The Sub-Genres of Sci-Fi


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A detailed account into the sub-genres of sci-fi films.

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The Sub-Genres of Sci-Fi

  1. 1. Sub-Genres of Sci-Fi Rachel Williams
  2. 2. Alternate History "What if history had developed differently?" Most works in this genre are set in real historical contexts (e.g. Civil War or WW2), yet feature social, geopolitical or industrial circumstances that developed differently or at a different pace from our own. All works in this sub-genre are set in a world in whish history has diverged from history as it is generally known. The television series „Stargate‟ is a great example of exploring both alternate history and parallel worlds. Alternate Humanity Animals who speak, think or act human. Some of these are created to show humans as bad by comparison to the lives of the animals in the tale and others are designed to make a political or social statement. Whatever the reason, most are written to make the reader willingly suspend belief and begin to view them as being human. Director Martin Rosen adapted „Watership Down‟, which was written by Richard Adams, to an animated feature film in 1978. Alternate Humanity could be argued to have its own sub-genre called „Bestiary Sci-Fi‟, which typically centres around worlds populated by unicorns, cat-people or sentient frill-necked lizards. It is also sometimes used to make the writer‟s “aliens” seem more normal.
  3. 3. Apocalyptic Usually tales of humanity's struggle to survive after devastation. It may be set immediately after, focusing on survivors, or when precatastrophe civilization has been forgotten. These stories focus on how we cope and rebuild society. There are many links between this form of sci-fi and sub-genres about false utopias/ dystopian societies. A work of this sub-genre might be called a ruined Earth story or dying Earth. The "Mad Max" films fall into this sub-genre. Post-Apocalyptic Post-apocalyptic stories are set well after a catastrophe. Rather than showing the immediate aftermath, they depict a new society that has risen from the ashes, usually on Earth. Often the survivors are wary of technology, so the films take place in a nontechnological future world, or where only scattered elements of technology remain. This sub-genre grew very popular in the 70's and 80's portraying a band of survivors enduring tremendous hardships. Stephen King decided to wipe out humanity in a different, introducing his fictional world to a deadly flu-virus in his post-apocalyptic tale "The Stand" a television mini-series, and then proceeded to tell how the survivors survived.
  4. 4. Gonzo Apocalypse These are rare, and feature a strange cosmic element. Disney's animated feature film, Treasure Planet, launches the story with the human race getting instantly wiped out by a hostile alien race. In Nevil Shute's „On the Beach‟, humanity is destroyed by a nuclear holocaust. Cozy Catastrophe A post-apocalyptic tale, usually set on Earth, in which an isolated group of survivors sets about rebuilding a new civilization according to their own particular ideas. As with the 'cozy mystery' subgenre, unjust death occurs, but the characters don't get too upset about it. John Wyndham's novel „The Day of the Triffids‟, later filmed by Steve Sekely, is a good example. The television miniseries was produced in 2009.
  5. 5. Artificial Intelligence These tales assume that one, or many, artificial minds become fully sentient. They might be mainframe computers, or mobile robots, or the Internet as a whole. One famous example is D.F. Jones's novel Colossus, later filmed by Joseph Sargent. Research into artificial intelligence is concerned with producing machines to automate tasks requiring intelligent behaviour, such as planning and scheduling, the ability to answer diagnostic and consumer questions, handwriting, speech, and facial recognition. It is focused on providing solutions to real life problems. Stephen Spielberg's sci-fi feature film „A.I. Artificial Intelligence‟ centres around this very premise. Bio-robotics This loosely covers the fields of cybernetics, bionics and even genetic engineering as a collective study. It is often used to refer to a real subfield of robotics: studying how to make robots that emulate or simulate living biological organisms mechanically or chemically. In one sense, bio-robotics is referred to as a theoretical discipline in which organisms are created and designed by artificial means. While it is currently limited to sci-fi, the actual field is in its infancy and is known as synthetic biology and Bio-nanotechnology. The term is also used in a reverse definition: making biological organisms as controllable and as functional as robots.
  6. 6. Cybernetic Revolt This is one of sci-fi's oldest and most common themes. Mechanical servants fail, assert their rights, or go berserk, usually with tragic consequences. „I, Robot‟, starring Will Smith, features such robots that revolt against mankind. Cyborg Cyborg fiction involves a human/mechanical blend as a protagonist. The classic example is the novel „Cyborg‟, brought to television as „The Six Million Dollar Man‟. Robot These tales are self-explanatory. The concept of robots predates sci-fi, and the two visions have developed in parallel.
