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Science fiction

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Science fiction (often shortened to Sci-Fi or SF) is a genre of speculative fiction, typically dealing with imaginative concepts such as advanced science and technology, spaceflight, time travel, and extraterrestrial life. Science fiction often explores the potential consequences of scientific and other innovations, and has been called a "literature of ideas".[1][2]

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Transcription

It's hard to get to space As much as we all wish there were an easy, and affordable way to see our planet floating in the dark Right now, the only way is to become an astronaut or a billionare But there is a concept that might make it possible -while serving as the starting point for the exploration of the universe- The space elevator How exactly does it work? To understand how a space elevator will get us into space We must first understand what an orbit is Being in orbit basically means falling towards something, but moving fast enough to miss If you throw a ball on earth it makes an arch through the air, and then hits the ground In space, gravity makes you move much the same way, but if you move sideways fast enough the curvature of the earth makes the ground fall away beneath you as fast as gravity pulls you towards it So, to enter Earth's orbit rockets have to go up and sideways fast By contrast, a space elevator taps into energy from Earth's rotation to get the cargo going fast Imagine a child spinning a toy on a rope with an ant on the child's hand As the ant climbs out along the rope it starts to move faster and faster as it ascends Compared to rockets, with cargo launched on an elevator you only need to provide the energy to go up Fast sideways movement comes free with the Earth's rotation But the space elevator would without a doubt be the single largest and most expensive structure ever built by humans So, is it worth it? It all comes down to costs Rockets burn a huge amount of rocket fuel just to get a small amount of cargo into space At current prices, it costs about $20,000 to put one kilogram of payload into space that's $1.3 million dollars for the average human $40 million dollars for your car billions for an international space station This immense cost is one of the major limitations of human spaceflight Even with advancing technology, this cost isn't likely to be comparable with the price of an airline ticket anytime soon A space elevator would solve this problem After construction, a space elevator is projected to reduce the cost one hundredfold to $200 per kilogram If an inexpensive space elevator costs 20 billion dollars, then we'll recoup our losses after launching only one million tons Close to the weight of two international space stations So what would a space elevator look like in real life? A space elevator has four major components: the tether, anchor, counterweight and climber The elevator part of the space elevator is the tether and the climber It extends from the surface of the Earth to space The climber is like a conventional elevator carriage A chamber that works its way up and down the tether At the base would be an anchor pinning the tether to the Earth along with a port for climbers At the top is the counterweight which holds up the tether The tether is held tight like a rope and supported from above by the tension from the counterweight Located higher than 36,000 kilometers above the Earth's surface At the counterweight could be a space station, a launching point for all missions from the spaceport elevator But can we actually build one? It's hard to say The biggest challenge is the tether It needs to be light, affordable and more stable than any material we can produce right now There are promising materials like graphene and diamond nanothreads, but even they may not be strong enough And aside from being incredibly strong, the tether would also have to withstand atmospheric corrosion, radiation and micrometeorite and debris impacts Additionally, it takes several days to climb the elevator How do we power the climber? It requires a lot of energy to go up Do we need a nuclear reactor on our elevator carriage? Or do we beam it power from the ground with a super powered laser? And where do we get the raw materials for a 36,000-kilometer-long tether? Do we make it on Earth and launch it into space? Or do we make it in space and lower it down to the Earth? Could asteroid mining be the answer? Put simply, there are still some major technological hurdles to overcome And a space elevator is not without risk Should the tether break, it would collapse in spectacular style If it breaks near the anchor the force exerted by the counterweight will cause the entire elevator to rise up ascending into space Should it break near the counterweight the tether will fall, wrapping around the world and whipping the end off The resulting debris in orbit could pose serious problems to future spaceflight If we build a space elevator on Earth, we have to do it right the first time For these reasons some experts have proposed first building a space elevator on the Moon The Moon's gravity is much weaker than the Earth's so a flimsier but existing material like kevlar could serve as a tether Even with all these challenges, the payoff of having a working space elevator would be immense It might be the first step to truly becoming a space-faring civilization Maybe we will never build a space elevator, but in trying to do so we might learn an awful lot And when it comes to the exploration of the universe, there can't be too many dreams of a glorious future Subtitles by the Amara.org community

