What is Science Fiction, After All?
The thing we call science fiction is not just literature, it's actually a concept you can see in every corner of art. Because it is the only genre that is responsible for the technological development of this complex but seemingly simple land we live on. Unlike other genres, it not only entertains people in terms of reading, watching, or writing, but also inspires them to develop and improve like "Hey, we can make those 'vicuuv vicuuv' swords that they wave in that thing called Star Wars!" Instead of just enjoying them. In fact, the self-opening doors you saw in the movie Star Trek, which were released years ago, have already been invented. But that's not the whole point!
Although Wikipedia and other sources show that the birth of science fiction dates back to the 2nd century, it is not actually the case! The history of science fiction goes back to mythology. In fact, the God, who is part of the fantasy genre, carries his servant in a vehicle and makes him fly. However, the God does not make the vehicle itself, but creates it. The vehicle is referred to as magical. Now we call it a plane, or any person can find a magical device and use it to travel back in time to the era of the gods. Although it doesn't exist now, we call it Time Travel and Time Machine. No, my friend, time travel is not a fantasy element as people might think. I'll complain to H.G. Wells about all of you! But back to our topic, the concept of remote viewing and awareness, which we can frequently see in Hindu mythology, is an example of science fiction. Let me give you an example of this; in the Ramayana epic, Rama, whose wife is kidnapped by the evil, cursed, and dishonorable Ravana, seeks help from the god Hanuman, who is giant and can fly. Yes, Hanuman, but the point is not about Hanuman. Stay on topic, kid! Anyway, Rama wants to see where his beloved is, and Hanuman doesn't sit idle. He shows him Sita's whereabouts. Although this situation includes fantasy elements such as Gods, Rama's ability to see and watch his wife from afar carries elements of science fiction. Likewise, video conferencing we do today or the hologram system they are working on are also part of these particles. I wanted to address this before talking about important figures and dates mentioned in written texts. If you are a science fiction enthusiast, you must study mythology.
Before diving into the history and people of science fiction, I want to talk about a few things.
What's the difference between fantasy and science fiction?
Here it is:
Science fiction is living events that could or have happened with elements of science and technology that we don't currently have. (Think laser guns, teleportation, flying cars, etc.)
Fantasy, on the other hand, is living events with features that we can never experience or possess. (Like breathing fire, sneezing nitrogen, or having dwarves living in your fingernails.)
How many types of science fiction are there?
Science fiction is divided into several branches. Science fiction fans or writers cannot give the exact number because new genres related to science fiction emerge every day, and all the elements that were previously in science fiction change. However, we can summarize them as follows;
Hard Science Fiction: The name can be misleading. It is not about the state of matter, but rather about the content. If the topic being discussed involves a chemical event, it should be related to chemistry, if it is related to physics, it should be related to the laws of physics, and if it is related to astrophysics, it should be related to astrophysics as much as possible. Therefore, it is necessary to provide details of these units that can be measured in the topic being processed. We cannot talk about an approximate science and its fiction. It cannot contain things that will never happen. For example, a character can drink a liquid and become incredibly strong. (Some drugs and adrenaline are examples of this.) However, after drinking the liquid, they cannot turn into a frog.
Social Science Fiction: I can explain this simply by saying "George Orwell's 1984". If you haven't read it, I can give a broader explanation. Social Science Fiction is a work that is based on science branches such as psychology, sociology, or anthropology. Utopian or Dystopian worlds are one of the branches of this field. Utopia, in short, is a perfect world where everything is perfect. Dystopia is a world where nothing is good, where everyone and everything is oppressed, corrupted, or nonexistent.
Cybernetic/Cyberpunk Science Fiction (Cyberpunk): You may hear or read this more as Cyberpunk. It takes its name from the story "Cyberpunk" in Bruce Bethke's "Amazing Science Fiction Stories" magazine. Cyberpunk is relatively easy to distinguish from the others. Because the world usually takes place in a dystopian environment. Everyone is immersed in technology. Every event, situation, and person is intertwined with technology. There may even be people called Cyborgs. Another important feature of this branch is that corporations are more prominent than governments. Because these companies have prepared them for the life they are in. The topics are generally related to these companies. The character is either corrupted by the technology of that company. Either they are against that company. Or they are an employee of that company. Of course, this is a generalization."
Time Travel: We've arrived at a topic that many people dismiss as "fantasy" and "not science fiction" by saying "Time travel is impossible. It will never happen!" This field is one of the most complex and intricate branches of science, containing hundreds of question marks. The father of this idea, even if it wasn't the first, is H. G. Wells, or let's say its uncle. The concept of time travel has existed in previous times and even in mythology, but it became popular with H. G. Wells' novel "The Time Machine." The subject of this branch is simple: a character somehow travels to the past or future, whether through a machine, a device, or even a TV remote. However, as I mentioned earlier, it contains an infinite number of question marks. Let's start with the Beethoven Paradox.
