Everything You Need To Know About Science Fiction

A guide to the greatest of genres.

What is Science Fiction?

An image to show science fictionScience fiction, or sci-fi or SF as it’s sometimes called, is a genre of speculative fiction. Stories often involve elements of futuristic science, space travel, time travel, dystopian futures and, of course, aliens. Science fiction is, however, a broad church that encompasses multiple sub-genres.

 

 

Why is Science Fiction So Popular?

Science fiction is so popular because its better equipped than any other genre to examine just what humanity is, but what it could be. Although the genre is often connected to the vastness of space or the strangeness of the future, it’s just as concerned with humanity as it is now. This allows us to experience awe and wonder while we examine the human condition.

Who Invented Science Fiction?

There is no one inventor of science fiction. Many stories from the middle ages and before have science fiction elements. Mary Shelly’s work Frankenstien is, however, most often cited as the first novel that can be clearly defined as a work of science fiction.

What’s the Difference Between Science Fiction and Fantasy?

Science fiction deals with the possible, fantasy deals with the impossible. Although some science fiction can seem implausible, the stories should always relate back on some level to science fact. If there are impossible elements there should still be ‘in-story’ scientific explanations. In fantasy a wizard probably did it.

Quotes About Science Fiction

“Science fiction is the most important literature in the history of the world, because it’s the history of ideas, the history of our civilization birthing itself. …Science fiction is central to everything we’ve ever done, and people who make fun of science fiction writers don’t know what they’re talking about.” – Ray Bradbury

“I define science fiction as the art of the possible. Fantasy is the art of the impossible.” – Ray Bradbury

“Today’s science fiction is tomorrow’s science fact” – Issac Azimov

“In science fiction, you can also test out your own realities.” – Theodore Sturgeon

“The science fiction approach doesn’t mean it’s always about the future; it’s an awareness that this is different.” – Neal Stephenson

“The science fiction method is dissection and reconstruction.” – Frederik Pohl

“What they didn’t realize was that in science fiction is some of the best social fiction of our time.” – Doris Lessing

A guide to the main science fiction sub-genres

 

Alternative History Science Fiction

alternative history definition

Alternate history posits a hypothetical, such as what would have happened if Hitler would have won the Second World War, and sets the story in a world where that situation occurred.

 

Three Alternative History Science Fiction Books You Should Read

Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick

Before it was a middling Amazon Original ‘The Man in the High Castle‘ was a mind-bending novel from the late Philip K Dick. Like much of Dick’s work, the novel forces you to consider the nature of reality and your relationship with it.

 

 

 

The Difference Engine by William Gibson & Bruce Gibson

Set in a Britain where Babbage succeeded in bringing the computer to a Britain going through the Industrial Revolution. The Difference Engine mixes steampunk with alternative history science fiction to great effect.

 

 

 

Watchmen (graphic novel) by Alan Moore

Set in an even bleaker version of the cold war than the real one, with real super (and not so super) heroes, Watchmen is a cult classic for a reason.

 

 

 

Three Alternative History Science Fiction Movies You Should Watch

 

Watchmen

An underrated film based on the Moore Novel. One of the darkest superhero films yet made. Watchmen has a bleak view of the human race and an even bleaker philosophy.  Despite being created before the current crop of Superhero movies, Watchmen is actually the perfect antidote to the Surgery sweetness of the Avengers.

 

 

Inglorious Basterds

A gory film, full of memorable dialogue, that shows what would it have been like if Tarantino had written history.

 

 

 

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

This film, set in a steampunk future of an alternate timeline, is full of wit charm and wonder. Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow have a playful chemistry, but the real star is the world created by director Kerry Conran.

 

 

 

Artificial Intelligence Science Fiction

For a novel to be in the Artificial Intelligence sub-genre of science fiction it simply has to involve some form AI. Normally this includes computers, robots or androids. Interestingly, as AI becomes more of a reality depictions of it in science fiction have tended to become more dark and pessimistic.

Common themes of works involving AI in Science Fiction

Books and movies often consider what will happen when humanity finally creates an intelligence that is greater than itself. Often, the concept of artificial intelligence is used to examine the question of what it means to be considered alive.

