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  1. #1

    What is (qualifies as) Sci-Fi ?

    The question is pretty strait forward. First, I will give my thoughts, then a I give a list. I would like to hear people's thoughts on what qualifies as Sci-Fi and what does not.

    Science fiction is a fictional story where the characters find themselves in a setting that is just beyond the scope of what is scientifically possible. The science may be built on a minority opinion in scientific circles, but there is a clear desire to remain true to our understanding or put forth speculation for those things that are theory but not fully understood. Science Fiction stays true to the universal laws that are initially laid down and accepted. (i.e. If transportation from one location to another is possible, then the transporter cannot become a time machine without some proper scientific explanation). Another question, does a setting in the future automatically make something Sci-fi?

    So, to you guys, which qualifies as Sci-Fi and what does not and any thoughts.
    The list is random and just off the top of my head. Please add your own.
    (I do not believe that all of these qualify, I am just trying to get the discussion going).


    Warehouse 13
    Jurassic Park
    Being Human
    The Hunger Games
    Vanilla Sky
    Left Behind Series
    Ghost Hunters
    Weird Science
    Lord of the Rings
    Twilight
    Inception
    Sharktopus
    Two Headed Shark Attack
    War of the Worlds
    Harry Potter
    Chronicles of Narnia
    A.I. (by Brian Aldiss, later movie by Spielberg)
    Cowboys vs Aliens
    The Twilight Zone
    Superman
    Batman
    Spiderman
    The Village

  2. #2
    Rogue Warrior
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmc View Post
    The question is pretty strait forward. First, I will give my thoughts, then a I give a list. I would like to hear people's thoughts on what qualifies as Sci-Fi and what does not.

    Science fiction is a fictional story where the characters find themselves in a setting that is just beyond the scope of what is scientifically possible. The science may be built on a minority opinion in scientific circles, but there is a clear desire to remain true to our understanding or put forth speculation for those things that are theory but not fully understood. Science Fiction stays true to the universal laws that are initially laid down and accepted. (i.e. If transportation from one location to another is possible, then the transporter cannot become a time machine without some proper scientific explanation). Another question, does a setting in the future automatically make something Sci-fi?

    So, to you guys, which qualifies as Sci-Fi and what does not and any thoughts.
    The list is random and just off the top of my head. Please add your own.
    (I do not believe that all of these qualify, I am just trying to get the discussion going).


    Warehouse 13
    Jurassic Park
    Being Human
    The Hunger Games
    Vanilla Sky
    Left Behind Series
    Ghost Hunters
    Weird Science
    Lord of the Rings
    Twilight
    Inception
    Sharktopus
    Two Headed Shark Attack
    War of the Worlds
    Harry Potter
    Chronicles of Narnia
    A.I. (by Brian Aldiss, later movie by Spielberg)
    Cowboys vs Aliens
    The Twilight Zone
    Superman
    Batman
    Spiderman
    The Village
    Most of these I would put in the fantasy genre.

  3. #3
    Speculative Fiction the broader umbrella genre term, which encompasses science fiction, fantasy, horror, and a few others.

    Science fiction which ranges from hard SF (based on real science), to soft SF (based loosely on science or soft sciences), to science fantasy, and space opera.

    Fantasy which has magic and elves.

    Warehouse 13, soft SF.
    Jurassic Park, hard SF (amazingly).
    Being Human, don't know.
    The Hunger Games, soft SF.
    Vanilla Sky, don't know.
    Left Behind Series, fantasy pure and simple.
    Ghost Hunters, fantasy.
    Weird Science, the 80s movie? Fantasy.
    Lord of the Rings, uh... really?
    Twilight, pre-teen abuse porn.
    Inception, soft SF.
    Sharktopus, soft SF.
    Two Headed Shark Attack, soft SF.
    War of the Worlds, soft SF.
    Harry Potter, fantasy.
    Chronicles of Narnia, Christian allegory, fantasy.
    A.I. (by Brian Aldiss, later movie by Spielberg), soft SF.
    Cowboys vs Aliens, fantasy.
    The Twilight Zone, depends on the episode.
    Superman, superheroes are their own speculative fiction subgenre.
    Batman, ditto.
    Spiderman, three-peat.
    The Village, don't know.

  4. #4
    Registered User Loerwyn's Avatar
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    In the vast majority of cases, I define SF and Fantasy like this:

    Science-Fiction: Situations or components that can be explained in a scientific (not necessarily wholly accurate) manner. Time travel, FTL ships, steampunk, alien contacts, post-apocalyptic settings, dystopias and so on.

    Fantasy: Situations or components that have little-to-no basis in science (as we know it) and are only explained in non-scientific terms. Magic, other realms, etc.