  7. 7. Synthetic Biology Synthetic Biology stories feature artificial life forms. It's a small subgenre, and its protagonists are often biologists who crack the secret of creating life. A good feature film to represent this sub-genre would be the Nexus Unit Roy in Ridley Scott's „Blade Runner‟. Roy leads a group of renegade Nexus units in search of their creator to seek a longer life span since they were engineered to live for only four years. Wetware Computer This is a narrow subgenre, featuring 'wetware' (living biological) technology, as opposed to 'hardware computer' devices. These stories depict the invention and/or the actions of an artificial thinking brain.
  8. 8. Cross Genre Cross-genre stories defy easy distinctions between sci-fi and other genres, such as fantasy (psychic power is sci-fi, magic is fantasy). The Underworld trilogy could be considered cross-genre, the warring factions are Vampires and Likens (Werewolves), but fictional high tech weapons are used. Cyberspace Cyberspace as a subgenre is very similar to 'cyberpunk,' though broader in form and style. This subgenre involves characters interacting while fully immersed within a vast worldwide 'virtual reality' medium. Other stories involve hackers who use more ordinary means of networking.
  9. 9. Cyberpunk These are typically set on Earth, and involve a hacker immersed in a cyber-world, interacting, on line and physically, with similar people. They are often set in a high-tech, bleak, mechanistic futuristic universe of computers, hackers, and computer/human hybrids. Characters are sometimes modified to 'jack' their brain directly into cyberspace. It features advanced technology such as information technology coupled with some degree of breakdown in social order. Classic cyberpunk characters are alienated loners who live on the edge of society in generally dystopic futures where daily life was impacted by a rapid change in technology, a data-sphere of computerized information, and invasive modification of the human body. Cyberpunk often encompasses nanotechnology, cyborgs, androids, virtual reality, and/or a warning as to what could possibly go wrong if technology falls into the wrong hands. Humans may have built-in computer jacks or software ("wetware"), and spend time "living" in a virtual environment, as in The Matrix. Another good example is „Ghost in the Shell‟. Post-Cyberpunk Post-cyberpunk describes a narrow and indistinct subgenre. These stories break with the tropes (such as cynical young hackers in garish night clubs) that dominated the cyberpunk trend. Usually set on Earth, these stories make a conscious effort to be more positive. Disney's feature films „Tron‟ and „Tron Legacy‟ could be considered a variant of both cyberspace and post-cyberpunk categories since its cyber universe is clearly digital as opposed to the lifelike world of The Matrix.
  10. 10. Dying Earth These tales show the death of the Earth as slower than an apocalypse would, it can be due to any cause including natural. More generally, this sub-genre encompasses sci-fi works set in the far distant future in a milieu of stasis or decline. Themes of world-weariness, innocence, idealism, entropy and the hope of renewal tend to pre-dominate. The feature film „WALL-E‟ portrays a dying Earth from an ocean of refuse created by humankind. The lone entity of life on Earth is a tiny plant sprout (and a cute cockroach), which is the catalyst of the plot. Dystopian Dystopian is the opposite of Utopian and is the creation of a nightmare world. These tales are designed to make the audience ask the bleak question "Is life worth living if this is where humanity is going?" An example is the spaceship Axiom in Disney/Pixar's movie „Wall-E‟. Often this subgenre depicts inquisitive heroes breaking free of a bottled utopia. „Brave New World‟ is a tale of classic dystopia with an emphasis on brainwashing, censorship and destruction of the family unit.
  11. 11. Edisonade This subgenre was named retroactively, and dates back to the nineteenth century. They centre upon the adventures of some brilliant young inventor. „The Time Machine‟ fits this model to a T with the main character, a genius young inventor, who is obsessed with the discovery of invention and pitied or scorned by the people around him. Exotic Ecosystems Alien worlds offer tremendous possibilities, yet sci-fi populates them with familiar humanoids. Box office king „Avatar‟ may have an environment and creatures that somewhat resemble Earth, but it probably fits the subgenre's title more accurately than any other film with its neon jungles and floating mountains. Also the planet in the 1972 and 2002 versions of „Solaris‟ is certainly alien to our world with a global covering ocean that has the ability of mental thought. Extraterrestrial Extraterrestrial Life is a huge subgenre, almost a descriptive category. In many of these tales, or even just its signals or ancient artefacts, has a tremendous impact upon current society. The movie „Contact‟ is an excellent example.