Top Three Artificial Intelligence Science Fiction Books to read

I, Robot by Issac Asimov

Do not be put off by the rubbish Will Smith film that this collection of short stories inspired. It was in one of these short stories, Runaround, that the three laws of robotics were codified and it’s still a must-read for anyone wanted to delve into the world of artificial intelligence science fiction.

 

 

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  by Philip K Dick.

This book is very different from the film it inspired and deserves to be considered a classic in its own right. Perhaps even more melancholic than Blade Runner, Do Androids Dream Of Electic Sheep is a beautiful novel full of broken things. As we follow Rick Deckard’s attempts to kill androids we can’t help but wonder what it means to be human. As with all of Philip K Dick’s work, Do Android’s Dream of Electic Sheep is unsettling and thought-provoking in equal measure.

 

The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer

Neal Stephenson is not a writer to create a novel that looks at just one theme so, fittingly, The Diamond Age considers topics such as education, class and artificial intelligence. This is all set in a world where nanotechnology has run rampant. Stephenson’s style is not for everyone, but those who love it really love it.

 

 

Three must watch artificial intelligence movies

The Matrix

A movie made of pure cool. This movie that brought the world bullet time and upped the special effects ante for every other movie. By every law of movies, a film like this should have dated horribly, but it absolutely hasn’t. It’s still as achingly awesome as it was when it first smashed its way into our collective consciousness.

 

 

Robocop

It may have dated since it hit the big screen, but it’s still a classic. Robocop is a cyberpunk movie that takes on ideas about the role of justice and capitalism in a dystopian society. For extra giggles, you can pick out the Christ allusions peppered throughout the film.

 

 

 

Bladerunner

Very different from the book it’s based on but brilliant in its own way. A cinematic masterpiece that’s now widely considered as a classic. In many ways, this is Harrison Ford’s best role (or at least it’s my favourite). The real star is perhaps the world Ridley Scott creates around Ford’s Deckard. It’s pure cyberpunk, visually arresting and completely unforgettable.

 

 

Alien Invasion Science Fiction

Alien invasion science fiction quite simply involves aliens invading! Often it’s the earth that’s been invaded, but it doesn’t have to be. This is a great genre to read if you want to see humanity up against impossible odds as humanity is often outmatched by the alien invaders.

 

Common themes on Alien Invasion Science Fiction Works

Alien invasion science fiction works tend to focus, in one way or another, on how humanity would react if we were suddenly confronted with the fact that we weren’t the strongest species in the universe. Often this is played for drama but sometimes it is put in a humorous context. Much of the tension comes from placing us humans in the position of underdog.

 

Three Alien Invasion Books You Must Read

War of the Worlds by HG Wells

The Granddaddy of alien invasion literature. If it seems a little cliche to the modern reader, that’s just because it’s inspired so many imitators. HG Wells still casts a long shadow over the science fiction genre. After reading this you will understand why.

 

 

The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney

Aliens don’t always come in spaceship ready to blast humanity from the earth. These aliens are seeds drifting through space, yet are just as deadly. This is the original body-snatcher tale and it’s still a fun read, if perhaps not as groundbreaking as its reputation may suggest. The novel was one of the earliest to play upon the deep-seated human paranoia that those around us are plotting against us.

 

 

Childhood’s End by Arthur C Clarke

A novel in which the aliens come in peace, but at what cost? Considered by some to be Clarke’s greatest work, and that’s some claim when you consider he wrote Rendevous with Rama, Childhood’s End is a book that will stay with you long after you have put it down.

 

 

Three must watch alien invasion movies

Attack the Block

A horror comedy that’s pure South London. Perhaps now more notable for being the breakthrough role for John Boyega of Star Wars fame, Attack the Block is a cracking watch in its own right. Switching effortlessly between drama, action and a very British sense of humour, Attack The Block is a great choice if you’re looking memorable movies to watch tonight.

 

 

The Faculty

A 90’s sci-fi body-snatcher horror starring soon to be hobbit Elijah Wood. As films go, it’s hardly groundbreaking, but it is fun. Especially if you were a teenager in the 90s and fancy a bit of nostalgia.

