Science Fiction

Science Fiction

Science fiction is a literary genre that utilizes science and technology to examine the human condition. The science and technology used are extrapolations of existing scientific fact and reasoning. Many of the events take place within a setting of future possibility involving robots, space travel, interplanetary travel and wars, aliens, and alien invasion.

Most science fiction functions as a form of social criticism and is characterized by being future oriented, rationalistic, and technological.

There are certain elements a story must contain in order to be considered science fiction. The story must contain elements of science and technology or construct an image of the future by projecting present trends of science and technology. As a result, it is important for writers to accurately extrapolate scientific information. Stories usually take place in scientific settings like space, other planets, or alternate dimensions. The genre is also generally dystopic in nature in that it centers around an imaginary future society that is flawed or imperfect due to the affect or misuse of science and technology. In this way the genre is designed to predict or define the future.

Currently, there is much disagreement between critics over what actually constitutes science fiction. This is because it is very close in nature to the literary genre of fantasy. However, it is generally accepted that in order to be considered science fiction a story must have elements of science whereas fantasy relies more on magic and mythology instead.

The first science fiction story was written in 175 AD by a Greek named Lucian of Somosata. His story was called True History and was about a trip to the moon in a ship carried by a great whirlwind. However, modern science fiction is generally considered to have grown from the roots of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein written in 1818. The genre was further developed into a more scientific romance style by writers Edgar Allen Poe and Jules Verne. Verne wrote the popular novels Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870). The British author, H.G. Wells, further developed the genre with his novels War of the Worlds (1898) and The Time Machine (1895).

Science Fiction emerged as a distinct genre in 1926 with the publication of the first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories. Focus on good writing, plot development, and characterization within the genre was further encouraged by the standards set by John W. Campbell Jr.’s magazine, Astounding Science Fiction in 1937. The 1950’s brought the popularization of the paperback novel and with it the success of major science fiction talents Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Ray Bradbury. These writers revolutionized the genre and brought it to its current level of development.

Today, many great works of science fiction literature have been adapted to film and television. Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Isaac Asimov’s I Robot, and Phillip K. Dick’s Minority Report are some of the most popular. Other writers were able to bring their short stories and novels to television with such series as The Twilight Zone and Star Trek. As advances in both technology and science continue to be discovered there will always be new material for the genre of science fiction.

The Thriller Genre

Thriller fiction is a literary genre that centers around continuous fast paced action in order to create an atmosphere of excitement and suspense. It tends to focus on the profession of the protagonist and how the protagonist must use his or her skills and knowledge to get out of a dangerous situation.

The genre covers a variety of professions and settings. Thrillers are very popular because readers are able to follow the action step by step allowing them to participate both emotionally and intellectually in the story’s complications.

There are many characteristics that make up a thriller. First, the story must be fast paced and compelling. The plot is propelled by continuous action in order to hold the interest of the reader. The action must place the protagonist in both physical and emotional danger. The story must also contain extensive details and technical language related to the profession or subject the plot is centered around. Character development is secondary to action and detail of the story. Protagonists are usually strong individualists who live by their own rules. Protagonists often work alone because they operate in a world filled with betrayal and deception. The protagonist must fight against a villain that is determined to wreak either personal, national, political, or international destruction.

Thriller fiction was invented by British crime writer and journalist, Edgar Wallace. Wallace wrote mainly crime thrillers in which the main protagonist was usually a special investigator that worked outside the police force. Some of his novels include The Four Just Men (1905) and The Green Archer (1923). Many writers copied Wallace’s style in stories published in dime novels and pulp magazines. The next writer to revolutionize the genre was Ian Fleming. Fleming invented the spy thriller and introduced his famous character, James Bond, in his novel Casino Royale (1953). The author Robert Ludlum continued to mold the genre to its present level with his novels including The Bourne Identity (1980) and The Bourne Supremacy (1986). His novels centered around conspiracy plots and the world of technology and espionage.

Due to the wide range of subjects and environments available to thriller fiction there are many sub genres. Thrillers involve the world and professions of law, espionage, medicine, science, international and domestic politics, technology, finance and adventure. Popular contemporary thriller writers include John Grisham, Michael Crichton, Robin Cook, Michael Palmer, Tom Clancy, and David Baldacci. Many of these authors’ works have been adapted to film which emphasize the use of action and suspense presented in the novels. Thriller fiction borrows certain elements from the genre of mystery, however, it doesn’t center around the solution of a crime or puzzle. Instead, it is a story of action that is filled with excitement, suspense, and danger.

Non-fiction Narratives

Non-fiction

Put simply, non-fiction is the opposite of fiction. It addresses the people, things, places, and events in the real world as opposed to the imaginary world of fiction. Non-fiction is based on fact and serves to provide information about a subject. However, it is not completely factual and should not be taken as absolute truth.

The interpretation and analysis of facts is determined by the author and as a result is not completely devoid of the author’s bias and opinions. Therefore, it is important to remember to keep a critical mind when reading non-fiction.

