The science fiction genre is simple Guidance For You, so big you need an encyclopedia to keep it all straight in this post.
I’m going to cover the major subgenres of science fiction and talk about the tropes and elements that make them unique. if you’re a science fiction reader, this post will help you stand out in the market so you can reach readers and keep them happy.
Around without the LevelUp helping you write wall class stories better and faster I create these writing post because I believe that each of you has Orson Scott Card level talent and you just need help unlocking. and in this writing post we’re talking about the subgenres of science fiction this won’t be an exhaustive list by any means, but I’ve done my best to cover the biggest genres that every working sci-fi writer needs to know, about now I know some of you are gonna razz me about my genre definitions and some of my book choices.
I’m trying to keep it simple here so I can cover as much ground as possible first. Simple Guidance For You In Science Fiction Genre.
What is science fiction?
The definition of science fiction is that it’s a genre where science and technology conflict’ with the society it’s usually set in the future in a world similar to ours with technology that could exist in our world with some rational explanation that technology drives the story there’s hard science fiction where the science is King and the writer includes lots of accurate details about how the technology works and soft science fiction where the story and characters are more important than the technology and the writer can take some creative liberties in exchange for going easy on the scientific details.
hard versus soft is just a flavor that can apply to any of the subgenres I talk about in this post it’s all about reader preference though some genres are harder or softer than others let’s jump into our list first up is cyberpunk cyberpunk usually takes place in the near or distant future and it revolves around a society.
Where governments or corporations control society and use some sort of technology to oppress people, hackers, rebels and anti-heroes usually rise up to fight.
The oppression punk culture is common but not required fun fact cyber punks are opportunistic computer hackers trying to challenge an over an oppressive force the name was coined by writer Bruce bethke in 1980 and the name became so popular that people used it to refer to the genre itself even if there aren’t hackers in the story the big key with cyberpunk is that there has to be an oppressive force or technology or resource that is used to oppress society and the character or group of characters trying to fight against it William Gibson’s book Neuromancer is a foundational book in the genre and the place where all cyberpunk fans should start in pop culture the ghost in the shell’ anime series is a prominent.
Example there are lots of movies and games that are quite cyberpunk but have some key elements in the genre like The Matrix ready player one and Blade Runner and I’d be remiss not to mention Final Fantasy 7 which in my opinion is one of the greatest cyberpunk concepts ever.
written cyberpunk also has various spin-off genres like nano Punk biopunk etc. each has a different kind of technology at the core of the story steampunk on the other hand usually takes place in an alternate version of the world usually in a Victorian setting where steam power remained the key source of Technology there’s usually fantastical technology like airships and unique inventions and weapons steampunk is also a fantasy sub-genre but as a science fiction sub-genre, there’s often more emphasis on the science.
another fun fact the term steampunk was coined by writer K W Jeter as a response to the popularity of cyberpunk another term often used with steampunk is retro-futurism which is stories with historical settings but with futuristic technology advanced airships and prosthetic devices are iconic.
Examples of retro futuristic technology and steampunk do them well a great example of steampunk science fiction is Boneshaker by Cherie priest which takes place in the Civil War days where an inventor creates a giant drill but accidentally unleashes a gas that turns people into the Living Dead steampunk abounds in pop culture the movie wild west and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen are great examples but there are many many more with steampunk there’s often a blend of sci-fi and fantasy like I said in my fantasy sub-genre post.
steampunk is so popular that honestly deserves its own video I can’t do it justice here dystopian science fiction takes place in a alternate or imagined world where society has broken down there’s poverty or widespread hopelessness lawlessness and oppression.
the outlook for society is usually pretty bleak perhaps more than most science fiction genres. dystopian sci-fi hits home because it feels like it could be real and in my opinion this sub-genre
has some of the most thought-provoking novels that science fiction has to offer perhaps Science Fiction Genre..
the most famous examples of dystopian science fiction are Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury 1984 by George Orwell and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood there’s a certain kind of despair and sadness that pervades these novels and they really make you think in pop culture.
the movie Robocop Back to the Future Part 2 and V for Vendetta are great examples of dystopian science fiction and of course there’s the Hunger Games but we all knew that now let’s talk about the biggest science fiction genre that spans many different stories settings and can sometimes be difficult to pin down and that’s space science fiction there’s space opera.
which it usually includes a cast of characters who hop planets on a journey to save the galaxy or universe they’re often Wars interplanetary battles and lots and lots of spaceships and action space opera is more complicated than what it looks at first glance and it’s science fiction’s version of epic fantasy.