 

 

Independence Day

Big, stupid and starring Will Smith. It’s  not the most subtle movie you will watch, but it is a pure alien invasion movie. It’s a film to watch with a big pizza and well-managed expectations.

 

 

 

Cyberpunk

Cyberpunk is a “high-tech” low-life genre of science fiction that mixes technological advancements with a breakdown of social order. Works in this genre often show individuals struggling against more powerful forces, such as corporations or the aristocracy.

 

Common themes in Cyberpunk

Cyberpunk often takes place in front of a backdrop of rampant capitalism. Many stories involve elements of virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and social alienation. Aesthetically the genre tends towards the sensory overload of frantic streets and lawless cityscapes. Given the tendency for characters to have cybernetic implants, the genre often overlaps with biopunk.

 

Three Cyberpunk Books You Must Read

Neuromancer by William Gibson Molly Millions Neuromancer

A book that both defined the genre and broke conventions. Neuromancer is gut-punch of a book that takes the reader on a tour a dystopian future that will make your eyes bleed. But in a good way.  It’s no understatement to say that reading this book will change you. You can see our full review of this science fiction masterpiece here.

 

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

So cool it called its Hero Protagonist ‘Hiro Protagonist’. Perhaps the only book ever to mix Sumerian mythology with virtual reality. Snow Crash is truly Cyberpunk, with our hero having to navigate a brutal fast paced society to stop a corporation and save the world. Possibly the most awesome book you will ever read. You can read more about Snow Crash here.

 

The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
Gully Foyle - The Stars My Destination Review

Perhaps the original Cyberpunk classic. Bester’s The Stars My Destination reimagined the Count of Monte Christo in a truly terrifying way. It’s ‘star’ is the terrible and terrifying Gully Foyle. A man inspired by hate and driven by vengeance. The Stars My Destination forces you to view humanity in a different light.  You can read our full review of The Stars My Destination here.

 

 

Hard Science Fiction

Hard Science fiction can be distinguished by its emphasis on scientific accuracy.  Plots will usually include certain technologies which are currently impossible to make, but otherwise, the novel will follow the laws of physics. For example, if the plot requires spaceships that travel at the speed of light then time dilation will still be a factor.

Best hard science fiction books to read

Definition of military science fiction

The Forever War,  by Joe Haldeman.

The Forever War is very much an anti-military book. The hard science fiction element to the story is the focus on time dilatation. The human theme of the novel is the effect of war on the soldiers who are trained to fight, echoing Halderman’s own experiences in Vietnam. You can read more about The Forever War in our full review of the novel.

 

Mission of Gravity, by Hal Clement.

One of the very first hard science fiction novels. Mission of Gravity takes place on an inhospitable world, which has surface gravity that varies between 700 g and 3 g. Despite the exotic location one of the key themes of the novel is that the physical rules of the universe are constant.

 

 

 

Rendezvous With RamaRendevous with Rama, by Arthur C Clarke.

A hard science fiction novel where the sense of wonder comes very much from the scientific focus of the prose.  A slow burning plot follows a group of intrepid explorers as they try to uncover the truth of a passing alien spaceship.

 

 

 

Best Hard Science Fiction Movies to Watch

Moon

Claustrophobic and haunting; Moon sees Sam Rockwell cope with the extreme solitude of life by himself on the moon. At least until an unexpected visitor turns up and he has the even harder task of dealing with him. This tense film was carried by a spectacular performance by Sam Rockwell and announced director Duncan Jones as a real talent.

 

Primer

A mind-bending hard science fiction novel about time travel. I’m pretty sure you need a PHD in Maths or Quantum Physics to understand this movie fully but, even so, it’s still a compelling movie for us laymen.

 

Interstellar

Some had issues with the plot of this film, but it’s still the most scientifically accurate science fiction blockbuster since 2001 a Space Oddessy. The depiction of the black hole was truly awe-inspiring and is surprisingly close to how astrophysicists think one would actually look. Interstellar is one of those rare films that gives the viewer a glimpse into the scale and majesty of the universe beyond planet Earth. As you can see from our review, we loved it.

 

Humorous science fiction

Humorous Science Fiction has to be funny and it has to be science fiction, that’s pretty much the entire definition. We could add something like: humorous science fiction uses comedy to explore science fiction themes and concepts. But it would be superfluous.

