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Science fiction is a broad genre of fiction in which the setting, characters, plot, and/or themes involve speculation based on discussions or theories found in the sciences. It is often abbreviated as SF or sci-fi. Science fiction is found in books, art, television, movies, games, theater, and other media.

In many contexts, it is synonymous with the broader definition of speculative fiction, encompassing all creative works incorporating imaginative elements not found in contemporary reality; this includes fantasy, horror, and related genres.

Science fiction often involves one or more of the following elements:

  • A setting in the future or on an alternative time-line.
  • A setting in outer space or involving aliens or unknown civilizations.
  • The discovery or application of new scientific principles, such as time travel or psionics, or new technology, such as nanotechnology or robots.
  • Political or social systems different from those of the known present or past.

Exploring the consequences of such differences is the traditional purpose of science fiction, making it a "literature of ideas".[1]

What is science fiction?[edit]

[[Image:NonFreeImageRemoved.svg -->|thumb|300px|right|Science-fiction books, magazines, film, TV, gaming and fandom material]]


Eric Rabkin offers the definition that science fiction is a genre of fiction in which the narrative world differs from our own present or historical reality in at least one significant way.[2] However, science fiction includes such a wide range of themes and subgenres that it can be difficult to define. Author and editor Damon Knight has summed up the difficulty of defining science fiction by stating that "Science fiction is what we point to when we say it".[3]

According to science-fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein, "a handy short definition of almost all science fiction might read: realistic speculation about possible future events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world, past and present, and on a thorough understanding of the nature and significance of the scientific method."[4] Heinlein adds that if you "strike out the word 'future' it can apply to all and not just almost all SF."

Science-fiction author Theodore Sturgeon wrote that "a good science-fiction story is a story about human beings, with a human problem, and a human solution, that would not have happened at all without its science content."[5]

Rod Serling stated as a definition that "Fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science Fiction is the improbable made possible."

Vladimir Nabokov argued that if we were rigorous with our definitions, Shakespeare's play The Tempest would have to be termed science fiction.[6]

However, there are also many purported works of science fiction in which a superficially "sci-fi" setting is superimposed upon an otherwise conventional tale, and in this form the genre has often received the scorn of critics, though not so much today as in the mid-20th century.[7]

"Sci-Fi" or "SF"?[edit]

Forrest J. Ackerman publicly coined the term sci-fi in 1954. However, many authors and fans associate "sci-fi" with low-budget low-tech films and low-quality pulp fiction, pronouncing it as "skiffy" to distinguish it from serious science fiction. Many prefer the abbreviation "SF". Harlan Ellison characteristically derided the term "sci-fi" as a "hideous neologism" that "sounds like crickets fucking,"[8]

Related genres and subgenres[edit]

Authors and filmmakers draw on a wide spectrum of ideas, but marketing departments and literary critics tend to separate works into different categories, or genres and subgenres. These are not simplistic pigeonholes; some works may overlap into two or more commonly-defined genres, while others will be on the boundaries outside or between the categories.

Speculative fiction[edit]

The broader category of speculative fiction[9] — derived from the initials 'SF' of Science Fiction[10][11] — includes science fiction, fantasy, alternate histories (which often have no particular scientific or futuristic component), and even literary stories in which the only fantastic element is the strangeness of their style, such as the stories of Jorge Luis Borges or John Barth. "Magic realism" is considered to be within the broad definition of speculative fiction.

The Lord of the Rings book cover art

Fantasy is intimately intertwined with science fiction. Countless authors, including Robert A. Heinlein, Poul Anderson, Larry Niven, C.J. Cherryh, and Lois McMaster Bujold have written extensively in both science fiction and fantasy, while authors such as Anne McCaffery, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Jack Vance, and many others have written works that consciously blur the boundary between the two related genres. The authors' professional organization SFWA is the "Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America". Science fiction conventions routinely have programming on fantasy topics, and fantasy authors such as J. K. Rowling and J. R. R. Tolkien (in film adaptation) have won the highest honor within the science fiction field, the Hugo Award.

However, most authors and readers make a practical distinction between fantasy and science fiction. In general, science fiction is the literature of things that might someday be possible, and fantasy is the literature of things that are inherently impossible. Magic and mythology often feature in works of fantasy.

It is also common to see narratives described as being essentially science fiction but "with fantasy elements." More recently, the term "science fantasy" has been increasingly used to describe such material.


