Why Science Fiction Is the Most Important Genre

importance of science fiction essay

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  • Author: Geek's Guide to the Galaxy. Geek's Guide to the Galaxy Culture
  • Date of Publication: 09.08.18. 09.08.18
  • Time of Publication: 8:50 am. 8:50 am

importance of science fiction essay

Yuval Noah Harari, author of the best-selling books Sapiens and Homo Deus , is a big fan of science fiction, and includes an entire chapter about it in his new book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century .

“Today science fiction is the most important artistic genre,” Harari says in Episode 325 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “It shapes the understanding of the public on things like artificial intelligence and biotechnology, which are likely to change our lives and society more than anything else in the coming decades.”

importance of science fiction essay

Because science fiction plays such a key role in shaping public opinion, he would like to see more science fiction that grapples with realistic issues like AI creating a permanent ‘useless class’ of workers. “If you want to raise public awareness of such issues, a good science fiction movie could be worth not one, but a hundred articles in Science or Nature , or even a hundred articles in the New York Times ,” he says.

But he thinks that too much science fiction tends to focus on scenarios that are fanciful or outlandish.

“In most science fiction books and movies about artificial intelligence, the main plot revolves around the moment when the computer or the robot gains consciousness and starts having feelings,” he says. “And I think that this diverts the attention of the public from the really important and realistic problems, to things that are unlikely to happen anytime soon.”

AI and biotechnology may be two of the most critical issues facing humanity, but Harari notes that they’re barely a blip on the political radar. He believes that science fiction authors and filmmakers need to do everything they can to change that.

“Technology is certainly not destiny,” he says. “We can still take action and we can still regulate these technologies to prevent the worst-case scenarios, and to use these technologies mainly for good.”

Listen to the complete interview with Yuval Noah Harari in Episode 325 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Yuval Noah Harari on automation:

“It’s questionable how many times a human being can reinvent himself or herself during your lifetime—and your lifetime is likely to be longer, and your working years are also likely to be longer. So would you be able to reinvent yourself four, five, six times during your life? The psychological stress is immense. So I would like to see a science fiction movie that explores the rather mundane issue of somebody having to reinvent themselves, then at the end of the movie—just as they settle down into this new job, after a difficult transition period—somebody comes and announces, ‘Oh sorry, your new job has just been automated, you have to start from square one and reinvent yourself again.'”

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Yuval Noah Harari on dystopias:

“The only question left open after you finish reading 1984 is How do we avoid getting there? But with Brave New World , it’s much, much more difficult. Everybody is satisfied and happy and pleased with everything that happens. There are no rebellions, no revolutions, there is no secret police, there is just free sex and rock and roll and drugs and whatever. And nonetheless you have this very uneasy feeling that something is wrong here, and it’s very difficult to put your finger on what’s wrong with a society in which you’ve hacked people in such a way that they’re satisfied all the time. … When it was published, it was obvious to everybody that this was a frightening dystopia, but today, more and more people read Brave New World as a straight-faced utopia. I think this shift is very interesting, and says a lot about the changes in our worldview over the last century.”

Yuval Noah Harari on immortality:

“What kind of relations between parents and children would we have when the parents know that they are not going to die someday and leave their children behind? If you live to be 200, and, ‘Yes, when I was 30 I had this kid, and he’s now 170, but that was 170 years ago, this was such a small part of my life.’ What kind of parent-offspring relations do you have in such a society? I think this is another wonderful idea for a science fiction movie—without robot rebellions, without some big apocalypse, without a tyrannical government—just a simple movie about the relationship between a mother and a son when the mother is 200 years old and the son is 170 years old.”

Yuval Noah Harari on technology:

“You could have envisioned 50 years ago that we would develop a huge market for organ transplants, with developing countries having these huge body farms in which millions of people are being raised in order to harvest their organs and then sold to rich people in more developed countries. Such a market could be worth hundreds of billions of dollars, and technologically it is completely feasible—there is absolutely no technical impediment to creating such a market, with these huge body farms. … So there are many of these science fiction scenarios which never materialize because society can take action to protect itself and regulate the dangerous technologies. And this is very important to remember as we look to the future.”

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Project Hieroglyph

What Is The Purpose of Science Fiction Stories?

Amazing_stories_193205 (1)

Science fiction is also read with a purpose. Its readers seek to accomplish something, though our motives might be more elusive than those of the authors. Why do we read science fiction? The immediate answer for some is escapism: to enter into fantastic worlds that are more exciting than mundane reality. But that’s a simplistic answer that fails to explain why we’re drawn to science fiction, which, while speculative, often nods to realism and presents a thoughtful perspective on the future – frequently one that’s informed by scientific and technological reality. The draw of science fiction is more nuanced than a desire to escape the mundane.

Reading science fiction enables us to reflect on the ways people interact with each other, with technology, with our environment. A good science fiction work posits one vision for the future, among countless possibilities, that is built on a foundation of realism. In creating a link between the present and the future, science fiction invites us to consider the complex ways our choices and interactions contribute to generating the future. The collective and individual decisions we make every day—the careers we choose, the ideas we propagate, the ways we educate each other—lead us into the future. Science fiction gives us a venue to consider the futures that we want, and those we don’t, and how our actions contribute to one or the other.


Today, as a graduate student, much of the work I do involves the minutiae of science—the many hours of long work that hide behind every advance in the way we understand the world, no matter how small. But by reading science fiction, I place my work into a broader context and remind myself of why I think it’s important to work on the things I do: striving to make energy cheap, clean, and accessible, and developing systems for using it as efficiently as possible. Although I’m older, more practical, and probably more cynical, I’m just as inspired by science fiction now as I was when I first left the Earth with Bradbury and Asimov. 

Hieroglyph, in pursuing group storytelling and   interaction involving an exchange of ideas among readers, writers, scientists, and artists, gives us a tool for societal or collective reflection. Futures can be proposed, modified, refined, and discussed in an open, accessible community conversation. That certainly doesn’t mean that any one future discussed in the Hieroglyph collective imagination will come to pass. Nor does it necessarily mean we should all work together towards some particular future (such a call to collective action rings hollow to me). Truthfully, I doubt you could ever get a large enough portion of the population to agree that one course of action, one foreseeable future, is the best, to really ensure that it comes to pass. And the world is a large and diverse place—the notion that there can only be one ubiquitous “future” for everyone is laughable. But we should certainly use science fiction as a means to imagine what sorts of futures are possible, and which are desirable, and each act in our own way to help usher the best futures into reality.

Zach Berkson

One response to “What Is The Purpose of Science Fiction Stories?”

Ian Miller Avatar

In my case, while I write futuristic novels, I do not believe in predicting the future. Instead, what I do is to show a variety of forms of governance, including one I invented myself, and explore some strengths and weaknesses of them, the weaknesses being exploited by the “bad” characters. I also try to explain a little science, and illustrate logical thinking. Much of the bad parts of the stories are to suggest things we might drift into, but really shouldn’t. A sort of warning, maybe.

All of this is, of course, backdrop to what I hope are interesting stories. The idea is to tell a story, and hopefully leave the reader with something to think about and while I guess I am biased, I think that is what science fiction should do: entertain, but leave a subconscious message.

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Whether you are a science or literature student, you have one task in common:

Writing an essay about science fiction!

Writing essays can be hard, but writing about science fiction can be even harder. How do you write an essay about something so diverse and deep? And where do you even start?

In this guide, we will discuss what science fiction is and how to write an essay about it. You will also get possible topics and example essays to help get your creative juices flowing.

So read on for all the information you need to ace that science fiction essay.

Arrow Down

  • 1. What Is Science Fiction?
  • 2. What Is a Science Fiction Essay?
  • 3. Science Fiction Essay Examples
  • 4. How to Write an Essay About Science Fiction?
  • 5. Science Fiction Essay Topics
  • 6. Science Fiction Essay Questions 
  • 7. Science Fiction Essay Tips

What Is Science Fiction?

Science fiction is a genre of literature that often explores the potential consequences of scientific, social, and technological innovations. These might affect individuals, societies, or even the entire human race in the story.

The central conflict in many science fiction stories takes place within the individual human mind, addressing questions about the nature of reality itself. 

It often follows themes of exploration, speculation, and adventure. Science fiction is popular in novels, films, television, and other media.

At its core, science fiction uses scientific concepts to explore the human condition or to create alternate realities. It often asks questions about the nature of reality, morality, and ethics in light of scientific advancements.

Now that we understand what science fiction is let's see some best essays on science fiction!

What Is a Science Fiction Essay?

Science fiction essays are written in response to a specific prompt, often focusing on a particular theme or idea. 

They can be either creative pieces of writing or analytical works that examine the genre and its various elements.

It is different from a science essay , which discusses scientific topics in detail. 

Science fiction essay aims to explore the implications of science fiction themes for our understanding of science and reality.

For science students, writing about science fiction can be useful to enhance their scientific curiosity and creativity.

Literature students get to write these essays a lot. So it is useful for them to be aware of some major scientific concepts and discoveries.

Here’s a video about what is science fiction:

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Science Fiction Essay Examples

It can be helpful to look at examples when you're learning how to write an essay. 

Here are some sample science fiction essay PDF examples:

Essay on Science Fiction Literature Example

Example Essay About Science Fiction

Short Essay About Science Fiction - Example Essay

Science Fiction Short Story Example

How to Start a Science Fiction Essay

Le Guin Science Fiction Essay

Pessimism In Science Fiction

Science Fiction and Fantasy

The Peculiarities Of Science Fiction Films

Essay on Science Fiction Movies

Looking for range of science essays? Here is a blog with some flawless science essay examples .

How to Write an Essay About Science Fiction?

Writing an essay on science fiction can be fun and exciting. It gives you the opportunity to explore new ideas and worlds.

Here are a few key steps you should follow for science fiction essay writing.

Know What Kind of Essay To Write

Science fiction essays can be descriptive, analytical, or exploratory. Always check with your instructor what kind of essay they want you to write.

For instance, a descriptive science fiction essay topic may describe the story of your favorite sci-fi novel or tv series.

Similarly, an analytical essay might require you to analyze a concept (e.g., time travel) in the light of science fiction literature.

On the other hand, explanatory essays require you to go beyond the literature to explore its background, influence, cultural impact, etc.

So different types of essays require different types of topics and writing styles. So it is important to know the type and purpose of your science fiction essay.

Find an Interesting Topic

There is a lot of science fiction out there. Find a movie, novel, or science fiction concept you want to discuss.

Think about what themes, messages, and ideas you want to explore. Look for interesting topics that can help make your essay stand out.

You can find a good topic by brainstorming the concepts or ideas that you find interesting. For instance, do you like the idea of traveling to the past or visiting futuristic worlds?

You'll find some great science fiction topics about the ideas you like to explore.

Do Some Research

Read more about the topic or idea you have selected.

Read articles, reviews, research papers, and talk to people who know science fiction. Get a better understanding of the idea you want to explore before diving in.

When doing research, take notes and keep track of sources. This will come in handy when you start writing your essay.

Organize Your Essay Outline

Now that you have done your research and have a good understanding of the topic, it's time to create an outline.

An outline will help you organize your thoughts and make sure all parts of your essay fit together. Your outline should include a thesis statement , supporting evidence, and a conclusion.

Once the outline is complete, start writing your essay.

Start Writing Your First Draft

Start your first draft by writing the introduction. Include a hook , provide background information, and identify your thesis statement.

Here is an example of a hook for a science fiction essay:

Your introduction should be catchy and interesting. But it also needs to show what the essay is about clearly.

Afterward, write your body paragraphs. In these paragraphs, you should provide supporting evidence for your main thesis statement. This could include quotes from books, films, or other related sources. Make sure you also cite any sources you use to avoid plagiarism.

Finally, conclude your essay with a summary of your main points and any final thoughts. Your science fiction essay conclusion should tie everything together and leave the reader with something to think about.

Edit and Proofread

Once your first draft is complete, it's time to edit and proofread.

Edit for any grammar mistakes, typos, or errors in facts. Check for sentence structure and make sure all your points are supported with evidence.

After that, read through your essay to check for flow and clarity. Make sure the essay is easy to understand and flows well from one point to the next.

Finally, make sure that the science fiction essay format is followed. Your instructor will provide you with specific formatting instructions. These will include font style, page settings, and heading styles. So make sure to format your essay accordingly.

Once you're happy with your final draft, submit your essay with confidence. With these steps, you'll surely write a great essay on science fiction!

Read on to check out some interesting topics, essay examples, and tips!

Science Fiction Essay Topics

Finding a topic for your science fiction essay is a difficult part. You need to find something that is interesting as well as relatable. 

That is why we have collected a list of good topics to help you brainstorm more ideas. You can create a topic similar to these or choose one from here. 