  12. 12. Aliens Creatures from outer space or other planets. Alien Invasion These stories are self-explanatory and the target is usually Earth. It is a common theme in sci-fi films, in which a technologically-superior extraterrestrial society invades Earth. Either with the intent to replace human life, or enslave it, like in „Battlefield Earth‟, or in some cases, to use humans as food. The classic of this subgenre is „War of the Worlds‟, and the film „Independence Day‟ has become a cultural milestone. Astrobiology Astrobiology centres upon alien life, not necessarily intelligent or technological beings, but the very presence of life that has evolved beyond our Earth. Many involve finding mysterious life forms on Mars or floating in the atmosphere of Jupiter.
  13. 13. Astrosociobiology This is an interstitial subgenre that's both narrow and broad. It focuses on the form and function of non-human civilizations. First Contact/Encounters These explore the initial meeting between humans and aliens usually, but it can be between other types of sentient race. First contact ranges from horrific tales of invasions to stories of benign visitors bearing the secrets of advanced technologies and world peace. This could be an alien arriving here, in space, or a human astronaut reaching another planet or actually living on another planet. There are hundreds of examples but a precise example is Star Trek's eighth feature film „First Contact‟. Microbiological They feature tiny life-forms, whether Earthly or alien, as a dominating force. They might cause a disease, or act as a transforming agent, deliberately or not. „The Andromeda Strain‟ is about a group of scientists investigating a deadly new alien virus before it can spread.
  14. 14. Firm Science A specific definition which can be applied to many subgenres. It refers to a mid-point between 'hard' and 'soft' sci-fi, and the inclusion of technology or phenomena that are not fantastic, but may never be invented. Some characters are grounded in the real world, along with their environment, but an element of enhanced physical capabilities or elevated powers of the mind exist. „Inception‟ falls into this category, where the story's world mirrors the real world with the exception that the main character has the ability to search other's dreams. Frontier Usually told with a "Grass is greener" aspect, only to learn that the same problems face them in the new colony. Crafty independent spacemen ply the asteroid belt in search of resources to send back to civilization. A good example is „Outland‟. In many, they are threatened by an aggressive government or big corporation from Earth. New or cut-off colony planets, left to support themselves, have a distinct frontier aspect. The popular „Serenity‟ franchise depicts such rough colonies. First Landings Originally this meant a journey to the Moon, the only 'obvious' world. „From the Earth to the Moon‟, an award winning television miniseries, is not the earliest example, but it's the best known. After the short-lived Apollo program, this subgenre began to depict a hoped-for return to the moon.
  15. 15. Generation Ship These are set aboard that type of spacecraft. Often they are so large, and the voyage so long, that most or all of its inhabitants consider other worlds to be the stuff of legend. It may travel much slower than light across great distances between stars and must also have extraordinarily reliable systems that would not fail even over long periods of time, or that could be repaired by the ship's inhabitants if they did. The ship would be almost entirely selfsustaining, providing food, air, and water for everyone on board. Such a ship might take thousands of years to reach even nearby stars, the original occupants would die during the journey, leaving their descendants to continue travelling. The 2009 film „Pandorum‟ showcased such a ship, The Elysium. This massive craft employed hyper-sleep pods for the occupants to survive the journey. Golden Age A period of the 1940s during which the sci- fi genre gained wide public attention in literature, but was all but abandoned in film. This could possibly have been due to World War II and the box office flops of the late thirties, including the British feature film „Things to Come‟.
  16. 16. Hard Sci-Fi Mostly based on real science & engineering, it is driven more by ideas than characterization. This subgenre depicts technology that conforms to actual scientific knowledge and physical laws, or plausible extensions of them. Issues of technology may be greater concern than a character's personal life. If the plot cannot maintain its integrity without the science or technological factor, then the story is 'hard' sci-fi. They typically contain at least one of these; Astronomy, Physics, Chemistry, sciences ruled by mathematics and stringent rules. Certain exceptions include things like antigravity. Some writers show an advanced, nearly utopian society where mankind has attained victory over most human ills; others portray the impact of technology on the human race with defects still in place, sometimes magnified. „2001: A Space Odyssey‟, makes an extensive effort to keep the technology as realistic as possible, with the exception of the mysterious Black Monolith. Hyperspace Horrific Hyperspace stories include Horror and sci-fi seem to go that extra-dimensional realm hand in hand. Horrific sci-fi as a setting. That realm is closely linked to the might play a major role in 'horror' genre, and while it's allowing the characters to often bloody, science is travel rapidly between star crucial to each premise. systems and/or time periods, Horrific sci-fi in cinema is or there might be human popular, some examples dwellings or aliens within it. A are; „The Thing‟, „Resident good example is „Star Trek: Evil‟, „The Blob‟, and „Event Deep Space Nine‟, with its Horizon‟. „Alien‟ is the main mysterious wormholefilm known in this category dwelling “prophet” aliens. though.
