Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Defining the Future

Lately I've been having some great conversations about science fiction, and what I've noticed is that each person has a particular individual definition of what they consider science fiction. For a little while now I've been gathering some definitions for my own use, and I thought I'd share some of the most interesting of them to me:

"[Science fiction is] a literary genre whose necessary and sufficient conditions are the presence and interaction of estrangement and cognition, and whose main formal device is an imaginative framework alternative to the author's empirical environment." - Darko Suvin (1972) "Definitions of SF" entry: Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. London: Orbit/Little, Brown and Company. pp. 311-314

"Realistic speculation about possible future events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world, past and present, and on a thorough understanding of the nature and significance of the scientific method. To make this definition cover all science fiction (instead of 'almost all') it is necessary only to strike out the word 'future'." -Robert A. Heinlein (1959) Of Worlds Beyond. New York: Fantasy Press. p. 91

"...the tradition of speculative fiction is modified by an awareness of the universe as a system of systems, a structure of structures, and the insights of the past century of science are accepted as fictional points of departure. Yet structural fabulation is neither scientific in its methods nor a substitute for actual science. It is a fictional exploration of human situations made perceptible by the implications of recent science. Its favourite [sp] themes involve the impact of developments or revelations derived from the human or physical sciences upon the people who must live with those revelations or developments." -Robert Scholes (1975) "Definitions of SF" entry: Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. London: Orbit/Little, Brown and Company. pp. 311-314

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