A Sampling of Science Fiction Chronological List of Definitions of descended from Martians, then you've Definitions Science Fiction got to explain our apparent close Dr. Jason W. Ellis relationship to terrestrial anthropoid apes Hugo Gernsback. 1926. “By as well” (Heinlein 17). 'scientifiction' I mean the Jules Verne, H. G. Wells and Edgar Allan Poe type of Heinlein, Robert. “On the Writing of Introduction story—a charming romance Speculative Fiction.” Of Worlds Beyond: intermingled with scientific fact and The Science of Science-Fiction Writing. The human brain is uniquely suited for prophetic vision ... Not only do these Ed. Lloyd Arthur Eshbach. Reading, PA: pattern recognition and categorization. amazing tales make tremendously Fantasy Press, 1947. 11-19. Print. Due to this evolutionarily derived interesting reading—they are always ability, we like to put similar things into instructive. They supply knowledge . . . groups. This kind of cognitive work in a very palatable form ... New helps us make sense of our complex adventures pictured for us in the John W. Campbell, Jr. 1947. “To be world, and it helps us communicate with scientifiction of today are not at all science fiction, not fantasy, an honest others about how some things are similar impossible of realization tomorrow ... effort at prophetic extrapolation from the and others are different. Many great science stories destined to be known must be made. Ghosts can enter of historical interest are still to be science fiction—if they’re logically In culture, we associate works of art, written ... Posterity will point to them as explained but not if they are simply the music, literature, film, and video games having blazed a new trail, not only in ghosts of fantasy. Prophetic into genres. A genre is a category of literature and fiction, but progress as extrapolation can derive from a number culture that is widely agreed upon. well” (Gernsback 3). of different sources, and apply in a However, people often debate what number of fields. Sociology, constitutes a genre. This is because Gernsback, Hugo. “A New Sort of psychology, and parapsychology are, genres change over time and they Magazine.” Amazing Stories April 1926: today, not true sciences: therefore overlap with other genres. Also, single 3. Print. instead of forecasting future results of cultural works (e.g., a novel by Stephen applications of sociological science of King) might occupy several different today, we must forecast the development genres and/or complicate what people of a science of sociology” (91). expect those genres to be like. J. O. Bailey. 1947. “A piece of scientific fiction is a narrative of an imaginary “Campbell, Jr., John W. “The Science of Put another way, we can find an analog invention or discovery in the natural Science Fiction Writing.” Of Worlds in biological taxonomy: Life, Domain, sciences and consequent adventures and Beyond: The Science of Science-Fiction Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, experiences ... It must be a scientific Writing. Ed. Lloyd Arthur Eshbach. Genus (shares root with genre), and discovery -- something that the author at Reading, PA: Fantasy Press, 1947. 89- Species. One possible simple taxonomy least rationalizes as possible to science” 101. Print. of culture from the macro/general to the (Bailey 10). micro/specific might be: Culture, Medium, Genre. Bailey, J. O. Pilgrims Through Space and Time: A History and Analysis of John W. Campbell, Jr. 1947. “Scientific Below, I have included a number of Scientific Fiction. New York: Argus methodology involves the proposition definitions of the science fiction genre Books, 1947. Print. that a well-constructed theory will not organized chronologically. They begin only explain every known phenomenon, with the person who wrote the but will also predict new and still definition, the year it was written, the undiscovered phenomena. Science- definition, and the MLA formatted Robert A. Heinlein. 1947. “Let's gather fiction tries to do much the same—and citation for that quote’s source. You may up the bits and pieces and define the write up, in story form, what the results use these definitions and citations in Simon-pure science fiction story: 1. The look like when applied not only to your work in our class. conditions must be, in some respect, machines, but to human society as well” different from here-and-now, although (Campbell 12). Most of them are different from one the difference may lie only in an another in some way, but many of them invention made in the course of the Campbell, John W., Jr. “Introduction.” also share some similarities. These story. 2. The new conditions must be an Venus Equilateral. George O. Smith. definitions represent the debates in the essential part of the story. 