21 April 2008

what is SF?

What is SF? The issue has come up a few times with story submissions we've received at Electric Spec. If you read the interview we did last year of James E. Gunn you'll know he says Science fiction is the literature of the human condition experiencing meaningful change. Very nice.

One of the Electric Spec editors has written a very nice legal thriller with extraterrestrials. I say the inclusion of aliens in the story makes it SF. There are some other things that IMHO, if in a story, automatically make it SF. These include: intelligences (human or otherwise!) in space or on other planets, time travel, alternate history, robots, AI, the singularity/post-singularity, apocalypse/post-apocalypse/utopia/dystopia, cloning/genetic engineering of people, and insert-your-idea here. I'm sure I'm forgetting some.

What do you all think? What is SF?


Anonymous said...

My problem with Gunn's definition is that it includes humans. What if humans or their conditions are not in the story?

How about SF is stories of the possible but not known to have happened.

Let the games begin.

ssas said...

My (and I believe ours, editorially speaking, correct me if I'm wrong though) philosphy is based on our working definition for speculative fiction.

At least, insofar as for our magazine (enough with the caveats already!) I expect the story not only contain speculative elements, but that the speculative elements be integral to the story. So, to my mind, for a story to be sci-fi, the plot, characterization, and/or setting must be completely reliant upon the science in the story.

I would call Dave's novel sci fi because the mystery revolves around the aliens.

ssas said...

HOWEVER, I had a discussion the other night about this very topic and an old book widely regarded as early sci-fi, THE TIME MACHINE. One person said it was not sci fi because though the machine was portrayed as scientific, the science was not adequately explained (nor real, nor possible in any stretch of the imagination--his words not mine!)

My rebuttal had to do with timing. In this era, we are so surrounded by science, it's tough not to call "old science" "magic." But, just because it's out of date or not adequetely explained does not make it any less sci-fi than some of Crichton's far-fetched work.

The science can be bad for it still to be classified as sci fi, to my mind, though since one of our editors is a scientist, I hope we have higher expectations than that.


ssas said...

I memed you both, Dave and Lesley. Tag, you'r it!

(See my blog for details)

lesleylsmith said...

Gee, comment much, Sex? :)