Science fiction, fantasy, and speculative genres are very closely related and, many times, overlap. Some novels could easily be classified as all three. But there are some differences. Because of that, some novels only fit in one of these three categories. Let’s look at the Science Fiction Genre.
Science fiction relies on technological advances and scientific knowledge for it stories. In sci-fi, science is the main thing. The stories are, at least in part, based on science and on fact. Science Fiction has been around for a long time and has produced many classic. Click here for a list of my favorite Classic Science Fiction Novels.
Sub-Catagories of Science Fiction:
I won’t mention every single sub-genre of Science Fiction. If I did, this post would be book length. Some speculative sci-fi genre sub-categories are listed here.
Hard science fiction: This is classic science fiction at its best. These stories rely on science and technology and are more about ideas than the characters. Authors in this sub-genre must have a good knowledge of scientific principles. Isaac Asimov wrote this kind of Science Fiction.
Other Worlds: The setting here is on other planets. Frank Herbert’s “Dune” is one example. “The Martian Chronicles” by Ray Bradbury is another.
First contact: This talks about the first meeting between aliens and humans. “War of the Worlds” by HG Wells fits here.
Space Exploration: This sub-genre includes any novel where the characters explore space.
Cyberpunk: This was mentioned in speculative, but because it is based in sci-fi, it’s worth mentioning again. This talks about a bleak future of technological advances and computers, hacker, and computer/human hybrids. Bruce Sterling and William Gibson coined the term “cyberspace” in “Neuromancer”. That’s a lot of what this sub-genre is about.
Near-future science fiction: These stories take place in the near future and include technology that is already here or is in development. Stories about nanotechnology or genetics, such as Greg Bear’s “Blood Music” is one example.
Time Travel: Characters travel to the past or future, or are visited by time travelers. “The Time Machine” by HG Wells is the best known in this sub-genre.
Military science fiction: Futuristic combat and weapons and battling aliens is what this genre is all about. Heroism and the carnage of warfare are emphasized. “Hammer’s Slammers” by David Drake is one example. Some authors in this subgenre have anti-war themes
Sociological science fiction: The emphasis in these stories is characterization. It talks about the future of the social sciences instead of the hard technology and focuses on individuals and social groups. Ursula K. LeGuin is one writer who typically writes this sub-genre.
Light/humorous science fiction: This is a spoof of science fiction. “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams is the best known in this sub-genre.
Science fantasy/future fantasy: Although based on some of the elements of Science, these stories ignore the scientific principles involved. They’re not very popular any more. One example is “Barsoom Novels”, set on Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Cross-Genre: These novels mix science fiction with fantasy, romance, mystery, suspense and other genres.
Space opera: These are similar to Westerns where the good guys shoot them up with the bad guys. The bad guys might be aliens or robots on another planet. “Star Wars” is the best example Sometimes the science in these novels is very vague.