3. The New York: Garland Publishing, 1975. science fiction field about what science problem itself—the “plot”—must be a 10-14. Print. fiction means, what is science fiction, human problem. 4. The human problem and what is not science fiction. We will must be one which is created by, or use these as a guide throughout the indispensably affected by, the new semester. I want you to keep this list conditions. 5. And lastly, no established Isaac Asimov. 1951. “True s-f is not to handy as we read and discuss science fact shall be violated, and, furthermore, be confused with weird stories or horror fiction this semester. when the story requires that a theory stories or tales of the supernatural or, in contrary to present accepted theory be fact, with fantasies of any sort. The best After the list of definitions, I have used, the new theory should be rendered definition of s-f that I know of is, indeed, included a glossary of basic terms that reasonably plausible and it must include almost sociological in its gravity. It goes we will talk about the first week of class and explain established facts as as follows: Science-fiction is that branch and that will be useful to your thinking satisfactorily as the one the author saw of literature which is concerned with the about science fiction moving forward. fit to junk. It may be far-fetched, it may impact of scientific advance upon human seem fantastic, but it must not be at beings” (Asimov 148). variance with observed facts, i.e., if you are going to assume that the human race Ellis 2
Asimov, Isaac. “Other Worlds to method' (observation, hypothesis, Conquer.” The Writer 64.5 (May 1951): experiment) to examine some postulated 148-151. Print. approximation of reality, by introducing a given set of changes—imaginary or Ursula K. Le Guin. 1971. “I write inventive—into the common background science fiction because that is what of 'known facts', creating an publishers call my books. Left to myself, Theodore Sturgeon. 1953. “After some environment in which the responses and I should call them novels” (Le Guin 1). fifteen years of arduous filtering, one of perceptions of the characters will reveal S-F’s more widely-read practioners has something about the inventions, the Le Guin, Ursula K. “The View In.” A come up with a definition of science characters, or both” (Merril 60). Multitude of Visions. Ed. Cy Chauvin. fiction designed to include all that is Baltimore: T-K Graphics, 1975. 5-7. worthy in the field, and exclude the Merril, Judith. “What Do You Mean: Print. cowboy story which occurs on Mars Science? Fiction?” SF: The Other Side instead of in Arizona. ‘A good story is of Realism. Ed. Thomas D. Clareson. good science fiction,’ he says, ‘when it Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green deals with human beings with a human University Popular Press, 1971. 53-95. Darko Suvin. 1972. Science fiction is “a problem which is resolved in terms of Print. literary genre whose necessary and their humanity, cast in a narrative which sufficient conditions are the presence could not occur without the science and interaction of estrangement and element’” (qtd. in Williams 376). [While cognition, and whose main formal this definition is often attributed to Samuel R. Delany. 1971. “A distinct device is an imaginative framework Sturgeon, he seems to give credit to level of subjunctivity informs all the alternative to the author's empirical another writer. However, Sturgeon words in an SF story at a level that is environment” (Suvin 375). began publishing in 1938—15 years different from that which informs before 1953—so, he could be employing naturalistic fiction, fantasy, or reportage. Suvin, Darko. “On the Poetics of the rhetoric to give a definition he thought Subjunctivity is the tension on the thread Science Fiction Genre.” College English up greater weight.] of meaning that runs between (to borrow 34.3 (Dec 1972): 372-382. Jstor. Web. Saussure’s term for ‘word’:) sound- 29 March 2012. Williams, Paul. “Story Notes.” Berkeley: image and sound-image. A blanket North Atlantic Books, 2000. 375-388. indicative tension (or mood) informs the Print. whole series: this happened. That is the particular level of subjunctivity at which Brian Aldiss. 