Posted by: CJ | April 7, 2009

Sci-fi thoughts

I tend to think there’s a fundamental difference between sci-fi as a setting and sci-fi as a genre.

Sci-fi as a setting just means you have spaceships and interstellar travel around, but the basic story doesn’t need any of it. For example, Star Wars, Firefly, and the Honor Harrington series just have sci-fi as a setting. Star Wars could be set in a fantasy setting, King Arthur like, and not lose anything of value. You could lose the spaceships in Firefly and still have a great western. Similarly Honor Harrington could, mostly, be set in Napoleonic Europe without losing very much. (Though I admittedly despise that series, so I don’t think there’s much to lose.) On the flip side, you could put almost any Shakespeare play in space and it’d work fine. Potentially better than fine since my generation is a whole lot more comfortable with galactic civilizations and space travel than with Denmark.

But then there’s Sci-fi as a genre. This includes Blade Runner, books by Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, or William Gibson. The sci-fi element of those stories are built into the plot and ideas. They can’t be removed without changing the core of the story. And, at their best those stories are vehicles for exploring the interrelations between humanity, consciousness, society, science, and technology.

At least this is what I’ve thought for awhile. But sometimes I wonder if this demarcation is that simple. Any challenges to that understanding ?



  1. I’m going to think about this and say something smart later.

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