Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month: Common Concepts in Science Fiction

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Don’t forget to check out the schedule for the rest of today’s posts. You can also Tweet about the event using the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.
 
There are some factors that just make a science fiction book. That’s not to say that all sci-fi novels have to contain all, or even any, of these points, but they’re often found within works of the genre. In the style of my very first Fantasy Friday post, I’m going to do a similar post with science fiction and talk about common concepts in the genre. You’re more than welcome to join in, if you make your own post there is an InLinks widget at the bottom where you can share your post URL.
 

 
Time travel is something that has always fascinated humankind. I know some people do not get along with it in books, but personally I love it. There are series like Doctor Who where it is one of the main elements, or books like All Our Yesterdays. It opens up so many possibilities: parts of history can appear in a futuristic novel, historical figures can be brought to life – or civilisations even further ahead in time can be imagined. There are so many elements of time travel – alternate timelines, the grandfather paradox, many elements that would take a great deal more space to discuss!

See also: Doctor Who, All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, The Time Machine by H.G Wells, The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, Looper, Back to the Future, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

 
Space travel is another big factor, often hand-in-hand with time travel. What makes it so exciting is that it’s something we can already do – albeit on a smaller scale than appears in most science fiction – so events in many books could be ones we have yet to look forward to! In some cases spaceships are able to travel in hyperspace and reach destinations very quickly, but some works of science fiction show space travel in a different way. For example, in the Mass Effect game universe, the player can find objects called mass relays (shown above), which form an enormous network allowing interstellar travel. In the Hyperion Cantos series by Dan Simmons, there is a price to pay for space travel. Certain characters are able to travel through space at such a speed that it kills them – but they are resurrected on the other side. It’s every bit as painful as it sounds, much to the dismay of one particular character who has to make several journeys in a short period of time!
 
See also: the Mass Effect video game series, the Hyperion Cantos series by Dan Simmons, House of Suns by Alistair Reynolds, Firefly, Sunshine, Star TrekStar Wars – in fact there are so many different books, TV series, films and games I could mention!

 
Aliens appear in so many works of science fiction, in all shapes and sizes. Occasionally they are friendly and help the human race, but most of the time… well you really don’t want to cross them. The Alien franchise (well, some of it) is a fantastic example of hostile alien races terrorising humans. I think they’re so popular because, admit it, we love the idea of there being some other form of intelligent life out there. There have been so many UFO spottings, abduction reports and other alien eyewitnesses that just prove we are obsessed. I for one am both really excited and kind of absolutely terrified by the idea of extra-terrestrial life. On one hand, they could be like the turians from Mass Effect (I’m a big Garrus fan), but on the other hand they might just be something like the creatures from Alien. And I don’t fancy meeting a facehugger, thank you very much.

See also: the Alien film series, the Mass Effect video game series, The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, Doctor Who, The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

 
This is one thing that makes me kind of sad when I read or watch sci-fi. I can’t remember ever seeing physical copies of books represented: characters always use ebooks or tablets to read or study. In fact it’s often some sort of multi-use device, for reading, communicating, studying and looking up information. I really hope that this is not our future; as much as I see the uses of an e-reader I would hate to live in a world without paperbacks.
 
See also: Acid by Emma Pass, the Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Star Trek

 
It’s not just extraterrestrial life that fascinates us, but also artificial life. And like extraterrestrial life, it can be scary. In many examples, life created by humankind gets its own back on its creators – but in some cases, androids or cyborgs are seen as lesser citizens. One such example is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, also adapted into the film Blade Runner, where a bounty hunter has to dispose of several androids who have defied orders. As for YA fiction, there is Cinder by Marissa Meyer, where the eponymous character would be shunned from society were she to reveal her true status. In many cases, androids and cyborgs are indistinguishable from humans, which can be all the more dangerous. **Alien spoilers ahead** Think how shocked the crew of the Nostromo were when they discovered Ash was an android all along. **end spoilers** So maybe you should think about thanking that ATM next time it spits your cash out. Because one day, the machines might rebel against us!
 
See also: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Prometheus, Blade Runner, Artificial Intelligence

What concepts do you often see cropping up in science fiction? I can think of plenty more but have chosen only to cover a few. Which are your favourites?

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11 thoughts on “Sci-Fi Month: Common Concepts in Science Fiction”

  1. The grandfather paradox! Do you watch Futurama? If so, have you seen that Futurama episode where Fry goes back in time and accidentally kills his grandpa? Such a funny (and slightly disgusting) episode.This post reminds me that I need to start Mass Effect soon…it’s going to have to wait until next week though, because EXAMS *drowns in anatomy*

  2. Tablets are very popular in sci-fi, because technology is so much cooler than non-technology. I remember when I first read Ender’s game I was awed at the whole “desk” idea. Now I get that it is basically a tablet. I kind of wonder now that tablets have become commonplace, how sci-fi books/movies/shows will treat them and if they will come up with yet another futuristic sounding type of tech.

    1. True true – so far I don’t recall seeing anything different from a tablet. I suppose they’re much more advanced but I do wonder what will be next?

  3. Good list! I think two of the biggest topics in SF right now are The Singularity and uploading human consciousness. The first is pet concept of Vernor Vinge and early Charlie Stross, the second seems to be all the rage now. Greg Egan is one of the high priests of digitizing ourselves, but it crops up in almost anything written in the last decade or so.I’m trying to think of books where books were an important plot point, but I kinda have to focus on work still. Maybe tonight.

    1. Ooh, uploading the human consciousness… sounds both intriguing and terrifying! I’d love to see some books like that – can’t think of any within science fiction, so if you think of any let me know!

    2. Egan’s Permutation City is kind of a standard work for that sort of thing. Hannu Rajaniemi’s recent books get into it, but are also much crazier. Accelerando by Charlie Stross talks a lot about that sort of thing, or so I am told. I haven’t read that one yet. I’ll poke around for more, but those are a good start.

  4. Aliens are definitely not my cup of sci-fi tea, lmao. I realized I have a lot of time travelling books on my TBR that’s listed on there! I freaking loved The Time Traveller’s Wife film, I think I need to read the book eh? Prometheus freaked me out… in the gross way. Not the scary-scream way. I was just really repulsed by the aliens in there. 😦 I seem to have a weak constitution when it comes to aliens since I have no problems watching other regular chop-off-head-and-limbs kinda gore film? D:

    1. What other time travel books do you have? I’ve not seen the film of The Time Traveller’s Wife, only read the book. I think we had the DVD but it’s disappeared or something…Prometheus wasn’t too gory, but the aliens are pretty horrific looking I guess – as they should be. Especially the GIANT facehugger at the end!

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