Contents

Definitions

Cover of Imagination, August 1958
Cover of Imagination, August 1958

"Science fiction" is difficult to define, as it includes a wide range of subgenres and themes. James Blish wrote: "Wells used the term originally to cover what we would today call ‘hard’ science fiction, in which a conscientious attempt to be faithful to already known facts (as of the date of writing) was the substrate on which the story was to be built, and if the story was also to contain a miracle, it ought at least not to contain a whole arsenal of them."[3]

Isaac Asimov said: "Science fiction can be defined as that branch of literature which deals with the reaction of human beings to changes in science and technology."[4] According to Robert A. Heinlein, "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."[5]

Lester del Rey wrote, "Even the devoted aficionado—or fan—has a hard time trying to explain what science fiction is", and that the reason for there not being a "full satisfactory definition" is that "there are no easily delineated limits to science fiction."[6] Author and editor Damon Knight summed up the difficulty, saying "science fiction is what we point to when we say it",[7] while author Mark C. Glassy argues that the definition of science fiction is like the definition of pornography: you do not know what it is, but you know it when you see it.[8]

"Sci-Fi"

Forrest J Ackerman is credited with first using the term "Sci-Fi" (analogous to the then-trendy "hi-fi") in 1954.[9] as science fiction entered popular culture, writers and fans active in the field came to associate the term with low-budget, low-tech "B-movies" and with low-quality pulp science fiction.[10][11][12] By the 1970s, critics within the field such as Knight and Terry Carr were using sci-fi to distinguish hack-work from serious science fiction.[13] Peter Nicholls writes that "SF" (or "sf") is "the preferred abbreviation within the community of sf writers and readers."[14]

History

Science fiction had its beginnings in the time when the line between myth and fact was blurred. Written in the 2nd century AD by the Hellenized Syrian satirist Lucian, A True Story contains many themes and tropes that are characteristic of modern science fiction, including travel to other worlds, extraterrestrial lifeforms, interplanetary warfare, and artificial life. Some consider it the first science fiction novel.[15] Some of the stories from The Arabian Nights,[16][17] along with the 10th century The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter[17] and Ibn al-Nafis's 13th century Theologus Autodidactus[18] also contain elements of science fiction.

Products of the Age of Reason and the development of modern science itself, Johannes Kepler's Somnium (1620–1630), Francis Bacon's The New Atlantis (1627),[19] Cyrano de Bergerac's Comical History of the States and Empires of the Moon (1657) and The States and Empires of the Sun (1662), Margaret Cavendish's "The Blazing World" (1666),[20] Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726), Ludvig Holberg's novel Nicolai Klimii Iter Subterraneum (1741) and Voltaire's Micromégas (1752) are some of the first true science fantasy works.[21][22] Isaac Asimov and Carl Sagan considered Somnium the first science fiction story. It depicts a journey to the Moon and how the Earth's motion is seen from there.[23]

Following the 18th-century development of the novel as a literary form, Mary Shelley's books Frankenstein (1818) and The Last Man (1826) helped define the form of the science fiction novel. Brian Aldiss has argued that Frankenstein was the first work of science fiction.[24] Edgar Allan Poe wrote several stories considered science fiction, including one about a trip to the Moon.[25][26] Jules Verne was noted for his attention to detail and scientific accuracy, especially Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870), which predicted the modern nuclear submarine.[27][28][29][30] In 1887 the novel El anacronópete by Spanish author Enrique Gaspar y Rimbau introduced the first time machine.[31][32]

