A while ago I received a mail from someone who had read one of my scifi stories and the sender of that mail told me the story wasn’t science fiction.
My first reaction was “what?”.
The sender claimed that there were too many aliens in the story, an impossible way of travelling between worlds and hardly any science – if any at all. According to this person the book was fantasy, not scifi.
The book in question, ‘Wanted: hero’, doesn’t deal with any science that we know, and yes, it involves aliens. Stating that this is not science fiction however is going too far for me. After all, in the book there is a scientific laboratory from where the tech is devised to make people move between planets. It’s not our science (yet!) but it’s science.
Aliens have been part of scifi stories for a long time. Don’t tell me that ‘Aliens’ isn’t a scifi film! Aliens is labeled ‘Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi’ on IMDB. Yes, it’s there. Scifi. The SF encyclopedia states “This is the term, in both sf and popular culture, used to indicate sentient extraterrestrial beings – creatures from other worlds endowed with reason, consciousness, thought, Intelligence (the terms for and conceptions of this vital but slippery quality vary). Aliens may have minds somewhat less capable than ours, of comparable capacity, of greater (even vastly greater) power, or minds so different that comparison becomes impossible.”
Quora, a site I respect for the knowledge that’s there, has a good article on aliens in science fiction as well. It discusses what are the most alien aliens in science fiction.
Interestingly the film “Avatar” by James Cameron is categorised as ‘Fantasy’ on IMDB. I guess that is because most of the film plays out on Pandora and depicts the life of the Na’vi who have no technology.
Back to the mail I received though. Contrary to the Na’vi of “Avatar”, the aliens in my story possess the science to create technology. They have automonous cars, communication systems, research centres and laboratories. They also have the intelligence to design a poison in one of their laboratories to take out their enemies. I would say that makes it science fiction. Writing about science. Our lab guys can do this too.
My scifi books aren’t ‘hard scifi’ with rockets, spaceships, space battles and things like that, but there is more to science fiction than that. A good thing was that the person who wrote to me also said he liked the book. And that’s what’s counts.
All the best!