  17. 17. Military These look at combat in future locations, e.g. space, against a range of opponents. Stories in this sub-genre may revel in warfare or suggest anti-war themes. In some, interstellar or interplanetary conflict and war make up the main or partial backdrop of the story. Such war is usually shown from the point of view of a soldier. The main characters are often part of the military chain of command. A very popular film „Starship Troopers‟, is a good example; the military system and its characters were a large part of the dramatization. Media Tie-in This subgenre is a self-explanatory. Whether originally a book, a video game, or a screenplay, they are made into another form of media. These stories must conform to strict rules, like not allowing the main characters to change very much, so that they'll continue to match the series' canon. The „Resident Evil‟ films are a good example because they were adapted from a video game about a special military unit who fights an out-ofcontrol supercomputer and hundreds of scientists who have mutated into flesh-eating creatures after a laboratory accident.
  18. 18. Mundane These focus on stories set on or near Earth. They also have a believable use of technology and science as it exists at the time the story is written. It features nearfuture stories, without any improbable technologies, or interplanetary settings beyond what known spacecraft can reach. Mythic Works are, ultimately, inspired by the tropes, themes and symbolism of myth, folklore, and fairy tales. Some depict aliens and/or humans using high-tech means to recreate mythological settings, and the "magical powers" of the ancient gods. These could be pantheon-based characterisations, or retellings of famous mythological journeys. Award winning TV series „Battlestar Galactica‟ is steeped with Greek mythology. Worshiping Greek Gods, colony names include; Caprica, Picon, Sagittaron, Tauron, and Vigron. The survivors are on a quest to find the mythical 13th colony - Earth. Other examples are the „Star Trek‟ original-series episode "Who Mourns for Adonais?", and the „Stargate‟ series where Asgard and Thor are woven into the ongoing plot.
  19. 19. Nano-Tech Nanotechnology is the design, characterization, production and application of structures, devices and systems by controlling shape and size on the nanoscale. Nanotechnology has been put to practical use for a wide range of applications, including enhanced tire reinforcement and improved suntan lotion. Another description of this subgenre is Nanopunk, which has been regarded as one of cyberpunk's many offshoots. It explores the effects of advanced nanotechnology on humanity. For example, „The Outer Limits‟ contained episodes that fall into this subgenre, one such episode is „The New Breed‟. In the episode, Dr. Ledbetter makes a technological and medical breakthrough when he creates a type of tiny machine, known as nanobots, capable of curing any disease or imperfections in the human body. Occupational This subgenre encompasses a wide reach but remains unusual. It features blue collar protagonists, in recognizable circumstances, rather than pretentious scientists or astronauts. The feature film „Repo Men‟ is set in the near future and centres around two repo collectors. Rather than repossessing cars, the blue collar hunters go after clients who failed to pay for their organ replacements.
  20. 20. Parallel Universe/World Parallel Universe stories deal with the quantum concept that every choice or decision happens somewhere. This separate reality can range in size from a small geographic region to an entire new universe, or several universes. The other universe can be very strange, with differing physical laws, or spatial dimensions. „Fringe‟ and „Sliders‟ are model examples of this subgenre. The real nature of „Sliders‟ has changed throughout the seasons. The first two explored what would have happened, e.g., if America had been conquered by the Soviet Union or if penicillin had not been invented. The third became far more action-oriented. Multiverse These feature multiple universes, often with differing versions of Earth. This sub-set assumes that some variant of the Multiverse or Landscape Cosmological Theory is true. There is always some way to travel between the universes, or at least communicate. „The One‟ is a good film example.