Horror fiction is the literature of the unnatural and supernatural, with the aim of unsettling or frightening the reader, sometimes with graphic violence. Historically it has also been known as "weird fiction". It commonly deals with the nature of evil, both psychological, technological, and fantastic. Some horror involves undead creatures like vampires and zombies. Classic works like Frankenstein and Dracula and the works of Edgar Allen Poe helped define the genre, and today it is one of the most popular categories of movies.

Related genres[edit]

Mainstream fiction[edit]

Works in which science and technology are a dominant theme, but based on current reality, may be considered mainstream fiction; much of the thriller genre would be included, such as the novels of Tom Clancy or Michael Crichton, or many James Bond films.

Some modernist works focusing on speculative or existential perspectives on contemporary reality are on the borderline between science fiction and the mainstream. Examples include much of the work of Kurt Vonnegut, Philip K. Dick, and Stanisław Lem.


According to Robert Sawyer, "Science fiction and mystery have a great deal in common. Both prize the intellectual process of puzzle solving, and both require stories to be plausible and hinge on the way things really do work."[12] Isaac Asimov, Anthony Boucher, Walter Mosely, and many other writers incorporate mystery elements in their science fiction, and vice versa.


Hard SF[edit]

Hard science fiction, or "hard SF", is characterized by rigorous attention to accurate detail in quantitative sciences, especially physics, astrophysics, and chemistry. Many accurate predictions of the future come from the hard SF subgenre, but some inaccurate predictions have also come from this category; Arthur C. Clarke accurately predicted geosynchronous communications satellites, but erred in his prediction of deep layers moondust in lunar craters. Some hard SF authors have also distinguished themselves as working scientists, including Gregory Benford, Charles Sheffield, and Vernor Vinge. Noteworthy hard SF authors, in addition to those mentioned, include Hal Clement, Joe Haldeman, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Carl Sagan.

"Soft" (political, social) SF[edit]

"Soft" science fiction is the antithesis of hard SF. It may describe works based on social sciences such as psychology, economics, political science, sociology, anthropology, etc. Noteworthy writers in this category include Ursula K. Le Guin, Robert A. Heinlein, and Philip K. Dick. Sometimes the term refers to less provable phenomena such as telepathy. The term is also used to describe stories focused primarily on character and emotion; SFWA Grand Master Ray Bradbury is an acknowledged master of this art.

Another branch of speculative fiction is the utopian or dystopian story. Some satirical novels with fantastic settings qualify as speculative fiction. Gulliver's Travels, The Handmaid's Tale, Nineteen Eighty-four, and Brave New World are examples.


Cyberpunk is a genre which emerged in the early 1980s; the name is a portmanteau of "cybernetics" and "punk". The time frame is usually near-future and the settings are often dystopian. Common themes in cyberpunk include advances in information technology and especially the Internet (visually abstracted as cyberspace), (often malevolent) artificial intelligence, enhancements of mind and body using bionic prosthetics and direct brain-computer interfaces called cyberware, and post-democratic societal control where corporations have more influence than governments. Tone and style often contain elements of nihilism, post-modernism, and film noir techniques, with protagonists as disaffected or reluctant anti-heroes. Noteworthy authors in this genre are William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Pat Cadigan, and Rudy Rucker, while the early film Blade Runner is a definitive example of the visual style.

Time travel and alternate history[edit]

Time travel stories have antecedents in the 18th and 19th centuries, and this subgenre was popularized by H. G. Wells's novel The Time Machine. Time travel stories feature travel to and from the past and future, usually with some technological device. Some stories incorporate physics theories about wormholes, black holes, or cosmic strings. Time travel stories are often complicated by logical problems such as the grandfather paradox. Many authors, including Poul Anderson, Connie Willis, and Michael Moorcock write in this genre. Television series like Doctor Who, Time Tunnel, and Time Trax are based on time travel, and as well as films like Back to the Future and Timecop. Many science fiction television series include time travel episodes, notably Star Trek, Babylon 5, and Stargate SG-1.

Alternate history stories are based on the premise of a change in some past historical event resulting in a divergent history up to the present. These are related to time travel in stories where some method is presented to explain the reason for the change in past events, so alternate histories are sometimes referred to as "paratime" stories. Some stories are based on the many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics theory, that every probabilistic quantum event, specifically in fiction every human decision, results in a parallel universe based on the alternate decisions. Writers such as H. Beam Piper, Andre Norton, Jack Chalker, and Fritz Lieber are known for series of novels based on travel between parallel universes, while Sliders was a television series using this premise. The Sidewise Award acknowledges the best works in this subgenre; the name is taken from Murray Leinster's story "Sidewise in Time".

Apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic SF[edit]

Although stories of an Apocalypse date to biblical times, this genre became popular after World War II as the world faced the possibility of nuclear war. Classic works of apocalyptic SF include On the Beach, Planet of the Apes, Mad Max, and The Day After. A plethora of low-budget films featuring mutants, giant insects, and other clichés have brought the subgenre into disrepute in some circles. However, worries about environmental and biological threats have created a new angle on this field, with works like The Stand and Twelve Monkeys.

Military SF[edit]

Military science fiction is set in the context of conflict between national, interplanetary, or interstellar armed forces; often the primary viewpoint characters are soldiers. Stories include detail about military technology, procedure, ritual, and history; some stories draw parallels with historical conflicts. Heinlein's Starship Troopers is an early example, along with the Dorsai novels of Gordon Dickson. Prominent military SF authors include David Drake, David Weber, Jerry Pournelle, S. M. Stirling, and Lois McMaster Bujold. Joe Haldeman's The Forever War is a critique of the genre, a Vietnam-era response to the World War II-style stories of earlier authors. Baen Books is known for cultivating military SF authors. Television series within this subgenre include Battlestar Galactica, Stargate SG-1, and Space: Above and Beyond; there are also many examples in movies and anime.

History of science fiction[edit]

As a means of understanding the world through speculation and storytelling, science fiction has antecedents back to mythology, though precursors to science fiction as literature began to emerge during the Age of Reason with the development of science itself. Following the 18th century development of the novel as a literary form, in the early 19th century, Mary Shelley's books Frankenstein and The Last Man helped defined the form of the science fiction novel; later Edgar Allen Poe wrote a story about a flight to the moon. More examples appeared throughout the 19th century. Then with the dawn of new technologies such as electricity, the telegraph, and new forms of powered transportation, writers like Jules Verne and H. G. Wells created a body of work that became popular across broad cross-sections of society.

In the early 20th century, pulp magazines helped develop a new generation of mainly American science fiction writers, influenced by Hugo Gernsback, the founder of Amazing Stories magazine. In the late 1930s, John W. Campbell became editor of Astounding Science Fiction, while a critical mass of new writers emerged in New York City in a group called the Futurians, including Isaac Asimov, Damon Knight, Donald A. Wollheim, Frederik Pohl, James Blish, Judith Merril, and others. Other important writers during this period included Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, and A. E. Van Vogt. Campbell's tenure at Astounding is considered to be the beginning of the Golden Age of science fiction, characterized by hard SF stories celebrating scientific achievement and progress. This lasted until postwar technological advances, new magazines like Galaxy under Pohl as editor, and a new generation of writers began writing stories outside the Campbell mode.

In the 1950s, the Beat generation included speculative writers like William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. In the 1960s and early 1970s, writers like Frank Herbert, Roger Zelazny, and Harlan Ellison explored new trends, ideas, and writing styles, while in Britain a group of writers became known as the New Wave. In the 1970s, writers like Larry Niven and Poul Anderson began to redefine hard science fiction, while Ursula K. Le Guin pioneered soft science fiction.

In the 1980s, cyberpunk authors like William Gibson turned away from the traditional optimism and support for progress of traditional science fiction, while the film Star Wars helped spark a new interest in space opera, focusing more on story and character than on scientific accuracy. C. J. Cherryh's detailed explorations of alien life and complex scienctific challenges influenced a generation of writers.

Emerging themes in the 1990s included environmental issues, the implications of the global Internet and the expanding information universe, questions about biotechnology and nanotechnology, as well as a post-Cold War interest in post-scarcity societies. Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan novels brought the character-drive story back into prominence. The television series Star Trek: The Next Generation began a torrent of new SF shows, of which Babylon 5 was the most highly acclaimed in the decade. A general concern about the rapid pace of technological changed crystalized around the concept of the technological singularity, popularized by Vernor Vinge's novel Marooned in Realtime and then taken up by other authors. Television shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and movies like The Lord of the Rings created new interest in all the speculative genres in films, television, computer games, and books. According to Alan Laughlin, the Harry Potter stories have been wildly popular among young readers, increasing literacy rates worldwide.[13]

Ideas in science fiction[edit]



The following is a short list of common themes in science fiction.