the novels are often long and the series are often expansive for Fantastic space opera series that define the genre look no further than Ian in bank culture series it was a series that introduced me to space opera and made me a lover of the genre if we wanted to explore space opera further we could talk about planetary romance which is a sub-genre that focuses on planet hopping adventures on new and exotic planets despite.
the term it isn’t about romance, the romance refers to the romantic adventures space opera and planetary romance are often used interchangeably and they do overlap but they are different continuing in the space.
sub-genre there’s also first contact or alien invasion where society makes first contact with an alien race usually for the worst the key is that the contact with the alien race is the focus of the story. this genre doesn’t always have to take place in space.
a great example of this is the alien invasion series by Johnny B turrent and Shawn Platt where alien orbs mysteriously appear on earth causing all kinds of chaos there’s also the colonisation sub-genre which focuses on mankind’s attempt to build colonies either on other planets or in space stations and and what life is like out there good examples of this are dune by Frank Herbert and the moon is a harsh mistress by Robert Heinlein.
there’s the dying earth sub-genre where the earth is dying usually due to some natural or man-made disaster. there’s the dying astronaut ron remai popular by Andy Weir’s the Martian and the movie gravity we could also talk about military science fiction. which often takes place in space but we’ll save that for later in the video those are the major space science fiction genres and that’s really just scratching the surface like, I said this genre is so expansive that it’s hard to cover in a short video. but space science fiction and its various subgenres are perhaps the most prominent in pop culture often.
the subject of popular movies video games and TV shows Star Trek anybody time-travel science fiction is pretty straightforward it involves time travel and the consequences that traveling through time cause the time travel could be in a time machine like an HG Wells classic novel with a time machine or it could be a result of faster-than-light travel. whatever the scenario traveling through time is central to the story now, the hard part about writing time travel is that you need to know your science and you need to have a good grip on your plot details because readers are quick to call out any inconsistencies even if they seem miniscule.
that’s because if you travel in time everything you do has consequences that ripple into the future solid examples of time-travel science-fiction include the Anubis gates by 10 powers the short story a sound of thunder by Ray Bradbury and 11/22/63 by Stephen King in pop culture. Back to the Future quantum leap and Doctor Who are great examples of time-travel science-fiction apocalyptic science fiction involves stories were in Apocalypse is the focus of the plot like a meteor charging to earth or a deadly disease the story either ends or begins with an apocalypse and the story is about the characters dealing with the lead-up to or the immediate aftermath time is usually a significant driver in the story.
now contrast that with post apocalyptic fiction however where that deals solely with the aftermath of the apocalypse usually many years later, where life as we know it has ended and human civilization has rolled back hundreds of years.
mankind is learning to live in a world without computers and people are often pitted against each other in the request for survival. which results in some pretty dark situations. Good post apocalyptic novels are often commentaries, on her culture in our society classics in this genre include the postman by David Brin the stand by Stephen King and I am Legend by Richard Matheson while some people equate post apocalyptic fiction novels with zombies zombies don’t have to be involved.
The apocalypse could be nuclear war, a massive famine super disease or a planetary disaster post-apocalyptic fiction is far more popular than apocalyptic fiction and more popular in the media.
The Walking Dead The Book of Eli and the Last of Us are good examples of post-apocalyptic fiction in pop culture. This genre is immensely popular and I predict it will be for a long time alternate world science fiction is exactly what it sounds like science fiction that takes place in an alternate version of our world.
where historical dip events are slightly different like if we discovered aliens on the moon or if aliens invaded. the world during World War two this isn’t so much a genre of science fiction as it is a trope. now some unique spins on this trope include alternate worlds parallel universes or Lost Worlds sometimes existing in tandem.
some examples would be the man in the high castle by philip k dick that’s an alternate world Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne is a lost world type story in pop culture. alternate world stories exist in interstellar the family man a Christmas carol and Donnie Darko alternate worlds parallel worlds and lost worlds are also popular tropes in video games in television.
that’s why I say that this is more of a trope than a genre but it’s such an important part of science fiction. I had to mention that spy fiction known as Spy Phi is characterized by a main character. who is usually a spy everyone knows this genre because of James Bond and common tropes are spies gadgets and evil geniuses trying to take over or destroy.
the world the Bourne Identity series is a popular spy example outside of James Bond another good example is Arctic rising by Tobias Bikel which takes an environmental spin on the genre, spy-fi endures because it’s the ultimate wish fulfillment right who doesn’t want to be a spy wrapped up in international conspiracies maybe with a slice of love on the side readers of this genre love to be thrilled and they love to pretend that their heroes who are jet-setting across the globe and fighting bad guys don’t underestimate.