  21. 21. Planes of Existence Other planes are often 'psychic' or 'spiritual' in nature, and are reachable by altering one's state of awareness. An example is „Altered States‟, which explores the concept that other states of consciousness are as real as our waking states. The main character begins experimenting with sensory-deprivation using a flotation tank, and his mind experiments cause him to experience actual, physical biological devolution. Progentitive This is a small subgenre, which features humans and/or aliens who create sci-fi of their own. In the „Star Trek: DS9‟ TV episode "Far Beyond the Stars," Sisko is shown as a sci-fi author who struggles with civil rights and inequality when he writes the story of Captain Benjamin Sisko, a black commander of a futuristic space station. Recursive Recursive sci-fi is comprised of stories that include direct references to the sci-fi genre.
  22. 22. Religious Christian Futuristic stories containing a distinct religious overtone or These feature an explicitly message which gives meaning and motivation to their Christian protagonist. lives, though it isn't always explored in depth. In a certain Clerical sense, most sci-fi grapples with questions of a spiritual or These involve an organized religious nature. Sci-fi rarely takes religion at face value, priesthood, such as a religious order, by simply accepting or rejecting it. A few focus on other of any human or alien religion. In human faiths, whether current, in the future, or via time „Dune‟, Bene Gesserit dominates travel. „The Book of Eli‟ centres around the last known human history, yet without profound Bible and is set in a post-apocalyptic background. expressions of individual faith. Hindu Hindu tales feature character(s) of that faith. India has a growing native-languages sci-fi market, but very little has been translated into English. Islamic These centre upon characters or entire societies, of that faith. Jewish Jewish sci-fi features characters of that faith. Theological Theological works often present explanations or commentary on religion and religious ideas. These vary from simple refutations of religion as primitive or unscientific, to creative explanations and new insights into religious experiences and beliefs.
  23. 23. Soft/Social This subgenre is character-driven, with emphasis on social change, personal psychology and interactions, while de-emphasizing the details of technology and physical laws. Stories based on fields such as Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, Social Structures, Religious, Biological, and Cultural. While technology may play a role, the emphasis is not on how that technology works, but how it affects individuals or social groups. „Gulliver‟s Travels‟ is a good example, which has been adapted numerous times in film and TV, including the recent comedy version featuring Jack Black. Gay Gay sci-fi includes male homosexuals. If not the protagonist, then a major character or two. This theme has become more common since the 1970s, but remains unusual. A popular example is the character Lt. Cmdr. Ro Nevin in „Star Trek: Odyssey‟. Lesbian Lesbian sci-fi features women with that orientation as main characters. These stories became popular in the 1970s, and are more common than gay male themes.
  24. 24. Space Exploration The politics, science, and engineering behind space flight all fall into this subgenre. There are many rationales behind space exploration, the most common ones focus on scientific research or the future survival of humanity. This endeavour had been a dream and goal of humanity for the past several centuries, but until the development of large liquid-fuelled rocket engines, it could not be seriously developed. Space exploration is the very heart of the ‟Star Trek‟ franchise. They have a wide range of plots, but they are centred on space exploration. Space Opera This can also be called Adventure Sci-Fi, and is a huge descriptive category. It features swashbuckling action, set in a vast panorama. Space opera often involves good guys shooting it up with bad guys in the depths of space or on a distant planet. No attention is given to scientific plausibility and technical explanations tend to be vague. Most space operas violate the known laws of physics by showing faster-than-light travel. This is generally accepted as long as there's some form of human element and good must beat evil. Many space operas invoke paranormal forces, or vast powers capable of destroying whole planets, stars, or galaxies. Stories emphasize over-sized, tongue-in-cheek adventures in space featuring heroes, beautiful women, and exotic aliens. Some are filled with intergalactic fleets battling against a backdrop of stars. To keep the story fast, spaceships can fly almost unlimited distances in a short time, and can turn really fast without decelerating. The planets usually have earth-like atmospheres and exotic life forms that speak English. The 'Star Wars‟ franchise is a perfect example, as well as the „Flash Gordon‟ series.
  25. 25. Galactic Empires This is a fairly common theme in sci-fi. The capital of a galactic empire is frequently a core world. Some are based on the Roman Empire. The best known empire is from „Star Wars‟, which was formed in turn from the Galactic Republic. Spunky Heroine These feature a spunky heroine as their protagonist. The heroine is such a big pat that the film is usually referred to using her, more than by their plot or premise. There are a number of examples in film and TV, but few fit better than „Lara Croft: Tomb Raider‟ and it sequel. Steampunk The works are set in an era where steam power is widely used, usually the 19th century, and often Victorian England. But there is usually advanced technology or other sci-fi elements. These elements may be fictional advances, or real advances taken out of their own time. „The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen‟ is a good example of steampunk. They presume that its characters have developed a form of high-tech at that time but they are careful to avoid backdating any current attitudes or theories. Gaslight stories are defined a little more narrowly.