Many critics consider H. G. Wells one of science fiction's most important authors.[33][34] Brian Aldiss called him "the Shakespeare of science fiction”.[35] His most notable science fiction works include The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), and The War of the Worlds (1898). His science fiction imagined time travel, alien invasion, invisibility, and biological engineering. In his non-fiction futurologist works he predicted the advent of airplanes, military tanks, space travel, nuclear weapons, satellite television and something resembling the World Wide Web.[36]

In 1912 Edgar Rice Burroughs published A Princess of Mars, the first of his three-decade-long planetary romance series of Barsoom novels, set on Mars and featuring John Carter as the hero.[37]

In 1926 Hugo Gernsback published the first American science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, in which he wrote:

By 'scientifiction' I mean the Jules Verne, H. G. Wells and Edgar Allan Poe type of story—a charming romance intermingled with scientific fact and prophetic vision... Not only do these amazing tales make tremendously interesting reading—they are always instructive. They supply knowledge... in a very palatable form... New adventures pictured for us in the scientifiction of today are not at all impossible of realization tomorrow... Many great science stories destined to be of historical interest are still to be written... Posterity will point to them as having blazed a new trail, not only in literature and fiction, but progress as well.[38][39][40]

In 1928 E. E. "Doc" Smith’s first published work, The Skylark of Space written in collaboration with Lee Hawkins Garby, appeared in Amazing Stories. It is often called the first great space opera.[41] In 1928 Philip Francis Nowlan's original Buck Rogers story, Armageddon 2419, appeared in Amazing Stories. This was followed by a Buck Rogers comic strip, the first serious science fiction comic.[42]

In 1937 John W. Campbell became editor of Astounding Science Fiction, an event which is sometimes considered the beginning of the Golden Age of Science Fiction characterized by stories celebrating scientific achievement and progress.[43] In 1942, Isaac Asimov started his Foundation series, which chronicles the rise and fall of galactic empires and introduced psychohistory.[44][45] The "Golden Age" is often said to have ended in 1946, but sometimes the late 1940s and the 1950s are included.[46]

Theodore Sturgeon’s 1953 novel More Than Human explored possible future human evolution.[47][48][49] In 1957 Andromeda: A Space-Age Tale by the Russian writer and paleontologist Ivan Yefremov presented a view of a future interstellar communist civilization and is considered one of the most important Soviet science fiction novels.[50][51] In 1959 Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers marked a departure from his earlier juvenile stories and novels.[52] It is one of the first and most influential examples of military science fiction,[53][54] and introduced the concept of powered armor exoskeletons.[55][56][57] The German space opera series Perry Rhodan, by various authors, started in 1961 with an account of the first Moon landing and has since expanded to the entire Universe and billions of years; becoming the most popular science fiction book series of all time.[58]

In the 1960s and 1970s the New Wave movement in science fiction developed out of soft science fiction. New Wave authors were known for their embrace of a high degree of experimentation, both in form and in content, and a highbrow and self-consciously "literary" or artistic sensibility;[21][59][60] In 1961 Solaris by Stanisław Lem was published in Poland.[61] The novel dealt with the theme of human limitations as its characters attempted to study a seemingly intelligent ocean on a newly discovered planet.[62][63] 1965's Dune by Frank Herbert featured a much more complex and detailed imagined future society than had been common in science fiction before.[64] In 1968 Phillip K. Dick’s best-known novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was published. It is the literary source of the film Blade Runner.[65] 1969’s The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin was set on a planet in which the inhabitants have no fixed gender. It is one of the most influential examples of social science fiction, feminist science fiction, and anthropological science fiction.[66][67][68]

In 1976 C. J. Cherryh published Gate of Ivrel and Brothers of Earth, which began her Alliance-Union universe future history series.[69][70][71] In 1979 Science Fiction World began publication in the People's Republic of China.[72] It dominates the Chinese science fiction magazine market, at one time claiming a circulation of 300,000 copies per issue, with an estimate of 3-5 readers per copy (giving it a total readership of at least 1 million) making it the world's most popular science fiction periodical.[73]

