Fezandié) that appeared in Amazing Stories 1927–28.
  3. A 1925 novel by Sinclair Lewis, about a medical doctor and researcher.
  4. “—And He Built a Crooked House—,” a short story by Robert A. Heinlein (Astounding, February 1941).
  5. Published 1938.



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