D19: The Science Fiction in Education Toolkit - page 9

9
Part II: Introduction to Science Fiction and its
Subgenres
What is Science Fiction?
David Seed (2011) explains that defining Science Fiction (SciFi) as a genre is not
simple, because of the hybrid nature of many SciFi works. He suggests that it is
better to think of it as a mode or field that encompasses diverse genres and
subgenres. Perhaps the best way to “define” this mode is to describe its main
features.
A defining characteristic of the SciFi mode is its fascination with science and
technology.
Literature and science, or science and literature, are often thought to
belong to separate and incommunicative professional cultures. SciFi is one of the
bridges that contribute to the narrowing down of this rift.
Extrapolation
is yet another defining characteristic of the SciFi mode.
Extrapolation
is the projection of technological, political, or social developments
outside the author’s place and time; it usually involves the imagination of events in
the future (Booker& Thomas,2009). In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the scope of
SciFi expanded as it also incorporated “soft” sciences, such as sociology or
anthropology. Ever since, the SciFi reader began to be exposed not only to scientific
and technological extrapolation, but to cultural extrapolation as well; imagining how
human cultures might evolve in the future or how alternative extra-terrestrial cultures
might look like (Sullivan III, 1999: 2). But SciFi does not only deal with the future; it
also reflects on historical change. SciFi and the historical novel have more in
common than first meets the eye.
Alternate
or
alternative history
is a SciFi subgenre
in which “some major moment of the historical past (the ‘point of divergence’) is
imagined as having occurred differently, leading to an exploration of the ramifications
of that change in history from that point forward” (Booker& Thomas,2009, Glossary,
para. 3).
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