    So Spider-man, as a character, would be science fiction (as would Batman) but Thor would be fantasy.

    What I do to 'define' a book/series is look at the wider picture. Fantasy can have science fiction elements (e.g. the steampunk-esque ships in L.E. Modesitt, Jr.'s Imager Portfolio and Recluce Saga, or the far-future setting of Terry Brooks' Shannara universe) and vice versa, but if as a whole it's the fantasy elements that drive it then it's fantasy and so on.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Loerwyn View Post
    In the vast majority of cases, I define SF and Fantasy like this:

    Science-Fiction: Situations or components that can be explained in a scientific (not necessarily wholly accurate) manner. Time travel, FTL ships, steampunk, alien contacts, post-apocalyptic settings, dystopias and so on.

    Fantasy: Situations or components that have little-to-no basis in science (as we know it) and are only explained in non-scientific terms. Magic, other realms, etc.

    So Spider-man, as a character, would be science fiction (as would Batman) but Thor would be fantasy.

    What I do to 'define' a book/series is look at the wider picture. Fantasy can have science fiction elements (e.g. the steampunk-esque ships in L.E. Modesitt, Jr.'s Imager Portfolio and Recluce Saga, or the far-future setting of Terry Brooks' Shannara universe) and vice versa, but if as a whole it's the fantasy elements that drive it then it's fantasy and so on.
    Batman is scifi? I wish I could agree with that. Actually he is huh?

  6. #6
    Orthodox Herbertian Omphalos's Avatar
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    Gadgets and tech figure pretty big into Batman. For some that's connection enough.

  7. #7
    Registered User Quark Cognition's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmc View Post
    I would like to hear people's thoughts on what qualifies as Sci-Fi and what does not.
    I agree with Philip Jose Farmer's statement from 1977:

    "The brain, knowing that a person can't live forever in this world, rationalizes a future, or other-dimensional, world in which immortality is possible. In other words, religion is the earliest form of science fiction."

    If you also agree with that, then The Bible is the earliest, or one of the earliest science fiction stories, due to the utilization of an afterlife (immortality). I also think of The Bible as a superhero (comic book) story because of God. (Think of God as one of the X-Men mutants and my analogy makes more sense.)

    If The Bible does not qualify as science fiction, then every novel that utilizes immortality does not qualify. We can't have a problem where immortality is true* and not true, so a decision must be reached. Anything that contains immortal humans whether through an afterlife or technology is science fiction. *(The Bible is regarded as "true" by many people.)

    Ok. So immortality (with respect to humans) is science fiction. If a story has immortal dragons, then it's not science fiction. Dragons are fantasy, unless they are made using technology. So, here again, we have a problem. Many of the creatures in "fantasy" novels could be made through genetic engineering (from a science fiction viewpoint). I can imagine a hard science fiction story that describes a rogue group of geneticists and their experiments making dragons, trolls, etc. This thought experiment reminds me of "The Island of Dr. Moreau", which is science fiction.

    So, it's really hard to say whether a fantasy story is truly fantasy, since all of those creatures could be "grown" by a sufficiently advanced society and set against each other. I said that dragons are fantasy unless made with technology. But the dragons in the Pern series were not made by humans, and those books are not fantasy. So a story with dragons is not always fantasy.

    So far, I have these things as science fiction:

    1. Immortality
    2. Dragons and other creatures (in the proper setting, such as Pern)

    The above list can be prodigiously increased.

  8. #8
    SF Author SR_Seldon's Avatar
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    Quark, while I agree with you about dragons (when created using scientific thought and logical, if sometimes improbable, abilities), but I don't agree about immortality. That is more the realm of fantasy then science fiction. It does occur with some frequency in the more fantastic space operas, but not the more science oriented corners of SF. It is much more prevalent in fantasy.

    I think the real separation between SF and fantasy is that SF poses the question what might be if (future tense) and fantasy poses the question what might have been if (past tense). On occasion you have something in a different timestream, such as steampunk, but the question is still posed the same way, just adjusted for the time setting.

    Another way to think about it is that fantasy is about myths and legends. SF is about visions of the future based on science. That's why Pern is SF. There is no myth or legend that does not have a logical reason. There is no creature that isn't biologically plausible (fuzzy science, but still thought out logically). A good example is the Greek god Apollo. Passed down to us are the myths of a superbeing who was immortal. Change gears to Star Trek - Who Mourns For Adonis? Apollo isn't a god, he is an alien, possessing an extra organ that lets him channel energy. That changes the story of Apollo from fantasy to SF (more on the soft/space opera side, but still SF).

  9. #9
    Live Long & Suffer psikeyhackr's Avatar
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    I recently reread The Alien Way by Gordon R. Dickson. I even remember the cover of the book I bought way back when. I recall liking the story but very little detail. This book is great.

