What is Science Fiction?

Science fiction is a lens we use to tell stories about who we are, what’s wrong with the world, and what will happen to us if we do or do not take steps to address our behaviour. It’s a literature of ideas, but it’s also one woven into being using analogy and parable. It’s about OUR relationship to technology, nature, society, and the cosmos. And through it, we can address these things in ways with which mainstream fiction might struggle.

Look back at Mary Shelley, HG Wells or George Orwell. Look at the SF of the postwar years, the 1960s and 1970s. The flowering of cyberpunk in the 1980s… Our science fiction reflects who we are when we write it.

As a writer, science fiction gives you one of the widest possible canvases: the whole of time and space, from the beginning of the universe to its end. You can go anywhere, imagine anything, set up any social experiment or emotional “what if?” you desire. It’s a blank canvas wide enough for your imagination. It encapulates that “anything-is-possible” punk rock attitude. And in that freedom, that willingness to extrapolate what we see around us into tales that examine out relationship with the universe, it is possibly the oldest and purest of our storytelling traditions.

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Author: Gareth L Powell


2 thoughts on “What is Science Fiction?”

  1. ‘What if?’

    Two of the most evocative and potentially revolutionary words in our language.

  2. I believe the earliest science fiction story is thought to be by Lucian of Samosata, the 2nd century writer. His True Stories (a parody of travellers’ tales) recounts how a group of travellers are whisked up by a waterspout and landed on the Moon. They then take part in a war between the King of the Moon and the King of the Sun for possession of the Morning Star.

    A sort of prototype of Star Wars?

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