 

Best Humorous Science Fiction Books to Read

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The one book we can confidently say everybody in the galaxy should read. Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy is a science fiction classic and has entered the cultural zeitgeist. Characters like Ford Prefect, Zaphod Beeblebrox, Arthur Dent and, of course, Marvin the paranoid android are some of the weirdest and funniest ever committed to print.

 

 

 

 

Martians Go Home, by Frederic Brown

The Martians have invaded and, unfortunately, they’re jerks. Earth finds itself home to billions of wise-cracking Martians. They’re not so much interested in invading as they are getting in the way and making a nuisance of themselves. It’s a humorous classic science fiction novel for anyone who liked Mars Attacks!

 

 

 

 

Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut.

It’s not a comedy in the same way Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and Martians Go Home are, but it’s darkly funny in its own tragic way. Slaughterhouse-Five deals with the British bombing of Dresden, which was witnessed by Vonnegut. That it’s also a humorous non-linear classic science fiction novel gives you an idea of Vonnegut’s genius.

 

 

 

Best funny science fiction movies

 Galaxy Quest

A film that pokes fun of all the normal Star Trek tropes and preconceptions, but does so with love and charm. The plot sees the bitter and ageing cast of a show not unlike Star Treck being abducted by aliens who think the on-screen exploits are real. This leads the barely functioning troupe of actors   A stellar cast including Tim Allen, Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shalhoub and Sam Rockwell help make this a memorable comedy.

Safety Not Guaranteed

Mumblecore classic Safety Not Guaranteed only just qualifies as science fiction, but it’s worth including because it’s just so damn good. The film hinges on the relationship between Mark Duplass (from the League) and  Aubrey Plaza (best known to Parks and Recreation fans).  This soft science fiction movie is a touching character-driven piece that shows how science fiction doesn’t have to be dark to powerful. You can find our review of Safety Not Guaranteed here.

 

Mars Attacks!

Mars Attacks! is a stupid, stupid film. But it’s still funny. Mars Attacks! mixes parody with satire and just plain Tim Burton wackiness to create something as memorable as it is insane. The film doesn’t as much have stars as it has a long list of cameos, but it’s clear watching it that all those involved had a great time.

 

 

Military Science Fiction

Military science fiction is characterised by the use of science fiction technology for militaristic purposes. The protagonists are normally part of a military organization that will undertake actions in space and on alien planets.

 

Best 1st Military Science Fiction Novels to Read

 

Definition of military science fictionThe Forever War,  by Joe Haldeman.

The defining book of the military science fiction genre. The Forever War takes the author’s experiences of Vietnam and examines them through the prism of an interstellar war. Like many great anti-war works, it is more about the bits in between the battles than the battles themselves. While some of the attitudes in the novel have dated badly, The Forever War is still rightly considered a classic science fiction novel. You can read or full review and analysis of The Forever War here.

 

 

Leviathan Wakes James S Carey book coverLeviathan Wakes by James SA Corey

The Leviathan Wakes is a military fiction intertwined with a noir detective tale and a political drama. Because of this, the novel is a genuine page turner as well as being a cool work of science fiction. The plot is intricate and clever and the characters compelling. This multilayered novel has now been made into an excellent TV show that we’d recommend to anyone.

 

 

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

A military science fiction novel with a twist. The super tough space army in this book is made up of geriatrics. Geriatrics who have been given new super-advanced bodies, but geriatrics none-the-less. This dad’s army is then sent out to fight some of the more vicious aliens in science fiction. Although the novel is clearly inspired by The Forever War and Starship Troopers, it is more than a simple homage to these two classic science fiction novels.

 

 

Top Military Fiction Science Fiction Movies

Starship Troopers

If you can spot the satire, Starship Troopers is great fun. Set in the 23rd century, Starship Troopers follows a group of teenagers as they go to another planet to fight alien insects swarms. The action is well handled and the movie is far more intelligent than it appears on first viewing. It also answers the question: What would the film Zula have looked like if it was set in space and the Zulus where giant bugs?

