Saturday, April 11, 2015

Science Fiction

q       Everyone knows what science fiction looks like, but it's hard to define as a category. Sci-fi writer Robert Heinlein wrote, "A handy short definition of almost all science fiction might read: realistic speculation about possible future events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world, past and present, and on a thorough understanding of the nature and significance of the scientific method."

q       Some people see Sci-Fi as a kind of fantasy genre, but there is a difference. Sci-fi tries to explain everything according to laws of physics, and usually focuses on some strange new phenomenon in the natural world, even if in an alternate reality - with different physical laws than our own.

q       Fantasy stories, on the other hand, may simply focus on adventure, or may include magic. When a sci-fi story fails to raise any scientific questions, for example Star Wars, some people dismiss it, saying it's not Sci-Fi, it's science fantasy.

q       Sci-Fi stories typically deal with the future. They may take place in space, or on alien planets. The level of technology is usually higher than our own. They often include aliens and robots.

q       Some common examples of Sci-Fi technology include: mind control, telepathy, time travel, teleportation, faster-than-light travel, and travel through worm-holes, which are holes in space time that allow people to jump from one side of the universe to another, or even to alternate universes and dimensions.

q       Sci-Fi stories often focus on alternate forms of government, related to technology and personal freedoms, and the possibility of social collapse.

q       Sub-genres of Sci-Fi include:

- Hard Sci-Fi (related to hard science, such as math and physics)
- Soft Sci-Fi (related to social sciences like psychology)
- Time Travel
- Alternate History
- Post-Apocalyptic
- Military Sci-Fi
- Space Westerns
- Kaiju (humans fighting giant monsters, like Godzilla. This is Japanese.)
- Steampunk (extending past technology, based on the abilities of Victorian era England)
- Cyperpunk (the combination of man and machine, while rebelling against governments and corporations)

q       Sci-Fi is incredibly popular with many famous books, films, and TV shows. Fans meet at conventions every year, forming clubs, dressing up, even learning alien languages.

q       The most prestigious awards in Sci-Fi are the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award.

History of Science Fiction

q       The first science-fiction story was Somnium, written by Johannes Kepler in 1608. It described a journey to the moon and viewing Earth from there.

q       Other famous examples of early Sci-Fi include Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds.

q       In the 20th century, Sci-Fi became popular through new magazines, such as Amazing Stories, Astounding Science Fiction, and Galaxy. These created an audience for a new generation of writers, like Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Heinlein. Even though these magazines no longer exist, the names of these writers are legendary.
q       Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein are called the "Big Three" names in Sci-Fi.

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