  26. 26. Immortality Super Humans/Powers Immortality or eternal life is the concept of This is probably the best known sci-fi subgenre. existing for a potentially infinite length of These stories range from heroes with time. Throughout history, many humans superpowers, like „Superman‟ and „Spider-Man‟, have had the desire to live forever. It might to those with super-toys like „Batman‟ and „Iron be humans with a rare mutation that's Man‟. This subgenre can cover a broad base of allowed them to survive since ancient times, Invisibility films. or a future scientific development. Often these long-lived characters allow for vivid The ability to become invisible is the central attribute of the main depictions of history. characters. 'Cloaking devices' have now become very common in sci-fi. Mutant The idea of a mutant is a common trope scifi. The things that appear in fictional mutations generally go far beyond what is typically seen in biological mutants, and often result in the mutated life form exhibiting superhuman abilities. „X-Men‟ is a notable example of Mutant Sci-Fi. Their powers evolve to higher levels in later stages of their lives. However, this only plays out in the comic books, the films reflect the characters who have already achieved that stage. In „XMen First Class‟, the original characters are shown with their early or first stage of mutation.
  27. 27. Sports This is a tiny subgenre. In a few stories, an alien visitor shows a love for baseball. Most of the others depict the impact of modern science, and genetic engineering in particular, on professional sports. Perhaps the best example of this subgenre is „Rollerball‟. In a corporate controlled future, an ultra-violent sport known as Rollerball represents the world, and one of its powerful athletes is out to defy those who want him out of the game. Sword & Planet Sword and Planet sci-fi brings a medieval aspect to interstellar space. „Outlander‟ is tailor made for this subgenre. During the reign of the Vikings, Kainan, a man from a far-off world, crash lands on Earth,bringing with him an alien predator known as the Moorwen. Kainan leads an alliance to kill the Moorwen by fusing his advanced technology with the Viking's Iron Age weaponry.
  28. 28. Terraforming These centre around vast projects, with the characters busy altering whole planets to make them more habitable. Terraforming is a type of planetary engineering. The concepts of terraforming are in sci-fi and actual science. The film „Total Recall‟ is based on the terraforming of Mars though it is limited to a man-made habitat. The actual terraforming doesn't take place until late in the film, which is generated by an ancient alien device. Time Travel This is a vast subgenre. Time travel is the concept of moving backward or forward to different points in time, in a manner of moving through space. Some interpretations of time travel suggest the possibility of travel between parallel realities or universes. This capability is put to use by the characters. The effects of such temporal ventures vary in each portrayal. One example is „The Time Machine, and more recently „Terminator‟. We experience the time travel process usually at the beginning of the film, from there the plot settles into that period's dramatization. While the premise of time travel is prominent in the „Terminator‟ series, the „Back to the Future‟ trilogy keeps the concept of time travel at the forefront throughout all three stories. Topics range from "Let's go see what the Romans were like", to issues of paradox and "tampering". A variant of this subgenre is the "alternate universes" theme, in which each change in the time stream spins off a new universe.
  29. 29. Utopian & World Government The „Star Trek‟ franchise fits both categories as an example. Utopian fiction is the creation of an ideal world. World Government sci-fi features a world ruled by a unified government and in many, it's often a corrupt monarchy, but there is plenty of variety. In the „Star Trek‟ franchise, contact with aliens prompts humanity to finally unite, creating a Utopian Earth and a unified world government. Virtual Reality Virtual reality is a technology which allows a user to interact with a computer-simulated environment. Most virtual reality environments are primarily visual experiences, but some simulations include additional sensory information, such as sound. Some advanced and experimental systems have included limited tactile information, known as force feedback. Users can interact with a virtual environment either through the use of standard input devices such as a keyboard and mouse, or through multimodal devices such as a wired glove or omnidirectional treadmill. The simulated environment can be similar to the real world, for example, pilot or combat Xenofiction training, or it can differ significantly from reality, A subgenre that features cultures as in games. The feature film that fits this well extremely different from familiar is „The Lawnmower Man‟. Another excellent ones. The „Star Trek‟ canon's example would be „Tron‟ and „Tron Legacy‟. Borg is a popular example.
