Related: Science fiction themes that crop up in varying combinations in the genres below.
Steampunk is a subgenre of speculative fiction, usually set in an anachronistic Victorian or quasi-Victorian alternate history setting. Fiction in the steampunk genre is set in the past, or a world resembling the past, in which modern technological paradigms occurred earlier in history, but were accomplished via the science already present in that time period. The genre typically falls into the realm of science fiction. Origin: The term "steampunk" was originally a tongue in cheek variant of "cyberpunk". The prototypical "steampunk" stories were essentially cyberpunk tales that were set in the past, using steam-era technology rather than the ubiquitous cybernetics of cyberpunk but maintaining those stories' "punkish" attitudes towards authority figures and human nature. Originally, like cyberpunk, steampunk was typically dystopian, often with noir and pulp fiction themes, as it was a variant of cyberpunk. As the genre developed, it came to adopt more of the broadly appealing utopian sensibilities of Victorian scientific romances Steampunk fiction focuses more intently on real, theoretical or cinematic Victorian-era technology, including steam engines, clockwork devices, and difference engines. While much of steampunk is set in Victorian-era settings, the genre has expanded into medieval settings and often delves into the realms of horror and fantasy. Various secret societies and conspiracy theories are often featured, and some steampunk includes significant fantasy elements. There are frequently Lovecraftian, occult and Gothic horror influences as well.
Bronzepunk is another sub-genre of the steampunk science fiction genre which was introduced along with several other variations by the GURPS steampunk worlds, including stonepunk. Bronzepunk focuses on the primitive technological developments during the Bronze Age and juxtaposes the modern world with the Bronze Age. Unlike most modern punk-influenced fiction such as cyberpunk and dieselpunk, there is a modified form of technology inspired through the basis of material that is supplied through the importance of bronze during the Bronze Age. However, themes usually range from those found in most fantasy literature which are usually based around glorified, heroic adventures. Bronzepunk is part of a three-age punk-literary system that outlines the infamous cyberpunk literary themes of a dystopian (or utopian) world where primitive technology involving metals or other natural resources has overrun society. The age preceding bronzepunk is stonepunk, whereas ironpunk follows the age of bronze as a civilization built and concentrating on the Iron Age. Following this system is the entry of middlepunk which follows the same themes that are found in other punk sub-categories, especially those predominant in steampunk, only it focuses on the time period of the Middle Ages.
New Weird is that literature should transcend the genre in which it is written, and therefore it is not only acceptable but encouraged that a writer blur the borders between genres. Many New Weird writings contain elements of science fiction, fantasy, and horror.
Cyberpunk (a portmanteau of cybernetics and punk) is a genre of science fiction that focuses on computers or information technology, usually coupled with some degree of breakdown in social order. The plot of cyberpunk writing often centres on a conflict among hackers, artificial intelligences, and mega corporations, tending to be set within a near-future dystopian Earth, rather than the "outer space" locales prevalent in science fiction at the time of cyberpunk's inception. Much of the genre's "atmosphere" echoes film noir, and written works in the genre often use techniques from detective fiction. Gritty, hard-hitting style was hailed as revolutionary.Cyberpunk writers tend to use elements from the hard-boiled detective novel, film noir, and postmodernist prose to describe the often nihilistic underground side of the electronic society that surged in the 1980s and 1990s. Cyberpunk's dystopian world has been called the antithesis of much of generally utopian visions of the future popular in the 1940s and 1950s. In cyberpunk writing, much of the action takes place online, in cyberspace, blurring any border between the actual and the virtual reality. A typical feature of this writing is a direct connection between the human brain and computer systems through advanced technology. Cyberpunk's world is a sinister, dark place with networked computers that dominate every aspect of life. Giant multinational corporations have for the most part replaced governments as centers of political, economic and even military power. The alienated outsider's battle against a totalitarian system is a common theme in science fiction and cyberpunk in particular, though in conventional science fiction the totalitarian systems tend to be sterile, ordered, and state controlled. Heroes often establish their masculinity by dominating a technology described with female metaphors — in essence, through metaphorical rape. These same heroes are often Americanized rogues, "cowboys" poised against the collectivist world of Japanese corporations or against European financial dynasties.