Here are some possible essay topics about science fiction:

  • The Evolution of Science Fiction
  • The Impact of Science Fiction on Society
  • The Relationship Between Science and Science Fiction
  • Discuss the Different Subgenres of Science Fiction
  • The Influence of Science Fiction on Pop Culture
  • The Role of Women in Science Fiction
  • Describe Your Favorite Sci-Fi Novel or Film
  • The Relationship Between Science Fiction and Fantasy
  • Discuss the Major Themes of Your Favorite Science Fiction Story
  • Explore the themes of identity in sci-fi films

Need prompts for your next science essay? Check out our 150+ science essay topics blog!

Science Fiction Essay Questions 

Explore thought-provoking themes with these science fiction essay questions. From futuristic technology to extraterrestrial encounters, these prompts will ignite your creativity and critical thinking skills.

  • How does sci-fi depict AI's societal influence?
  • What ethical issues arise in genetic engineering in sci-fi?
  • How have alien civilizations evolved in the genre?
  • What's the contemporary relevance of dystopian themes in sci-fi?
  • How do time travel narratives handle causality?
  • What role does climate change play in science fiction?
  • Ethical considerations of human augmentation in sci-fi?
  • How does gender feature in future societies in sci-fi?
  • What social commentary is embedded in sci-fi narratives?
  • Themes of space exploration in sci-fi?

Science Fiction Essay Tips

So you've been assigned a science fiction essay. Whether you're a fan of the genre or not, this essay can be daunting.

But don't fear!

Here are some helpful tips to get you started on writing a science fiction essay that will impress your teacher and guarantee you a top grade.

Choose a Topic That Interests You

When it comes to writing a science fiction essay, it’s important to choose a topic that interests you. 

Not only will this make the writing process more enjoyable, but it will also ensure that your essay is more engaging for the reader. 

If you’re not sure what topic to write about, try brainstorming a few science fiction essay ideas until you find one that feels right.

Make Sure Your Essay is Well-Organized

Another important tip for writing a science fiction essay is to make sure that your essay is well-organized. 

This means having a clear introduction, body, and conclusion. It also means ensuring that each paragraph flows smoothly into the next. 

If your essay is disorganized or difficult to follow, chances are the reader will lose interest quickly.

Use Strong Verbs

When writing any type of essay, it’s important to use strong verbs. However, this is especially true when writing a science fiction essay.

Using strong verbs will help add excitement and energy to your writing, making it more engaging for the reader. Some examples of strong verbs include “discover,” “create,” and “explore.”

Be Creative

One of the best things about writing a science fiction essay is that you have the opportunity to be creative. This means thinking outside the box and coming up with new and innovative ideas.

If you’re struggling to be creative, try brainstorming with someone else or looking at other essays for inspiration. 

Use Quotes Appropriately

While quotes can be helpful in supporting your argument, it’s important not to rely on them too heavily in your essay.

If you find yourself using too many quotes, chances are you’re not doing enough of your own thinking and analysis. 

Instead of relying on quotes, try to paraphrase or summarize the main points from other sources.

To conclude the blog,

Writing a science fiction essay doesn’t have to be overwhelming. With these steps, examples, and tips, you can be sure to write an essay that will impress your teacher and guarantee you a top grade. 

Whether it’s an essay about science fiction movies or novels, you can ace it with these steps! Remember, the key is to be creative and organized in your writing!

Don't have time to write your essay? 

Don't stress! Leave it to us! Our science essay writing service is here to help! 

Contact the team of experts at our best essay writing service . We can help you write a creative, well-organized, and engaging essay for the reader. We provide free revisions and other exclusive perks!

Moreover, our AI-based essay typer will provide sample essays for you completely free! Try it out today! 

Have questions? Ask our 24/7 customer support!

Betty P.

Betty is a freelance writer and researcher. She has a Masters in literature and enjoys providing writing services to her clients. Betty is an avid reader and loves learning new things. She has provided writing services to clients from all academic levels and related academic fields.

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Visions of Future Worlds


Ursula K. Le Guin on What Is Science Fiction?

By John Folk-Williams

When I started this blog, I considered having a page offering various answers to the question, What is science fiction? There are so many different, often clashing views that I thought that would be interesting, but I eventually rejected the idea because it seems too pedantic to even suggest that there is or ought to be a “correct” answer. So instead, I’m going to examine the ideas about science fiction that some of the best writers have offered, not as definitions but as reflections on their chosen genre for expressing who they are as writers.

What is Science Fiction Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin ’s approach to answering the question What is science fiction? was to fight hard to elevate the genre from pulp to fiction. Or, as she unforgettably put it in one of the essays collected in The Language of the Night , (Perigee/Putnam 1979) she no longer wanted to see Philip K. Dick’s work on the library shelf next to Barf the Barbarian by Elmer T. Hack but next to Charles Dickens where it belonged (p 227). She thought science fiction had been through its childhood and adolescence and deserved to be taken seriously as fiction, and that’s a great starting point.

In “The Modest One” (1976) she elaborated on her comparison of Dick and Dickens. They both kept “a direct line open to the unconscious.” It’s easy to remember the vivid characters in Dickens’ books but not always the titles of the novels in which they appear. That is because, she writes, the characters make a powerful psychic imprint that clearly comes out of Dickens’ universe. So it is with Dick’s work. Themes and motifs are repeated and help define his particular sense of reality and often the fragile boundary between different levels of reality or between anchored sanity and madness.

She admired Dick’s work, especially when he was in full control of his material plumbing the depths of consciousness, because he was telling the story of slipping out of reality from the inside. His approach to science fiction was not to save humanity from tentacled monsters somewhere in the galaxy but to narrate the saving of a human soul. Perhaps that was a modest goal for science fiction, but Le Guin considered it no less powerful and earthshaking.

In “Myth and Archetype in Science Fiction” (1976) she tackled the grander themes that underlie the appeal of the genre for many readers. Here she sets a very high standard for the true artists of science fiction. She sorts through the false ideas of mythology, then hits on its origins in our own psyches. Myth is not primitive science, no longer necessary because we have a more rational understanding of nature. Nor is it a bunch of intellectualized symbols concealing abstract meaning. Nor is it the subrational drives that people can follow by giving in wholly to irrationality, as a good fraction of our population is doing right now.

Myth rather flows from the unconscious, she believed, not as specific beings or structures but as elemental forces that can take many shapes. It is the work of the artist, in science fiction or other media, to connect the conscious world with these unconscious forces. It took a Mary Shelley to loose Frankenstein’s monster on the world, and he is still with us. Tolkien did it with his ring of power, and Karel Čapek did it by naming the “robot” that arose from the separation of mind and body, ghost and machine.

Artists can only do this, Le Guin argued, by going inside the self where they can link with the inner realities that Jung referred to as collective. The connections between conscious and unconscious are the stuff of true myth, and only when those are made can science fiction be called the mythology of the modern world. Just lifting a story from one of the many mythologies from around the world won’t do it. That is simply theft, Le Guin says. It takes the deep probing of self and world that only a few artists really achieve. I wonder how she regarded her works in this light.

My personal favorite among the many great essays of The Language of the Night (if only this were still in print!) is “Science Fiction and Mrs. Brown” (1976). It starts with a quotation from Virginia Woolf, especially fitting since that is the neighborhood of mind and artistry in which she wanted to locate good science fiction. Woolf’s essay of the 1920s described a woman she called Mrs Brown whom she had sat opposite in a railway carriage. In a paragraph, Woolf captured a fully rounded character that makes her unforgettable. The point of the essay was to challenge the writers of her day who were preoccupied with social mores and external forces that controlled people’s lives. They didn’t write novels so much as sociology. Woolf asked if there was a place in such fiction for Mrs. Brown, a fully realized character who can take center stage because of the human qualities she embodies. In other words, is there still room for a novel of character ?

Le Guin asks the same question of the science fiction community. For her, character was everything. Much as she respected the genre for its variety and ability to generate metaphors for our own strange times, she thought all the galaxies, space ships, aliens and laser weapons were useless props or trash if there was no human subject in the center of it all. Science fiction, she thought, too often settled for the superficial marvels, wonders and horrors with nothing beyond themselves and without moral resonance.

“…the work of people from Zamiatin to Lem has shown that when science fiction uses its limitless range of symbol and metaphor novelistically, with the subject at the center, it can show us who we are, and where we are, and what choices face us, with unsurpassed clarity, and with a great and troubling beauty.” The Language of the Night, Perigee/Putnam paperback edition, p. 118

So for Le Guin, the question is not really What is science fiction? It is rather a challenge to SFF writers to go beyond the tropes of the genre to connect with what is most human wherever in the universe they may choose to locate it. Science fiction offered a promise for the “continued life of the imagination” and an “enlargement of consciousness, a possible glimpse, against a vast dark background, of the very frail, very heroic figure of Mrs. Brown.” (p. 119) She suggested a simple test for an SFF novel. After reading it, can you remember the names of the characters or anything about them? I think it’s a good way of measuring whether they made a human impact or only filled a slot in a story. Science fiction, for Le Guin, is about us or it’s about nothing.

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September 11, 2022 at 3:47 pm

Big cringe tbh. SF should be about space adventurers beating up monsters and boning princesses.

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September 12, 2022 at 6:18 am

Guess there’s a lot of SF these days you won’t be reading.

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December 30, 2023 at 1:17 pm

Thank you so much for this 🙂 I read “The Language of the Night” many years ago and have never forgotten Mrs. Brown. I remember Ursula le Guin’s statement; ” Story is how we tell ourselves who we are.” This may be an imperfect rendering, but I feel it is true to her meaning. Remembering our humanity, individually and universally, may be the only thing that keeps us from destroying ourselves. And all the many lives with whom we share this world

December 31, 2023 at 7:32 am

Thanks for writing, Adam. I’ve gotten hold of another book of Le Guin’s essays, Dancing at the Edge of the World, and will soon be writing more about her views of writing and science fiction.

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importance of science fiction essay

About the Author

A late-comer to the worlds of science fiction, John Folk-Williams circled around it, first by blogging (primarily through Storied Mind ) about inner struggles and the mind’s way of distorting reality. Then he turned directly to SFF as an amazing medium for re-envisioning the mind and the worlds it creates. He started this blog as a way to experiment with writing science fiction and to learn from its many masterful practitioners.

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Science fiction has been radically reimagined over the last 10 years

Seven science fiction pros explain about how everything in the genre is changing

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What does the future hold? In our new series “Imagining the Next Future,” Polygon explores the new era of science fiction — in movies, books, TV, games, and beyond — to see how storytellers and innovators are imagining the next 10, 20, 50, or 100 years during a moment of extreme uncertainty. Follow along as we deep dive into the great unknown.

Science fiction is going through an era of rapid change and expansion. Just as fantasy television, superhero movies, comics, cosplay, and other traditionally marginalized fan pursuits have moved into the mainstream, science fiction media has become much more visible over the last decade, reaching a wider audience, and changing to accommodate that audience.

In America in particular, what was once a nerdy subgenre, dominated by pulp writers and amateur scientists and philosophers, has become vibrant and wildly divergent, running the gamut from old-school sprawling space opera to heady alternate-history philosophy to pop adventure-novel bestsellers to a growing wave of Afrofuturism . What’s next?

Polygon recently sat down with a group of gatekeepers and tastemakers in science fiction literature to talk about the biggest changes they’ve seen in the books field over the last decade, and what science fiction novels they most recommend for hungry readers right now.

[ Ed. note: All quotes have been edited for concision and clarity.]

Ali Fisher, senior editor, Tor Books : One of the coolest changes, as far as I’m concerned, is that there’s been a pretty significant shift to ensemble casts vs. chosen individuals. Even when the casts in older works are big, for instance in something like Dune , you still have your significant primary individuals. Whereas I think some of the more interesting science fiction literature right now is happening with groups of characters working together to make change happen, in stories like the Expanse series, or Annalee Newitz’s The Future of Another Timeline . As opposed to more escapist spacefaring, space-opera stuff, seeing people who are actually protecting and preserving the home we have is really invigorating, motivating, and inspiring.

Cover of “The Future of Another Timeline” by Annalee Newitz

Miriam Weinberg, senior editor, Tor Books: We’re all thinking more and more about what connectivity and community mean. In a pandemic, that’s even more relevant than ever, having the type of communication that technology can provide. For a while, there was a strong trend of alternate history and the rise of steampunk, because people were trying to figure out how they could recapture the fun of technology without the problems, where we’re all sitting in our beds at 11 p.m., checking email one last time before we close our eyes. And that died out quickly, partly because the ideas moved backward, not forward.

Sheila Williams, editor, Asimov’s Science Fiction : We’re seeing a lot being written right now about concepts that are in the news at the moment, like genetic manipulation or climate change. But we’re also seeing a lot of stories about authoritarian governments, and economic inequity. Those kinds of stories have been around for decades, but there’s a certain urgency at the moment.

Neil Clarke, editor, Clarkesworld : The markets today are making the effort to be more open to international works. The simple fact is that the internet changed everything in terms of submissions. Once magazines started taking online submissions, that removed a lot of the financial obstacles of international submissions. I’m finding interesting stories coming in from places that might not have always been part of the mainstream community, places [America] might have been sending science fiction for decades, but not hearing much from.