Great works of science fiction (books)[edit]


The following is a short list of some of the most influential works of science fiction. (SFWA also offers a Suggested Reading page.)


Major science fiction authors[edit]

In addition to those mentioned above, the following are some of the most influential authors in the field of science fiction.[15][16]

Science fiction in media and culture[edit]

As special effects, visual effects, computer-generated imagery, and other technologies make it possible to visually realize the imaginary worlds of science fiction, SF dominates all the audiovisual media, including films, television, and computer games.


Star Wars DVD cover

Most of the best-selling films of all time have been in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

Some examples of early silent science-fiction films include Georges Méliès's A Trip to the Moon in 1902 and Fritz Lang's Metropolis in 1927. Many of the movie serials of the 1940s and 1950s were science fiction, and led into early science-fiction television programming (see below). Following the success of Star Wars in 1977, there was an explosion of new science-fiction films.

Science-fiction films also explore more serious topics and some aim for high artistic standards, especially following Stanley Kubrick's influential 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968 and A Clockwork Orange in 1971. Contemporary filmmakers have found science fiction to be a useful genre for exploring political, moral and philosophical issues, for example Gattaca on the question of genetic engineering, and Minority Report on the question of civil liberties and free will.

The following is a short list of some of the most noteworthy or popular science fiction and fantasy films.[17][18][19][20]


Science-fiction television dates from at least 1938, when the BBC staged a live performance of the science-fiction play R.U.R.. The first regularly scheduled science-fiction series to achieve a degree of popularity was Captain Video and his Video Rangers in 1949. The Twilight Zone, originally broadcast in the United States from 1959-1964, was the first successful speculative fiction series intended primarily for adults. The TV serial Doctor Who first aired on BBC in 1963 and continues through to the present (with a hiatus from 1989 to 2004). Star Trek aired from 1966 to 1969. When NBC tried to cancel it in early 1968, the show was so popular among fans that a campaign organized by Bjo Trimble successfully demanded its return, redefining the relationship between television networks and audiences. Today, Stargate SG-1 is currently in its 10th season with more than 200 episodes. Popular shows including Star Trek, Doctor Who, and Stargate SG-1 have spun off related series; Doctor Who is now one of the most highly rated shows on British television.[21] With the growing popularity of science fiction on television, dedicated channels have emerged to meet audience demand, such as Sci-Fi in the United States and Space: the Imagination Station in Canada.

The following is a list of the most significant and/or enduring science fiction and fantasy television series:


Anime refers to media using Japanese-style animation. It was formerly referred to as "Japanimation". Precursors to anime date back to the early 20th century, but generally anime emerged during and after the postwar period. It covers different media including film, television, and computer games, and many artistic genres, including the speculative genres of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and their many subgenres.

Anime has its own set of genres, including Robot/Mecha (giant robots and combat exoskeleton suits), Sentai (teams of superheroes), Shōjo (anime featuring female protagonists), Hentai (pornographic), Moé (very cute characters and settings), and many others.

Visual styles common within anime are large eyes and facial expression of extreme (i.e. physically impossible) exaggerated surprise, known as the "face fault".

Although almost all anime is produced in Japan, it is widely distributed around the world and popular in many countries. Local distributors, and some fans, adapt anime works with subtitles or audio dubbing to make it more accessible in English or other languages. Some non-Japanese works are strongly influenced by anime, notably Teen Titans (animated series) and The Batman.


Science fiction has a long history of visual art. Artwork depicting a particular scene, setting, or character is known as illustration, which is used on book and magazine covers, movie posters, web sites, and other media; many books and almost all magazines have some cover art. WSFS has recognized science fiction art since the 1940s.

A short list of the most prominent science fiction artists includes:


Beginning in the 1970s, the earliest role-playing games (or "RPGs"), such as Dungeons & Dragons and Traveller, had science fiction and fantasy settings, and speculative settings continue to form the basis for the majority of RPGs up to the present.

Mostly beginning in the 1980s, computer and video games also adopted a wide variety of speculative settings and themes, either as original works or based on existing books, movies, television series, or role-playing or board games. The virtual-reality nature of many computer games, allowing game algorithms to simulate behavior impossible in reality, lend themselves to science fiction characters and technological options within the game world.

