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What Are the Different Science Fiction Genres?

Apocalyptic fiction deals with catastrophes that could end life on Earth.
Many science fiction stories take place on other planets.
A nebula, a common feature in science fiction.
"The Terminator" combined science fiction with action, fantasy, romance and horror.
Science fiction may feature superheros.
Supernatural fiction sometimes includes sci-fi elements.
Hard science fiction novels may depict interactions with extraterrestrials that occur through radio transmissions rather than spaceships that travel beyond lightspeed.
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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2014
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The different science fiction genres and sub-genres can be almost limitless. While all variations include elements of science and technology, sub-plots and elements related to other genres of fiction can also be added. Common science fiction genres may involve aliens, time travel, scientific discovery, as well as social changes in society. These are the most common factors included in hardcore science fiction stories, but additional components, such as romance or fantasy, may also be included. This gives writers and movie makers an almost unlimited array of possibilities for creating a sci-fi story.

All science fiction genres include some sort of future scientific discovery or technology. Even when not discussed at length in how these perceived technologies would work, they are almost always included. For instance, a story involving aliens from another planet may not go into detail on how the aliens came to earth or the technology which allowed them to do so, but it is implied that such technologies exist. Multiple mainstream science fiction genres may be combined in one work, such as a book involving both aliens and human space travel or time travel.

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Science fiction is also frequently combined with other genres to create numerous sub-genre varieties. These can include almost any genre, but the most commonly implemented are fantasy, romance, and horror. Fantasy and horror are the most commonly linked genres which are considered closely related to science fiction stories. Fantasy usually involves the supernatural or make believe, such as ghosts or angels. Horror can use elements from any other fiction genre, so long as the primary focus is on scaring the reader and instilling a sense of terror.

As with most works of fiction or movies, science fiction stories are often a combination of several interwoven plots. The main, or primary, story generally involves heavy involvement with sci-fi elements of the story. Sub plots within books can include aspects of romantic fiction, literary fiction, and commercial fiction. Movies are handled in much the same way, but cinematic science fiction is usually more involved with the action of the story than with character growth and development.

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Fa5t3r
Post 3

@umbra21 - It is useful to try and have a few universally accepted genre names and definitions though.

Recently I've noticed that there are several artsy films out there which call themselves science fiction, but are more like some kind of magical realism, with just one science fiction premise used and everything else the same as the real world.

I really tend to dislike this kind of film, because the script rarely goes into any real depth about the science, and it just always seems to end up being very unrealistic.

I'd love it if there was some kind of genre name for films like this so that I could avoid them. Pseudo-sci-fi or something like that.

umbra21
Post 2

@clintflint - That can be useful, but do remember that Amazon is not the be all and end all of genre labels. Genres are basically a marketing tool, so there are always going to be differences over where the dividing line should be. Like, are zombies a category of their own, or should they be put into apocalyptic fiction? And the tendency of people to add "punk" in every genre now. I can see cyberpunk and steampunk, but do we really need a genre called wizardpunk?

It's nice to have a shorthand for talking about different kinds of science fiction, of course, but I just think people should remember that there is no central authority making the rules up or anything like that.

clintflint
Post 1

One way to have a look at what different genres are used in science fiction writing is to go on Amazon and see what different categories they have. They divide science fiction novels into about a dozen different categories, including adventure, dystopian, steampunk and so forth. And within those categories they usually have some more options, like whether the novels have aliens or robots or whatever.

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