It's May, and thoughts of space are in the air. So this month's theme is written in the stars. This is Sci-Fi month! All month long we'll be talking about space, science fiction, technology, and their places, uses, and adaptations. So to get us started let's take a look at what makes something science fiction and some of the common ideas and themes of the genre.
To start off, science fiction is ironically more of an art than a science. It's something that is felt more than tested for. The same quality, depending on how it is explored and presented can make something sci-fi, or not.
A story about internet monitoring, hacking, and privacy invasion in the modern age could easily be science fiction. Even if it contains only real, currently existing technologies. There's nothing futuristic, impossible or advanced about it yet the story is still about technology and its impact.
Conversely something like Dragonball Z features robots, androids, cyborgs, aliens, space ships, and time travel, but it's still not quite something most people would call sci-fi.
In a fantasy game like DND adding in a Revolver, and a Robot, and even a boat that can sail through space doesn't make it science fiction. And yet using only magic you could make your fantasy game into a sci-fi game. But I'll cover that more in another article.
The things that make up a science fiction story change over time. The nuts and bolts so to speak are different. What used to be "The Ether" and Lightning and radiation and chemicals has been replaced with hacking, cybernetics, nanotechnology, 3-D printing and quantum theory. The new impossible sciences are always growing and changing as fast as we expand what is possible. It's not the technology itself that makes Sci-fi, It's the exploration of that technology and what it means.
To me, science fiction is the examination of technologies and capabilities that are, were, or could be. Really good science fiction makes you consider the far ranging implications of what people are capable of. We know that you can't just staple a body together, zap it with lightning, and make a living being. But Mary Shelley's Frankenstein didn't suddenly become a fantasy story. Because it explores the repercussions of the modern Prometheus. It asks the question of if it's right to create life, what ones responsibility to that life is, and how such a life might experience existence. The same story is even more relevant today when we're so close to the process of cloning humans. Technology does not determine sci-fi.
This exploration of science can be done in many ways, it can be an adversary, or a tool, it can be benign or benevolent or malignant, it can be subtle or overt. But we'll go over all of that later in the month. So consider that something to look forward to in the future.