  30. 30. Age Regression Old becomes young again. This might happen via some virus or serum, or by means of an elaborate multi-step process. Oscar winning „The Curious Case of Benjamin Button‟ is really a fantasy, but it is a perfect example of this subgenre. Biopunk Biopunk is a spinoff 'cyberpunk', it involves hackers who manipulate human DNA which may be their own or someone else‟s. It uses elements from the hard-boiled detective, film noir, Japanese anime, and post-modernist prose to describe the nihilistic, underground side of the biotech society. One example is „Gattaca‟. Though many stories about cybernetics and artificial intelligence fall into this category, biopunk focuses on genetic and biological manipulation. An early example is „Frankenstein‟, but generally the term is applied to post-cyberpunk fiction. Cloning The most popular rumour to arise from this subgenre is that cloned people cannot have souls as they were not created "in God's way". It gives writers plenty of room to ponder the good vs. evil plotlines, featuring cloned people as the bad guys. The entire plot of „The Sixth Day‟ revolves around this theme.
  31. 31. Colonization Where life forms move into a distant area where their kind is sparse or not yet existing and set up new settlements. Colonisation applies to all life forms, though it is most often insects and humans. Insect colonisation varies from species to species though it most often involves a queen setting out from its parent colony and establishing her own colony. Human colonisation is broader than colonialism or imperialism, as it encompasses all large-scale immigrations of an established population. This process may or may not victimise an indigenous population. Communalness Communalness is a specialized subgenre, involving a human future with relationships and communities 'boosted' into enhanced consciousness by cybernetic or other means. The disciples of V.M. Smith in Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land achieve this, along with impressive powers, through learning to speak Martian. Detective These are often set in the near future, technology aids both criminals and law enforcement. This was popularized by the eponymous, actually cyborgs, character in „Robocop‟.
  32. 32. Environmental This subgenre focuses on the ecosystem, usually Earth's. Often there is a direct threat, caused by humanity or some outside force. Though this subgenre is based on plausible real world scenarios, Hollywood often busts out of the fence with exaggerated or ludicrous circumstances. „The Day After Tomorrow‟ is a pretty good example. Fantasy This sub-genre is a merging of two main genres. Fantasy sometimes leans toward the sci-fi side of the fence by adding advanced technology in the mix. With fairy tale like sub-plots and characters, it would often ignore known laws or scientific theories for the sake of the story. „Flash Gordon‟ stomped all over the laws of physics, with the stories containing giant lizard like dragons, shark men, and other bizarre characters and creatures. Erotica Explicit sex might be the centre of the plot, or it plays a vivid role in the character's lives. In „Barbarella‟, which is set in the 41st century, the main character ventures through a series of sexual escapades, including a bizarre encounter with a sex machine, and she seduces an angel.
  33. 33. Hollow Earth Hollow Earth tales are set within a putatively hollow planet Earth. The flagship of this subgenre is „Journey to the Centre of the Earth‟. A popular variant is the aquatic-cavern-filled planet Naboo in the "Star Wars" franchise. Kaiju This is a Japanese subgenre, popular throughout the world. These epics always feature one or more kaiju, meaning big powerful quirky monsters. A major example is the „Godzilla‟ franchise, and the American counterpart „King Kong‟. Gothic Gothic sci-fi slants toward the macabre, and deeply atmospheric settings, but not outright horror. „Frankenstein‟ is a good example, and so is „I Am Legend‟. Humourous This type of sci-fi may occur within any subgenre, or spoof a subgenre. The type of humour varies from light entertainment to satire. „Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy‟ is one of the best-known examples of humorous sci-fi. Others include „Spaceballs‟ and „Back to the Future‟.
  34. 34. Lost World This is one of the oldest subgenres. „The Lost World‟ is a good example, as well as popular TV series „Lost‟, which continues the tradition with its bizarre isolated island. Math These stories are centred around actual mathematical concepts. „Pi‟ is an excellent example of this subgenre. Its plot revolves around a mathematical genius who theorizes that everything in nature can be understood through numbers. „Knowing‟ is another good example. Near-future Elements of the near-future sci-fi setting should be familiar to the reader, and the technology may be current or in development.