In 1984 William Gibson’s first novel Neuromancer helped popularize cyberpunk, and the word "cyberspace" -- a term he coined in his 1982 short story Burning Chrome.[74][75][76] In 1986 Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold began her Vorkosigan Saga.[77][78] 1992’s Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson predicted immense social upheaval due to the information revolution.[79] In 2007 Liu Cixin's novel, The Three-Body Problem, was published in China. It was translated into English by Ken Liu and published by Tor Books in 2014, and won the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novel.[80] Liu was the first Asian writer to win "Best Novel."[81]

Emerging themes in late Twentieth and early Twenty-first century science fiction include environmental issues, the implications of the global Internet and the expanding information universe, questions about biotechnology and nanotechnology, as well as a post-Cold War interest in post-scarcity societies. Recent trends and sub-genres include steampunk,[82] biopunk,[83][84] and mundane science fiction.[85][86]

Film

The Maschinenmensch from Metropolis
The Maschinenmensch from Metropolis

The first known science fiction film is 1902's A Trip to the Moon, directed by French filmmaker Georges Méliès.[87] It was profoundly influential on later filmmakers, bringing creativity to the cinematic medium and offering fantasy for pure entertainment, a rare goal in film at the time. In addition, Méliès's innovative editing and special effects techniques were widely imitated and became important elements of the medium.[88] The film also spurred on the development of cinematic science fiction and fantasy by demonstrating that scientific themes worked on the screen and that reality could be transformed by the camera.[87][89]

1927's Metropolis, directed by Fritz Lang, is the first feature-length science fiction film.[90] Though not well received in its time, it is now considered a great and influential film.[91][92][93]

In 1954 Godzilla, directed by Ishirō Honda, began the kaiju subgenre of science fiction film, which feature large creatures of any form, usually attacking a major city or engaging other monsters in battle.[94][95]

1968's 2001: A Space Odyssey, directed by Stanley Kubrick and based on the work of Arthur C. Clarke, rose above the mostly B-movie offerings up to that time in scope and quality and greatly influenced later science fiction films.[96][97][98][99] That same year Planet of the Apes, directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and based on the 1963 French novel La Planète des Singes by Pierre Boulle, was also popular and critically acclaimed for its vivid depiction of a post-apocalyptic world in which intelligent apes dominate humans.[100]

In 1977 George Lucas began the Star Wars film series with Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. The series went on to become a worldwide popular culture phenomenon,[101] and the third highest-grossing film series.[102] From the 1980s science fiction films along with fantasy, horror, and superhero films have dominated Hollywood's big-budget productions.[103] Science fiction films often “crossover” with other genres including animation (Wall-E), gangster (Sky Racket), Western (Serenity), comedy (Spaceballs), war (Enemy Mine), sports (Rollerball), mystery (Minority Report), film noir (Blade Runner), and romantic comedy (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind).[104] Science fiction action films feature science fiction elements weaved into action film premises.[105]

Television

Don Hastings (left) and Al Hodge (right) from Captain Video and His Video Rangers
Don Hastings (left) and Al Hodge (right) from Captain Video and His Video Rangers

Science fiction and television have always had a close relationship. Television or television-like technologies frequently appeared in science fiction long before television itself became widely available in the late 1940s and early 1950s; perhaps most famously in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.[106] The first known science fiction television program was produced by the BBC's pre-war BBC Television service. On 11 February 1938 a thirty-five-minute adapted extract of the play RUR, written by the Czech playwright Karel Čapek, was broadcast live from the BBC's Alexandra Palace studios.[107] The first popular science fiction program on American television was the children's adventure serial Captain Video and His Video Rangers, which ran from June 1949 to April 1955.[108]