High degree of experimentation, both in form and in content, and a highbrow sensibility. The term "New Wave" is borrowed from film criticism's nouvelle vague.Began in 1964. One of the central ideas of the New Wave was entropy, the idea that the universe will irrevocably run down, and its reflection in human society. The New Wave writers saw themselves as part of the general literary tradition and often openly mocked the traditions of pulp science fiction, which they regarded as stodgy, irrelevant and unambitious. The New Wave movement started to explore many subjects, including sex in science fiction, in ways that were previously unthinkable. Several factors may have contributed to the "death" of New Wave science fiction. One factor was its assimilation into the larger science fiction mainstream. A second factor was the passing of the radicalism of the 1960s in art as well as life.
Like its predecessor, postcyberpunk focuses on technological developments in near-future societies, typically examining the social effects of widespread telecommunication, genetic engineering and/or nanotechnology. Unlike "classic" cyperpunk, however, the works in this category feature characters who act to improve social conditions or at least protect the status quo from further decay. The term "postcyberpunk" was first used circa 1991. Cyberpunk typically deals with alienated loners in a dystopia. Postcyberpunk tends to deal with characters who are more involved with society, and act to defend an existing social order or create a better society. In cyberpunk, the alienating effect of new technology is emphasized, whereas in postcyberpunk, "technology is society" (including more technocracy and cyberprep themes than traditional cyberpunk). A more realistic depiction of computers, such as replacing virtual reality with a sort of super voice/audio/video/holographic Internet-based network. A change in emphasis from metallic implants to biotechnology-enabled body modification. Postcyberpunk possibly emerged because SF authors and the general population began using computers
Hard-boiled detective novel, film noir, Japanese anime, and post-modernist prose. It describes the nihilistic, underground side of the biotech society which started to evolve in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Unlike cyberpunk, it builds not on informational technology but on biology. Individuals are enhanced not by mechanical means, but by genetic manipulation of their very chromosomes.
Cyberprep (a portmanteau word combining "cybernetics" and "preppy") is a term that refers to a sub-genre of science fiction or role-playing game campaign that reflects the flip side of cyberpunk. A cyberprep world assumes that all the technological advancements of cyberpunk speculation have taken place but life is happy rather than gritty and dangerous. Since society is leisure-driven, uploading is more of an art form or a medium of entertainment while advanced body modifications are used for sports and pleasure. Alternatively, within a cyberpunk world, a typical cyberprep character can be a techno-utopian yuppie living a self-indulgent life in a gated arcology available to a select few. Instances of cyberprep in fiction include Iain Banks' Culture novels and the "Bitchun Society" portrayed in Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. In the real world, a technosexual could be described either positively or negatively as a cyberprep. Cyberprep fashion is clothing that combines aspects of haute couture with i-wear or even cyberware. Cyberprep fashion is also a term used to refer to technosexual trends that reflect the flip side of cyberpunk fashion.
"Edisonade" is a now-archaic term for stories from the Victorian and Edwardian eras that would now be classified as science fiction. Similar terms include scientific romances and Voyages Extraordinaires. The term is an eponym, named after famous inventor Thomas Edison, formed in the same way the term "Robinsonade" was formed from Robinson Crusoe. These stories usually featured brilliant and eccentric young inventors and their amazing inventions, and the adventures they would get into with the invention. They were targeted at young boys in cheaply-printed dime novels. It should be noted that a common theme in Edisonades was the confrontation of "savage," non-white tribes, and their subsequent and somewhat casual slaughter by the Caucasian hero and/or his inventions.
Dying Earth subgenre is a sub-category of science fantasy which takes place at the end of Time, when the Sun slowly fades and the laws of the Universe themselves fail, with the science becoming indistinguishable from magic. Themes of world-weariness, innocence (wounded or otherwise), idealism, entropy and the hope of renewal tend to pre-dominate. Aslo a Fantasy subgenre.