There are a lot of interesting things happening in China. The world’s largest science fiction magazine, in terms of total readership, is China’s Science Fiction World . Last year, we had a grant from South Korea to translate some of their science fiction. I’ve been talking to more people in South America. We’ve had a few Brazilian stories. We’re seeing an increase in stories coming out of India. With the wider variety of people being represented, you’ve got a much broader range of stories now, with different perspectives. I think everyone out there is more likely to encounter stories that feel like, “Hey, these are people like me.” I think that makes science fiction a little bit more welcoming. It broadens the appeal.

Sheila Williams: I am publishing stories from authors who are writing in Chinese and then translating to English, authors who are writing in Czech and then translating to English — stories out of a lot of different cultures. I have a black American author who is living in Mexico and writing fiction coming out of that experience. It’s wonderful to have a variety of points of view. In a magazine, you want each story to be different from the story that came before it, so I think all the new sources really create a exciting environment.

importance of science fiction essay

Greta Johnsen, host of WBEZ’s Nerdette podcast : I think the big difference, and the most positive one, is that we’re seeing changes in who’s allowed to tell stories. For a long time, science fiction was almost exclusively a white, male, cis area. These days, it’s much easier for women to enter the field, and for marginalized or underrepresented groups. We’re getting these elaborate parables for racism, in books like Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone or Micaiah Johnson’s The Space Between Worlds , and they’re helping new audiences understand prejudice and privilege.

Miriam Weinberg: Two of my favorite authors right now are Charlie Jane Anders and Sarah Gailey , a trans author and a non-binary one. There’s so much more space now in the science fiction market for people who have been overlooked or directly marginalized by society, telling how it feels and explaining what can change, and how, because sometimes when you’re looking on from the side of the road, you can see the cracks better than someone who’s standing in the middle of it.

Lee Harris, executive editor, Tor.com : The drive for inclusivity is getting a lot more interesting works out there. A lot of #OwnVoices works that we didn’t see even as little as five or 10 years ago. We’re seeing much more interesting cultures being created and reflected, and people not necessarily just leaning on the old pseudo-medieval-kingdom fantasies you perhaps grew up with. Certainly the fact that the field isn’t just driven by people that look like me anymore — that’s wonderful.

Bradley Englert, senior editor, Orbit Books : Another thing that’s changed is the rise of social media, where writers and readers can really make themselves heard, and start organic movements and conversations toward the kind of books they want to see. As publishers started to publish diverse stories, they realized, “Oh, these are connecting with the market. We’re pushing them, and there’s a corresponding pull from the market, from readers who are finally starting to feel they’re included in the genre.”

Social media is definitely changing the conversation in a lot of ways. This is a very publishing-specific thing, but there’s an agent who runs a hashtag on Twitter every few months, #DVpit , where new diverse writers can pitch their books in basically one or two sentences on Twitter, and then agents will jump in and look, and reach out to those writers to potentially represent them. Previously, writers would have to send physical manuscripts to agents, and once email happened, everyone just had huge, overstuffed email inboxes. But this is one way to curate a very specific group of writers, and help include a really wide range of voices.

Sheila Williams: I’m also seeing a lot of experimentation, where a lot of cis, white authors are exploring gay relationships and other cultures. Authors are always trying to stretch and do something from a different perspective than their own, say from a different age, or a different gender, but there’s more interesting material from that perspective now than there used to be. It’s a really creative time.

Miriam Weinberg: There’s a lot more space now for stories about people, in the way that science fiction used to mostly be stories about ideas. And that’s because the markets are thinking more about the reader than the writer, and about how to involve people on an emotional level, just as much as we want to engage them on an intellectual level. I think that makes science fiction feel richer and more urgent than just proposing a grand idea, and expecting people to want to discuss it already.

Neil Clarke: In terms of what I’m seeing in submissions, and in reading contenders for the Best Science Fiction of the Year series , I’m not seeing one single topic that feels like the hot thing of the moment. If I was judging by submissions right now, everybody’s probably running pandemic stories. [Laughs]

Sheila Williams: I haven’t seen a huge amount of pandemic fiction from professional authors, but there are a lot of submissions from people who are just coping in their everyday life right now, with being shut in and isolated. They’re turning to writing more, and they’re writing about that situation. I’m interested in those stories from, say, the isolation point of view, but I think we’re too close to this pandemic to write stories specifically about it. I haven’t seen a big uptick. Not yet. It will happen! Authors need time to think about things, to figure out where they’re going to go with it, what’s going to be their take on it. In science fiction, response to a crisis doesn’t usually show up right as the crisis is happening. It’s usually something you see later on, after a period of reflection.

Greta Johnsen: I think we’re seeing even more underdog fiction than usual right now, in part because so much of it is coming from marginalized voices. And we’re seeing a lot more content about getting to Mars, because people feel like it might happen in our lifetime, and they wonder what that’ll look like. Readers are really hungry for the promise of positive futures right now.

Tochi Onyebuchi’s dystopian book Riot Baby cover

Ali Fisher: It’s interesting to see more personal writing in the field, like Tochi Onyebuchi’s dystopian book Riot Baby , where authors are extrapolating from specific experiences. Or something like Everina Maxwell’s Winter’s Orbit , which is a galactic empire story, very far-future, about the potentially devastating collective consequences of etiquette in politics. That book shows etiquette playing out on a really grand scale, which I see as a translation of something a lot of people are feeling right now about intimate actions being important as political actions. How we affect things not just with a vote and a public voice, but with our families and friends. All that stuff builds the fabric of our society, and can change it. Now we’re seeing that reflected in science fiction, where it rings more clearly.

Bradley Englert: We’re less interested in the classics of the genre — not that there’s anything wrong with the classics, there’s plenty of interesting content to be mined from them. The Dune movie looks great. But rather than looking at where the past was, we’re much more interested in what stories writers want to tell right now. We’re seeing more types of stories than before. Readers are looking for unique, forward-thinking takes. Writers find influence from everywhere, and often those influences can bleed into their work, but what’s exciting is seeing the story a writer can tell with their own unique voice, while not even consciously thinking of where all of the concepts they’re playing with might have come from. There’s a collective consciousness that SF has developed, and we’re all playing in that field

Lee Harris: Another thing we’re seeing is a lot of stories being written at the length they were meant to be written. It used to be that if you had a novella, the temptation was either to cut it down and sell it as a short story, or pad it unnecessarily, to sell it as a novel. Whereas these days, there is a large push for “stories at their right length.” So if you write something that’s 35,000 words that is perfect and complete and doesn’t need any more or any less, there are now markets for that.

That was certainly one of the things that attracted me to working with Tor.com, because I love books of novella-length, and it was setting up an imprint that championed that format. Over the last couple of decades, we’ve seen books just creeping up in length, until you have books now that if you hollowed them out, you could possibly have a family of four living in there. Now we’re seeing novellas being bought and sold and read in the mainstream, like Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti series , Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries , and This Is How You Lose the Time War with Amal el-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. Five, six, seven years ago, it was difficult to find anything new of that length in a bookstore, even though some of some of our favorite books are novellas: A Christmas Carol is a novella, by our current definitions. Of Mice and Men is novella-length. A lot of the classics were. But we’ve seen, gradually over time, the accepted length of a book increasing. And we set up an imprint to try to counter that.

Ali Fisher: One of the best things about science fiction is that we get to take the world as we see it, then expand on it. We either tell the cautionary tale, or the exciting, thrilling tale of what could happen, should we follow a certain path. The submissions I’m seeing in my inbox right now are more hopeful about those possible paths. I’m not sure if that’s election-based, or if the last couple of years have just inspired people to push more toward hopeful directions. I’m seeing books with more positive endings, but tackling darker themes, characters with trauma in their pasts coming into situations or worlds that are more positive for them.

What I’m not seeing is Trump stand-ins, “Dictators have taken over the world,” any of that. It’s more systemized, bureaucratic oppression that people are rising up against in a really strong way, through collective action. So much of what I’m seeing out there right now is dealing with broken systems.

To conclude each interview, we asked participants to recommend just one or two books — particularly positive ones for people who could use an emotional boost right now.

Waste Tide cover

Neil Clarke: It’s tough to narrow this down! One of the authors we’ve published a lot in translation is Stanley Chan, but his real name is Chen Qiufan. He had a novel out last year , and we’ve published a lot of his short stories . He has a really good grasp on technology and the issues around it, and he digs into these cool science fiction concepts — he’s just very imaginative, and the stories are engaging.

And I have a collection of short stories coming out from a small press I started , from another Chinese author, Xia Jia. I just love her characters. They feel very real to me. She wrote one of my favorite stories, essentially a family story, in an anthology about cyborgs I did several years ago. It was about a relationship with a grandfather figure.

Rich Larson is an extremely prolific short-fiction author. He has a novel as well, but he’s just been consistently producing some of the most imaginative, fun stories I’ve been reading over the years. And A.T. Greenblatt has been producing some of the most emotional stories, where the science fiction components tie together really nicely.

Ali Fisher: The recent uptick in young superhero stories gives me the sense of optimism and hope we were talking about. I’m thinking of Lauren Shippen ’s Bright Sessions novels , based on her audio drama podcast , featuring folks with secret supernatural abilities who all see the same therapist. Or TJ Klune’s The Extraordinaries , in which a group of big-hearted teenagers get caught up in the world of their local superheroes. Or the pile of My Hero Academia manga , about a Chosen One who earned his power and then becomes stronger the more he learns to team up with his classmates and mentors. I feel like this new age of superheroes is less interested in fortresses of solitude, and more interested in building a team — a community — around their power, and working as a group to understand that power and use it well.

Miriam Weinberg: These days I alternate between comfort re-reads like mysteries and childhood favorites, and rather dark catharsis reading. Think: Tender is the Flesh , These Women , The Only Good Indians . I feel too tender for hope yet myself, but I’m working my way through an exceedingly fun YA anthology, Vampires Never Get Old , and I am trying to stay forever within the pages of Kate Racculia’s Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts , which is a little bit Scarlett Thomas, a little bit The Westing Game , and a little bit Erin Morgenstern, while being extremely itself. It’s SO DELIGHTFUL! For science fiction, I’m loving The Space Between Worlds , a debut by Micaiah Johnson, which is possibly the best multiverse adventure I’ve read yet. It feels like it’s fixing my still-present rage about Amy Pond’s abandonment episode in series six Doctor Who .

Lee Harris: M.R. Carey ’s The Book of Koli series is just fabulous. They’re science fiction in that they are set in the future, and the technology they describe is not quite what we have at the moment, but you don’t have to look at it too hard to think it’s coming. And honestly, anything by Claire North . The Gameshouse series especially.

Sheila Williams: Suzanne Palmer is so much fun. She can be both funny and very sad. Suzanne’s very thoughtful about the far future. She has great plotting and really fun characters. She definitely can be dark and deep, but she’s also a lot of fun if you just want to relax, read a book, and enjoy a fun story. Cadwell Turnbull is a very interesting new author. He grew up in the American Virgin Islands, and he’s just a really wonderful writer. He brings another viewpoint into the field. He writes about AI in family therapy, and botany, looking at climate change, so he’s getting a lot of really interesting ideas into his work. But he also has that background of growing up in the Caribbean, so that’s part of his viewpoint. He has a very fresh voice.

Greta Johnsen: For people who are feeling down right now, I always recommend David Mitchell. Everything by him, really. I’m wild about him — he’s built an entire literary universe around his philosophies, and you have to really read everything to understand what he’s getting at. I’d start from the beginning, with his first book, Ghostwritten , or with Cloud Atlas . But reading the David Mitchell Universe wiki can really help you unpack what’s going on in his work. None of his books rely on chronology. Elan Mastai’s All Our Wrong Todays is also fantastic — it’s a love story about using time travel to fix mistakes made in the past, which makes it really nice to read right now.

Bradley Englert: I always recommend James S.A. Corey ’s Leviathan Wakes [the first volume in the Expanse series] because it’s such an awesome book, and that series is incredible for people who want to be drawn into a massive world. If you like fun, fast-paced reads, Alex White ’s A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe . And then — maybe this isn’t an all-the-way-positive read, or a feel-good read — but Goldilocks , by Laura Lam , is basically The Handmaid’s Tale by way of The Martian , but more hopeful. It’s a story where five women take charge of their destiny by stealing a spaceship from NASA and planning their own space excursion. It’s super fast-paced, really interesting, and there are lots of hopeful notes throughout it. So even though that initial pitch is maybe not the most positive reading experience, it’s a great book, and I think it will surprise a lot of people.

Imagining the next future

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A Century of Science Fiction That Changed How We Think About the Environment

importance of science fiction essay

It has become axiomatic to say that the world is becoming like science fiction. From mobile phones that speak to us (reminding Star Trek fans of tricorders), to genetically modified foods, to the Internet of Things and the promise of self-driving cars, people in industrialized nations live immersed in technology. Daily life can thus at times seem like visions from the pulp science fiction of the 1920s and 1930s — either a world perfected by technology, manifested in events such as the 1939 World’s Fair , with its theme “The World of Tomorrow”; or a dystopian nightmare, such as Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” (1932).