This paradox tells the following story: let's say you went back in time with the goal of meeting Ludwig Van Beethoven! However, Beethoven is not the person you know. He's a guy who flirts with other people's wives and daughters, and says things like "Hey there, dirtbag!" You asked yourself, "Did this guy really compose all those symphonies?" You returned to the future, took all the sheet music for his works, and gave them to him. But he didn't publish them. The papers remained in a corner. You got angry and said to yourself, "I'll save history!" and went and published all his works when the time came. You even chose the name Ludwig Van Beethoven. You returned to the future. Everything is the same. Nothing has changed. The symphonies are still there, as is Beethoven's biography. Here is a question: do these previously composed works belong to Ludwig Van Beethoven? If they don't, who composed them? Even if you have published them and Beethoven is not the person he is known to be, who wrote them in the first place? This is the Beethoven Paradox. There are hundreds of similar questions in this field.
Alternate History Science Fiction: Although I'm a fan of science fiction myself, I must admit that this is the branch that intrigues me the most. Its subject matter deals with different ways historical events could have unfolded. For example, let's say the Battle of Gallipoli was lost. The British and Greeks completely occupied Anatolia. What would happen? Answering this question is stepping into this field. A writer named Philip K. Dick demonstrated this in his work, "The Man in the High Castle." In this story, Germany won World War II, and Europe and Russia were completely occupied. America was divided in half, with Germany and Japan each controlling a portion. However, there were films that Germany had lost, which were quite realistic, and they circulated everywhere, stirring up resistance. Germany and Japan both pursued these films. That's what the story is about. Alternate History is a branch that encompasses these topics.
Military Science Fiction: This branch is usually based on the conflict of national, interstellar, or interplanetary military forces. Robert A. Heinlein's novel Starship Troopers is an example of this genre. To explain the topic more broadly, let's make up an example. There are two planets. One is called Hüsnü Planet and the other is Faruk Planet. These two planets' people need two different minerals. Faruk people need the mineral that is available in Hüsnü, and Hüsnü people need the mineral that is available in Faruk. As soon as both sides learn about this, they start a war. With lasers and beam cannons, the battle begins. This and similar works that deal with this type of content are called Military Science Fiction.
Supernatural Beings Science Fiction: Don't be misled by the term 'supernatural.' Characters who can shoot fire from their hands, fly on their own, or shoot sharp hairs from their legs may or may not fit into this category. For example, if a character can fly and hover in the air and shoot sharp hairs from their legs right after being born due to a drug, radiation, or an experiment, then they belong to the science fiction genre. Are there any other beings in this category? Yes. For example, extraterrestrials like the one in the movie E.T. Or the Aliens who insert their tails into the mouths and faces of humans and impregnate them, or the Predators who hunt them down like quails, all fall into this category.
Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction: As the name suggests, the story starts with the end of the world. In this genre, something catastrophic has happened to the world. For example, someone has launched a nuclear warhead because their spouse didn't make kidney bean stew for dinner. Another person stabs their brother-in-law with the medicine they invented in the laboratory because they gamble too much. And yet another person, in their "I'm going to find gold, yeehaw!" fervor, drills a hole the size of Konya into a volcano, shattering the world's fault lines. This genre explores the world after such events occur.
Space Opera Science Fiction: I would like to say that it is about Bağcılar Gençliği (a Turkish youth group) performing opera in space, but it's not. It includes conflicts between powerful opponents, partially or entirely set in space and featuring advanced technology and capabilities. The most significant feature of this genre is that characters, conflicts, and themes are on a grand scale. It's not limited to a few groups or individuals, but rather it extends to multiple universes and beyond. The best example of this genre is, of course, Star Wars. Interestingly, since Space Opera is so broad, it includes other genres within it. Dystopian stories are like brothers-in-law, Cyberpunk is like a brother-in-law, and Military Science Fiction is like a cousin. In some planets of any interstellar topic, these sub-genres are also present.
Space Western Science Fiction: Imagine Darth Vader as a cowboy in the desert with a metal hat and a robot horse, while Luke Skywalker attacks him with a lightsaber, shouting 'yee-haw!' This is what Space Western Science Fiction is all about. It takes Western stories and blends them with a futuristic space backdrop. For example, the 2011 film 'Cowboys And Aliens' is an example of this genre, as is Joss Whedon's series 'Firefly' and the film 'Serenity'.
SteamPunk Science Fiction: In Steampunk works, steam power is widespread as a technology, there is no new generation technological tool, object, house, city or neighborhood, and it takes place in 19th century or Victorian Era England. The themes of clothing are in a constant transition between these two periods. The reason for it to be in the 19th century is related to the Industrial Revolution. After the Industrial Revolution and the transition to steam power, the subjects dealt with in Steampunk works have always revolved around these events. However, technological developments in later years have not put an end to this genre, but have made it even more functional. For example, the computer. If there is a computer in the Steampunk world, it will be in two ways. Either the thing that powers the computer is steam power or the computer works directly with steam. Or the Jetpacks that are often mentioned in science fiction. You know, those tools that characters strap on their backs and fly with. If there is a Jetpack in the Steampunk universe, steam comes out of its pipes, not fire. And the mechanism that produces that steam is always described in detail. Although I like Alternate History, and flirt with Post-Apocalyptic, when choosing my clothes, I always choose in the Steampunk genre, and wear my accessories accordingly.
Yes... I have explained the science fiction genres and my own views in this article. There are certainly many more things to write about science fiction, but for now, that's all from me.
(While preparing this article, the song playing in the background was Donovan - Hurdy Gurdy Man.)
Author: Ahmet T. Mengeş
Science fiction and fantasy enthusiast. Game addict. Guardian of vampire mythology. Weird and equally arrogant. Amateur game developer. Very amateur.