Industrial level of development, informed by Cyberpunk senibilities. Alternate-history environment in which the most important aspect of society is diesel fuel, and the machinery that depends upon it. A manipulation on an alternate, future 1950s from the developed technology and society of the 1930's, where the Great Depression never arrived thus World War II is still being fought as a prolonged Cold War. In turn, Japan continues its progress towards technological modernization, developing the earliest computers and terminals. Nazi scientists continue experimenting by taking the route of biotechnology, sparking off a genetic revolution of bio-mods, clones, and organ harvesting. Whilst the Americans and British take both of these technologies to develop mind-control devices, spawning man-machine interfaces and sparking the atomic-powered machine age. Atomicpunk is a related alternative -punk genre, lying between steampunk's Victorian period and cyberpunk's 1980's influenced dystopia. Instead of steam-era technology or cybernetics, the main sources of power are diesel (the main source of fuel for machine-powered technology) and some nuclear power. Several devices which are affiliated to the genre are generally linked to 1920s architecture, such as the introduction of the skyscraper, along with the automobile and aeroplane, and diesel as the prime resource for fuel. The genre also borrows influences from the 1950's, such as postmodernism and the googie design. The dieselpunk world is a post-Atomic dystopian world that is still stuck in the 1950s (a post-WWII environment) and is usually cast in the future capitalist-run world that relies on the nuclear values of an isolationsit America. Themes that usually surface in the genre relate to: The Red Scare - fear of intrusion sparking mass hysteria; Space Race - conquest of Outer Space. This is also a relevant theme which incurred the spacepunk genre; Arms race - continued research and development in new weapon systems.; Suburbia - restructuring of society into new community developments; Nuclear power - heralding the new age of power and technology; And the possibility of a World War III emerging. Another aspect of dieselpunk is recognized as having emerged in the late 80s, relating to a post-apocalyptic, anarchistic world where there is no future or remnant of the past other than ruins and the left-over machines of mankind. The Apocalypse is usually blamed on a horrendous consequence of nuclear war or another terrible global disaster such as extreme climate change. This idea usually employs the elements of big, oily, smokey, rusty, machinery and the savage, tribal, neo-primitive, anarchic civilization. The post-Apocalyptic dieselpunk environment could be seen as a dark realization of anarchy in a dystopic society. In otherwords a regression back to primitivism, however a complete lack of authority and organization prevailing a destructive, warring and chaotic society which is generally how anarchy is stereotypically idealized in the world of fiction.
A "cosy catastrophe" is typically one in which civilization (as we know it) comes to an end and everyone is killed except for a handful of middle-class survivors, who then set about rebuilding their version of civilization. Some critics note that the characters are typically WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants).
Comic science fiction often mocks or satirizes standard SF conventions like alien invasion of earth, interstellar travel, or futuristic technology.
Clerical fiction is a semi-humorous term for describing a few books and novels which appeared in Poland during the 1990s. This subgenre of science fiction treated the Catholic Church or at least religious and church-related topics (like abortion).
Set in a world in which history has diverged from history as it is generally known; more simply put, alternate history asks the question, "What If history had developed differently?". A change happens that causes history to diverge from our own. In France, alternative history novels are called uchronie. This neologism is based on the word utopia (a place that doesn't exist) and the Greek for time, chronos. An uchronie, then, is defined as a time that doesn't exist. A "cross-time"/"many universes" variant. Paratime in which universes are constantly shifting. There are certain elements which are common to all alternate histories, whether they deal with history on the micro-level (personal alternate histories) or the macro-level (world-changing events). These elements include: A point of change from the history of our world prior to the time at which the author is writing; A change which would alter history as it is known; An examination of the ramifications of that change. Alternate histories do not Need to be set in the past; Need to show the point of divergence; Need to deal with world changing events; Need to include famous people. The key change between our history and the alternative history is known as the "Point of divergence" (POD)
Transhumanism (sometimes abbreviated >H or H+) uses technology, especially neurotechnology, biotechnology, and nanotechnology, to overcome human limitations and improve the human condition. Philosophies that guide us towards a posthuman condition. Anticipates the radical transitions that the future requires. Enhancement technologies, such as eliminating aging and expanding intellectual, physical or physiological capacities. Benefits, dangers and ethics of implementation of these technologies. No 'supernatural' forces that guide humanity, partake in a culture of science and reason. Currents within transhumanism: Democratic transhumanism. A political philosophy synthesizing liberal democracy, social democracy, radical democracy and transhumanism; Extropianism. (see Cypherella and the Extropians) An early strand of transhumanism characterized by a set of principles regarding extropy; Hedonistic Imperative. A moral philosophy based upon the belief in the necessity of using technology to eliminate suffering in all sentient life.; Posthumanism. A philosophy that seeks to transcend the principles of Renaissance humanism to correspond more closely to the 21st century's ideas of scientific knowledge.; Prometheism. A religious philosophy synthesizing cosmotheism and transhumanism.; Singularitarianism. A moral philosophy based upon the belief that a technological singularity is possible, advocating deliberate action to effect and ensure its safety.; Transhumanist socialism. A political philosophy synthesizing socialism and transhumanism.; Transtopianism. A political philosophy synthesizing radical techno-utopianism and transhumanism.