If we think about science fiction (sf) in terms of the genre’s connections to pressing issues in 21st-century culture, no topic is more urgent than climate change and the ways it promises to transform all aspects of human life, from where we live to how we cultivate our food to what energy sources will fuel our industries.

importance of science fiction essay

The issue is so pressing that some have started to use the term “cli-fi” for climate fiction — but this faddish coinage obscures a longer history of sf’s engagement with the environment and leaves unexamined the question of why sf has proven such a valuable genre for thinking about environmental futures. Even before the idea of climate change took hold, the genre embraced the geological and evolutionary timescales of 19th-century science and began to think of the planet as something that preceded our species and could conceivably continue without us. Such conceptualizations of the planet as a changeable environment turned the tradition of apocalyptic fiction toward mundane visions of environmental catastrophe instead of divine judgment.

A key early way such ideas circulated was through the changing imaginary about Mars: In the late 19th century, telescopic observations seemed to suggest the planet was covered in canals, which American astronomer Percival Lowell hypothesized were an irrigation technology, an idea taken up in Edgar Rice Burroughs’s “A Princess of Mars” (1912), among other fictions. When this idea was disproven by better telescopes, sf often depicted Mars as a once-inhabited planet whose civilizations had died out due to drought, presaging a fate that might also befall Earth.

In Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Mars” trilogy (1993–1996), about terraforming Mars to create an atmosphere and enable human colonization, technology is used to make these canals a material reality. The trilogy represents the viewpoints of several different factions over the decades-long process of changing the surface of Mars, including characters who argue in defense of leaving its environment unchanged. This is the best-known science fiction series about engineering planetary environments, most of which express themes about environmental protection and sustainability, but some of which celebrate a fantasy of total human control over the environment and planetary weather.

Early sf offered spectacles of disastrous destruction of cities and their populations but — unlike more recent works — did not posit anthropogenic causes. Disease rather than climate was more frequently imagined as humanity’s end in these works, including Mary Shelley’s “The Last Man” (1826) and M. P. Shiel’s “The Purple Cloud” (1901). At times such tales of massive destruction serve as opportunities to remake society without much environmentalism, such as Sydney Fowler Wright’s “Deluge” (1928), in which existing cultures are wiped out by earthquake-induced floods, distilling remaining populations into a hardier strain. This motif begins to take on a more environmentalist orientation in later works such as John Christopher’s “The Death of Grass” (1956), about a mutation that kills all cereal crops, a device that draws attention to humanity’s dependence on other species, a theme also present in George R. Stewart’s “Earth Abides” (1949), in which current humanity cannot survive, but the planet can.

Such works are interested in how the remnants of humanity might restore civilization and what form it might take, and thus remain anthropocentric in their focus. They are notable, however, for their emphasis on connections between humans and the natural world, resisting a technophilic tone of much contemporary sf that envisioned extensively mechanized futures. Moreover, they stand out from other contemporary postapocalyptic fiction in positing a premise other than nuclear war for the end of life as we know it and in explicitly linking images of destruction to environmental themes.

Ballard’s vivid depictions of the monstrosities inherent in industrialization, capitalism, and colonialism evoke topics that would usually be addressed in work by activist authors.

With the more experimental sf of the New Wave period and its relationships to contemporary countercultures, an overtly environmentalist sf appears, although here too fictions of apocalyptic collapses are sometimes more metaphorical than literal. This is especially true of J. G. Ballard’s stylistically compelling disaster novels, “The Wind from Nowhere” (1961), “The Drowned World” (1962), “The Burning World” (1964), and “The Crystal World” (1966), each of which depicts the world destroyed by what we would now call climate change — high winds, flood, drought, and a mysterious force that crystallizes matter, respectively. Ballard uses his transformed setting to interrogate the sterility and violence of the world prior to these disasters rather than comment specifically on environmental themes; nonetheless, his vivid depictions of the monstrosities inherent in industrialization, capitalism, and colonialism evoke topics that would usually be addressed in work by activist authors.

At roughly the same time, Rachel Carson published “Silent Spring” (1962), a trenchant critique of the use of pesticides in agriculture, which opens with “ A Fable for Tomorrow ” in which Carson depicts a future where a blight destroys all life in Anytown, USA, an outcome that Carson traces back to disruptions in the ecosystem caused by pesticides.

importance of science fiction essay

Carson thus demonstrates the rhetorical power of fictional, futuristic depictions to shape public understandings. In attempts to discredit her scientific credentials and disparage her personal character, Carson’s opponents were as vociferous and vile as any Ballardian antagonist. Nonetheless, her work, alongside the Club of Rome report “The Limits to Growth” (1972) published a decade later, fostered new ways of thinking about ecological futures, premised on sustainability.

“Silent Spring” energized a contemporary environmental movement, which had significant overlaps with contemporary antiwar and antinuclear activism. The first Earth Day was proposed in 1970, aimed at making air and water pollution a mainstream public concern, and eventually resulting in the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of legislation related to pollution and endangered species.

Earth Day drew on the sf imaginary both in terms of Carson’s use of futuristic narrative and in the image of the planet as seen from space as a symbol on a flag designed by John McConnell, which was intended to convey the interconnectedness of all life on the planet. The turn toward imagination as a powerful rhetorical technique in the environmental movement is also apparent in the launch of the Whole Earth Catalog, a countercultural magazine started in 1968 and published until 1998, which also featured an image of Earth from space on its first cover — indeed, this is the “whole Earth” of its title. An early example of DIY activism, the magazine fostered an imaginative community oriented toward an ideal of living more sustainably, addressed, in this way, to inhabitants of that future.

importance of science fiction essay

As with feminism in the 1960s and 1970s, environmental activists turned explicitly to sf and its relationship to the utopian tradition to promote countercultural values. The most famous example is Ernest Callenbach’s “Ecotopia” (1975), written as if it were the notebook of William Weston, a journalist who in 1999 is visiting and reporting on a society in the Pacific Northwest that seceded from America to establish a new polis defined by sustainability, recycling, minimal use of fossil fuels, localized food production, and gender equality. Like the authors of 19th-century utopias, Callenbach demonstrates an imaginative possibility for how one might live otherwise. Moreover, the novel suggests that changed relationships to environmental ideals require transformation of other aspects of social life, such as patriarchy and capitalism, themes that persist in ecological sf today. Similar ideas about the need to address problems of poverty and discrimination alongside pollution and environmental destruction are found in fiction by Kim Stanley Robinson, unquestionably the most important living sf writer addressing environmental themes.

There are then dystopian works of environmental sf such as John Brunner’s “The Sheep Look Up” (1972). Taking its title from a line in Milton’s “Lycidas” about hungry sheep failing to be fed by a corrupt church, the novel scathingly critiques the entrenched capitalist system that simultaneously destroys the environment and markets products designed to ameliorate the risks caused by contaminated air, water, and food. The plot concerns Nutripon, a manufactured food sent to developing countries as part of an American aid package. A shipment causes hallucinations that result in violent behavior, and some believe this is a deliberate attempt to eliminate people of color. Meanwhile, in the United States, money is less and less able to insulate the rich from contaminated food and water. Finally, we learn the Nutripon shipment was contaminated by toxic waste in the factory’s water supply, an accident. In a world of irresponsible polluters who value profit above all else, a conspiracy is not required to produce genocide. Brunner’s work stands out for its global scope and its recognition that the damage done by colonialism continues in and is exacerbated by pollution.

Frank Herbert’s Dune (1965) is often understood as a prescient novel about climate change, given its desert setting and its invention of several technologies for survival with a minimum of water. It is the first novel is what would become a sprawling franchise. The original novel recounts the political machinations by which young Paul Atreides is displaced from his inheritance as a feudal colonizer of Arrakis, lives among nomadic Indigenous peoples while mastering psionic powers, and eventually reclaims his dynasty while also fulfilling a messianic prophecy. Alongside Robert Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land” (1961), in which a libertarian, free love–promoting human comes to Earth from Mars, “Dune” was read widely outside sf circles when it was published. Heinlein’s strange protagonist, Valentine Michael Smith, preached a hippie-like philosophy best expressed by the novel’s invented term “grok,” that is, comprehension so intense as to approximate union with the object of attention, a phrase soon widely used beyond sf. Both novels were embraced by a youthful college audience who saw in them a reflection of their own anti-establishment values.

But the shift from pollution to climate change as the main engine of dystopian futures doesn’t firmly take hold until the 21st century. The explicit turn to sf as a tool for environmental activism characterizes this second generation of writers, who often write fiction about climate change and are involved in activism.

Wanuri Kahiu’s important short film “Pumzi” (2009), depicting the regeneration of a future Africa after a period of intense environmental loss, shows the power of new voices taking up these themes. Another prominent example is Paolo Bacigalupi, who addresses the uneven global effects of climate change. His YA trilogy — “Ship Breaker” (2010), “The Drowned Cities” (2012), and “Tool of War” (2017) — is set in a world changed by sea-level rise and projects both growing economic precarity and the rise of authoritarian governments in such circumstances. Bacigalupi’s most forceful novel to date is “The Water Knife” (2015), based on a short story originally published in the environmental magazine High Country News, about near-future water wars as California, Arizona, and Nevada all battle to control the dwindling resources of the Colorado Basin. It is mainly an indictment of legal manipulations that keep water rights in the hands of an elite, portraying with sympathy the fraught ethical choices left to the disenfranchised, and it concludes with a glimmer of hope in green technologies distributed by a Chinese government that is mostly in the background of the narrative.

importance of science fiction essay

Octavia Butler’s “Parable” series (1993–1998) is a truly prescient work about climate change. One of the few writers of color to achieve prominence in the field during the 20th century, her reputation has only grown in the years since her death in 2006. In this series, she imagines a future California beset by massive displacements fueled by climate change. Although published more than 20 years ago, these books read as plausible futures, perhaps now more than ever. Unlike Bacigalupi’s despair, Butler’s novel is rooted in hope, although she depicts an equally grim future. Like her “Xenogenesis” series, this work demands of its audience that we confront the difficult task of building communities in the face of loss, displacement, and tensions about diversity.

The Parable series imagines a future religion, Earthseed, as the core of this new kind of community. As Shelley Streeby outlines in “Imagining the Future of Climate Change” (2018), Butler’s work has inspired activists, some of whom have formed the Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network to cultivate the values Butler espoused, treating her sf as a manual for alternative lifeways — what Streeby calls a place “to practice the future.” Streeby connects this network to other instances of imaginative activism in 21st-century environmental politics, particularly by people of color and Indigenous communities, showing powerful ways that sf is becoming a rhetoric for activist practice. Butler’s vision insists that environmentalism must proceed in tandem with other social justice movements that counter racism and colonialism, a perspective that also informs N. K. Jemisin’s celebrated “Broken Earth trilogy,” the most important recent work to address climate change and social injustice as mutually constitutive problems.

Kim Stanley Robinson has written about the environmental damage caused by capitalism throughout his career, generally offering the hope that technology can ameliorate our dire situation. Climate change is most centrally the focus in his near-future “Science in the Capital” trilogy (2004–2007), about the struggle to mobilize politics and science together to confront the inevitability of climate change. The first novel, “Forty Signs of Rain” (2004), focuses on structural barriers that bar research and legislation that could address climate change, and it ends with the spectacle of a flooded Washington, DC. The second novel, “Fifty Degrees Below” (2005), is set during a mini Ice Age caused by the halting of the Gulf Stream, and it explores possible technical options to ameliorate this changed climate: a lichen engineered to capture more carbon, re-salinating the ocean to restart the Gulf Stream, and various tools and clothing that enable a high-tech Paleolithic lifestyle with a smaller carbon footprint than the lifeways of urbanized modernity. The final novel, “Sixty Days and Counting” (2007), offers the utopian possibility of an elected U.S. president who will prioritize climate change and who institutes a set of policies that push the U.S. economy into sustainable energy, while acknowledge the global disparities that are the legacy of capitalism. A number of the technological amelioration projects succeed, and we are left on the cusp of a new chapter in history.

Kim Stanley Robinson’s cast of characters enables readers to see how politicians, lobbyists, funding agencies, displaced migrants, and families in America are all part of the network that informs how climate change is perceived.

Appearing about the time that Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, we can see in retrospect that the trilogy addresses issues of extreme weather, just as we can see now that Katrina was only the first of what has since become the new normal for the climate: heat waves, cold waves, and extreme storms. The vast scope of his work speaks to Robinson’s careful attention to the complexity of climate change and the institutional barriers that prevent even acknowledging this reality in some circles. His wide cast of characters enables readers to see how politicians, lobbyists, funding agencies, displaced migrants, and families in America are all part of the network that informs how climate change is perceived. The utopianism of Robinson’s conclusion seems a bit forced, perhaps, but he is careful to show the number of people and institutions that must come together to enact meaningful social change as he refuses to simply capitulate to the cynical despair that fuels Bacigalupi’s work. Although perhaps not self-evidently a climate change novel, Robinson’s “Shaman” (2013), set during the last ice age and recounting how early humans adapted to a changing climate, further reinforces his ideas about the value of elements of Paleolithic ways of living with, rather than in opposition to, one’s environment.