 

 

Aliens

Aliens is still regarded as one of the best sequels ever, and it’s easy to see why. Ripley is joined by a group of marines to go to the Zeta Reticuli moon. Once they’ve arrived it’s not long before it’s the marines vs the Aliens. A simple plot, but a classic. It’s filled with iconic scenes and dialogue and hasn’t dated at all since it was first released.

 

 

Pacific Rim

A monster mash-up where giant mechanized Jaegers face off with Godzilla-style Kaiju. This is an idea so dumb only one director could pull it off. Luckily that director was Guillermo del Toro and he was at the helm for this film. Don’t expect a lot of subtlety from Pacific Rim, but do expect a lot of fun.

 

Near-Future Science Fiction

Near-future science fiction takes place in a time not too far from our own. The plots often take place in settings the modern reader will find familiar, but with a significant science fiction twist.

Two Near-Future Science Fiction Novels to Read First

Ready Player One, Ernest Cline

The novel that takes the current VR gaming trend to its ultimate conclusion. Ready Player One is set in a dystopian future where much of humanity has retreated into a particular VR game.  This is a plot that will particularly please lovers of RPGs and, weirdly, 1980s entertainment trivia. Although the rest of us will still enjoy it because it’s a sprawling, heartwarming tale of adventure and friendship.

 

 

Moo is a harsh mistress book coverThe Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress was released in the mid-60s and still has the power to make you think.This classic science fiction work explores libertarian ideas through a plot involving a human colony on the moon revolting against their masters on Earth. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress was highly commended for its believable portrayal of a lunar colony on its release. It’s one we’d recommend to lovers of classic science fiction or those looking for a book to challenge their thinking.

 

Two Near-Future Science Fiction Movies to Watch

Minority report movie posterMinority Report

Not a particularly good adaption of the Philip K Dick book it’s based on, but a reasonably exciting Tom Cruise film in its own right. The world it depicts feels just how we would imagine life would be like in a few years, with personalized advertisements and driverless cars. As you would expect from a Cruise film, the action is pretty solid and the plot moves along with a sense of urgency.

 

 

Children of Men

Children of Men is a film so near-future it’s barely sci-fi. Its premise is simple, the year is 2027 and there has not been a new human born in 20 years. This planet-wide infertility has led to a dystopian future where the UK is one of the last stable governments in the world.  Clive Owen plays an activist turned bureaucrat dragged into a plot full of backstabbing and intrigue. The pace of the story and the gritty realism of the movie make this film as fun to watch now as it was in its year of release.

Soft Science Fiction

Soft science fiction is science fiction that examines the ‘soft sciences’, science fiction that makes no attempt to be scientifically accurate or science fiction that fulfils both of these criteria.

Best Soft Science Fiction books to read

Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K Le Guin.

This strange novel is a work that readers will come back to repeatedly in the search for greater understanding. The plot of the novel revolves around George Orr, whose dreams can rewrite reality. While George is happy to suppress his ability, his court-appointed psychiatrist Dr Haber forces him to exploit it. This classic work of science fiction explores both behaviorism and utilitarianism, all in a compelling and mysterious narrative.

 

 

 

 

  Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Flowers For Algernon will be loved by successive generations until the sun dies. Our narrator, Charlie Gordon, has his intelligence raised from 68 to genius levels with the help of an experimental procedure. Unfortunately his new found intelligence does not lead to greater happiness. Flowers for Algernon raises many ethical questions with this simple, heartbreaking plot. You can read our review and analysis of Flowers for Algernon here.

 

 

A Canticle For Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller.

Possibly the most ambitious first novels ever written. A Canticle For Leibowitz begins in the ashes of a post-nuclear war earth and spans 1000s of years. The story follows an order of Catholic Monks, who’ve vowed to preserve knowledge for eternity. By following the order we see the interplay of religion and scientific endeavour. And, perhaps more pertinently, what happens when the scientific endeavour is not coupled with a moral compass.

 

 

Space Opera

Space opera is a subgenre of science fiction characterized by vast interstellar voyages, bizarre alien planets, and impossibly advanced technologies.