Cybernoir, sometimes also referred to as cybergoth fiction. Dystopian focus of cyberpunk with heavy elements of gothic fiction and Film Noir. Such works often contain some elements of detective fiction. Gothic symbolism, dreams etc. as well as more gothic settings. Cybernoir is a growing genre in Anime.
The cypherpunks (a portmanteau of cipher and punk) comprise an informal group of people interested in privacy and cryptography who originally communicated through the cypherpunks mailing list. The aim of the group was to achieve privacy and security through proactive use of cryptography, as well as more practical nuts-and-bolts mathematical, computational, technological, and cryptographic matters.
An arcology is an extremely large building, sufficient to maintain an internal ecology as well as an extremely high human population density, a portmanteau of architecture and ecology. Problems of overpopulation and environmental degradation, as they reduce the footprint of cities. Most cities spread across the Earth's surface horizontally — covering more and more land and reducing arable farmland. Arcologies would be 'vertical cities'.
interstellar or interplanetary conflict and its armed solution (war) make up the main or partial backdrop of the story. Conflict is assumed to be inevitable (humans vs. aliens, democracies vs. dictatorships, etc.), and the military approach is not questioned. Traditional military values (Discipline, courage, plight, etc.) are stressed, and the action is described from the point of view of either a soldier or officer. Technology is advanced and often described in detail. In some stories technology is fairly static, wars are not primarily won by R&D or even logistics, but by willpower and military virtues. In other stories technological changes are central to plot development.Use of actual historical battles or conflicts as more or less direct models for fictional situations. Tendencey to portray democratic government with a certain level of contempt, as bloated, corrupt, inefficient and openly antagonistic to its military protectors (who as the protagonists are typically portrayed as good and noble) and liberals exclusively as out-of-touch ivory tower academics and idealists who must invariably be protected from themselves. Horrors and futility of war.
It is one of the sub-genres which are categorized as soft science fiction. Some planetary romances also qualify as space opera. heroic adventure set on exotic worlds other than our own, most often either Mars or Venus. The planetary setting can exist in isolation or as part of a larger spacefaring culture, often centered on a future Earth that takes the role of the British in colonial occupation stories. Declining galactic empires are a popular alternative background setting.Early planetary romances were a mainstay of the pulp magazines.
The term posthumanism is also used as a synonym for transhumanism, especially in the United States. According to this claim, humans have no inherent rights to destroy nature or set themselves above it in ethical considerations a priori.Human knowledge is also reduced to a less controlling position, previously seen as the defining aspect of the world. The limitations and fallibility of human intelligence are confessed, even though that doesn't mean abandoning the strong rational tradition of humanism.
Blending of the two popular genres.Science fiction makes the implausible possible, while science fantasy makes the impossible plausible.Combins alien fiction, sword and sorcery, magic, technology and the superhero genre.
