This is something I’ve been debating with myself over the last few days. I’ve been re-reading The Host, and I have been asked what it’s about by various people who’ve seen the cover. Or who caught me reading outside the mens’ dressing room at Nordstrom Rack. Whatever.
As soon as I say the word “alien” to them, they all have the same reaction. They ask, “so it’s science fiction?” And I say, “…yes, kind of.” And they say, “I hate science fiction.” And that’s that. They’ve missed out on a great book simply because there are aliens in it.
And so I began to think it over…what makes something sci-fi? I mean, this book has aliens in it, yes, but it’s more than that. It’s also a psychological thriller, a debate of ethics versus survival, a story about family and loyalties. I feel like the story itself is great, and it’s about so much more than aliens. My first thought isn’t sci-fi when I read it.
Should something be categorized as Sci-Fi just because aliens are involved? Why? We have no scientific proof of aliens. Why are they part of “science” fiction? I decided to look up some definitions of sci-fi, and this definition (from Wikipedia) caught my attention.
Science fiction is a genre of fiction. It differs from fantasy in that, within the context of the story, its imaginary elements are largely possible within scientifically established or scientifically postulated laws of nature (though some elements in a story might still be pure imaginative speculation).
I stopped to think about that. I mean…aliens are definitely in the realm of “pure imaginative speculation” in my opinion. I mean, I’m not saying they couldn’t exist, but I don’t think crop circles are great evidence. (Now if I could just see someone use The Force, on the other hand…) So why are they included in sci-fi? Shouldn’t it be just “some” things and not “the whole premise of the story” that is imaginative speculation? I kept reading…
Exploring the consequences of such differences is the traditional purpose of science fiction, making it a “literature of ideas”. Science fiction is largely based on writing rationally about alternative possibilities. The settings for science fiction are often contrary to known reality, but the majority of science fiction relies on a considerable degree of suspension of disbelief provided by potential scientific explanations to various fictional elements.
These may include:
- A setting in the future, in alternative timelines, or in an historical past that contradicts known facts of history or the archaeological record
- A setting in outer space, on other worlds, or involving aliens
- Stories that involve technology or scientific principles that contradict known laws of nature
- Stories that involve discovery or application of new scientific principles, such as time travel or psionics, or new technology, such as nanotechnology, faster-than-light travel or robots, or of new and different political or social systems (e.g., a dystopia, or a situation where organized society has collapsed)
So then it seems like…it’s all “imaginative speculation” with just a little bit of widely accepted scientific theory thrown in with it. I mean, alternative timelines, scientific principles that contradict known laws of nature, and time travel are no more proven than aliens. I do agree with the next part:
Science fiction is difficult to define, as it includes a wide range of subgenres and themes.
I just don’t understand why it’s called science fiction, then. I mean…historical fiction takes place in the past, usually in a well-known, or at least recorded, time in history. Christian fiction has a Christian theme and/or a Christian main character. Horror fiction has horror in it. Romance fiction covers romance. Shouldn’t science fiction cover…science? I know some science fiction DOES…but it seems that some things falling under that category would be better suited to fantasy.
Fantasy covers all things fanciful. In this genre you’ll find things like talking animals, elves, magic, etc. It seems like aliens who come to earth and take over our bodies are just as fanciful and unlikely a story as hobbits, vampires, and schools with young witches and wizards. So why do all alien stories get grouped into sci-fi?
Of course, other sources claim that fantasy is an umbrella under which science fiction rests or the other way around. But I usually think of and hear of them being their own, self-sufficient categories.
So, what do you think? What makes something science fiction? Is there something that falls under the sci-fi category that you think shouldn’t? Am I the weirdest girl in the state (or country) for even caring about this?
No need to answer that last question. I’m pretty sure I know the answer to that, at least.