Science fiction is a genre that has long used its projected other worlds to offer commentary on our material (and contemporary) one, especially to remind us that this world is open to change. There is myriad evidence that authors from outside the genre use sf techniques in precisely this rhetorical way. Consider Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway’s polemical “The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future” (2014), written as if by a Chinese historian in 2393 who is reflecting back to theorize why Western civilizations failed to act, despite clear signs of their looming collapse. Similarly, popular books such as Alan Weisman’s “The World without Us” (2007) and the documentary television series “Life after People” (2009) encourage us to reflect on how humans have changed our environments as they offer speculative visions of ecosystems continuing without us, erasing the technological signs of human habitation. Or consider Werner Herzog’s strange environmental film, “The Wild Blue Yonder” (2005), which is part documentary, part sf narrative, fused with NASA footage of outer space, deep sea photography, and a scripted narrative about an alien species who destroyed their ecosystem and seek to relocate to Earth.

Herzog, The Wild Blue Yonder, 2005

Environmental rhetoric, like speculative design, an approach that encourages thinking about and designing possible futures in a meaningful way, is one of the main places we see sf become a discursive way to grasp the present. Lindsay Thomas, in a compelling article on preparedness discourse, argues that sf provides a counterdiscourse to the kinds of speculative projections found in disaster planning, including government projections about climate change. Whereas documents such as the Department of Defense 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap , cited by Thomas, cultivate feelings of neutral detachment and automated response to already anticipated scenarios, sf about climate change enables readers to experience multiple temporalities beyond the individual human life.

Preparedness discourse responds to change, understood as disaster, through strategies of containment. But science fiction offers something much more. It offers us a way of thinking and perceiving, a toolbox of methods for conceptualizing, intervening in, and living through rapid and widespread change — and the possibility to direct it toward an open future that we (re)make.

Sherryl Vint is Professor of Media and Cultural Studies and of English at the University of California, Riverside. She is the author of several books, most recently “ Science Fiction ,” from which this article is adapted.


Essay on Science Fiction

Students are often asked to write an essay on Science Fiction in their schools and colleges. And if you’re also looking for the same, we have created 100-word, 250-word, and 500-word essays on the topic.

Let’s take a look…

100 Words Essay on Science Fiction

What is science fiction.

Science fiction is a genre of literature that explores imaginative and futuristic concepts. It includes advanced science and technology, space exploration, time travel, parallel universes, and extraterrestrial life.

Origins of Science Fiction

The origins of science fiction can be traced back to ancient mythology. However, it truly began to take shape during the 19th century with authors like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells.

Why is Science Fiction Important?

Science fiction is important because it allows us to explore possibilities for the future. It challenges our understanding of the universe and sparks our imagination.

Science Fiction Today

Today, science fiction continues to be popular in books, movies, and TV shows. It inspires scientists and inventors, and captivates audiences of all ages around the world.

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  • Paragraph on Science Fiction

250 Words Essay on Science Fiction

The essence of science fiction.

Science fiction, often abbreviated as Sci-Fi, is a genre of speculative literature that extrapolates current scientific understanding into a future or alternate reality. It explores the interplay of science and technology with human society, often creating a platform for philosophical contemplation and social critique.

The Evolution of Science Fiction

The genre’s roots trace back to ancient myths and fantastical voyages, but it truly came into its own in the 19th century with authors like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. Their works, such as “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” and “The Time Machine,” respectively, paved the way for the genre’s evolution. The advent of pulp magazines in the early 20th century, like “Amazing Stories,” further popularized science fiction, leading to its golden age in the mid-20th century.

The Impact of Science Fiction

Science fiction has significantly impacted society by sparking imagination and promoting scientific literacy. It has inspired many real-world technological advancements, from cell phones to space travel. Moreover, through its speculative nature, it allows us to explore ethical and moral questions raised by scientific progress.

The Future of Science Fiction

With the rapid advancement of technology and an increasingly interconnected world, science fiction continues to evolve. It is now exploring themes like artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, and climate change, providing a mirror to our possible futures. As we navigate the complexities of our technologically driven society, science fiction remains a vital tool for understanding and shaping our world.

500 Words Essay on Science Fiction

Introduction to science fiction.

Science fiction, often abbreviated as sci-fi, is a genre that uses speculative, fictional science-based depictions of phenomena not fully accepted by mainstream science. These elements may include extraterrestrial life forms, alien worlds, time travel, parallel universes, and advanced technologies. Sci-fi is a way of understanding, and potentially shaping, the future, while also illuminating our present world in unique ways.

Historical Evolution of Science Fiction

The origins of science fiction can be traced back to ancient times, with mythology, folklore, and fantastical tales that hinted at different realities or futures. However, it was during the 19th century that science fiction truly began to emerge as a distinct genre. Jules Verne and H.G. Wells are considered pioneers, with works like “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” and “The Time Machine” respectively, that integrated science and technology with imagination.

In the mid-20th century, science fiction experienced a ‘Golden Age’, with authors such as Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert Heinlein exploring advanced societies, artificial intelligence, and interstellar travel. Their works often reflected contemporary societal issues, such as the Cold War, space exploration, and technological advancements.

Themes and Concepts in Science Fiction

Science fiction is a broad genre that covers a wide range of themes and concepts. One prevalent theme is the exploration of space, often involving interstellar travel and alien civilizations. This theme explores the possibilities of human existence beyond Earth, and how we might interact with other sentient life.

Another key theme is the future of humanity, often exploring how current trends in science and technology may evolve. This can include dystopian futures, where societal or technological changes lead to a grim reality, or utopian visions of a future where technology has solved many of our current problems.

Science Fiction and Society

Science fiction serves as a mirror to our society, reflecting our hopes, fears, and ethical dilemmas. It often addresses contemporary issues, providing a platform to discuss topics such as artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, climate change, and the ethical implications of technological advancements.

Moreover, science fiction has the power to inspire scientific and technological innovation. Concepts first imagined in science fiction, such as virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and even the internet, have since become realities.

Science fiction is more than mere entertainment; it’s a powerful tool for understanding and contemplating our place in the universe. It serves as a bridge between science and art, combining the rigor of the former with the creativity of the latter. Whether it’s exploring distant galaxies, envisioning future societies, or grappling with the implications of new technologies, science fiction continues to push the boundaries of our imagination.

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Isaac Asimov

The real science of science fiction

There is a co-dependency between science and science fiction. Many scientists and engineers acknowledge that science fiction helped to spark their imagination of what was possible in science (immersion in the genre from a young age might help explain why I now research unconventional computers ). And science fiction authors are inspired by future science possibilities. But how do novel scientific ideas get into SF authors’ heads in the first place?

Sometimes, authors just make things up, but untutored imaginings tend not to make the best science fiction. As JBS Haldane put it: “the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose”. We need scientific input to sustain a rich science fictional imagination.

Science writing isn’t the same as fiction writing. Sometimes people who read popular science about scientific theories like loop quantum gravity say “it’s like reading science fiction”. But no, it isn’t. Greg Egan’s Schild’s Ladder , with its characters, narrative logic, and dramatic tension, all in a setting where the science is crucial to the plot – that is what reading science fiction about loop quantum gravity is like. Yet it can occasionally be difficult to distinguish science fiction from reality. The Endochronic Properties of Resublimated Thiotimoline by Isaac Asimov , about a compound that is so soluble it dissolves just before it enters water, is SF written in the style of a research paper. Minutes of the Labour Party Conference, 2016, a short story by Charles Stross, is written in the style of an official document of a meeting held under adverse circumstances. Some Limits to Global Ecophagy by Biovorous Nanoreplicators, with Public Policy Recommendations , by Robert A Freitas, is not SF (although sceptics of the field of nanotechnology might argue differently). I wouldn’t want all my SF to be in this style, though.

Some authors can play with deep scientific ideas because they already have a solid technical background on which to base their work. Isaac Asimov had a PhD, in biochemistry (although gained after the Thiotimoline publication). So did EE “Doc” Smith, as you can probably guess. (In chemical engineering as applied to food production, though from reading his fiction you might think it was more in coruscating beams of power.)

Some authors are (or were until retirement) full-time scientists and academic researchers in their own right. Astrophysicist Fred Hoyle, who coined the term “Big Bang”, claimed to write his SF in order to publish ideas that would not fit into scientific journals. Back in the 1960s, Fred Pohl edited The Expert Dreamers and Groff Conklin edited Great Science Fiction by Scientists, with stories by George Gamow, JBS Haldane, Fred Hoyle, Julian Huxley, Norbert Weiner, and more. Some authors who were originally researchers have been successful enough to quit the day job in favour of fiction.

Of course, not all science fiction writers have science PhDs. Many of the Golden Age writers had little formal education. James White, for example, wanted to be a medical doctor, but couldn’t afford the training; that didn’t stop him writing the marvellous alien doctors in space series, Sector General. Many SF writers have arts and humanities backgrounds, yet manage to write good hard science-based SF.

SF authors do their research. They tend to read widely, to generate ideas, and then think deeply, to focus in on the details. In the age of the author blog, readers can observe (some of) the authorial process. A lot of research can go into a book, much of it hidden, or even discarded. Inferior authors will info-dump every little last detail they’ve discovered; better authors weave their research seamlessly into the story, discarding what doesn’t fit. Sometimes the raw research reappears in footnotes, appendices, or bibliographies, which can be interesting in their own right; for example, Peter Watts’s Blindsight includes a fascinating technical appendix.

SF authors can ease their research burden by consulting the scientists. Jack Cohen, a reproductive biologist, has helped James White design his four-letter classification for alien species (we humans are DBDG), retconned Anne MacCaffrey’s dragons for her, and designed the life cycle of the grendels in Niven, Pournelle and Barnes’s series The Legacy of Heorot.

Writing, be it fiction or non-fiction, is usually a solitary task, but scientists often write in teams, each member bringing their own skill set to the collaboration. At one extreme we have Observation of a new particle in the search for the Standard Model Higgs boson with the ATLAS detector at the LHC by The ATLAS Collaboration, which boasts more than 3,000 authors, listed over eight pages; the text has an average of fewer than six words per named author. Most research papers are written by significantly fewer co-authors than that, but collaborative writing is the norm in science. There are also SF writing teams: brothers, spouses, or just colleagues. Some teams consist of a more established author providing some of the ideas, or even just the background world, and a younger up-and-coming author who does most of the writing work – not too dissimilar to a PhD supervisor and student, really.

Team writing can also help the infusion of science ideas into SF. Pair an SF author and a scientist, and see what results. One great example of this approach is the quartet of Science of Discworld books by Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, and Jack Cohen. In each book, Pratchett writes a short Discworld novel that exhibits some scientific properties of interest; in alternating chapters, Stewart and Cohen then explain the underlying science.

Ra Page at Comma Press has a different style. He commissions anthologies of short stories, each pairing an SF author with a scientist. This results in two chapters per story: the author writes their story based on an idea provided by the scientist, and then the scientist explains the science behind the story: where it is right, where it has been changed to fit the needs of the story, and where it is still speculation. Bio-Punk , published in 2012, was based on biomedical research; Beta-Life , in 2014, was based on unconventional computing and artificial life. I had the pleasure of being the “tame scientist” for one of the entries in Beta-Life, about “growing a skyscraper”. The idea here is to design “seeds” that then grow to form the walls, windows, plumbing, wiring, and so on, with the generic growing structure “gardened” into specific shapes, like topiary on a grand scale. Author Adam Marek took this idea, and wove a story out of it, adding the idea of a poor community stealing “cuttings” and growing their own, out-of–control homes.

Although the technical ideas underpinning the growing of large artefacts comes from science, the specific application came to me via science fiction, here the novel Oath of Fealty . If you know the story you will realise that means I’m actually interested in growing spaceships. However, we are applying for funding to further develop the science, and so are sticking to the less outrageous, and technically more feasible, skyscraper application.

It is important to get science ideas out to the public for many reasons. But one important reason, for me at least, is so that SF authors have a range of new material to use to write great SF stories. I’ve found that working directly with an author kills two birds with one stone: it produces a new story for me to read, and provides some science background that might help inspire other authors, too.

Susan Stepney is Professor of Computer Science at the University of York

  • Science fiction books

Humanity in Never Let Me Go

What is it that makes us who we are – that which is inside us, or that which we make? Our perception of ourselves, or how others perceive us? In his novel   Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro shows us a bleak alternate future in which humans mercilessly breed clones to provide organs, thereby eliminating concerns over cancer and other such illnesses. The science is never fully explained, but it is clear that the clones are really no different from the humans they come from, except for their origin and ultimate purpose (determined, of course, by humans). Ishiguro demonstrates the humanity of the clones through the narrator, Kathy, her friends Tommy and Ruth, and the story of how they grew up at Hailsham School, essentially a humane care center in which the clone children can learn and develop. In Never Let Me Go , Ishiguro explores human nature through the eyes of characters who are not human, but who make us question our humanity all the same.