    But it is a very psychological story it does not have a lot of EXCITEMENT. That appears to be what a most people care about in their SF these days. This is a story that is more thought provoking than most.



    http://sciencefictionruminations.wor...-dickson-1965/

    At a $1.75 I probably read it in the 70s. It is a First Contact story and better than Nor Crystal Tears by Alan Dean Foster.

    OMG, 1965. Before Star Trek.

    psik
    Last edited by psikeyhackr; September 28th, 2012 at 10:43 AM. Reason: sp err

  10. #10
    Webmaster, Great SF&F owlcroft's Avatar
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    Oy.

    I don't agree about immortality. That is more the realm of fantasy then science fiction.
    Mr Brian Stableford would like to disagree.

    The point is simple: it is science fiction if the difference between the world of the tale and the world we know is natural law--that is, law that operates regularly (in the literal sense), no matter how wildly different that law, or its consequences, may be from what we think we now know. "Science" is that knowldege which derives from application of the scientific method; it is not merely that which seems "plausible" to us here and now.

  11. #11
    This calls to mind Marvin Minsky's reasoning about artificial consciousness will be a reality one day. He believes we will one day be creating AI with artificial consciousness. Once we understand how it works, we will be able to replicate it and make it ourselves.
    Once we understand how it works, the magic goes away.
    Last edited by Modern Day Myth; September 28th, 2012 at 07:28 PM.

  12. #12
    Registered User Quark Cognition's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SR_Seldon View Post
    Quark, while I agree with you about dragons (when created using scientific thought and logical, if sometimes improbable, abilities), but I don't agree about immortality. That is more the realm of fantasy then science fiction. It does occur with some frequency in the more fantastic space operas, but not the more science oriented corners of SF. It is much more prevalent in fantasy.
    Immortality plays a large role in science fiction, especially in the works of Greg Egan and Wil McCarthy. Farmer used it in his Riverworld novels and, to some extent, his characters in the World of Tiers series were effectively immortal. Sheckley used it in Immortality, Inc. (basis for the movie "Freejack").

    You're wrong to write that immortality does not occur in the more science oriented corners of SF. I'm not being disrespectful, you're just seriously wrong. I strongly recommend reading this series of 4 books: Queendom of Sol, by Wil McCarthy

    You will be shocked.

  13. #13
    SF Author SR_Seldon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Quark Cognition View Post
    Immortality plays a large role in science fiction, especially in the works of Greg Egan and Wil McCarthy. Farmer used it in his Riverworld novels and, to some extent, his characters in the World of Tiers series were effectively immortal. Sheckley used it in Immortality, Inc. (basis for the movie "Freejack").

    You're wrong to write that immortality does not occur in the more science oriented corners of SF. I'm not being disrespectful, you're just seriously wrong. I strongly recommend reading this series of 4 books: Queendom of Sol, by Wil McCarthy

    You will be shocked.
    The ones you mention that I am familiar with, namely Farmer's Riverworld, I do not consider to be SCIENCE fiction. I can see an immortal robot or computer, but for a normal human being or other biological species to be immortal is pure fantasy. Long lived, yes, immortal, no. We have plenty of examples from the plant kingdom that have lifespans of thousands of years, which would seem immortal, but true immortality goes against science. This thread is about what qualifies as SF, and my vote is that immortality doesn't. This has been especially solidified just today when I read an article that Robert J. Sawyer shared on Facebook.

    I would agree that immortality is an acceptable plot device in soft SF. It is a very Golden Age action adventure SF staple, back when Greek myths were commonly used with a science veneer. But immortality is one of the fantasy elements that creeps across the from Fantasy. It is not native to SF and not something that marks a story as SF. It usually marks it as fantasy or a cross genre story.

    Also, it is never wise to say someone is wrong in a situation where we are sharing our opinions. What you consider science fiction and what I consider science fiction may vary greatly. Neither of us is wrong, that is just our individual views.

  14. #14
    Webmaster, Great SF&F owlcroft's Avatar
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    Just found this:

    Through a discussion (and links) on M. John Harrison's blog, I found this two-part interview with Paul Kincaid, and it is spot-on for this discussion: highly recommended.

  15. #15
    Registered User Quark Cognition's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SR_Seldon View Post
    The ones you mention that I am familiar with, namely Farmer's Riverworld, I do not consider to be SCIENCE fiction.

    Also, it is never wise to say someone is wrong in a situation where we are sharing our opinions. What you consider science fiction and what I consider science fiction may vary greatly. Neither of us is wrong, that is just our individual views.
    You have a very strange opinion and you're definitely the first person I've ever encountered that does not consider immortality science fiction. Honestly, you baffle me.

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