Comic Books[edit]

Like other visual and graphical media, comic books and graphic novels lend themselves to the speculative genres. A subgenre which dominates a large proportion of comic books, especially relative to other media, is the superhero category, in which an individual or team of characters with enhanced or superhuman abilities deals with challenges beyond the capability of ordinary people. The powers of superheroes are often based on highly theoretical and/or improbable scientific axioms, putting these clearly in the speculative field, but a large minority do not use superhero characters or themes, and a large proportion of this latter group are set in more traditional science fiction and fantasy milieus.

Other Media[edit]

Early radio serials adapted Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers stories to radio, followed by other serials and radio magazine shows. Orson Welles' infamous reading of The War of the Worlds in 1938 panicked American listeners who believed the story was real.[22] The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a famous BBC radio serial that was later adapted to television and film. There have also been radio adaptations of the original Star Wars trilogy and The Lord of the Rings.

Science fiction and fantasy has also been performed as live theater since the 1930s; a live musical version of The Lord of the Rings appeared in Toronto in 2006 and will soon be performed in London.

Vinyl albums have recorded science fiction performances, and audiobooks on compact disc are growing in popularity, available now in most bookstores. There have been science-fiction View-Master reels, notably "Sam Sawyer's Trip to the Moon."

Libraries and Museums[edit]

The Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Speculation is a leading collection of science fiction. It was founded in Toronto in 1970 by Judith Merril. This public library collection contains over 63,000 items, including books, magazines, audiovisual works, original manuscripts, and other items of interest to both casual users and academic researchers.[23]

Paul Allen and Jody Patton founded the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in 2004, located at the base of Space Needle in Seattle. Prominent authors such as Greg Bear serve as advisers to the museum.

An important museum of the genre is Maison d’Ailleurs ("House of Elsewhere") in Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland, housing a large collection of literature relating to science fiction, utopias, and extraordinary journeys. It was founded by the French encyclopedist Pierre Versins in 1976 and now owns over 40,000 books, as well as many other items related to science fiction and its imagery.

Fandom and Community[edit]

Science fiction fandom is the "community of the literature of ideas... the culture in which new ideas emerge and grow before being released into society at large."[24] Members of this community, "fans", are in contact with each other at conventions or clubs, through print or online fanzines, or on the Internet using a variety of web sites, mailing lists, and other resources.

Fandom is said to have emerged from the letters column in Amazing Stories magazine. Soon fans began writing letters to each other, and then grouping their comments together in informal publications that became known as fanzines. Once they were in regular contact, fans wanted to meet each other, and they organized local clubs, and then the first science fiction conventions to gather fans from a wider area. Conventions, clubs, and fanzines were the dominant form of fan activity, or "fanac", for decades, until the Internet facilitated communication among a much larger population of interested people.

As a community devoted to discussion and exploration of new ideas, fandom has become an incubator for many groups that started out as special interests within fandom, some of which have partially separated into independent intentional communities not directly associated with science fiction. Among these groups are media fandom, the Society for Creative Anachronism, and gaming. Fandom also welcomes and shares interest with other groups involved in new ideas and lifestyles, including GLBT communities, Libertarians, space activist groups like the L-5 Society, and neo-pagans, among many others. Some groups exist almost entirely within fandom but are distinct and cohesive subcultures in their own rights, such as filkers, costumers, and convention runners (sometimes called "SMOFs").


Pamela Dean reading at Minicon


Small gatherings of fans began to occur in the late 1930s. In 1939, a group of fans organized the first World Science Fiction Convention, or "Worldcon" in New York City to coincide with the World's Fair. Worldcons were held in Chicago and Denver in 1940 and 1941, but like many cultural events, it was suspended during World War II. The first Worldcon held outside the United States was Torcon I in Toronto; since then, Worldcons have been held in Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, and in 2007, Japan, although the majority of Worldcons are still held within the United States.


Since the first Philcon in Philadelphia in 1936, local conventions have been organized in many cities around the world, either as one-time or annual events. Some cities have a number of science fiction conventions, as well as a number of special interest conventions for anime, media, or other related groups. While the majority of conventions remain in a single city, some conventions, particularly Worldcon but also events like Westercon move from city to city, usually with groups bidding in a site selection process (commonly a membership vote or a decision by a select group of directors).

