Science fiction (often shortened to SF, sci-fi or scifi) has been steadily and gradually gaining ground in the realm of fiction – specifically speculative fiction – when it comes to following and audience appeal. Not only is science fiction any longer limited to books and reading materials, but it is being embraced my modern media, especially in the field of visual arts: videos, films, paintings and architecture. Initially, the fandom and literary following of early science fiction literature was limited to scientific communities, educational communities and readers with scientific or technological background. With the passage of time, advancements in science and technology increased significantly and became part of the awareness of everyday people. How do “everyday people” define science fiction?
In reality, the scope of science fiction is expanding and evolving. Over time, subgenres and themes have emerged or have been redefined, based on the innovations of the science fiction creators and on the opinions and classifications of the science fiction community. Thus, as of yet, there is no single widely accepted definition of science fiction for the everyday people. So far, the best definition I have come across is the one from the Mark C. Glassy. He defines science fiction as akin to pornography: you do not know what it is, but you know it when you see it. Kidding aside, from the definitions of science fiction I looked up in the Internet, the definition from Wikipedia provided an extensive yet understandable description: is a genre of speculative fiction, typically dealing with imaginative concepts such as futuristic science and technology, space travel, time travel, faster than light travel, parallel universes, and extraterrestrial life. Science fiction often explores the potential consequences of scientific and other innovations, and has been called a “literature of ideas.”
Historically, the first true science fiction works emerged from the 17th century, a chapter in philosophical and literary history called the Age of Reason. Some early examples of (proto-)science fiction works are Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels”, Francis Bacon’s “The New Atlantis” and Johannes Kepler’s “Somnium”. It was around this time that theories and developments of modern science began to advance. As mentioned earlier, the dawn of new technologies and scientific advancement exposed even the everyday people or laypeople to new concepts, inventions and technologies.
Typically, science-fiction characters include aliens, mutants, androids, or humanoid robots and other types of characters arising from a future human evolution. At times, sci-fi stories start with seemingly ordinary human characters but they become entangled in extraordinary adventures that include space travel, time travel, alien invasion, etc. The sceneries include scientifically speculated settings in outer space, other dimensions or other worlds. Time is also included in the extraordinary sceneries in sci-fi stories. These can include future or past timelines, alternative timelines or an incredible historical past that totally different from our known history or geographical record. Not only that, science fiction stories touch on themes of human evolution, human destruction, consequences of human technologies such as genetic engineering, runaway climate change, technological singularity and so much technical and speculative stuff.
Science fiction is ever expanding. Its scope is gradually touching the far reaches of human imagination and aspirations. How do ordinary people recognize and appreciate science fiction? Thanks to the modern technological and scientific advancements, the concepts and themes of science fiction are relatively no longer foreign to laypeople. When they see something that takes the technology they currently know to another level, or some strange characters, places or events that are rooted from science or technology, those are just a few of the cues they typically rely on. Not only that, sci-fi also incorporates human drama and humanity into the characters. Although the characters are mostly strange and exotic, they are still relatable to the ordinary sci-fi followers because of the human issues these stories tackle and the humanistic qualities of the characters. Science fiction is here to stay and make waves!