Last week a response to my post questioned where Star Wars fits into the grand scheme of fiction writings. The question… is Star Wars technically science-fiction or a space fantasy?
Therein lies the question, what constitutes science fiction?
I have a feeling the genre is actually more far reaching than we assume. After scouring some text books, writing websites, and speaking with a Doctor of Creative Writing I found there are some characteristics that establish what constitutes science fiction.
Realistically, science fiction may be the broadest sub-genre of fiction out there. It encompasses past, present, and future. Magic may or may not be involved. Aliens may or may not exist. Society may be perfect or a shell of what we expect. Ultimately, science fiction has reliance to some degree on technology beyond what we currently possess, although, in the case of steampunk that can simply be technology beyond what the Victorian era could produce.
A rudimentary list of characteristics:
- Time travel
- Other planets
- Space travel (ie spaceships)
- Distant galaxies and/or universes
- AI and robots
There are other aspects in writing that create science fiction, but these are a few of the most prominent. Recall, to be science fiction it is not necessary to have all of these points, but a story that includes any of them falls under the heading of the genre.
By these standards, Star Wars, despite the magical/spiritual use of the Force, falls under the guidelines of science fiction. In fact, I find that the juxtaposition of science and technology with mythological power to be both interesting and entertaining. Han Solo clearly prefers his blaster to “hokey religions” and digging into Star Wars cannon it becomes evident that Jedi and their use of the Force is far rarer than the path of Luke Skywalker would have us believe.
In that vein we are seeing the Star Wars framework followed in further writings. It can be overdone, as in stories where everything is fueled by magic to the point where we wonder if technology actually functions. But stories and games in the Warhammer 40k series easily fuse spiritual power and technology in an entertaining action infused storyline.
What are some of the most surprising books or movies you can think of that fall under the science fiction umbrella? For me, Slaughterhouse Five, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and The Island of Dr. Moreau.
Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think. And don’t forget to keep on flying the black.