1973. “Science fiction is journalism takes place. Any word, even the search for a definition of man and his metaphorical ones, must go straight back status in the universe which will stand in Kingsley Amis. 1960. “Science fiction is to a real object, or a real thought on the our advanced but confused state of that class of prose narrative treating of a part of the reporter. The subjunctivity knowledge (science), and is situation that could not arise in the world level for a series of words labeled characteristically cast in the Gothic or we know, but which is hypothesized on naturalistic fiction is defined by: could post-Gothic mode” (Aldiss 8). the basis of some innovation in science have happened….Fantasy takes the or technology, or pseudo-science or subjunctivity of naturalistic fiction and Aldiss, Brian. Billion Year Spree: The pseudo-technology, whether human or throws it into reverse. At the appearance True History of Science Fiction. Garden extra-terrestrial in origin” (Amis 8). of elves, witches, or magic in a non- City, NY: Doubleday, 1973. Print. metaphorical position, or at some Amis, Kingsley. New Maps of Hell: A correction of image too bizarre to be Survey of Science Fiction. New York: explained by other than the supernatural, Harcourt, 1960. Print. the level of subjunctivity becomes: could Pamela Sargent. 1974. “One can wonder not have happened….But when why a literature that prides itself on spaceships, ray guns, or more accurately exploring alternatives or assumptions any correction of images that indicates counter to what we normally believe has Rod Serling. 1962. “Fantasy is the the future appears in a series of words not been more concerned with the roles impossible made probable. Science and mark it as SF, the subjunctivity level of women in the future. There are two Fiction is the improbable made possible” is changed once more: These objects, possible answers, although neither (“The Fugitive”). these convocations of objects into excludes the others. Either science situations and events, are blanketly fiction is not as daring or original as “The Fugitive.” The Twilight Zone. Writ. defined by: have not happened. Events some of its practitioners would like to Charles Beaumont. Dir. Richard L. Bare. that have not happened included several believe, this being more a worthy ideal CBS, 1962. Web. subcategories. These subcategories than a reality; or this literature, designed describe the subcategories of SF. Events to question our assumptions cannot help that have not happened include those reflecting how very deeply certain events that might happen…events that prejudices are ingrained—despite its Judith Merril. 1966. “Speculative fiction: will not happen….events that have not sometimes successful efforts at stories whose objective is to explore, to happened yet…[and] events that have imaginative liberation from time and discover, to learn, by means of not happened in the past” (Delany 10- place” (Sargent xv-xvi). projection, extrapolation, analogue, 11). hypothesis-and-paper-experimentation, “Only sf and fantasy literature can show something about the nature of the Delany. Samuel R. “About 5,750 us women in entirely new or strange universe, of man, or 'reality' ... I use the Words.” The Jewel-Hinged Jaw: Notes surroundings. It can explore what we term 'speculative fiction' here on the Language of Science Fiction. might become if and when the present specifically to describe the mode which Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP, 2009. 1- restrictions on our lives vanish, or show makes use of the traditional 'scientific 15. Print. Ellis 3 us new problems and restrictions that Evans, Christopher. Writing Science might arise” (Sargent lx). Robert Scholes. 1975. “The tradition of Fiction. London, A & C Black, 1988. speculative fiction is modified by an Print. Sargent, Pamela. “Introduction.” Women awareness of the universe as a system of of Wonder: Science Fiction Stories By systems, a structure of structures, and the Women About Women. New York: insights of the past century of science Vintage, 1975. xii-lxiv. Print. are accepted as fictional points of Margaret Atwood. 1989. “I define departure. Yet structural fabulation is science fiction as fiction in which things neither scientific in its methods nor a happen that are not possible today—that substitute for actual science. It is a depend, for instance, on advanced space Joanna Russ. 1975. “I should like to fictional exploration of human situations travel time travel, the discovery of green propose the following: That science made perceptible by the implications of monsters on other planets or galaxies, or fiction, like much medieval literature, is recent science. Its favorite themes that contain various technologies we didactic. That despite superficial involve the impact of developments or have not yet developed. But in The similarities to naturalistic (or other) revelations derived from the human or Handmaid’s Tale, nothing happens that modern fiction, the protagonists of physical sciences upon the people who the human race has not already done at science fiction are always collective, must live with those revelations or some time in the past, or that it is not never individual persons (although developments” (Scholes 214). doing now, perhaps in other countries, or individuals often appear as exemplary or for which it has not yet developed the representative figures). That science Scholes, Robert. “The Roots of Science technology. We’ve done it, we’re doing fiction’s emphasis is always on Fiction.” Speculations on Speculation: it, or we could start doing it tomorrow. phenomena—to the point where Theories of Science Fiction. Eds. James Nothing inconceivable takes place, and reviewers and critics can commonly use Gunn and Matthew Candelaria. Lanham: the projected trends on which my future such phrases as ‘the idea as hero.’ That Scarecrow Press, 2005. 205-218. Print. society is based are already in motion. science fiction is not only didactic, but So I think of The Handmaid’s Tale not very often awed, workshipful, and as science fiction but as speculative religious in tone” (Russ par. 7-9). fiction; and, more particularly, as that Ray Bradbury. 1980. “I define science negative form of Utopian fiction that has “Science fiction, like medieval painting, fiction as the art of the possible. Fantasy come to be known as Dystopia” addresses itself to the mind, not the eye” is the art of the impossible. Science (Atwood 92-93). (Russ par. 22). fiction, again, is the history of ideas, and Atwood, Margaret. “Writing Utopia.” they're always ideas that work Writing with Intent: Essays, Reviews, “It draws its beliefs, its material, its great themselves out and become real and Personal Prose 1983-2005. New York: organizing metaphors, its very attitudes, happen in the world. And fantasy comes Carroll & Graff, 2005. 92-100. Print. from a culture that could not exist before along and says, ‘We're going to break all the industrial revolution, before science the laws of physics.’” (Bradbury par. 23) became both an autonomous activity and a way of looking at the world” (Russ Bradbury, Ray. “Ray Bradbury: The Marleen S. Barr. 1993. “As I explain par. 25). Science of Science Fiction.” By Arthur throughout this study, postmodern Unger. The Christian Science Monitor fiction must recognize a new supergenre “It is the only modern literature which 13 Nov. 1980. n.p. Web. 10 May 2014. of women’s writing—feminist attempts to assimilate imaginatively fabulation—which includes works now scientific knowledge about reality and thought of as mainstream, SF, fantasy, the scientific method, as distinct from supernatural, and utopian as well as the merely practical changes science has Kim Stanley Robinson. 1987. SF is “an feminist texts men author. Further, made in our lives” (Russ par. 31). historical literature ... In every sf critical studies should address the narrative, there is an explicit or implicit influence and importance of works of “Science fiction is, of course, about fictional history that connects the period feminist fabulation which have been human concerns. It is written and read depicted to our present moment, or to dismissed as genre fiction” (Barr xiii). by human beings. But the culture from some moment in our past” (Robinson which it comes —the experiences, 54). Barr, Marleen S. Feminist Fabulation: attitudes, knowledge, and learning which Space/Postmodern Fiction. Iowa City: one must bring to it—these are not at all Robinson, Kim Stanley. “Notes for an University of Iowa Press, 1992. Print. what we are used to as proper to Essay on Cecelia Holland.” Foundation literature. They may, however, be 40 (Summer 1987): 54-61. Print. increasingly proper to human life.” (Russ par. 33). Damien Broderick. 1995. “SF is that species of storytelling native to a culture Russ, Joanna. “Towards an Aesthetic of Christopher Evans. 1988. “Perhaps the undergoing the epistemic changes Science Fiction.” Science Fiction Studies crispest definition is that science fiction implicated in the rise and supersession of 6.2 (July 1975). n.p. Web. is a literature of 'what if?' What if we technical-industrial modes of production, could travel in time? What if we were distribution, consumption and disposal. living on other planets? What if we It is marked by (i) metaphoric strategies made contact with alien races? And so and metonymic tactics, (ii) the Robert Scholes. 1975. “Fabulation, then, on. The starting point is that the writer foregrounding of icons and interpretative fiction that offers us a world clearly and supposes things are different from how schemata from a collectively constituted radically discontinuous from the one we we know them to be” (Evans 9). generic ‘mega-text’ and the concomitant know, yet returns to confront that known de-emphasis of ‘fine writing’ and world in some cognitive way” (Scholes characterization, and (iii) certain 26). priorities more often found in scientific Ellis 4 and postmodern texts than in literary Glossary of Basic Science Fiction models: specifically, attention to the Terminology object in preference to the subject” (Broderick 155).
