The Characteristics of Science Fiction
• Science fiction is often based on scientific principles and technology.
• Science fiction may make predictions about life in the future.
• Science fiction often deals with aliens or with life on other worlds.
• Science fiction can comment on important issues in society.
SCIENCE FICTION (Sci Fi)- stories that often tell about science and technology of the future involving partially true fictions laws or theories of science
- in the future
- in space
- on a different world
- in a different universe or dimension
Aliens are one of the central characteristics of the science-fiction genre. A sci-fi novel may deal with aliens coming to Earth, humans encountering aliens on space explorations or a number of other variations. However, not all sci-fi stories deal with Aliens.
Space travel is a common element of sci-fi, regardless of whether or not it features contact with aliens. Sometimes, humans wonder whether or not they’re alone in the universe, and what might happen if humans encounter other life forms.
In scientific theory, time travel is possible based on potential technologies utilizing scientific knowledge.
Futuristic Setting or Alternate History
Even if there’s no time travel involved, science fiction novels are often placed in a futuristic setting, while other sci-fi novels feature alternate histories. Whether moving forward or back in time, very few sci-fi novels are set in the present day.
Early science fiction writers and editors focused on the hard science of science fiction, and much of that incorporates the development of advanced technology, or creative ways to utilize existing technology.
Dystopia: an imaginary place where people are unhappy and usually afraid because they are not treated fairly.
One common theme of many science fiction novels is a dystopia set sometime in the future. Dystopia sci-fi themes are often used to explore current social issues, and they have very little to do with science, except dystopian fiction that revolves around technological mis-utilization. “Nineteen Eighty-Four” is a good example of a dystopian sci-fi story.
Exploration Of Popular Societal Or Cultural Issues
Much of sci-fi attempts to explore popular social or cultural issues through a sci-fi setting. These issues range from class struggles to misuse of technology, and sci-fi gives voice to the concerns of the society in which they are conceived. Common social issues include a world destroyed by war; a world destroyed by overuse; a world in which the government controls everything; or a world in which genetic experimentation has gone terribly awry.
Task 1 (to be discussed in class)
With close reference to the text of the short story Billenium explore the following questions in detail. Remember to include quotations and page numbers for the quotations in your answers
- Write a detailed synopsis of the story.
- Discuss the theme of over-population and the effect it has on both the way of life and quality of life of the inhabitants of the city.
- The quest for living space has become an overriding obsession with the people of the city. Discuss this theme in detail. Include in your answer some discussion of the ways in which Ballard makes the quest for space dominate the characters’ lives.
- What sort of relationship does Ballard put forward between the inner world of the individual (as represented by Ward and Rossiter) and the outer world in which they live. In other words, how does Ballard conceptualise the effect of surviving daily life in a hopelessly over-crowded city on the consciousness of the individual as demonstrated by the ways in which Ward and Rossiter manage the gift of space in the secret room they discover?
- In the story, Ballard does attempt some sort of explanation of the social, political and economic causes of the extreme over-population that has beset the world. Explain his views as they are presented in the story.
- Do you agree with his argument? Do you think that current population growth projections indicate that we are likely to end up in the situation portrayed in the story?
- Describe and analyse Ward’s character in some detail. What values does he hold? Why does Ballard make use of this type of character as the main character for this story?
- What role does Rossiter play in the story?
- Describe the role of the female characters in the story.
- Discuss the effects that over-population and its attendant ills has had on the nature of family life in relation to Ward’s family as well as Judith and Helen’s family relationships.
- What does the secret room symbolise in the story?
- Why do you think Ward and Rossiter are unable to keep the gift of space to themselves? Is Ballard making a comment on how our inner world ultimately reflects the shape of the external world in which we live?
- What sort of living arrangement do they eventually end up allowing (and accommodating to) in their secret room?
- Discuss Ballard’s style and language in the story? Consider also in what ways it is appropriate to the nature of the story being told.
Have a look at this video and compare it to the short story we have read!! (Thanks Alina Claps for sharing this video!!)