Science Fiction Doesn’t Have to be Fictitious

This weekend, nerds, book-lovers and movie-goers alike are rejoicing for the release of the second Hunger Games movie–Catching Fire.



In response to this fanfare, Slate.Com, an “Online magazine of news, politics, and culture,” featured an article on the economic situation present in the Hunger Games and how the model could actually exist.

For me, this could be part of why The Hunger Games is so successful as a book series and as a movie series. The fantasy within these books is not completely based on fantastic ideas–they are based in reality.

Science fiction or fantasy, as a genre, is there to make social commentary.

Philip K. Dick, science fiction writer and author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, which later got turned into the movie Blade Runner, says this about his writing:

Because today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups… So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing.

Science fiction is a way for the author to create a “what-if” scenario of a political or social situation they have observed happening today. “What if X happens? What will this look like 30, 50, 100 years from now? What will this look like on another planet? What if I took this to the extreme?”

These ideas make science fiction more based in logic and real social and political models rather than fiction. I’ve always thought the name never fit the purpose of the genre, but it’s too late to change it now, and I’m still a huge fan.

– Amanda Riggle


  1. Joachim Boaz

    It is NOT only about making “what-if” scenarios. It is about writing a good story, with great characters, social commentary sometimes, in an intriguing context (be in a planet, a few years from now, etc) — i.e. many of the same concerns at literature. I think they are MUCH MUCH less distinct as you make it out to be.

  2. thepandabard

    Those are just examples of some of the questions science fiction addresses. All stories are about creating great characters, but science fiction, as a genre, was created to be social and political commentary.

    1. Joachim Boaz

      As, often is the case, fiction! Also, fiction requires extensive research to root it in a believable present or past… I’m not seeing this magical distinction you think exists so radically dividing the two.

        1. Joachim Boaz

          And fiction IS based on imagination. Have you not read magical realist texts, or surrealism, what are you talking about?

          Same thing with science fiction…. Although the background might be somewhat different people are still going to act like people — and have “real life” situations.

      1. Joachim Boaz

        AND, there are tons of SF novels which are considered even by mainstream readers as literature. A Clockwork Orange, the works of Doris Lessing, etc. So, I would argue that the real “difference” isn’t whether or not one requires “imagination” or not but rather one is literary — i.e. well written — with an interest in language, metaphor, etc.

        1. thepandabard

          And all of those novels you have mentioned were created to make social and political commentary. I’m talking about the rules of the science fiction genre – that it’s based more on fact and hypothetical situations carried out through creative means rather than being fiction, or fake, or all imagination.

          1. Joachim Boaz

            There are no rules of the SF genre… I’m arguing about the nature of genre as being more amorphous as you claim.

            FICTION is NOT FAKE or ALL imagination!!!!! This claim is utterly mystifying…. Writers research intensively to write a work of fiction.

            And no, if you’ve read a lot of SF you’d realize that it’s not always about fact or even “possible futures”. There are no “facts” in Le Guin’s feminist speculation on an androgynous race on another planet — ti’s not a work of hard SF — it’s uninterested in “fact.”

          2. Joachim Boaz

            Ok, so what about all those works of SF which are fiction? There is more genre movement than you are aware of. Nobel Prize winners write literature — with SF elements. So there’s a difference between SF tropes and SF as genre…. A

  3. thepandabard

    Again, I am agree that fiction is not fake or all imagination. I’m saying it takes real life scenarios and plays them out through creative writing. And Science Fiction does have rules as a genre, or it wouldn’t exist as a genre and everything science fiction would be classified as something else, like Fantasy or Horror. There are rules to each of these genres or they wouldn’t be classifiable.

    1. Joachim Boaz

      And no, there are not rules. They might be commonly help conventions. SF as a genre is amorphous, as is horror, as is fantasy etc. Hence works of literature can incorporate SF elements, horror elements, fantasy elements….

  4. thepandabard

    Science Fiction is never purely fiction. It is based on ideas which are real – like feminism, socialism, communism, classism, etc. – and played out in a scenario which shows the dangers of these taken to the extreme. Think of The Hunger Games, Ender’s Game, The Golden Compass, anything by H.G. Wells, Kurt Vonnegut, Philip K. Dick, etc.

      1. thepandabard

        I am agreeing. That is the point of the entire post. I wish they used a different term besides fiction when classifying things as forms of fiction because fiction does not do the genre justice because most fiction is based on fact or theory.

  5. thepandabard

    And genres can mix, but science fiction has a set schematic which separates it from other genres as well. You can have a horror/science fiction story (Alien) and you can also have a straight science fiction story (Ender’s Game).

  6. Pingback: Dear Self-Published on Amazon | The Poetics Project

  7. Pingback: Where Has All The New Sci-Fi Gone? | The Poetics Project

Tell Us What You Think.