Broderick, Damien. Reading by Science Fiction (abbreviation: SF): This Starlight: Postmodern Science Fiction. is the proper name for science fiction. New York: Routledge, 1995. Print. Use this term in our discussions and your writing. My working definition: Narratives based on a technoscientific turn that sets it apart from the here-and- Octavia Butler. 1997. “[Science fiction] now (despite its extrapolation from the doesn’t necessarily mean anything at all here-and-now and its ensuing except that if you use science, you historical/cultural baggage). should use it correctly, and if you use your imagination to extend it beyond Sci-fi: This the popular and journalistic what we already know, you should do term for science fiction. Forrest J. that intelligently. The reason I’ve stayed Ackerman is said to have introduced the with science fiction to the degree that I term as a play on the rising popularity of have is because you can do almost “hi-fi” stereos in the 1950s. Some critics anything in it” (qtd. in Fry par. 26). began using sci-fi as a designation of bad science fiction while reserving Butler, Octavia. “‘Congratulations! science fiction/SF for the good stuff. You’ve Just Won $295,000!’: An This distinction never gained much Interview with Octavia E. Butler.” By adoption by journalists or the general Joan Fry. JoanFry.com, 2014. n.p. Web. public. Nevertheless, you will want to 10 May 2014. know this distinction and use it in our discussions.
Skiffy: An alternative pronounciation of Ray Bradbury. 2010. “Science fiction is “sci-f” that gained popularity around the fiction of ideas. Ideas excite me, and 1978 when critics including Susan Wood as soon as I get excited, the adrenaline began to promote it as a way to gets going and the next thing I know I’m distinguish great science fiction/SF from borrowing energy from the ideas trashy sci-fi. themselves. Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn’t exist Speculative Fiction: As contentiously yet, but soon will, and will change debated as science fiction, speculative everything for everybody, and nothing fiction is part a more respectable term will ever be the same again. As soon as used by some to refer to science fiction you have an idea that changes some and part near-future/strongly small part of the world you are writing extrapolated from the present. It shares science fiction. It is always the art of the the SF abbreviation. possible, never the impossible” (Bradbury par. 8). Fantasy: Science fiction is not fantasy. My working definition: Narratives “I often use the metaphor of Perseus and devoid of the scientific turn, which the head of Medusa when I speak of necessitates the construction of a self- science fiction. Instead of looking into consistent world. Popular examples the face of truth, you look over your include Tolkien’s The Hobbit/The Lord shoulder into the bronze surface of a of the Rings series (1937, 1954-1955), reflecting shield. Then you reach back J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series with your sword and cut off the head of (1997-2007), and George R.R. Martin’s Medusa. Science fiction pretends to look A Song of Ice and Fire series (1996- into the future but it’s really looking at a 2011). When science fiction and fantasy reflection of what is already in front of are discussed together, they are us. So you have a ricochet vision, a sometimes abbreviated as SFF ricochet that enables you to have fun (pronounced as S-F-n-F). with it, instead of being self-conscious and superintellectual” (Bradbury par. 22).
Bradbury, Ray. “Ray Bradbury, The Art of Fiction No. 203.” By Sam Weller. The Paris Review 192 (Spring 2010). Web. 10 May 2014.