cover image The NCF Guideto

and Fandom

Fourth Edition
Edited by Robert Runté



No one has ever managed to come up with a truly satisfactory definition of science fiction. Either the definition is too broad, including works which are clearly fantasy or horror, or else so narrow that it excludes much of the recognized field. This is significant, because how one defines science fiction will also define the Canadian contribution to the field. To quote John Bell and Lesley Choyce from their introduction to Visions From The Edge:

It is especially important for Canadians to realize that the genre is not a monolithic category of fiction but rather a multi-faceted literature which includes utopian fiction, hard science fiction, near future thrillers and disaster scenarios, supernatural fiction, heroic fantasy, magic realism, and various other sub-genres. Until we accept a broader definition which allows for non-American and non-ghetto forms, we will be ignoring much of the Canadian science fiction and fantasy that is right here.

Consequently, many Canadian science fiction writers and readers reject the term "science fiction" altogether in favour of "speculative fiction", "speculative fantasy" or "imaginative fiction".

Nevertheless, here are five of the more popular definitions of science fiction:

SCIENCE FICTION. Abbr. sf: Fiction in which scientific discoveries and developments form an element of plot or background; especially a work of fiction based on prediction of future scientific possibilities.
-----The American Heritage Dictionary

Science fiction is a branch of fantasy identifiable by the fact that it eases the "willing suspension of disbelief" on the part of its readers by utilizing an atmosphere of scientific credibility for its imaginative speculations in physical science, space, time, social science, and philosophy.
-----Sam Moskowitz

So-called "science fiction" is speculative or extrapolative literature (or sometimes visual art or music) dealing in some way with the idea of change--most often changing human responses to the altered, or shifting, environment of some alternative reality. Most often, simply, "future fiction."
-----Judith Merril

Science fiction is what you find on the shelves in the library marked science fiction.
-----George Hay

Science fiction doesn't exist.
-----Brian W. Aldiss

Links to more Definitions of sf

Genre Chart

genre chart illustrating sf's position within literature and major subdivisions within sf


This page last updated: July 6, 2000

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