The world of science fiction
Science fiction is a modern genre. Though writers in antiquity sometimes dealt with themes common to modern science fiction, their stories made no attempt at scientific and technological plausibility, the feature that distinguishes science fiction from earlier speculative writings and other contemporary speculative genres such as fantasy and horror. The genre formally emerged in the West, where the social transformations wrought by the Industrial Revolution first led writers and intellectuals to extrapolate the future impact of technology. By the beginning of the 20th century, an array of standard science fiction “sets” had developed around certain themes, among them space travel, robots, alien beings, and time travel (see belowMajor science fiction themes). The customary “theatrics” of science fiction include prophetic warnings, utopian aspirations, elaborate scenarios for entirely imaginary worlds, titanic disasters, strange voyages, and political agitation of many extremist flavours, presented in the form of sermons, meditations, satires, allegories, and parodies—exhibiting every conceivable attitude toward the process of techno-social change, from cynical despair to cosmic bliss.
Science fiction writers often seek out new scientific and technical developments in order to prognosticate freely the techno-social changes that will shock the readers’ sense of cultural propriety and expand their consciousness. This approach was central to the work of H.G. Wells, a founder of the genre and likely its greatest writer. Wells was an ardent student of the 19th-century British scientist T.H. Huxley, whose vociferous championing of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution earned him the epithet “Darwin’s Bulldog.” Wells’s literary career gives ample evidence of science fiction’s latent radicalism, its affinity for aggressive satire and utopian political agendas, as well as its dire predictions of technological destruction.
This dark dystopian side can be seen especially in the work of T.H. Huxley’s grandson, Aldous Huxley, who was a social satirist, an advocate of psychedelic drugs, and the author of a dystopian classic, Brave New World (1932). The sense of dread was also cultivated by H.P. Lovecraft, who invented the famous Necronomicon, an imaginary book of knowledge so ferocious that any scientist who dares to read it succumbs to madness. On a more personal level, the works of Philip K. Dick (often adapted for film) present metaphysicalconundrums about identity, humanity, and the nature of reality. Perhaps bleakest of all, the English philosopher Olaf Stapledon’s mind-stretching novels picture all of human history as a frail, passing bubble in the cold galactic stream of space and time.
Stapledon’s views were rather specialized for the typical science fiction reader. When the genre began to gel in the early 20th century, it was generally disreputable, particularly in the United States, where it first catered to a juvenile audience. Following World War II, science fiction spread throughout the world from its epicentre in the United States, spurred on by ever more staggering scientific feats, from the development of nuclear energy and atomic bombs to the advent of space travel, human visits to the Moon, and the real possibility of cloning human life.
By the 21st century, science fiction had become much more than a literary genre. Its avid followers and practitioners constituted a thriving worldwide subculture. Fans relished the seemingly endless variety of SF-related products and pastimes, including books, movies, television shows, computer games, magazines, paintings, comics, and, increasingly, collectible figurines, Web sites, DVDs, and toy weaponry. They frequently held well-attended, well-organized conventions, at which costumes were worn, handicrafts sold, and folk songs sung.
Tips on writing a good science fiction essay
On a good day writing an essay, a good essay at that, can be a tall order. Undoubtedly, the instructor and marker has read hundreds, maybe even thousands of essays just like yours. They have pretty much seen it all and now you are not only faced with writing a good essay, but a unique one as well. Now add to this request to write a science fiction essay and, needless to say, the stress factor is increased by a minimum of tenfold. There are challenges with writing a good essay and there are challenges with writing science fiction, so there will certainly be challenges when you need to do both simultaneously.
Fortunately, like nearly every other writing assignment, strategies and tactics can be employed to increase the likelihood of success. These tactics will mostly revolve around breaking down the essay into smaller, bite-sized, executable chunks, and putting forth a highly refined piece of writing. Novices will usually focus on quantity when it is really quality that they should be worried about, because make no mistake it is the only thing that the instructor is worried about.
With this in mind, the writer should look at their essay as a short story and not the beginnings of a multi-novel series. Doing so puts gives the writer a couple of advantages. On one hand, they don’t need as much time or space to develop their characters or focus on background. This leaves little chance for the reader’s (the markers) attention to veer off course. Moreover, it signals to the reader that there is a beginning, a middle and a definite end to the story, and that they are not about to enter a rabbit hole that will consume days of their precious time.
Before jotting down a single letter, the writer should hammer out the parameters of their story. What tense will it be told in? Will it be told in the present or will it be like a memoir that is being told in the past tense? The second parameter that should be defined would be from whose viewpoint is the story being told through. Is it being told through the eyes and mouth of the author like a narration or is it being told through a character in the story? Identifying these points right from the get go will greatly increase the speed and efficiency to which the story will be written, but more importantly it will help maintain consistency and cohesion throughout the entire paper.
Next, map the story or essay from character introductions to story development to climax and the conclusion. Outlining the narrative allows the writer to create a framework structure in which they can fill in afterwards. Speaking of the plot, conflicts always make for a good point of interest, discussion and introspection. Very few stories out there are without conflict, however what surprises most writers is that there need not only be a single point of conflict in a story. Often times there are two or more points of conflict (for example one conflict can be external – character vs character, while the other is internal – a character battling their inner demons). While this may seem like a lot of work, it actually opens up the story and increases the number of avenues that the writer can steer the plot towards.
Since this is a science fiction essay it will contain elements that are out of the ordinary (e. g. robots – a popular figure in this genre). Be sure that the element(s) can be explained or defined by science (e. g. the mechanical robot is made of gears, pulleys and levers, or if it is made of energy then the atomic bonds allow it to maintain some sort of cohesive structure). Also be sure that the element is within the realm of science, so keep dragons, elves, dwarves and magic out, there are exceptions to this but in general they are placed in the fantasy genre. Keep in mind that while these sci-fi elements may be key to driving plot, they are meant to be tools to immerse the reader into your science fiction world. Focus on using them to make the experience richer, and avoid going into so much detail as to alienate the reader because it is too technical to understand.
Less is more with these elements. Make them the cherry on top of your sci-fi cake and not the cake themselves. Saturating the story with too many strange and foreign elements makes it too easy for the reader to detach and lose context. The same can be said of the characters in the story. It doesn’t matter if they are heroes, aliens, robots or cyborgs, your characters should be relatable. A good idea to keep in mind would be that the reader should see themselves in a character in some way, no matter how big or small. This helps form bonds between the reader and the story and deepens their experience.
Finally, like with all pieces of good writing, this science fiction essay should be treated to several layers of editing, spell-checking, grammar checking and proofreading. Due to the highly subjective nature of the genre, an essay writer can also open their writing up to critiquing by their peers, mentors and advisors. The advantage of this would be to let people who are familiar with the genre to give their opinion about the quality of the story.