Get your Subgenre Right: IN SPACE

17 Jul

Yeah yeah this took too long to follow up. It’s nice out and I spent the last three days kayaking, camping, and haven’t had my computer on or done any reading besides audiobooks. OTOH, Monday I made big headway in the current WIP; but I’m anxious because I think this one might be a bit longer than the previous two novels. I guess I’ll have to write it then try to knock it down a bit.

This post is shorter, and I’ve mentioned certain science fiction stories already in Part One. I felt like I should do science fiction in part 2 because I think one of the things that really separates science fiction from fantasy is that it seems to be more exclusive than inclusive – in other words, yes, some stories are science fiction in setting, but not really in story. My favourite example are The Riddick Films, which I’ve talked about before. Pitch Black is a horror movie, The Chronicles of Riddick, Riddick, and the animated short Dark Fury are basically Conan the Barbarian in Space, minus the fantasy elements. It, like movies such as Guardians of the Galaxy, are an example of science fiction as setting as opposed to the typical themes explored in science fiction.

What are typical themes? Writers like Margaret Atwood famously rejected writing ‘science fiction’ despite typically writing in what everyone would agree is science fiction. I’m told it’s because of the famously bad movies from before my time, and I can see a point if we can’t agree on definitions. Romance as a literary genre is different than romanticism a literary movement.

I’m here to not only point out that while yes, I think science fiction is a little bit more exclusive than fantasy, the lines blur really easy. Are Infinity Stones magic or, because they’re a natural consequence of creation, science? One thing I know for certain: many science fiction writers I’ve read have really done their research an

It might be easier to put science fiction into spectrums as opposed to categories of either/or.

Hard Science Fiction vs. Soft

How much of your science is rooted in what we know, or what we could utilize? Is it explained? The Martian by Weir started out self-publishing on a blog and other scientists, engineers and specialist helping the writer figure out what the MC would have to do to survive and communicate based on what was realistic to have on a Mars Mission. Soft science fiction is we don’t really explain it or go into great detail. For instance, I’d argue that Never Let Me Go by Ishiguro is soft science fiction. The plot couldn’t happen without the science fiction, but it takes for granted the ‘lesser status’ of synthetic humanoids and isn’t dwelling on exactly how the science of making clones works, so much as the emotional and ethical implications of having second-teir human beings. In other words: there’s science fiction for those who want to know how things work, and science fiction who want to explore the meaning behind what the new technology might bring.

Utopia vs. Dystopia

I’ve talked about cyberpunk before, but dystopias have been hot in the last few years. Whether we’re talking Collins Hunger Games or Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale or MacCarthy’s The Road, there’s something about a gritty sense of reality that people like to read about. On the other end, is basically Star Trek. Utopias or at least an improved world where the water is cleaner, humanity lives free of disease and  things are generally pretty awesome for humanity as we go out and explore the universe. Depending on the dystopia, mankind might BE the plague on the universe, especially if you’re reading eco-science fiction.

But isn’t the Original Star Trek a Space Western?

Its not the only one. I described the series Firefly as a Space Western. If you’re not familiar: The original Star Trek was about exploring the unknown parts of the galaxy ‘To Boldly Go where No One has gone before’, whereas Firefly was about a team of smugglers and mercs living in the outskirts of a solar system, away from and thumbing their noses at the powers that be on the main systems.

But there’s plenty of subcategories. You have your Military Science Fiction, your Space Operas. You have your Cyberpunk, and your Steampunk, I’ve even read some dieselpunk. There is so much here to explore, but I will implore you to give the genre of Afrofuturism a try if you haven’t yet. It’s possible to write a blog-style essay on all of these major subgenres, and we haven’t gotten into much speciality niches yet.

But can we at least admit, finally, that while I can go and enjoy a book or a movie outside of my favourite subgenre, that there’s definitely a difference between the genres?

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