Recommended Space Opera Books To Read

Hyperion Review- Dan simmons KeatsHyperion by Dan Simmons

Seven pilgrims all journey together to the mysterious planet of Hyperion. During their journey, each pilgrim tells the others their story. As they do, a vast universe opens up to the reader. Each story is written in the style of a different subgenre of science fiction. This makes Hyperion multiple science fiction novels in one. If this sounds interesting to you, you might be interested in our full review of Hyperion.

 

 

 

Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds

A space opera with a dash of biopunk. Revelation Space is gritty, brutal and awe-inspiring. The plot contains an archaeological dig on an alien planet, mercenaries travelling across space in light-hugger spaceships, and humans so altered they are almost indistinguishable from aliens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks

A tale that brings some old school derring-do to the space opera. It’s effectively a tale about a sailor that is shipwrecked and ends up going on an adventure with pirates. But in space and with shape-shifters, godlike incorporeal beings and visits to strange worlds. A stunning, thrilling read.

 

 

 

Best Space Opera Movies to Watch

Serenity

Serenity is a space opera western that delivers enough of a cool factor to knock any viewer off their feet. The film expands upon the characters of the TV series it was based on (Firefly) and gives us the excellent new villain ‘The Operative’. Like all good space operas, it takes the viewer across the galaxy to places they would never imagine themselves. And all in the company of an interesting crew containing mercenaries, killers, and a telepath.

 

 

The Fifth Element

So colourful it may make your eyes bleed, The Fifth Element is a visual rollercoaster as enthralling as it is weird. Bruce Willis plays a hard-boiled ex-soldier who falls for the angelic Leeloo (Milla Jovovich). It’s the extra visual flourishes from director Luc Besson that have made it a timeless film. Each scene is packed with extra details that combine to create a film full of splendour.

I’m not going to bother suggesting Star Wars or the any of the good Star Trek films. Even in a beginners guide that should go without saying.

Steampunk

Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction that features steam-powered technology. Narratives often take place in Victorian England, the Wild West or in a post-apocalyptic setting. Steampunk is perhaps the most visually arresting of all the science fiction genres and certainly has the coolest toys. The genre often overlaps with alternative history sciecne fiction.

Common Traits in Steampunk Works

Unlike its more serious cousin, ‘Cyberpunk’ Steampunk is generally a more optimistic genre. There is often a genuine sense of wonder about the steam-powered technological marvels that exist in these narratives. Steampunk aesthetic involves technology is advanced in purpose if not materials and is generally steam-powered. Think of a machine with the look of a steam-train but the ability to travel in time.

Best Steampunk Novels to Read First

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Leviathan is set in a version of World War 1. In this universe’s Great War the Austro-Hungarians have armed themselves with diesel machines loaded to the gills with weapons. The British, on the other hand, have created an army of bioengineered animals to fight their battles. The Leviathan itself is a huge whale airship, which is pretty damn cool. A steampunk classic from the moment it hit the shelves. Leviathan is a great book to read if you’re intrigued by Steampunk.

 

 

The Difference Engine by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson

The Difference Engine codified many of the conventions of the steampunk genre. The novel is set in a 19th Century Britain where Babbage actually built his difference engine. This led to a technological transformation of a society also in the throes of an industrial revolution. Gibson is famed for writing thought to provoke novels wrapped up in exciting plots. The Difference Engine is no different.

 

 

Best Movies From The Steampunk Genre To Watch

9

Best Steampunk Movies to Watch First

9 is a haunting post-apocalyptic steampunk animation directed by Shane Aker. The star-studded cast includes Elijah Woods, Jennifer Connelly, and John C Reilly. The film sees tiny stitchpunks (pictured above) battle for their existence in a world devoid of life, following a war between humans and robots. The robots are as terrifying as they are steampunk, while the stitchpunks are certainly cute enough to tug the coldest of heart strings. We reviewed 9 here.

 

Steamboy

A Japanese film so steampunk it has steam in the title. The film takes place in 19th Century England, where steam is seen as the key to the ultimate source of power. It’s not for everybody, but if you enjoy this adventure then you’ll probably enjoy delving even further into the world of steampunk.

 

 

Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Steampunk

Guy Ritchie’s take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic detective made great use of the steampunk aesthetic. The chemistry between Law’s Watson and Downey JR’s Sherlock fires throughout the film and late 19th Century London manages to look both dirty and alluring. It’s not the most serious take on Sherlock Holmes from recent years. But it may be the most fun.