The students at Hailsham are taught that creativity is the most important trait they can develop – art, and the artistic products they produce, drive the social world of Hailsham School. Kathy tells the reader about the Sales and the Exchanges, explaining how art fuels the student economy, and it becomes clear that social standing is determined by artistic skill and being selected for Madame’s “Gallery.”  Madame is a mysterious woman who visits Hailsham several times a year to collect the best art from the children, and her Gallery later becomes the center of a conspiracy; a false rumor started that it was used to determine which clones could be given more time to donate in order to spend extra years with loved ones. In this way, art is equated with the soul, and therefore with humanity itself. The children believe that the purpose of the Gallery is to show who they are – they do not realize that it’s meant to show that they are at all. 

When the adult Kathy and Tommy, now in love, find Madame and their former headmistress Miss Emily in hopes of getting a donation deferral, Kathy mentions a moment she had previously described to the reader, in which Madame caught her dancing to “Never Let Me Go,” a sad ballad, pretending to clutch a baby to her chest: “You were… upset that day. You were watching me, and when I realised, and I opened my eyes, you were watching me and I think you were crying… Why was that?” (p. 270-271). Madame explains how she interpreted the incident: “When I came in… I saw you, by yourself, a little girl, dancing… I saw a new world coming rapidly… a harsh, cruel world . And I saw a little girl, her eyes tightly closed, holding to her breast the old kind world, one that she knew in her heart could not remain, and she was holding it and pleading, never to let her go” (p. 271-272). In this moment, where Madame saw Kathy dance, and lovingly clutch something to her heart, she finally saw the clone as something more than merely a creature – Kathy became more human, a “little girl.” Kathy uses her body, what Madame thought was her only thing of value, to create art and show emotion. Madame sees the awful truth in the words “never let me go,” the truth that Kathy, and all the other clones she is in school with, will be forced to let everything go; their relationships, their freedom, and their organs, therefore their bodies and very lives, lives which have meaning and complexity just as human lives do.  “We took away your art because we thought it would reveal your souls. Or to put it more finely, we did it to prove you had souls at all ” (p. 261). Kathy and Tommy are shocked to discover that anyone could think they didn’t have souls, especially given the love they feel and the art they have produced for years. With this revelation, the hope starts to fade away and misunderstanding takes its place.

Throughout the novel, we see clones interacting just as humans do – they form friendships and rivalries, develop romantic feelings and jealousies, and they go in search of their human counterparts. They create beautiful art and seek to better themselves through knowledge and experience. There is nothing to separate them from humans, and yet Miss Emily confesses that all humans, including herself, are afraid of the clones, that every day she had to fight off her revulsion of them. Madame, though she endeavored to prove the humanity of the clones, didn’t really feel it until she saw Kathy dance. We can ask “what makes a human?” but that question has a dark answer in  Never Let Me Go , because ultimately the only thing that separates the humans from the clones is the human sense of self-preservation — while the clones never fight back against their fate except to plea for a deferral, the humans separate themselves from clones and subject them to terrible living conditions, all in an apparent attempt to keep a sense of human superiority. So while we may want to think that what makes the human is something good, like art and emotion, the message of  Never Let Me Go is even more bleak than the world it presents – that what makes the human is the willingness to keep others down to continue the status quo. 

Works Cited

Ishiguro, Kazuo. Never Let Me Go . New York: Knopf, 2005. Print.

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Mind & Body Articles & More

How reading fiction can shape our real lives, a novel changed the life of francesca lo basso—and there’s scientific evidence that she’s not alone..

I started college in the fall of 2003, when I was seventeen years old. I’d spent the last year dissecting news articles with my AP Government class on the U.S.’s escalating tensions with Iraq. War had moved beyond theory and into inevitability—yet I didn’t know how to express my horror and had even less of an idea of what to do with it. Then, six months after the first time the U.S. invaded Fallujah, I read Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried .

In this award-winning novelization of his experiences as a soldier in the Vietnam War, O’Brien tells the story of Rat Kiley and Curt Lemon. Rat and Curt are best friends—inseparable—until the moment when, during a game of catch, Curt steps on a hidden landmine and dies instantaneously. The abruptness of the incident and its placement in the middle of a scene of languor tells one kind of truth about the arbitrariness of war. But what struck me most—what motivated me to find out what I could do instead of merely understand—is the scene that comes after.

The narrator, who is also a soldier in Curt and Rat’s unit, tells the reader that shortly after Curt’s death, they stumble upon a baby water buffalo. Rat strokes its nose—and then shoots it in its right front knee, its back, twice in its flanks. Piece by piece, he tears the buffalo apart. The narrator tells us:

Advertisement X Keep Up with the GGSC Happiness Calendar Be a force for good this month Now and then, when I tell this story, someone will come up to me afterward and say she liked it… That as a rule she hates war stories… but this one she liked. The poor baby buffalo, it made her sad… What I should do, she’ll say, is put it all behind me. Find new stories to tell. I won’t say it but I’ll think it… You dumb [expletive] . Because she wasn’t listening. It wasn’t a war story. It was a love story.

The story of Rat and Curt didn’t just illuminate to me that the human costs of war extend far beyond death—it allowed me to feel the anguish of it, albeit a tiny fraction of it. From Uncle Tom’s Cabin to 1984 , novels have been used for generations as a way to urge readers to confront real-world sociopolitical issues. And it works—I know because I’m proof.

There’s scientific evidence to back me up, too.

In a recent article entitled “ Sitting Still and Reading: Rethinking the Role of Literary Fiction in Civics Education ,” literary scholar Annie Schultz argues for the importance of teaching literature alongside simulations of civic practices. She claims engaging students in civic activities, like community organizing or Model United Nations, should be paired with “literary representations of existential journeys to political consciousness.” That, through doing so, “reading and thinking can become emancipatory activities.” Indeed, an ever-growing body of research shows fiction has the proven capacity to make readers more open-minded, empathetic, and compassionate —capacities critical to ensuring we come out the other side of a global pandemic and a culture of militarized white supremacy with greater societal equity.

Why? Perhaps because a reader sits with a novel for hours, days, weeks—far longer than when consuming any other art form. This concentrated time gives a reader an embodied experience of the other, increasing their awareness and appreciation for differing perspectives.

Canadian cognitive psychologist Keith Oatley, who has been researching the effects of fiction on psychology for decades, found that the neural mechanisms the brain triggers to process narratives are similar to some of their real-life counterparts. For example, when reading the word “kick” or about someone pulling a cord, the same areas of the brain related to physically kicking or grasping are activated. One study found that one of the most important features of whether or not reading a passage of fiction simulated the default network of the brain—the network believed to support the human capacity to engage in rumination and simulate hypothetical scenes, spaces, and states of mind—was “whether or not they described a person or a person’s mental content.” In other words, being exposed to a character’s thought processes encouraged a deeper level of reflection than when reading abstract or “non-social passages.” The intimacy of a reader’s relationship with a fictional narrator’s interior dialogue is perhaps one of its most singular characteristics—a process Schultz describes as turning “the inner lives of oppressed characters outward.”

Fourteen years after first reading O’Brien’s book, I found myself back at my undergrad alma mater. I was teaching a writing class and used that same chapter of The Things They Carried —the one with the story about Rat and Curt. In the book, the narrator never self-identifies themselves by either name or gender, but a young cis male student claimed he knew the narrator was male because the narrator didn’t wax poetic about their emotions. When I asked him what character he felt expressed the most emotion in the piece, he paused and said, “Huh—Rat. A man.” It seems likely that this insight opened a door in the student’s mind—and perhaps he was able to let go of his idea that men couldn’t express a lot of emotion. One group of researchers argue that in “reading the written work of others, you enter their minds. In coming to terms with the mind of another, you can come to better discover your own.” In doing so, we can discover new perspectives through which to understand ourselves and others. Schultz concludes her article: “We do not ask students to limit their thinking to that which is acceptable within the languages and systems in place but, rather, to narrate their own histories and selves as a way to create themselves and society by extension.”

Greater Good Chronicles

Years ago, I stumbled upon Plato’s Apology —his account of Socrates’ defense while on trial for “corrupting the youth of Athens”—in a used bookstore. Socrates explained he was trying to disprove the Oracle of Delphi’s proclamation that he was the wisest of all men—yet, after every interaction he had with men he was told were wise, he determined they were not. It was this exposure of false wisdom (and, I imagine, hubris) that earned him the admiration of the Athenian youth.

One of the groups Socrates discounts is the poets. In his disputation, he says, “Not by wisdom do poets write poetry but by a sort of genius and inspiration.” His claim was that poets couldn’t be wise because their work was rooted in imagination, but I—and maybe the jury who found him guilty and sentenced him to death—believe the opposite to be true. The invented, fictive space is where truth can be found precisely because it doesn’t claim to hold it. Rather, fictional narratives provide the reader with an experience on which to reflect and discern meaning.

When readers read fiction, they know they are encountering human-constructed characters, settings, and situations. This necessary suspension of disbelief—of having to entertain the possibility of other realities—means readers of fiction aren’t merely learning to understand the world as it is, but, also, how to imagine a different one. And it is this act of imagining that makes alternative futures possible—a future without endless, violent conflict, for example.

A white paper published in 2017 by the National Academies of Science goes so far as to make the argument that narratology—“the study of narrative, narrative structure, and narrative discourse”—and narrative psychology—an understanding of “how narrative influences cognitive processes”—should be an interest of national security. The paper was published in response to a policy brief distributed by the Department of Defense which focuses “on a critical and enduring challenge in warfare—the need to understand relevant actors’ motivations and the underpinnings of their will .” The authors of the white paper write:

If there is doubt about the value of narrative… to national security, it only takes one look beneath the events displayed in the daily news…: somewhere prior to the action garnering international attention, communication happened that resonated with an audience, who found more reasons to act than not.

That is a point that becomes only more salient with every passing day, in 2020.

I am not trying to claim that O’Brien’s book single-handedly transformed me into an anti-war activist, but it did force me to sit with the unspeakable brutality of one war and reflect on its implications for a new one. It inspired me to continue seeking out news on the ongoing occupation of Iraq, to start writing political commentary for my college newspaper, to take a class on the Vietnam War, to visit Vietnam with a remarkable professor who is himself a Vietnam vet, to join anti-war marches in Philadelphia, to organize my first demonstration on the fourth anniversary of the invasion of Fallujah with an Iraq War vet in the spring of my senior year.

My first job after college was as the National Media Coordinator for Iraq Veterans Against the War (now called About Face: Veterans Against the War ), a national nonprofit made up of post-9/11 service members fighting against American militarism. Since then, I’ve exclusively worked in the fields of communications and community organizing for mission-driven nonprofits and organized labor for more than twelve years. When a friend recently told me he only reads nonfiction because he (like Socrates!) prefers to read something “real,” I couldn’t help but think he got it wrong. Fiction isn’t the antithesis to reality—it helps shape it. In her new book of essays, Azadi: Freedom. Fascism. Fiction , Arundhati Roy opens by recalling a conversation with her editor. When he asked her what she thought of when she thought of the word “Azadi” (Urdu for “freedom”), she said, “[W]ithout a moment’s hesitation, ‘A novel.’”

Roy continues, “A novel, to me, is freedom with responsibility.” And that, I think, is what makes fiction a revolutionary tool—it doesn’t just provide readers with the capacity to imagine different futures, but, crucially, the very real people in them.

About the Author

Francesca Lo Basso

Francesca Lo Basso

Francesca Lo Basso is a narrative strategist, writer, and community organizer with more than twelve years of experience working for mission-driven nonprofits and organized labor. Most recently, her creative nonfiction pieces have been published in Toho magazine and in an anthology of micro-essays entitled Conversations with Men . She currently works for education justice nonprofit Big Picture Philadelphia , which provides holistic, student-centered learning at two Philadelphia area high schools. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Kingston University in London and a BA in English and Philosophy from La Salle University.

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Critical and Historical Works About SF

Entry updated 28 July 2021. Tagged: Theme.

This entry restricts itself to works which generalize about sf, and only in passing mentions books or articles about specific authors or themes (for which see relevant entries).

The range and sophistication of sf studies have expanded greatly. Before 1970 very little useful material was available, but since then, and especially during the 1980s, the publication of secondary materials on sf has become an industry. Dorothy Scarborough 's thesis The Supernatural in Modern English Fiction ( 1917 ) concludes with a pioneering treatment of sf as a subset of the supernatural, here termed "scientific supernaturalism". The first work of criticism devoted to US sf is Hammer and Tongs (coll 1937 chap) by Clyde F Beck , which collects still-readable essays from a fanzine, The Science Fiction Critic ; the first important study, Pilgrims through Space and Time: Trends and Patterns in Scientific and Utopian Fiction ( 1947 ), by J O Bailey , is historical and thematic, dealing mostly with work published decades previously; value judgments are almost absent, and trivia are discussed alongside works of lasting interest. Despite its limitations, this was a valuable pioneering work. The Pilgrim Award for excellence in sf studies was named after it.