The Twilight Zone, produced and narrated by Rod Serling, who also wrote or co-wrote most of the episodes, ran from 1959 to 1964. It featured fantasy and horror as well as science fiction, with each episode being a complete story.[109][110] Critics have ranked it as one of the best TV programs of any genre.[111][112] The Jetsons, while intended as comedy and only running for one season (1962-1963), predicted many inventions now in common use: flatscreen television, newspapers on a computer-like screen, computer viruses, video chat, tanning beds, home treadmills and more.[113]

In 1963 the time travel themed Doctor Who premiered on BBC Television. The original series ran until 1989 and was revived in 2005. It has been extremely popular worldwide and has greatly influenced later TV science fiction programs, as well as popular culture.[114][115] Star Trek, produced by Gene Roddenberry, premiered in 1966 on NBC Television and ran through the 1969 season. It combined elements of space opera and space Western. Although only mildly successful it gained popularity through later syndication and eventually spawned a very popular and influential franchise through films, later programs, and novels; as well as by intense fan interest.[116][117][118] Other programs in the 1960s included The Prisoner,[119] The Outer Limits,[120] and Lost in Space.[121][122]

In 1987 Star Trek: The Next Generation began a torrent of new shows, including three further Star Trek continuation shows (Deep Space 9, Voyager and Enterprise) and Babylon 5.[123] Red Dwarf, a comic science fiction series aired on BBC Two between 1988 and 1999, and on Dave since 2009, gaining a cult following.[124] To date, eleven full series of the show plus one "special" miniseries have aired. The latest series, dubbed Red Dwarf XII, started airing in October 2017.[125] The X-Files, which featured UFOs and conspiracy theories, was created by Chris Carter and broadcast by Fox Broadcasting Company from 1993 to 2002.[126][127] Stargate, a film about ancient astronauts and interstellar teleportation, was released in 1994. Stargate SG-1 premiered in 1997 and ran for 10 seasons. Spin-off series included Stargate Infinity, Stargate Atlantis, and Stargate Universe.[128]

Influence

Science fiction’s great rise in popularity in the first half of the twentieth century was closely tied to the respect paid to science at that time, as well as the rapid pace of technological innovation and new inventions.[129] Science fiction has almost always predicted scientific and technological progress. Some works predict this leading to improvements in life and society, for instance the stories of Arthur C. Clarke and the Star Trek series. While others warn about possible negative consequences, for instance H.G. Wells' The Time Machine and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.[130]

The National Science Foundation has conducted surveys of "Public Attitudes and Public Understanding" of "Science Fiction and Pseudoscience."[131] They write that "Interest in science fiction may affect the way people think about or relate to science....one study found a strong relationship between preference for science fiction novels and support for the space program...The same study also found that students who read science fiction are much more likely than other students to believe that contacting extraterrestrial civilizations is both possible and desirable."[132]

Sense of wonder

Science fiction is often said to generate a "sense of wonder." Science fiction editor and critic David Hartwell writes: "Science fiction’s appeal lies in combination of the rational, the believable, with the miraculous. It is an appeal to the sense of wonder."[133] Isaac Asimov in 1967 commenting on the changes then occurring in SF wrote: "And because today’s real life so resembles day-before-yesterday’s fantasy, the old-time fans are restless. Deep within, whether they admit it or not, is a feeling of disappointment and even outrage that the outer world has invaded their private domain. They feel the loss of a 'sense of wonder' because what was once truly confined to “wonder” has now become prosaic and mundane."[134]

As protest literature

Science fiction has sometimes been used as a means of social protest. James Cameron’s film Avatar was intended as a protest against imperialism, and specifically against the European colonization of the Americas.[135] Its images were used by, among others, Palestinians in their protest against Israel.[136]

Robots, artificial humans, human clones, intelligent computers, and their possible conflicts with humans has been a major theme of science fiction since the publication of Frankenstein. Some critics have seen this as reflecting authors’ concerns over the social alienation seen in modern society.[137]