 

 

Virtual Reality Science Fiction

Virtual reality science fiction is any story set or partially set in a computer generated or virtual environment. These environments can be purely visual or they can be sufficiently advanced to trick the other senses as well.

Common Themes in Virtual Reality Science Fiction Books & Films

Works that include virtual reality in thier plots often include themes such as the nature of reality and the comparions between the mundane in the real world and the awesome in the virtual. There is also a strong connection between video games and virtual reality science fiction.

Best Virtual Reality Science Fiction Books to Read First

Snowcrash by Neal Stephenson

Snowcrash is a beautiful mess of a novel full of hackers, killers, and Sumerian myths. If that sounds bizarre, trust me, the reality is weirder. The virtual reality ‘metaverse’  in Snow Crash provides much of the books wow factor. If this intrigues you, you can read all about why Snow Crash is such an awesome book in this review.

 

 

 

Ready Player One

Ready Player One is set in a dystopian future where the only good part about a lot of peoples’ lives is that they get to play possibly the coolest VR game ever imagined. The setting shifts from one virtual world to another within the game, taking the reader on a tour of pop-culture along the way. At its heart, Ready Player One is a great treasure hunt novel, but just way cooler and in VR.

 

 

Best Virtual Reality Movies to Watch First

Existenz

This gamer classic starring Jude Law and Jennifer Jason Lee is something of a forgotten film. It’s a Cronenberg film, so you should expect some weirdness and body horror. As befits a movie by Cronenberg about VR, it’s a true mind-bender that will keep you guessing right to then end.

 

 

 

 

Lawnmower Man

A film that’s as weird as it is dated. Peirce Brosnan is a mad scientist trying to increase the boundaries of human ability through drugs and VR. He tries to do this by using his simple gardener as a test subject. Sadly, and predictably, this all goes sideways and his new superpowered gardener does not handle his new abilities well. Lawnmower Man is a fun movie as long as you are willing to look over some of its 90s-isms.

 

Science Fiction Genres: An Overview

Science Fiction Sub-GenreKey Elements of the GenreExample FilmExample Book
Alien InvasionAliens invading the earth. Never goes well.Independence DayWar of the Worlds
Humorous Science FictionOne rule: it has to be funny!Galaxy QuestHitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
Artificial IntelligenceBooks about the machines with the ability to learn and think. They often become sentientAIDo Andriods Dream of Electric Sheep
Apocalyptic & Post-ApocalypticStories concerned with the fall of civilisation and/or it’s aftermathA Boy and his DogA Canticle for Leibowitz
BiopunkFoccusses on bio-tech and genetic manipulation.The FlyStarfish
CyberpunkStories set in a world of advanced tech but often extreme isolationGhost in the ShellNeuromancer
First ContactWhere humans meet aliens for the first timeArrivalContact
Hard Science FictionDriven more by accurate science and realistic technical problems than ‘soft’ science fiction.MoonRendezvous with Rama
Virtual RealityInvolves people interacting with a reality that is in some way computer generated.The Lawnmower ManReady Player One
Military Science FictionThe story takes place in a military setting. Can be pro or against the army.Starship TroopersForever War
Near-Future Science FictionScience fiction set in a time not so far from our ownMinority ReportReady Player One
Science FantasyThe melding of both science fiction and fantasy.Cloud AtlasDune
Sociological (soft) Science FictionThe emphasis is placed more on the effect of the tech on humanity or the individual than on how the technology works.StargateFlowers for Algeron
Space OperaScience tends to get thrown out of the window as the protagonists shoot around the galaxy at faster than light speeds, often facing impossible odds.Star WarsHyperion
SteampunkOften mixed with alternative history, stories are set in a time when steam power ruled the world. Becuase everything is cooler with steam.Sky Captain and the World of TomorrowThe Difference Engine
Time TravelStories that see people move backward and forwards in time. Like ones involving a certain DoctorThe Time Machine12 monkeys
Alternate Sci-Fi HistoryStories with a science fiction angle set in a timeline that differs in a key way from our own.WatchmenMan In The High Castle