What is Science Fiction Anyway?

Aspiring SF writer

I get asked this a lot. One person even asked me if it was a kind of religion (I think he once heard the term Jedi and figured that was all he had to know) .  At first, I was puzzled by the question. I mean, really…isn’t it obvious? Then I realized how little I know about football, and it made sense from there. For instance, I know there is such a thing as the NFL, but why are the rules different in college football, and why do the women in the Legends Football League wear bikinis?

So, for those who want to give a good answer to your football friends or to those new to the game; here’s what science fiction is all about:

A dictionary definition may read- Science Fiction (noun) -A form of fiction that draws imaginatively on scientific knowledge and speculation in its plot, setting, theme, etc. That definition is kinda’ flat so I’ll give you better.

The first science fiction novel is considered to be Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, published in 1818. True, it’s considered horror by most folks, but because the monster was brought to life through science (not magic) it’s considered science fiction as well. Shelley was inspired to write her story-in part- because she heard that scientists in her day were running electric current through dead animals and watching the dead muscles twitch. Today, we now know why this happens and that simply running a current through a corpse will not re-animate it. But to the science fiction writer, what science can do is not as important as what it might do.

Jules Vern and HG Wells took up Shelley’s banner in the late 1800s and marched on. Trips to the moon, voyages under the sea, and powered flights through the air were all penned in books long before they were ever accomplished in fact. Does this make science fiction a predictive tool for seeing the future? No. But it can point like an arrow in the direction mankind is already headed. And, perhaps, it can even warn us to get off a path before it’s too late (as Gorge Orwell’s 1984 did for us back in 1948).

True, not all science fiction is created equal. Much of it is simply written for fun and entertainment. I posit that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that; because science fiction is also an ascetic. Do you like stories with sailing ships or starships? Do you enjoy a scene where the hero rushes in with a broadsword or a blaster?

At some point it’s just a matter of taste. I never cared much for football. Not because there’s anything wrong with football. It just doesn’t appeal to me personally. I enjoy science fiction because it forces you to exercise your imagination into the possible and see the world through the eyes of tomorrow. I also like starships and blasters…a lot.