Program and Activities[edit]

Conventions commonly feature a variety of planned activities, or "programming" (as part of the "convention program"). The most common program item is a panel discussion among authors, scientists, fans, or other experts on a particular topic. Conventions also feature set readings, autograph sessions, presentations by individual speakers, costume masquerades, filk or other music concerts, gaming, art shows, dealer's rooms, art shows, parties, and other activities. Many conventions have a hospitality area, or "con suite", for members, and sometimes a staff lounge to help volunteers work lengthy hours without going off site, and a green room for program participants to prepare for their panels. Some conventions host award ceremonies honoring particular types of works. For example, Worldcon hosts the Hugo Awards and other awards; the World Fantasy Convention presents the World Fantasy Awards, and there are many others.


Almost all science fiction conventions are organized by unpaid volunteers, commonly as different kinds of non-profit corporation; 501(c)(3) incorporation is a popular legal form in the United States, if requirements can be met. Some non-profit fan corporations generate small annual surpluses, which are given back to sponsoring organizations or distributed in accordance with corporate charters and local legal obligations; other conventions routinely run annual deficits and are subsidized by sponsoring organizations or by individuals. Many media and "popular culture" conventions are operated on a for-profit basis, occasionally with one or more full-time paid employees; most of these generate only nominal surpluses after operational, staff, and marketing expenses are paid, and some operate on a tax-loss basis or as a promotional expense for parent organizations.


Conventions provide a forum for fans to see first-hand and meet their favorite authors and artists. They also serve the interests of authors, editors, and other publishing professionals, providing opportunities for networking, promotion, and a convenient location for contract negotiations and other business meetings, not to mention editors and agents taking authors for dinner.


The earliest known science fiction organization was the Science Fiction League; when it disbanded, some of its local chapters became independent organizations. Most notable was the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society, which became a model for other groups.

Science Fiction Societies, often referred to as "clubs" except in formal contexts, form a year-round base of activities for science fiction fans. They may be associated with an ongoing SF convention, though often have regular club meetings. Most groups meet at libraries, schools and universities, community centers, pubs or restaurants, or the homes of individual members. A few have property for meeting space and convention logistics storage, and also for maintaining collections of SF literature for research, notably the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society, the New England Science Fiction Association, and the Baltimore Science Fiction Society.

Professional Organizations[edit]

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America was founded by Damon Knight in 1965 as a non-profit organization to serve the community of professional science fiction authors.


The first science fiction fanzine, The Comet, was published in 1930 by the Science Correspondence Club in Chicago. The term "fanzine" was coined by Russ Chauvenet in 1940.

These magazines used a variety of printing methods over the decades, including the hectograph, the mimeograph, the ditto machine, and photocopying. Subscription volumes rarely justify the cost of commercial printing. Today some fanzines are printed by individuals using computer printers; other publications are sent only as PDFs so that users can incur their own printing costs directly, if they so choose.

The best known fanzine today is Ansible, edited by David Langford, winner of numerous Hugo awards. A short list of the most noteworthy fanzines and fan editors includes:

  • File 770, edited by Mike Glyer
  • Plokta, edited by Steve Davies, Alison Scott and Mike Scott
  • Mimosa, edited by Richard and Nicky Lynch (ceased publication 2003)
  • Emerald City, edited by Cheryl Morgan (ceased publication 2006)

Many artists working for fanzines have risen to prominence in the field, including Joe Mayhew, Brad W. Foster, and Teddy Harvia; the Hugos include a category for Best Fan Artists.

Fandom on the Internet[edit]

The earliest organized fandom online was the SF Lovers community, originally a mailing list in 1979 with a text archive file that was updated regularly. In the 1980s, Usenet groups like the rec.arts.sf newsgroups greatly expanded the circle of fans interacting online. In the 1990s, the development of the World-Wide Web exploded the community of online fandom by orders of magnitude, with thousands and then literally millions of web sites devoted to science fiction and related genres for all media. Most such sites are small, ephemeral, and/or very narrowly focused, but a few sites like SF Site offer a broad range of references and reviews about science fiction.

Online Resources and References[edit]

Fan Fiction[edit]

Fan fiction, known to affcianados as "fanfic", is non-commercial fiction created by fans in the setting of an established book, movie, or television series. It is most commonly written, though a small but growing body of fan videos are also produced.