Feminist science fiction poses questions about social issues such as how society constructs gender roles, the role reproduction plays in defining gender and the unequal political and personal power of men over women. Some of the most notable feminist science fiction works have illustrated these themes using utopias to explore a society in which gender differences or gender power imbalances do not exist, or dystopias to explore worlds in which gender inequalities are intensified, thus asserting a need for feminist work to continue.[138]

Libertarian science fiction focuses on the politics and the social order implied by right libertarian philosophies with an emphasis on individualism and private property, and in some cases anti-statism.[139]

Climate fiction, or "cli-fi" deals with issues concerning climate change and global warming.[140][141] University courses on literature and environmental issues may include climate change fiction in their syllabi,[142] as well as it being discussed by the media, outside of SF fandom.[143]

Comic science fiction often satirizes and criticizes present-day society, as well as sometimes making fun of the conventions and cliches of serious science fiction.[144][145]

As serious literature

Respected authors of main-stream literature have written science fiction. Mary Shelley wrote a number of science fiction novels including Frankenstein, and is considered a major writer of the Romantic Age.[146] Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932) is often listed as one of England’s most important novels, both for its criticism of modern culture and its prediction of future trends including reproductive technology and psychological manipulation.[147][148][149][150] Doris Lessing, who was later awarded the Nobel Prize in literature, wrote a series of SF novels, Canopus in Argos, which depict the efforts of more advanced species and civilizations to influence those less advanced including humans on Earth.[151][152][153][154] Kurt Vonnegut was a highly respected American author whose works contain science fiction premises or themes.[155][156][157] Science fiction authors whose works are considered to be serious literature include Ray Bradbury,[158] Arthur C. Clarke (especially for Childhood's End),[159][160] and Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger, writing under the name Cordwainer Smith.[161]

In her much reprinted essay "Science Fiction and Mrs Brown,"[162] Ursula K. Le Guin first asks: "Can a science fiction writer write a novel?"; and answers: "I believe that all novels, ... deal with character, and that it is to express character – not to preach doctrines, sing songs, or celebrate the glories of the British Empire, that the form of the novel, so clumsy, verbose, and undramatic, so rich, elastic, and alive, has been evolved ... The great novelists have brought us to see whatever they wish us to see through some character. Otherwise they would not be novelists, but poets, historians, or pamphleteers."

Tom Shippey asks: "What is its relationship to fantasy fiction, is its readership still dominated by male adolescents, is it a taste which will appeal to the mature but non-eccentric literary mind?"[163] He compares George Orwell's Coming Up for Air with Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth's The Space Merchants and concludes that the basic building block and distinguishing feature of a science fiction novel is the presence of the novum, a term Darko Suvin adapts from Ernst Bloch and defines as "a discrete piece of information recognizable as not-true, but also as not-unlike-true, not-flatly- (and in the current state of knowledge) impossible."[164]

Orson Scott Card, best known for his 1985 science fiction novel Ender's Game and also an author of non-SF fiction, has postulated that in science fiction the message and intellectual significance of the work is contained within the story itself and, therefore, there need not be stylistic gimmicks or literary games; but that some writers and critics confuse clarity of language with lack of artistic merit. In Card's words: "...a great many writers and critics have based their entire careers on the premise that anything that the general public can understand without mediation is worthless drivel. [...] If everybody came to agree that stories should be told this clearly, the professors of literature would be out of a job, and the writers of obscure, encoded fiction would be, not honored, but pitied for their impenetrability."[165]

Science fiction author and physicist Gregory Benford has declared that: "SF is perhaps the defining genre of the twentieth century, although its conquering armies are still camped outside the Rome of the literary citadels."[166] Jonathan Lethem in an essay published in the Village Voice entitled "Close Encounters: The Squandered Promise of Science Fiction" suggests that the point in 1973 when Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow was nominated for the Nebula Award and was passed over in favor of Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama stands as "a hidden tombstone marking the death of the hope that SF was about to merge with the mainstream."[167] Among the responses to Lethem was one from the editor of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction who asked: "When is it [the SF genre] ever going to realize it can't win the game of trying to impress the mainstream?"[168]

