Genre Focus: Science Fiction

Posted: March 6, 2019 in Uncategorized

Let me state this first: genres are a generic construct created by booksellers to classify products and make it easier for shoppers to find the books.

I would argue that there are few books that would fall solidly under any single genre umbrella. Think of some of your favorite novels, and examine them honestly for any other elements that are present — romantic show up quite often in so many others, and romance has its share of sub categories (historical romance, fantasy romance, contemporary romance, science fiction romance, etc.). So addressing any one genre in particular may seem to be a losing battle, but genre still serves its purpose in finding readers.

With that caveat acknowledged, I’ve decided to take a look at the different common genres in which I write, and bring up influences that may or may not come from the same type of source material.

This premier week I am taking a look at Science Fiction.

Although I love so many different categories of stories, science fiction has remained nearest and dearest to my heart. The first movie I remember seeing was Star Wars, in the drive-in theater (do they have these anymore!?!), and just being entranced by every single moment of it. Now, Star Wars (which has long since been renamed Star Wars IV: A New Hope), isn’t pure science fiction, especially when a lot of the “science” has had many liberties taken with it, and its been recognized as Space Opera, a sub-genre. But that “opera” is key. There are elements of the budding romance between Han Solo and Princess Leia, and plenty of humorous moments (love the dry droid humor!).

So what makes a story “science fiction”? Is it space and space travel? Surely, there are an overwhelming number of stories where this is present, if not the primary element. Such as Fredrik Pohl’s Heechee novels are some of my absolute favorites. Among all the other sub-genres it touches on, it includes the idea of space travel as a complete unknown and one of the central conflicts. While humans have limited means of travel away from the earth and to the Gateway asteroid, the Heechee aliens who came before them, so long before that they left all kinds of things behind including mushroom-like space ships. It’s these ships that form the basis of the conflict–the inhabitants of the asteroid have extremely high rents for everything, including air, and the only way they can make any kind of money is by “prospecting” — signing up to go out on these ships and hoping they will find something to make the trip worthwhile. And, of course, making it back at all, since no one knows what will happen on many of the vessels until someone gets in and uses it. Those on the asteroid only vaguely know what the controls do and the screens mean, so every trip in a different mushroom is a huge gamble. (And this is only scratching the surface of everything these novels are about. Robinette Broadhead is one of my absolute favorite protagonists, deeply flawed but sympathetic characters. Pohl was a master at creating rich characters affected by the science).

But there are many examples that don’t even acknowledge space or space travel which are definitely science fiction. Think The Time Machine, Journey to the Center of the Earth, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Lots of travel here, but they never leave the earth to encounter their strange new worlds.

What about those strange new worlds, and aliens? Their presence in the story is dependent on space travel (even if how they got here may just be taken for granted), but it could be the aliens visiting us here on earth. Or it could be visiting alien worlds without the typical space travel, like Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars. (And there we go with the drama and romance again…)

I could go on for a very long time, bringing up many other possibility that makes it “science fiction”, but the bottom line is that any particular element is subservient to that masterful question, “What if…?” There MUST be some element of posing a question, a situation set up to examine at least one answer and its particular consequences.

Asimov approached this in various ways, one of the core being (with liberties taken to the exact nature of the question he was asking) “what if robots are created with sentience and live among us?” As they are man-made, are they subject to the same laws, or is someone else entirely responsible for their behavior, since they were the original programmers?

In my short story “Clones are People Two”, my question is “what if the clones created from a formerly-deserving individual are executed along with the one who provided the DNA when he commits a felony?”

Let me know what you think belongs in science fiction to make it such? What are your favorite science fiction novels, and the elements that make them stand out?

You can purchase Clones from Amazon or Smashwords if you are so inclined. And if you do, be sure to leave an honest review!

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