Generally such work is considered to be nominally in violation of copyright laws, but many authors and media producers, if they are even aware of it at all, chose to not acknowledge its existence, provided that the fan authors derive no income from the work and that any publication volumes are minimal. In some cases, such as the fandom of Marion Zimmer Bradley, a large volume of fan fiction prompted the creation of approved and copyrighted anthologies, in which some of the stories came from fan authors. George Lucas is a rare example of a film producer who has actively solicited media fan creations, offering awards to the best examples.

Fan fiction comes in a variety of lengths and formats, from the 100-word "drabble" to multi-chapter epics, often in which chapters are released serially to readers before the next chapter is completed.

"Slash" fiction is based on homosexual encounters between established characters; the term refers to the punctuation mark and is generalized from early examples like Kirk/Spock stories. A large category of fan fiction is based on relationships (heterosexual or homosexual) between protagonists; opinionated readers are thus called "'Shippers" and the discussing or advocating particular relationships, particular with couples not romantically involved in the commercial works, is called "'Shipping" (the apostrophe is typically dropped in informal use). Some stories focus much more on graphic description of sexual encounters than on the personalities or interactions of the characters, leaving such details to the readers' knowledge of the published works.

An important factor in fan fiction is the level of adherence to the commercially produced works; the plot, setting, and character content of the commercial works is known as "canon". Much fan fiction creates small or large deviations from canon for various stories.


The longest established and most respected award for science fiction is the Hugo Award, presented by the World Science Fiction Society at Worldcon. The Nebula Awards, presented by SFWA, are also highly respected as an award voted on my the community of authors.

National Awards[edit]

Regional Awards[edit]

Special Interest Awards[edit]

Reader Awards[edit]


  1. ^ Marg Gilks, Paula Fleming and Moira Allen (2003). "Science Fiction: The Literature of Ideas".
  2. ^ Rabkin, Eric S. (1976). Beyond the Fantastic in Literature. Princeton University Press. ISBN 069106301X. Excerpt quoted at "Definitions of Science Fiction".
  3. ^ Knight, Damon Francis (1967). In Search of Wonder: Essays on Modern Science Fiction. Advent Publishing, Inc. pp. pg xiii. ISBN 0911682317.
  4. ^ Heinlein, Robert A. (1959). "Science Fiction: Its Nature, Faults and Virtues". The Science Fiction Novel: Imagination and Social Criticism. University of Chicago: Advent Publishers. Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help)
  5. ^ Blish, James (1970). More Issues at Hand: Critical Studies in Contemporary Science Fiction. Advent Publishers. ISBN 0-911682-18-X.
  6. ^ Nabokov, Vladimir Vladimirovich (1973). Strong opinions. McGraw-Hill. pp. pg. 3 et seq. ISBN 0070457379.
  7. ^ For numerous examples of this, see the regular feature "As Others See Us" in David Langford's monthly fanzine Ansible.
  8. ^ Ellison, Harlan (1998). ""Harlan Ellison's responses to online fan questions at ParCon"". Retrieved 2006-04-25.
  9. ^ "Science Fiction Citations". Retrieved 2007-01-08.
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  11. ^ "History and Definition of Science Fiction". Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. Grolier Electronic Publishing. 1995. Retrieved 2007-01-08.
  12. ^ McBride, Jim (1997-11). "Spotlight On... Robert J. Sawyer". Fingerprints. Crime Writes of Canada (November 1997). Retrieved 2007-01-08. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  13. ^ Linda Doherty (2002-09-19). "Harry Potter helps lift school literacy rates". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2007-01-10.
  14. ^ "1998 Locus All-Time Poll: Best SF Novels". Locus Online. 2001-01-21. Retrieved 2001-01-09. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
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  • Barron, Neil, ed., Anatomy of Wonder: A Critical Guide to Science Fiction, 5th ed. (Libraries Unlimited, 2004) ISBN 1-59158-171-0.
  • Clute, John, Peter Nicholls, eds., The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (St. Martin's Press, 1995) ISBN 0-312-13486-X.
  • Disch, Thomas M., The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of (Touchstone, 1998).
  • Weldes, Jutta, ed., To Seek Out New Worlds: Science Fiction and Politics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003) ISBN 0-312-29557-X.
  • Westfahl, Gary, ed., The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Themes, Works, and Wonders (three volumes) (Greenwood Press, 2005).
  • Wolfe, Gary K., Critical Terms for Science Fiction and Fantasy: A Glossary and Guide to Scholarship (Greenwood Press, 1986) ISBN 0-313-22981-3.

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