Science Fiction has always faced three problems from a critical standpoint: definition, history, and literary reputation. First, there is the two-part question of what is Science Fiction and how does it differ from Fantasy? As Frederick Andrew Lerner observes in his Modern Science Fiction and the American Literary Community, “the Science Fiction professionals themselves—writers, historians, and critics whose careers are closely associated with Science Fiction—have reached no consensus.” Perhaps the only definition that everyone can agree on is that given by Harry Harrison in his article “The Term Defined”: “The definition of science fiction is: Science fiction is.”
Science Fiction is often referred to as a form of Fantasy. Critic Julius Kagarlitski maintains in his essay “Realism and Fantasy” that “all fantasy is ‘scientific’ in the sense that it is engendered by that type of thinking whose mission it was to determine the real natural laws of the world and to transform it.” Kagarlitski also notes that “the history of fantasy is a very long one,” unlike Science Fiction, which most critics agree has only been around for the last couple of centuries.
The problem of defining Science Fiction’s history is steeped in controversy. Although some critics and historians claim that writings several hundreds of years old are Science Fiction, the leading argument—and the one that has seen the most acceptance—was...
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