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The Genres Of Science Fiction & Fantasy - Part 4

Updated on September 30, 2009

Along with those mentioned previously, there are other characteristics of Science Fiction that are quite distinct. Unlike Fantasy, Science Fiction can more easily, and quickly, be associated with contemporary life, no matter the time-period the actual plot might occur in. Because of the realistic main character, readers can identify with him more so than a Fantasy character, generally speaking.

Stylistically, Science Fiction tends to be more pessimistic in its view of the world, though others might argue that the style is simply more realistic than its Fantasy counterpart. The world in a Science Fiction piece, though, tends to be more fatalistic, the characters dependent on the fact that no matter what they do the world will still be corrupt and desolate even after their own personal victories.

As well, Science Fiction seems to follow the Post-Modern movement that came in the late Seventies. Plots seem to go wherever it decides to go, rather than focusing on a traditional linear plot. Plots within plots within deeper sub-plots are normal in a great many Science Fiction pieces, and this paired with the style of pessimism produces such experimental pieces as Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five.

Once these qualities have been assigned, one can look at the many different sub-genres within Science Fiction, and even the categories within those sub-genres. It can actually be argued that Science Fiction has seven distinct sub-genre categories.

The grandfather of Science Fiction is what is now considered Hard Science Fiction, in light of the many different other sub-genres that have arisen since Science Fiction came into being. Hard Science Fiction, as opposed to the others, is the most question-based category of Science Fiction, focusing its entire plot on some aspect of science or technology. Because of this focus, characters in Hard Science Fiction stories tend to be much more detailed and emotional; characters, themselves, are allowed to be the devise, by which, the science in the world around them is questioned, rather than utilizing the plot to control that investigation.

Using Frankenstein, as the original example, one can analyze it with all of the previously mentioned qualities. As demonstrated by its parenthetical title "the Modern Prometheus" it is easy to distinguish the underlying theme: that of bringing to mankind something which it is not entirely ready for. The question of the story is that of humanity's desire for immortality and how destructive technology, or at that time science, can be in his quest for such a goal. Other later stories followed in this vein, producing works like The Birthmark, by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

These works, and others, eventually gave birth to authors like Jules Verne, who was a child and product of the Industrial Revolution. His works spawned two of the most popular contemporary sub-genres of Science Fiction: Alternate Reality and Technological Fiction (Tech-Fi). Novels like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea gave the reader a glimpse of what the modern world would be like with innovations like "submarines."

His contemporary, H.G. Wells, took Science Fiction towards the direction of social commentary, creating stories that delved into the psychology of his characters, rather than the inner-workings of machines, such as in The Time Machine. The term "speculative" might rightly be argued to have come from this time period, where authors, and the societies they respectively wrote about, began to wonder what might be in their future, rather than dwell on the travesties and tragedies of the past.

Continued In: The Genres Of Science Fiction & Fantasy - Part 5

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