Shapeshifting or transformation fiction is a genre in fiction which deals with physical transformation, usually called shapeshifting. Some of the more popular themes include werewolves, vampires, and age regression. In a broader sense the term includes stories about characters who shrink or grow in size without changing their form. Transformation in this regard is physical, as opposed to mental or personality
Transrealism addresses the escapism and disconnect with reality of science fiction by providing for superior characterization through autobiographical features and simualtion of the author's acquaintances. It addresses the tiredness and boundaries of realism by using fantastic elements to create new metaphors for psychological change and to incorporate the author's perception of a higher reality in which life is embedded. A state of perception (termed transreality) that is playfully contrary to consensus reality is a prerequisite for writing effective transrealist fiction. Deemed the same as Slipstream fiction has consequently been referred to as "the fiction of strangeness" - not strange enough for science fiction readers, and not too strange for mainstream readers.
To outline all the geographical, geological, physical, and astronomical knowledge amassed by modern science and to recount, in an entertaining and picturesque format...the history of the universe, sense of wonder and exploration.
Set among species or cultures extremely different from humanity or human society.
Concerned less with gadgets and space opera and more with speculation about human society. Often covertly about politics.
Crosses over many scifi genres, e.g. Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Uses a noir atmosphere and postcyberpunk themes, but not dystopic. A journeyman hero (unlike cyberpunk's anti-hero), with diplomatic abilities, hero is displaced in Outer Space - not on a designated voyage. Social effects of widespread technology and advancements in space exploration. Dystopic and Utopic.
Interstellar conflict and character drama. Large-scale space battles with futuristic weapons, military tone and weapon system technology, future war in space or effects of war on humans.
Development of societies, generally dominated by totalitarian governments.
Politics and social order implied by libertarian philosophies with an emphasis on individualism and a limited state-- and in some cases, no state whatsoever.
Elements of both the science fiction and Western genres. The two genres can be blended in many different ways. The tropes and conventions of Westerns can be translated to a science-fiction setting or science fiction elements can be transported to the American West, in a steampunk fashion. Uses a lawless frontier and the spiritually wounded veteran.
Scientific detail or accuracy. The hard SF writer is permitted to foresee the automobile provided that he also foresees the traffic jam. Character development is often secondary to explorations of astronomical or physical phenomena.
Focus on human feelings, while de-emphasizing the details of technological hardware and physical laws. Sciences which current scientists consider impossible or at least highly unlikely - philosophy, psychology, politology and sociology. Synonym for New Wave.
Main character or protagonist is almost always lesbian. Almost always written by a lesbian for a largely lesbian audience. It often has sexual imagery and aspects of science fiction erotica. It may also explore, in a wider scope, the varieties of sexual experience that deviate from the conventional.
Not exclusively a science fiction genre. Slash fiction is a type of fan fiction in which one or more media characters is involved in a homosexual relationship as a primary plot element. These gay pairings are often described in explicit detail, and largely occur outside the canon of the source. The name arises from the use of the slash character used in the description of the primary pairing involved in the story, as opposed to the ampersand that was conventionally used for 'friendship' fiction. Authors explore the subjects on their own terms with established media characters. Though technically erroneous, some people assert that some published works constitute slash fiction, despite the fact that it is not fan-created. People also debate whether or not slash fiction need exclusively describe a relationship between two male partners ('M/M'), or if it can include lesbian ('F/F') relationships as well. Some people believe that it tarnishes established media characters to portray them in a way that was never illustrated canonically. Slash fiction writers, however, often believe that sexual orientation and romance aren't necessarily fixed entities, and that it is impossible to conclusively state that any character is straight, gay or bisexual. Controversially - slash involving underage characters (often termed 'chanslash'; The people owning the intellectual property rights to these characters are often unhappy with Chanslash. Real person slash - legality of using a real person's name to tell a story was frequently questioned, celebrities, even when established as being heterosexual in mainstream media, were portrayed as homosexual in the online role playing games, and so the interactive fiction produced would often be of a slash nature. See Femmeslash for the woman-oriented non-science-fiction version.
Themes of sex, gender and sexuality. This was not always so. During the 1930s and 40s "golden age" of science fiction sex was rarely if ever even mentioned, although there was certainly no lack of innuendo and suggestion. The idea, however, that strong female characters played little or no role in the pulps of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, is wrong. Women are depicted in strong, positive roles. True, the women may be scantily clad, but there is no mistaking the fact they are very much in charge of the situation.