Last Friday, I told you I was going to talk about different science fiction subgenres. True to my word, I’ll be starting that today.
And by starting I mean that this will be a six-week long series that will give an overview of six sub-genres a week. Because there’s a lot of them.
Why are there so many science fiction sub-genres? Because they’re pretty different from each other, and everyone’s taste is different. It’s hard to say that a story about virtual reality belongs in the same category as a story about First Contact. While many of these sub-genres can be found blended together, it’s safe to say that any one of them is strong enough alone to tell a good story.
Quite a popular genre for movies, the alien invasion genre is pretty self-explanatory. Aliens have invaded Earth, probably for nefarious purposes. Some examples of this subgenre are probably already in your mind, like Mars Attacks or Independence Day. (Obviously, the quality varies wildly.)
This is not one of my favorites. Generally, the alien race comes off as violent, selfish and often stupid. Now if someone could come up with an alien race that had a legitimate reason to attack, I’d get behind that.
Probably one of my favorite science fiction subgenres, alt history is just what it sounds like. What would the world be like if Hitler had gotten into art school? What if Henry Ford had never been born? What if the allies had lost WWII? What if Columbus hadn’t found America? You get the idea.
I have a fascination with history, so of course, I love reading about what could have happened. There are a thousand little lynchpin moments in history. If one simple thing hadn’t happened, everything might have come out differently. It’s the butterfly effect.
How you might ask, does this qualify as science fiction? Wouldn’t this count as historical fiction? Well, maybe. But most alt-history stories include some science fiction element like time travel. That’s why it counts here.
The most recent example I can think of for this genre is Stephen King’s 11.22.63. I haven’t read it yet, but it is on my list.
This genre is similar to alt history, at least it can be. Parallel universe stories are often a look at what might have happened if -blank-. But many of the stories tend to be more personal than worldwide. They don’t have to be, they just usually are. I’m thinking of an episode of Dr. Who, where Rose and Ten go to an alternate universe where her dad is still alive.
One of the best examples I can think of here is this old school show, Sliders. It’s not the best sci-fi show ever, but it’s pretty decent if you’re looking for something new to watch.
This is another science fiction sub-genre that’s been used in movies frequently. It’s the end of the world, and it’s not going quietly. Mankind is dying, being destroyed, being eaten, killing each other horribly. This genre often puts its foot into the horror genre.
Often this genre centers around watching the survivors of the apocalypse try to put their lives in something that resembles order again.
Some good examples of this are The Stand or Mad Max.
Pretty obvious that this one is a favorite of mine. AI, artificial intelligence, is a concept done best by Issac Asimov. It’s all over movies, tv, and books because it’s something that fascinates a lot of people. Everywhere from friendly AI in Rosie the Robot or K9, to the malicious Hal 9000, the thought of AI clearly has our imaginations captured.
And, we just recently started turning this science fiction into science fact! A partial AI named CIMON is heading to the space station soon. He’s going to be able to perform small tasks, talk to the astronauts, and keep them company. How cool is that! Or terrifying, depending on your opinion of AI.
I’ve already mentioned Asimov, who is pretty much the father of this sub-genre. Even if you’ve never read any of his books, you’ve seen his work in movies. Bicentennial Man and I Robot are just two of my personal favorites. And, of course, I wrote a novella called You Can’t Trust The AI. I might have mentioned.
This is probably the most exciting sub-genre right now because it might soon be science fact! We’re already ready to send a group of people to Mars. We just won’t be able to get them back.
Colonization is a science fiction subgenre that’s about going to another planet and setting up camp. Obviously, the story ideas abound.
Ironically, one of my favorite stories in this genre is a dark one by Ray Bradbury called Mars is Heaven. A ship full of astronauts land on Mars, only to find everyone who they’ve ever loved who’s passed on there, waiting to greet them. I’ll let you read it to find out the ending.
Enjoy twelve dark tales from the twisted mind of Nicole C. Luttrell. Meet a girl who has bad dreams, a boy who watches too much tv when alone at night, and a mysterious scratching coming from an old school desk.