Science fiction is a genre of fiction. It differs from fantasy in that, within the context of the story, its imaginary elements are largely possible within scientifically established or scientifically postulated laws of nature (though some elements in a story might still be pure imaginative speculation). Exploring the consequences of such differences is the traditional purpose of science fiction, making it a "literature of ideas". Science fiction is largely based on writing rationally about alternative possibilities. The settings for science fiction are often contrary to known reality.
The study of science fiction, or science fiction studies, is the critical assessment, interpretation, and discussion of science fiction literature, film, new media, fandom, and fan fiction. Science fiction scholars take science fiction as an object of study in order to better understand it and its relationship to science, technology, politics, and culture-at-large.
The field has grown considerably since the 1970s with the establishment of more journals, organizations, and conferences with ties to the science fiction scholarship community, and science fiction degree-granting programs such as those offered by the University of Liverpool and Kansas University.
The novel resonates with the ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche and the work of English writer J. D. Beresford, with an allusion to Beresford's superhuman child character of Victor Stott in The Hampdenshire Wonder (1911). As the devoted narrator remarks, John does not feel obligated to observe the restricted morality of Homo sapiens. Stapledon's recurrent vision of cosmic angst -- that the universe may be indifferent to intelligence, no matter how spiritually refined -- also gives the story added depth. Later explorations of the theme of the superhuman and of the incompatibility of the normal with the supernormal occurs in the works of Stanisław Lem, Frank Herbert, Wilmar Shiras and Vernor Vinge, among others.