Guide to Literary Terms Science Fiction

Science Fiction

Science fiction - a narrative which draws imaginatively on scientific knowledge, theory, speculation, and the effects of future events on human beings in its plot, theme, and setting. It considers these events rationally in terms of explanation and consequences and is concerned with the impact of change on people. This is a form of fantasy which hypothesizes by logical extrapolation about the possibilities of space travel, adventures on other planets, etc. Recently, it has become a form of literature that takes place in an alternative present, a preconceived past, or an extrapolated future with these alterations based upon technological or sociological changes in the present.

Science is from Middle English through Middle French into which it was derived from scient, meaning “having knowledge.” The etymology of fiction was discussed previously under that term.

Such narratives have existed since the second century when Lucian of Samosata wrote Vera Historia in which he created a hero who traveled to the moon and the sun and was involved in interplanetary warfare. Jonathan Swift’s 1726 Gulliver’s Travels was based upon an imaginary voyage. Shelley’s 1818 Frankenstein is permeated by a belief in the potential of science. Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court contains time travel. Jules Verne, who authored Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and H. G. Wells, who authored The Time Machine, are considered the modern fathers of the genre. The term was coined by Hugo Gernsback, editor of Amazing Stories magazine in the 1920s.

see: apocalyptic, fantasy