Science fiction is a popular genre of fiction with content including elements such as a setting in the future and/or another dimension, science, technology, other life forms, and a wide variety of paranormal elements while also focusing on humans at the same time (Treitel). Because science fiction employs a lot of subgenres and themes it is very hard to define precisely what Science Fiction is. A broader way of defining science fiction is fiction that focuses on the alternative possible world(s) or future.
Subgenres of science fiction include hard science fiction, soft science fiction, cyberpunk, military science fiction, space opera, apocalyptic fiction, and science fantasy.
Hard science fiction is characterized by employment of meticulous and detailed science by the writer (whom are usually scientists themselves) into the work (Goldschlager).
Soft science fiction (also known as social science fiction or speculative science fiction) describes works based on the social sciences such as psychology, economics, political science, sociology, and anthropology (Goldschlager). Soft science fiction is related to utopian and dystopian stories. One such example would include Margret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale; a story which explores the subjugation of women and the struggle for agency in a United States which has been overthrown by a totalitarian Christian theocracy.
Feminist science fiction is a subgenre of soft science fiction focusing on social issues. Feminist science fiction tackles issues such as how society constructs gender roles pointing out differences and imbalances. Feminist science fiction is known to use utopic and dystopic themes. The use of Utopias is to create worlds where gender differences and power imbalances don’t exist, and dystopias to intensify and bring to light gender inequalities. An example of feminist science fiction is Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland; a story about explorers discovering a land of only women.
Another subgenre is cyberpunk. Cyberpunk explores the fusion of man and machine. Common elements in cyberpunk include information technology, heavy use of the internet, artificial intelligence, and usually a society in which corporations have more control and influence than governments do (Goldschlager).
A few other subgenres include military science fiction which explores the conflict involving national, interplanetary, or interstellar armed forces (Cipera). Military science fiction often overlaps with another subgenre known as space opera. Space opera focuses on the romance and adventures of individuals set primarily or completely in outer space. Apocalyptic fiction is a subgenre which surrounds the end of civilization or a world disaster. An example of apocalyptic fiction would be Octavia Butler’s short story Speech Sounds; a story about a future where people are not able to speak, read, or write.
Science fantasy is a hybrid of science fiction and fantasy. Science fantasy incorporates science but also works under the freedom of fantasy. In many cases of science fantasy it is science which leads to the fantasy (Goldschlager).
Science fiction and fantasy are usually coupled together. The two share a notion of disbelief. Though similar Science fiction separates itself from fantasy by having its imagined elements be possible within the scientifically established laws of nature thus eliminating magic. As Rod Serling of The Twilight Zone puts it, "Fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science fiction is the improbable made possible." Science fiction creates a world or future based on proper knowledge of the past and present; a sort of prophetic extrapolation.
Cipera, Kelly. "Defining the Genre: Military Science Fiction." Fandomania RSS. N.p., 8 Oct. 2008. Web. 10 Jan. 2013.
Goldschlager, Amy, and Avon Eos. "The SF Site: Science Fiction & Fantasy -- A Genre With Many Faces." The SF Site: Science Fiction & Fantasy -- A Genre With Many Faces. SF Site, 1997. Web. 10 Jan. 2013.
Rod Serling (1962-03-09). The Twilight Zone, "The Fugitive".
Treitel, Richard. "What Is Science Fiction?" What Is Science Fiction? N.p., 1995. Web. 10 Jan. 2013