Defining “Science Fiction”. Does it really matter?

Posted 8-18-18

Apparently I missed the memo. There is a long-standing argument going on regarding the true meaning of the term Science Fiction. Really? Is there any good reason to be concerned?

A read an article this week which seeks to parse out the true definition of the term and its competitors. Science Fiction vs. Hard Science Fiction vs. SciFi vs. SF vs. Speculative Fiction vs. Fantasy. Whew! I had no idea the concept was so complicated, but only because we’ve made it so ourselves.

I have some sympathy for the Hard Science Fiction argument, which is defined as stories based on actual science and theory. OK, but that certainly narrows the pool of qualified authors for novels of this genre, unless you happen to be a physicist or expert in quantum mechanics. In addition, it severely limits the type and content of stories, leaving us with limited (and rather boring) possibilities.

Let’s face it – our current scientific understanding does not allow for cool elements such as interstellar travel, shields, fancy weapons, teleportation, terraforming, visits to alien worlds, and all those other fun things Science Fiction is known for. If readers turn up their noses because a book isn’t labeled “correctly”, they cheat themselves out of a lot of wonderful imaginative fiction. Life is too short to be worrying about stuff like this.

I have no problem designating my books as Science Fiction, but if you want to call them Lite Science Fiction, SciFi, SF, speculative fiction or fantasy, feel free. I say forget the labels, hop on board, and boldly go where no one has gone before!



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4 responses to “Defining “Science Fiction”. Does it really matter?”

  1. H.R.R. Gorman Avatar

    Love the commentary! Ever since I started writing science fiction, I have disliked how often people value hard sci-fi more than soft. I’m not even sure if hard sci-fi as it is defined is even that common (would The Martian count, I guess?). Why is ‘hard’ science fiction such a buzzword? Is it because it makes us feel more adult?

    1. Alexander Elliott Avatar
      Alexander Elliott

      Even The Martian didn’t really qualify, given that we don’t have the spacecraft needed to get there and back. Did I mind? Nope! It was still a great read and I didn’t care which genre name it was given, nor do most readers. Perhaps people are hung up on current human ingenuity, wanting stories which showcase what we can actually do. I think it’s far more entertaining to let the imagination take over and forget the categories. Thanks for your comments!

  2. Theresa C. Avatar
    Theresa C.

    Sure liked this week’s Reader Roundup! I think most people are tired of all the junk going on in this world & no matter what you call it, it’s nice to escape the world’s problems with a little Sci-Fi! I enjoyed your Galactic Neighborhood series very much. It’s fun to think that there’s something “other” out there & with imagination, anything is possible.

    1. Alexander Elliott Avatar
      Alexander Elliott

      I agree. Reading certainly functions as MY escape from the real world! So glad you enjoyed the GN series and took the time to comment. It’s very encouraging to hear from my readers!

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