Bailey was an academic, but for the next several decades most books about sf were written by fans rather than academic critics. While this meant that their scholarly and critical procedures were often eccentric, and sometimes of indifferent quality, it also introduced considerable vigour into the early days of debate about sf, along with a willingness to plunge into areas of research (ephemeral publications – magazines and Fanzines – as well as books, along with the recording of reminiscences by authors, editors and publishers) avoided by academia; such knowledge of the History of SF as is now available to us is very much a product of their initial work. Research is still shallow in many areas of sf's past, and no consensus history yet exists.

The next serious study after Bailey's was New Maps of Hell ( 1960 ) by Kingsley Amis , a celebrated novelist with an academic background but, so far as sf was concerned, a fan. Brief and unscholarly, it is nevertheless witty, critical and suggestive; Amis regarded the essential aspects of modern sf as satirical and dystopian (see Dystopias ; Satire ). Unlike Bailey, he took most of his examples from contemporary Genre SF . Less literary in their approach, and more sober though passionate in their way, were the historical studies of sf by Sam Moskowitz , which, while adopting simplistic critical criteria and not always accurate in detail, were nevertheless important in the huge amount of research they codified for the first time, especially regarding sf in early magazines, but going well beyond that. Three collections of his essays which are often taken to be models of fan scholarship are Explorers of the Infinite (coll 1963 ), Seekers of Tomorrow (coll 1966 ) and Strange Horizons (coll 1976 ); also of note are his Science Fiction by Gaslight: A History and Anthology of Science Fiction in the Popular Magazines 1891-1911 (anth 1968 ) and Under the Moons of Mars: A History and Anthology of "The Scientific Romance" in the Munsey Magazines, 1912-1920 (anth 1970 ), with their long, informative introductions.

Two well-known writers of sf, Damon Knight and James Blish , often took time out to write shrewd, well-informed criticism, the latter under the pseudonym William Atheling Jr. Much of Knight's critical work was collected in In Search of Wonder (coll 1956 ; exp 1967 ; exp 1996 ) and of Atheling's in The Issue at Hand (coll 1964 ) and More Issues at Hand (coll 1970 ). These books were published by Advent: Publishers , a Small Press specifically set up to publish books about sf by fan scholars. It was with Knight and Blish that some sort of critical consensus began to emerge about what constituted sf and who were its most influential writers. The first of three critical symposia edited by Reginald Bretnor , also featuring the critical views of sf writers themselves, appeared very early: Modern Science Fiction: Its Meaning and its Future (anth 1953 ; rev 1979 ). It was followed by his Science Fiction, Today and Tomorrow (anth 1974 ) and The Craft of Science Fiction (anth 1976 ). From outside fandom, the first book-length study of sf regarded in the light of Mythology and Christian Religion was The Shattered Ring: Science Fiction and the Quest for Meaning ( 1970 ) by Lois and Stephen Rose .

The cautious interest being shown in sf by the US academic world bore its first fruits in 1959, in the shape of the critical journal Extrapolation . For many years this was stencilled, not printed, which suggested that the financial support it was receiving from academia at large was small; nevertheless it lived on. Two further academic magazines about sf followed, both (in different ways) a little livelier: Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction in the UK from 1972, and Science Fiction Studies in the USA from 1973. The former – as much fannish as academic – emphasized reviews and critical and sociological studies of contemporary and post-World War Two sf; the latter – more strictly academic – concentrated on writers of sf's past plus only the more academically acceptable of the present, with good coverage of European sf and some interesting and, to many, unexpected Marxist criticism. A relative newcomer has been Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts , published since 1988.

Some of the best critical writing about sf has appeared in these journals, and also in a great many Fanzines . Unfortunately, fanzines of the pre-Internet era tended to be produced cheaply (and as a result often disintegrate rapidly) and to have low circulations; back issue are usually therefore extremely difficult to obtain. Some of the more interesting critical fanzines and Semiprozines since the 1940s were (and in several cases still are) Algol , Australian SF Review and Australian Science Fiction Review: Second Series , Delap's F & SF Review , Fantasy Commentator , Fantasy Newsletter , Fantasy Review , Janus/Aurora , Locus , Luna Monthly , New York Review of Science Fiction , Quarber Merkur , Riverside Quarterly , Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Review , SF Commentary , Science Fiction Eye , Science Fiction Review , The Science Fiction Review (Monthly) , Science Fiction Times (see Fantasy Times ), SFRA Newsletter , Speculation , Thrust , Vector and Warhoon . The professional sf magazines, too, have regularly published sf criticism, that of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in particular often being of a high quality, as has been (beginning much later) that of Interzone . Algis Budrys 's above-cited Benchmarks: Galaxy Bookshelf (coll 1985 ) assembles his columns for Galaxy .

By the 1970s a large body of sf criticism had been built up, though much of it was and is difficult to get hold of. The earlier notion that sf should be judged by criteria different from those normally applied to conventional literature began steadily to lose ground in the 1970s to the view that sf is strong enough to be gauged by the same standards that prevail elsewhere in literary criticism. Very naturally, however, the literary analysis of sf tends to this day to be argued thematically and structurally, and to eschew a criticism grounded in concepts of psychological realism on the one hand or metaphorical power on the other. Although this is inevitable, mimetic realism and good characterization being qualities somewhat marginalized by the very nature of sf, it does help explain why even now sf criticism has not generally developed a vocabulary enabling judgmental distinctions to be well made; that is, when explaining why some books and stories are worse than others (an explanation that sf criticism feels called upon to make more seldom than is healthy), it does not usually do the job with much conviction.

The trickle of sf criticism in book form became a small spate around the mid-1970s and something of a torrent later on, but already by 1974 a number of new books had appeared, including studies by Sam J Lundwall and Donald A Wollheim in the USA. A major tributary joined the river with Billion Year Spree ( 1973 ) by Brian W Aldiss ; Aldiss later revised and updated this work with David Wingrove as Trillion Year Spree ( 1986 ), a version that won them both a Hugo . The book is idiosyncratic in some respects, with genuine scholarship of an autodidact kind, although not remotely academic. Many reviewers observed that, in the earlier version of the book, Aldiss's account of the post-World War Two period was hurried and not very informative, but this remains an important book, especially in the literary and cultural context it gives for sf ever since the days of Mary Shelley , who is Aldiss's candidate for the position of the first bona fide sf writer. His cheerful, informal raconteur's tone enlivens without cheapening his many serious points, and comes as a relief after the ponderousness of some previous studies of sf and the defensive fannish enthusiasm of others.

The next important book on sf for the general reader was also by a professional writer from the genre: James E Gunn 's Alternate Worlds: The Illustrated History of Science Fiction ( 1975 ), a balanced and intelligent survey (although coverage of later writers tends to be confined to long lists) which strongly emphasizes the Campbellian tradition of magazine sf in the USA. This book was part of a sudden rush of handsome, illustrated books about sf, some of which are listed under Illustration .

A collection of essays by Alexei and Cory Panshin , SF in Dimension (coll 1976 ), argued a coherent if controversial viewpoint. Alexei Panshin had earlier published an interesting study of Robert A Heinlein , and he and his wife would later publish The World Beyond the Hill: Science Fiction and the Quest for Transcendence ( 1989 ), a long book full of incidental insights but whose overall thesis is open to argument. It elicited a devastating review from John Clute , always a pungent critic of sf, in New York Review of Science Fiction (July 1991), which in turn prompted a correspondence whose overall implication may be that the US-centred, magazine-centred, somewhat inbred and sentimental view of the development of the genre which had dominated sf historians for decades was now being rejected by a new generation of sf critics and scholars. Clute's own first book of sf criticism, Strokes: Essays and Reviews 1966-1986 (coll 1988 ), was an example of the development of a wider perspective on sf, dealing as it does with sf's concerns in terms of their metaphoric resonance – their subtexts – as well as their literal meaning. A sometimes thuddingly literal-minded reading of sf themes, from Robots to the Colonization of Other Worlds , had characterized many of the books and articles published on sf prior to the 1980s. Several further critical collections by Clute are listed in his entry.

Numerous sf writers apart from those already mentioned have also written well-informed and lively sf criticism and essays in sf scholarship; some of these, like Gardner Dozois , Robert Silverberg and Ian Watson , have not yet had their critical pieces collected in book form. Among those who have are: Algis Budrys , with Benchmarks: Galaxy Bookshelf (coll 1985 ) and posthumous successor volumes assembling his review columns from F&SF ; Samuel R Delany , with The Jewel-Hinged Jaw: Notes on the Language of Science Fiction ( 1977 ) and Starboard Wine: More Notes on the Language of Science Fiction (coll 1984 ), whose structuralist and sometimes Postmodernist criticism is dense and difficult, irritating and interesting; Thomas M Disch , with The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered the World (coll 1998 ) and On SF (Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press, coll 2005 ); David Langford , with Up Through an Empty House of Stars (coll 2003 ) and others; Ursula K Le Guin , with The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction (coll 1979 ; rev 1989 ); Barry N Malzberg , whose The Engines of the Night: Science Fiction in the Eighties ( 1982 ) may not have had the attention it deserves; Joanna Russ , with The Country You Have Never Seen: Essays and Reviews (coll 2007 ), containing much sharp Feminist insight; Norman Spinrad , with Science Fiction in the Real World (coll 1990 ), which collects many of his critical columns from Asimov's Science Fiction ; and Brian M Stableford , whose several well-researched books on the subject, including Scientific Romance in Britain 1890-1950 ( 1985 ), have done much to dispel the view that sf was primarily a product of Pulp magazines and specialist SF Magazines .

A phenomenon which became significant in the 1980s was the production of large, multi-author reference works containing critical assessments of sf, of which one of the earliest was the first edition of this encyclopedia ( 1979 ). The first edition of Neil Barron 's Anatomy of Wonder: A Critical Guide to Science Fiction ( 1976 ; rev 1981 ; rev 1987 ) was earlier still, and the book remains one of the best and most accessible critical guides. Others include: the desperately uneven five-volume Survey of Science Fiction Literature (anth 1979 ) edited by Frank N Magill , though the actual editing and organization was largely the work of associate editor Keith Neilson ; the largely excellent Science Fiction Writers: Critical Studies of the Major Authors from the Early Nineteenth Century to the Present Day (anth 1982 ) edited by E F Bleiler ; the two-volume Twentieth-Century American Science-Fiction Writers (anth 1981 ) edited by David Cowart and Thomas L Wymer; and Twentieth-Century Science-Fiction Writers (anth 1981 ; rev 1986 ; rev 1991 ) first two editions edited by Curtis C Smith , with its useful essays badly compromised by poor presentation of bibliographical data. Further examples from the 1990s are St James Guide to Fantasy Writers (anth 1996 ) edited by David Pringle , with the usual sf overlap; the second edition of this encyclopedia ( 1993 ); The Encyclopedia of Fantasy ( 1997 ) edited by John Clute and John Grant [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]; and Science Fiction Writers: Critical Studies of the Major Authors from the Early Nineteenth Century to the Present Day (anth 1999 ) edited by Richard Bleiler , which recasts the above-cited work by Everett F Bleiler . Most of these books are reference works from specialist publishers at prices that may deter lay sf readers, but they are readily located in academic libraries.

None of these volumes is purely academic in its authorship, but in most of them many of the essays are by academic specialists – for honourable reasons but also, naturally enough, because the publish-or-perish syndrome will always ensure academic contributors willing to work for little or nothing – and it is in the field of academic books on sf that the largest expansion of book publishing on sf has taken place, especially in the 1980s. Long before that there were, aside from Bailey's, two other important early works of academic sf scholarship: The Imaginary Voyage in Prose Fiction: A History of its Criticism and a Guide for its Study, with an Annotated Check List of 215 Imaginary Voyages from 1700 to 1800 ( 1941 ) by Philip Babcock Gove , and Voyages to the Moon ( 1948 ) by Marjorie Hope Nicolson . After a long gap, the next academic works of importance (apart from studies of single authors such as of H G Wells and Aldous Huxley ) were Voices Prophesying War 1763-1984 ( 1966 ; rev 1992 ) by I F Clarke , who followed this work with other studies of sf, and Yesterday's Tomorrows ( 1968 ) by W H G Armytage . Running concurrently with all these publications, and beginning much earlier, have been the many books on literary Utopias .

Next in the academic line came Into the Unknown: The Evolution of Science Fiction from Francis Godwin to H.G. Wells ( 1970 ) by Robert M Philmus . In the 1970s Darko Suvin came to the fore as an influential academic critic of sf, his earliest full-scale book being first published in French: Pour une poétique de la science-fiction ( 1977 ; exp in English as Metamorphoses of Science Fiction: On the Poetics and History of a Literary Genre 1979 ). Two important later books by Suvin are Victorian Science Fiction in the U.K.: The Discourses of Knowledge and of Power ( 1983 ) and Positions and Presuppositions in Science Fiction (coll 1988 ).