The power of wish fulfillment with this genre next up is another juggernaut of science fiction. genre and that’s military science fiction it usually follows a hero or heroine who serves in a military of some kind and the genre most commonly intersects with space science fiction like space opera the military can be fighting a war with aliens or another army.
the key is that there is a military and that there is a focus on military procedure in some kind of war foundational military science fiction, includes Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein the forever war by Joe Haldeman and the honor Harrington series by David Weber and I can’t forget to mention Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card which many people read but don’t always associate with this genre.
Great recent examples of military science fiction that take it in new directions include old man’s war by John Scalzi and the earthrise series by Daniel Aronson, the key with military science. fiction is to not only get your science right but to also get your military details right from space mutinies to space forces to war details readers expect a certain level of accuracy even though the series might take place in space and be somewhat fantastical in its approach.
for example when I was writing my book honors Reserve which straddles the space
opera and military science fiction. genres I made sure I consulted with a former Coast Guard. because the military in the book is the space equivalent of a coast guard.
Some readers quibble with my science but for the most part I got the military details right. That’s what’s really important with this genre in pop culture. The best examples of military science fiction are Independence Day the alien series by Ridley Scott and of course Stargate in all of its different iterations many movies focus on mankind fighting aliens in order to save humanity artificial intelligence science fiction is the intersection of robots androids and artificial intelligence.
it usually takes place in the near or distant future in a society. where artificial intelligence and robotics are fundamental to society and its operation. it’s not uncommon to see things go wrong with threats of a singularity or robots taken over mankind.
Isaac Asimov defined this genre iRobot is a great place to start if you’ve never read anything by him before other great examples are the automatic detective by Ailee Martinez and robopocalypse by Daniel H Wilson for shameless plug my Android X series. takes place in the year 2300 and follows an Android special agent who hunts down rogue androids to dismantle them before they harm innocent people in pop culture artificial intelligence stories.
abound from 2001 a Space Odyssey to chappie data from Star Trek. The Next Generation is perhaps the most famous Android of all time androids and robots have captured our fascination and until we have true artificial intelligence in our own society.
we’ll continue to write stories about robots humanity and sometimes the difficult relationship between the two superhero science fiction is a lot like its counterpart superhero fantasy except. The difference is that there’s a bigger emphasis on science. The best way to think about this would be comparing Superman – Batman Superman would fall within the realm of fantasy. whereas Batman would be more science fiction additionally any of the Marvel heroes could technically be considered superhero science fiction especially Iron Man and Captain America.
Some people argue that superhero fiction should be a genre in and of itself and it’s probably true. but I do think that you can neatly classify a lot of superheroes within science fiction or fantasy science.
fantasy is the illegitimate child of science fiction and fantasy generally it’s about as close to science fiction as fantasy could get and as close to fantasy as science fiction. can get in this genre you’re bound to see science and scientific explanations of why and how magic can exist in a fantastical world.
you’re also bound to see a rational explanation of why things like dragons, unicorns and vampires exist. Science fantasy is logical like that and it can encompass any and all settings prominent examples include a wrinkle in time by Madeleine L’Engle and anything by Jules Verne.
one could argue that Frank Herbert’s dune is also science fantasy. There’s also a growing trend of space science fantasy among indie authors Chris fox’s magitek chronicle series is an intriguing blend of magic and technology in space Glenn Stuart’s. the starship mage series is space fantasy that blends light speed travel physics and magic.
so we’ve only scratched the surface of the science fiction genre in this post but if you want to learn more about the genre I recommend Kay Linux by Alex Newton Kayla Dix is a data analytic service that provides a ton of information on the hottest genres. so that you can make informed decisions with that data to help you sell more books, alex publishes genre based reports with a lot of really great information like market snapshots with the most up-to-date ebooks.
That are selling so that you can optimize your book for the best possible visibility with readers I purchased a science fiction and fantasy report a while back and it helped me understand how to position my space opera series galaxies Mavericks which today has been my best-selling science fiction fantasy series King Linux is not sponsoring this blog-post they don’t even know that I’m doing this but I liked it so much that I wanted to pass it along to you guys.
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