David Barnett has remarked:[169] "The ongoing, endless war between "literary" fiction and "genre" fiction has well-defined lines in the sand. Genre's foot soldiers think that literary fiction is a collection of meaningless but prettily drawn pictures of the human condition. The literary guard consider genre fiction to be crass, commercial, whizz-bang potboilers. Or so it goes." Barnett has said that there are books such as The Road by Cormac McCarthy, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway, The Stone Gods by Jeanette Winterson and Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, which use recognizable science fiction tropes, but whose authors and publishers do not market them as science fiction.[170]

Elements

A person reads from a futuristic wraparound display screen.
A person reads from a futuristic wraparound display screen.

Science fiction elements can include:

Classification

Hard science fiction

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, one of the earliest examples of hard science fiction.
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, one of the earliest examples of hard science fiction.

Hard science fiction is characterized by rigorous attention to accurate detail in the natural sciences, especially physics, astrophysics, and chemistry, biology or on accurately depicting worlds that more advanced technology may make possible. Some hard SF authors have distinguished themselves as working scientists, including Gregory Benford, Fred Hoyle, Geoffrey A. Landis, David Brin,[179] and Robert L. Forward, while mathematician authors include Rudy Rucker and Vernor Vinge. Other noteworthy hard SF authors include Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Hal Clement, Greg Bear, Larry Niven, Robert J. Sawyer, Stephen Baxter, Alastair Reynolds, Charles Sheffield, Ben Bova, Kim Stanley Robinson, Anne McCaffrey, Andy Weir and Greg Egan.

Soft science fiction

Mary Shelly's Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus, one of the earliest examples of soft science fiction
Mary Shelly's Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus, one of the earliest examples of soft science fiction

The description "soft science fiction" may describe works based on social sciences such as psychology, economics, political science, sociology, and anthropology. Noteworthy writers in this category include Ursula K. Le Guin and Philip K. Dick.[43][180] The term can also describe stories focused primarily on character and emotion; SFWA Grand Master Ray Bradbury was an acknowledged master of this art.[181] The Eastern Bloc produced a large quantity of social science fiction, including works by Polish authors Stanislaw Lem and Janusz Zajdel, as well as Soviet authors such as the Strugatsky brothers, Kir Bulychov, Yevgeny Zamyatin and Ivan Yefremov.[182] Some writers blur the boundary between hard and soft science fiction.

Community

Authors

Science fiction is being written worldwide by a diverse population of authors. According to 2013 statistics by the science fiction publisher Tor Books, men outnumber women by 78% to 22% among submissions to the publisher.[183] A controversy about voting slates in the 2015 Hugo Awards highlighted tensions in the science fiction community between a trend of increasingly diverse works and authors being honored by awards, and a backlash by groups of authors and fans who preferred what they considered more traditional science fiction.[184]

Awards

Among the most respected awards for science fiction are the Hugo Award, presented by the World Science Fiction Society at Worldcon; the Nebula Award, presented by SFWA and voted on by the community of authors; and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for short fiction. One notable award for science fiction films is the Saturn Award. It is presented annually by The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films.

There are national awards, like Canada's Prix Aurora Awards, regional awards, like the Endeavour Award presented at Orycon for works from the Pacific Northwest, special interest or subgenre awards like the Chesley Award for art or the World Fantasy Award for fantasy. Magazines may organize reader polls, notably the Locus Award.