  35. 35. New Wave New Wave was a movement, beginning in England and spreading to the USA and beyond. This subgenre rose and fell with western society's embrace of 1960s radicalism, and desire to 'shock the bourgeoisie.' Other World Totally fictional worlds/universes feature in these stories. „Dune‟ featured a really popular 'other world' in sci-fi. Syfy's miniseries „Children of Dune‟ was a spinoff. Pulp This is a descriptive category and it has a distinct style and format. Two examples would be „Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow‟. The film is set in an alternative 1939 and follows the adventures of Polly Perkins and Joe Sullivan, known as "Sky Captain", as they track down the mysterious Dr. Totenkopf who is seeking to build the 'World of Tomorrow'. Retro-futurism also celebrates the 'pulp' sci-fi stories of the past. Most of these depictions are in comic books, and revive the garish cover art and 'fifties' style of the past. Pastoral Pastoral or Small Town sci-fi takes place in that sort of setting. The television series „Jericho‟ fits this subgenre as it is set in a small town. The series centres on the residents of the fictional town of Jericho, Kansas in the aftermath of nuclear attacks on 23 major cities.
  36. 36. Restored Eden These are set in the mid-to-far future here on Earth. Most of humanity has gone on to other worlds, and the Earth has healed into a renewed paradise. „The Planet of the Apes‟ franchise could fall within this category. Romance Planetary Romance is a subgenre that shades into the Romance genre. In this case, the love story is embedded in futuristic or fantastical technology, and the striving lovers can be separated by more than Earthly distances. Science Tales Science Tales are intended for children. They depict common futuristic activities such as space travel, but without scientific rigor. The animated series and feature film „The Jetsons‟ is a great example for this subgenre with it's futuristic family, high tech and comical gadgets, and a variety of mishaps suited for children. Scientific Romance An archaic name for what is now known as the sci-fi genre, mostly associated with the early sci-fi of the UK. It has seen occasional revivals, making it a subgenre.
  37. 37. Shrinking/Enlarging This subgenre is selfdescriptive, and has a long tradition, merging back into mythology. „Alice in Wonderland‟ depicts Alice growing and shrinking in a mysterious fashion. „The Incredible Shrinking Man‟ and „Honey, I Shrunk the Kids‟ are good examples of going small. Giantess stories are epitomized by the film „Attack of the 50 Foot Woman‟. Shape Shifting These are a staple of speculative fiction. As a subgenre, this ability is explained in scientific terms. It varies from gradual cellular alteration to a nearinstantaneous ability to change size and form. „The Thing‟ is a stellar example. Singularity In futures studies, a technological singularity is a predicted future event believed to precede immense technological progress in an unprecedentedly brief time. Futurists give varying predictions as to the extent of this progress, the speed at which it occurs, and the exact cause and nature of the event itself.
  38. 38. SLIPSTREAM SCI-FI Slipstream is applied to stories with strong speculative elements which are marketed as mainstream. „The Time Traveller‟s Wife‟ is a recent example. SPACE WESTERN SCI-FI A subgenre of sci-fi that transposes themes of American Western film to a backdrop of futuristic space frontiers. Feature film „Serenity‟ makes a good example, featuring a crew of outlaw-like space cowboys lead by Mal, who commands the ship Serenity. The crew tries to evade an assassin sent to recapture one of them who is telepathic. SPY-FI SCI-FI Spy-fi is a descriptive category that brings espionage into the future, with clever high-tech duels. Often the technological gadgets are over the top. The film „Our Man Flint‟ is a fine example. STYLISTIC SCI-FI These comprise a broad and nebulous subgenre, defined by some distinctive or oddball style.
  39. 39. Trans-human It depicts the possible transformations that human beings may experience in the future, from helpful improvements to total alterations. Under Sea „20,000 Leagues Under the Sea‟ pioneered this sub-genre. Other examples include „Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea‟ and Disney's „Atlantis‟. A TV show example is „Stingray‟. Post-Humanism This subgenre is tied to a philosophical type movement. In practice it's very close to Transhumanism, and is controversial even to define. Mind Transfer/Upload-Download Mind Transfer is what takes place in this subgenre. A conscious mind is downloaded into a computer system, or shifted into another human brain. Such a transfer might be permanent or temporary, and the process may allow for one or more copies to exist at once. „18 Again!‟ a light-hearted example. Western Nothing fits this subgenre better than „The Wild Wild West‟, a popular television series and a feature film. World-building World-building stories are exhaustively researched, and feature unusual planets as a setting. Usually exotic aliens have evolved there, and humans can visit only with difficulty, if at all.