After 1974 the pace of academic publishing increased. The most important studies of the mid-1970s were New Worlds for Old ( 1974 ) by David Ketterer , Visions of Tomorrow (coll 1975 ) by David Samuelson and Structural Fabulation ( 1975 ) by Robert Scholes . Scholes went on to collaborate with Eric S Rabkin on Science Fiction: History · Science · Vision ( 1977 ), one of the best semi-popular accounts of the genre. Rabkin has since published widely in the field.

Scholes's work was much influenced by Introduction à la littérature fantastique ( 1970 ; trans as The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre 1973 ) by Tzvetan Todorov , a work which has aroused controversy and much interest. Sf criticism, primarily Marxist, structuralist or both, is flourishing in Europe. Other notable European critics are Michel Butor , Boris Eizykman (1949-    ), Vladimir Gakov , Jörg Hienger (1927-    ), John-Henri Holmberg , Julius Kagarlitski , Gérard Klein , Stanisław Lem , Carlo Pagetti , Franz Rottensteiner , Martin Schwonke (1923-    ), Jacques van Herp (1923-2004) and Pierre Versins . Rottensteiner, who also publishes in English, is one of the most renowned European critics; unfortunately, his best-known book in English, The Science Fiction Book: An Illustrated History ( 1975 ), is not quite up to his own usually high standard. Some exceptionally controversial criticism by Stanisław Lem has been published in English, although his much-discussed Fantastyka i futurologia ( 1970 Poland), a full-length study of sf, has yet to be translated in full; a small part appeared, with other work, in Microworlds (coll trans 1985 ).

Back in the USA, the appearance in the 1970s of many academic courses about sf (see SF in the Classroom ) had repercussions in the publication of anthologies of critical essays. A pioneer editor in this field was Thomas D Clareson with SF: The Other Side of Realism (anth 1971 ), Voices for the Future: Essays on Major Science Fiction Writers Vol. 1 (anth 1976 ) and its two sequels, and Many Futures, Many Worlds: Theme and Form in Science Fiction (anth 1977 ). Clareson has also published books of his own, his most important work being on the early History of SF , as in Some Kind of Paradise: The Emergence of American Science Fiction ( 1985 ), which is more a historical and thematic survey than a critical study. Two critical anthologies about sf aimed at the general reader rather than at the student or teacher are Science Fiction at Large (anth 1976 ; vt Explorations of the Marvellous 1978 ) edited by Peter Nicholls and Turning Points: Essays on the Art of Science Fiction (anth 1977 ) edited by Damon Knight. The former book contains several essays which, in their readiness to see shortcomings in sf, may be a particular example of a general lessening of the rather tedious boosterism in many earlier books about the field. Another good, academic critical anthology of the 1970s was Science Fiction: A Critical Guide (anth 1979 ) edited by Patrick Parrinder .

In the 1980s a great many critical anthologies about sf were published, often choosing their contents from the proceedings of academic conferences or from academic-track programming at sf Conventions . A number of these are listed in the entries of such individual editors as Martin H Greenberg , Donald Hassler , Eric S Rabkin and George E Slusser . Many of the academics who have edited such books have also written studies of their own. Among them are perhaps the two most stimulating US academic theoreticians about sf to have risen to prominence in the 1980s: Mark Rose and Gary K Wolfe . Rose is the author of Alien Encounters: Anatomy of Science Fiction ( 1981 ), which in its discussion of what he sees as the central paradigms in sf breaks new ground, if controversially. Wolfe is the author of many articles and several books, including The Known and the Unknown: The Iconography of Science Fiction ( 1979 ), perhaps the major sf study of its day, and comes as close as any critic ever has to defining, in useful and quite rigorous theoretical terms, the Sense of Wonder that fans so often use to describe what they seek for and find in sf. Unlike many of his academic colleagues, Wolfe writes with clarity, grace and wit, and avoids the jargon that makes so much recent academic analysis of sf so inaccessible to the ordinary reader – and so boring, sometimes, to even the academically trained reader.

The books of two other academic critics of considerable interest have been more narrowly focused than most of the above: H Bruce Franklin and W Warren Wagar . Both write well. Franklin has written, from a Marxist perspective unusual in US criticism, Robert A. Heinlein: America as Science Fiction ( 1980 ) and War Stars: The Superweapon and the American Imagination ( 1988 ). Wagar is the author of a book which is as much a contribution to the history of ideas as it is an analysis of sf specifically: Terminal Visions: The Literature of Last Things ( 1982 ).

Further collections by notable critics already cited above are listed in detail in their individual entries, such as that for John Clute , with Look at the Evidence (coll 1996 ) and others; and Gary K Wolfe , with Soundings: Reviews 1992-1996 (coll 2005 ) and further assemblies of his Locus review columns. More recently emerging non-academic critics include Paul Kincaid , with What It Is We Do When We Read Science Fiction (coll 2008 ).

Among further broad-scope works published in the present century are The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction (anth 2003 ) edited by Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn ; The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Themes, Works, and Wonders ( 2005 3vols) edited by Gary Westfahl , assembling entries by many hands on sf/fantasy themes and selected books; and The History of Science Fiction ( 2006 ) by Adam Roberts . The present online edition of this encyclopedia was launched in October 2011.

In the early 1970s anybody interested in the history and criticism of sf could have found very little to read on the subject. Now there is far too much to cope with, and the difficulty is in locating what might be available and interesting. The "interesting" criterion remains a lottery, but the "availability" criterion can be helped considerably. Here the Science Fiction and Fantasy Reference Indexes of Hal W Hall were historically very useful, as was The Year's Scholarship in Science Fiction and Fantasy series compiled by Marshall B Tymn and Roger C Schlobin (see their entries for details). An earlier reference is Science Fiction Criticism: An Annotated Checklist ( 1972 ) compiled by Clareson. The Hall indexes have been subsumed into and superseded by the online Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Database [see links below].

Further discussion of secondary materials for the sf researcher will be found in Bibliographies , Cinema , Definitions of SF and Postmodernism and SF , and in selected author and theme entries throughout. [PN/DRL]

  • The Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Database
  • The Encyclopedia of Fantasy

previous versions of this entry

  • Internet Archive

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Essays in Economic History pp 479–523 Cite as

Economics and Economic History in Science Fiction

  • Ari J. Officer 2 &
  • Lawrence H. Officer 2  
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With the study of thought experiments and counterfactual analysis already established in economic history, science fiction provides additional material to enhance our understanding of the past and present. Science fiction is especially useful to challenge assumptions and expose flaws in economic policy. The chapter reviews science-fiction literature and film, analyzing their historical context and drawing parallels to economic history. While science fiction is known to predict what could be, it can serve policymakers in warning what might go wrong.

  • Science fiction
  • Thought experiments
  • Counterfactual analysis
  • Speculative fiction
  • Alternate history
  • Psychohistory
  • Risk-reward
  • Communication
  • Medical advances
  • Transportation
  • Population growth
  • Gender dysphoria
  • Specialization
  • Productivity
  • Price level
  • Principal-agent problem
  • Intellectual property
  • Central planning
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four
  • Property rights
  • Parallel worlds
  • History repeated

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    It is the work of the artist, in science fiction or other media, to connect the conscious world with these unconscious forces. It took a Mary Shelley to loose Frankenstein's monster on the world, and he is still with us. Tolkien did it with his ring of power, and Karel Čapek did it by naming the "robot" that arose from the separation of ...

  6. What 'science fiction' means today, and how the genre has radically

    In the great new sci-fi books and movies of the last 10 years, authors and storytellers have imagined the future in new ways. Editors from Tor, Orbit, Asimov's Science Fiction, and more weigh in ...

  7. A Century of Science Fiction That Changed How We Think About the

    The trilogy represents the viewpoints of several different factions over the decades-long process of changing the surface of Mars, including characters who argue in defense of leaving its environment unchanged. This is the best-known science fiction series about engineering planetary environments, most of which express themes about ...

  8. An Empirical Revision of the Definition of Science Fiction: It Is All

    Science fiction has been described as "a crucial and popular mode, even the mainstream mode, of thinking about life in a modern technoscientific world" (Weiner et al., 2018, p.7) and, in popular forms, can provide remarkable insights into cultural perspectives and assumptions (Menadue, 2019b).Supporting the general relevance of thought experiments inspired by science fiction requires ...

  9. Essay on Science Fiction

    Science fiction, often abbreviated as Sci-Fi, is a genre of speculative literature that extrapolates current scientific understanding into a future or alternate reality. It explores the interplay of science and technology with human society, often creating a platform for philosophical contemplation and social critique.

  10. The real science of science fiction

    It is important to get science ideas out to the public for many reasons. But one important reason, for me at least, is so that SF authors have a range of new material to use to write great SF stories.

  11. Practicing Science Fiction : Critical Essays on Writing, Reading and

    Drawn from the Science Fiction Research Association conference held in Lawrence, Kansas, in 2008, the essays in this volume address intersections among the reading, writing, and teaching of science fiction. Part 1 studies the teaching of SF, placing analytical and pedagogical research next to each other to reveal how SF can be both an object of study as well as a teaching tool for other ...

  12. Human Culture and Science Fiction: A Review of the Literature, 1980

    Science fiction is significant in studies of human culture as it is an ancient and enduring form of literature that has been part of what Brian Aldiss called our "cultural wallpaper" since the origins of recorded history (Aldiss & Wigmore, 1986, p. 14).Adam Roberts suggested that science fiction begins with the "voyages extraordinaires" of the Ancient Greeks (Roberts, 2005, p. vii ...

  13. Reading Science: SF and the Uses of Literature

    Science fiction, Jasanoff suggests, is an important "repository" of the sociotechnical imaginary, offering visions that "integrate futures of growing knowledge and technological mastery with normative assessments of what such futures could and should mean" (Jasanoff, "Imagined and Invented Worlds" 2015, 338).

  14. Humanity in Never Let Me Go

    In Never Let Me Go, Ishiguro explores human nature through the eyes of characters who are not human, but who make us question our humanity all the same. The students at Hailsham are taught that creativity is the most important trait they can develop - art, and the artistic products they produce, drive the social world of Hailsham School.

  15. The Importance Of Science Fiction

    The Importance Of Science Fiction. Good Essays. 1459 Words. 6 Pages. Open Document. Science fiction has indeed played a significant role in not only speculating about the future, but in many instances has actually shaped and molded some of the social and cultural norms we see today. Science fiction is about what could be, in the realm of actual ...

  16. Why Fiction Is Important to Humanity

    Once upon a time, fiction was important to humanity. Our ancestors sat around campfires, gazed at the stars, and told stories of people long gone. Fast forward to the 21st century and things have…

  17. How Reading Fiction Can Shape Our Real Lives

    Fiction isn't the antithesis to reality—it helps shape it. In her new book of essays, Azadi: Freedom. Fascism. Fiction, Arundhati Roy opens by recalling a conversation with her editor. When he asked her what she thought of when she thought of the word "Azadi" (Urdu for "freedom"), she said, "[W]ithout a moment's hesitation, 'A ...

  18. Science Fiction as an Instructional Strategy: Foundations ...

    Science fiction (SF) combines realistic and imaginary elements of science and technology and develops students' imagination, creativity, and interest in science. Therefore, the aim of this study is to examine SF stories written by pre-service science teachers (PSTs) in terms of various textual and science variables. The case study of SF story writing aimed to develop a theoretical framework ...

  19. Introduction to History and Speculative Fiction: Essays in Honor of

    For Rieder, the centrality of time to colonial ideology is strongly related to its prevalence and importance as a motif in science fiction. This is particularly true of the common time travel motif. For those who accepted colonial notions of "civilization" and progress, travel in space was often understood as a kind of time travel (76).

  20. The Importance Of Science Fiction

    The Importance Of Science Fiction. Science Fiction is a genre of fiction that involves science and technology as a main aspect in its stories. It is a genre that has many subgenres such as apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic science fiction, zombie fiction, hard science fiction, dystopian fiction, time travel fiction, parallel world fiction, alien ...

  21. SFE: Critical and Historical Works About SF

    The first work of criticism devoted to US sf is Hammer and Tongs (coll 1937 chap) by Clyde F Beck, which collects still-readable essays from a fanzine, The Science Fiction Critic; the first important study, Pilgrims through Space and Time: Trends and Patterns in Scientific and Utopian Fiction ( 1947 ), by J O Bailey, is historical and thematic ...

  22. Economics and Economic History in Science Fiction

    Essays in Economic History. Chapter. ... The chapter concludes with Sect. 24.8, a plea for recognition of the importance of science fiction. 2. As publishing has become more meritocratic and accessible, authors are releasing new and exciting science fiction every day. The study of the genre in this chapter hopefully justifies further such ...

  23. Sci Fi Essay Sci Fi Essay

    The Importance Of Science Fiction. Science Fiction is a genre of fiction that involves science and technology as a main aspect in its stories. It is a genre that has many subgenres such as apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic science fiction, zombie fiction, hard science fiction, dystopian fiction, time travel fiction, parallel world fiction, alien fiction, science fiction horror, steampunk, and ...