Conventions, clubs, and organizations

Pamela Dean reading at Minicon
Pamela Dean reading at Minicon

Conventions (in fandom, shortened as "cons"), are held in cities around the world, catering to a local, regional, national, or international membership. General-interest conventions cover all aspects of science fiction, while others focus on a particular interest like media fandom, filking, etc. Most are organized by volunteers in non-profit groups, though most media-oriented events are organized by commercial promoters. The convention's activities are called the program, which may include panel discussions, readings, autograph sessions, costume masquerades, and other events. Activities occur throughout the convention that are not part of the program. These commonly include a dealer's room, art show, and hospitality lounge (or "con suites").[185]

Conventions may host award ceremonies; Worldcons present the Hugo Awards each year. SF societies, referred to as "clubs" except in formal contexts, form a year-round base of activities for science fiction fans. They may be associated with an ongoing science fiction convention, or have regular club meetings, or both. Most groups meet in libraries, schools and universities, community centers, pubs or restaurants, or the homes of individual members. Long-established groups like the New England Science Fiction Association and the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society have clubhouses for meetings and storage of convention supplies and research materials.[186] The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) was founded by Damon Knight in 1965 as a non-profit organization to serve the community of professional science fiction authors,[187]

Fandom

Science fiction fandom is the "community of the literature of ideas... the culture in which new ideas emerge and grow before being released into society at large."[2] Members of this community, "fans", are in contact with each other at conventions or clubs, through print or online fanzines, or on the Internet using web sites, mailing lists, and other resources. SF fandom emerged from the letters column in Amazing Stories magazine. Soon fans began writing letters to each other, and then grouping their comments together in informal publications that became known as fanzines.[188] Once they were in regular contact, fans wanted to meet each other, and they organized local clubs. In the 1930s, the first science fiction conventions gathered fans from a wider area.[189]

Fanzines and online fandom

The first science fiction fanzine, The Comet, was published in 1930.[190] Fanzine printing methods have changed over the decades, from the hectograph, the mimeograph, and the ditto machine, to modern photocopying. Distribution volumes rarely justify the cost of commercial printing. Modern fanzines are printed on computer printers or at local copy shops, or they may only be sent as email. The best known fanzine (or "'zine") today is Ansible, edited by David Langford, winner of numerous Hugo awards. Other fanzines to win awards in recent years include File 770, Mimosa, and Plokta.[191] Artists working for fanzines have risen to prominence in the field, including Brad W. Foster, Teddy Harvia, and Joe Mayhew; the Hugos include a category for Best Fan Artists.[191] The earliest organized fandom online was the SF Lovers community, originally a mailing list in the late 1970s with a text archive file that was updated regularly.[192] In the 1980s, Usenet groups greatly expanded the circle of fans online. In the 1990s, the development of the World-Wide Web exploded the community of online fandom by orders of magnitude, with thousands and then literally millions of web sites devoted to science fiction and related genres for all media.[186] Most such sites are small, ephemeral, and/or very narrowly focused, though sites like SF Site and SFcrowsnest offer a broad range of references and reviews about science fiction.

Science fiction studies

The study of science fiction, or science fiction studies, is the critical assessment, interpretation, and discussion of science fiction literature, film, new media, fandom, and fan fiction. Science fiction scholars study science fiction to better understand it and its relationship to science, technology, politics, and culture-at-large. Science fiction studies has a long history, dating back to the turn of the 20th century, but it was not until later that science fiction studies solidified as a discipline with the publication of the academic journals Extrapolation (1959), Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction (1972), and Science Fiction Studies (1973), and the establishment of the oldest organizations devoted to the study of science fiction, the Science Fiction Research Association and the Science Fiction Foundation, in 1970. The field has grown considerably since the 1970s with the establishment of more journals, organizations, and conferences with ties to the science fiction scholarship community, and science fiction degree-granting programs such as those offered by the University of Liverpool and Kansas University.

Scholar and well-known science fiction critic George Edgar Slusser said that science fiction "is the one real international literary form we have today, and as such has branched out to visual media, interactive media and on to whatever new media the world will invent in the 21st century... crossover issues between the sciences and the humanities are crucial for the century to come."[193]

International examples

Subgenres

Related genres

See also

References

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