Non-fiction is varied and wide in scope. Sub genres include autobiography, biography, diaries, journals, essays, memoirs, articles, letters, interviews, books, encyclopedias, reference books, and documentaries. Because it is based on reality it must have facts, data, and research to prove its validity. There are generally two basic approaches to writing non-fiction. The first is to report facts with little or no personal opinions and the second is to mix personal opinion with fact. Although it is about reality, writers of the genre borrow literary techniques used in fiction in order to make their stories more interesting.
These literary techniques include tone, characterization, descriptive language, pace, and scene setting. This type of colorful sub genre is referred to as creative or literary non-fiction.

The non-fiction arena is growing due to the popularity of recent trends. Popular genres include political, disaster, and current events themed books and memoirs. Recent events such as the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, and the World Trade Center attacks have resulted in the popularity of factual books written by political experts and investigative journalists such as An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore, Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq by Thomas E. Ricks, and Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission by Thomas H. Kean. Recent controversies over the degree of veracity and artistic license in memoirs such as James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces have only increased popularity of the genre.

Non-fiction will always be popular because people will always seek answers to questions. It exists to answers those questions or at least to provide information so people are able to formulate their own answers. The popularity of the Internet has made it possible for people to publish their own non-fiction in the form of blogs, online journals, and informational websites. In a world filled with so many portals and links to information, it is important to keep an open and critical mind before accepting any factual claims as truth.

Historical Fiction

Historical Fiction

Historical fiction is a literary genre in which history is brought to life. The story must portray characters, events, settings, customs, culture, society, and beliefs accurately according to its historical context. Considerable research is taken in order to portray characters and settings realistically. However, good storytelling should not be sacrificed for perfect historical accuracy.

Facts should be skillfully woven into the story in order to evoke the past and keep the story entertaining.

Historical fiction contains the same elements required in regular fiction. However, it places more emphasis on the time period in which the story is set. Writers of historical fiction may choose to either center their story on past historical events or around a famous historical person. The main objective is to recreate the historical period of the novel so it is both accurate and entertaining to the readers. The genre is mainly read by those who want to experience and learn about history in a more creative way then they would experience by reading a text book. Historical fiction can also serve to provide insight to current events by using historical events to draw parallels to current society and events.

Historical fiction emerged in the 19th Century during the Romantic period. Sir Walter Scott is generally considered to be the first writer of the genre. In his novels Rob Roy (1818) and Ivanhoe (1820), Scott brings Scottish history during the Middle Ages alive. Victor Hugo is also credited with popularizing the genre with his novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831). Since then, historical fiction has merged with other genres to create several sub genres including novels set in the Middle Ages, American Western, Prehistoric period, Renaissance, Ancient Rome, and other historical periods. Some authors have experimented with the genre and created further sub genres including alternate histories, pseudo-histories, time slip novels, historical fantasies, and multiple time period novels. Philip Roth’s novel The Plot Against America (2005) is an example of alternate history in which Roth depicts a scenario in which Charles Lindbergh defeats Franklin D. Roosevelt for the American presidency in 1940. Michael Cunningham’s novel, The Hours (1998), is an example of historical multiple-time fiction in which he writes a novel set within three different time periods involving the author Virginia Woolf.

Historical fiction has transcended into different medias including both film and television. Popular historical television series include Deadwood set within 19th Century American West and Rome set during the fall of the Roman Republic. Historical films based on historical individuals and events are also very popular. Charles Frazier’s novel, Cold Mountain (1998), which revolves around the Civil War, was recently adapted to film. Historical fiction is as popular as ever as people continue to be curious about the past.

Satirical Fiction

Satire is a type of literary genre which uses ridicule to criticize people, institutions, and society with the intent to provoke change or reform. It uses the literary techniques of comparison, ridicule, wit, irony, and exaggeration to point out human vices or follies. The purpose is to point out the hypocrisy and the foolishness of the subject’s action or behavior by using laughter as a weapon. The goal is to have the audience or target of ridicule recognize their mistakes through laughter and be compelled to change their behavior.

Generally, there are two main types of satire. The first type is formal or direct satire which uses the satiric voice in the first person to speak directly to the reader or character in the story. Formal satire can be further divided into two subtypes. Horatian satire is named after the Roman poet, Horace, and is a gentle, softer form that aims to correct through sympathetic laughter. The second type is Juvenalian satire named after the Roman poet, Juvenal. This type is edgy, bitter, and contemptuous in nature. The second main type is called indirect satire which expresses satire through character or groups who ridicule themselves through their own actions and words.

Satire can be traced back to the early Greek poets and dramatists. One of the most famous satirists was the playwright Aristophanes who wrote the play Lysistrata (411 BC). However, the prototype of the literary form of the genre comes from the works of Roman poets, Horace and Juvenal. Their two different forms were continued through the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

The golden age of satire arrived in the early 18th Century. Notable works include Jonathon Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726) and Alexander Voltaire’s Candide (1759). Voltaire’s novel targeted the philosophy of Gottfried Leibniz in which everything that happens is for the best. The genre took aim at manners and morals in the 19th Century in the works of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) and Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). Twain used his novel to satirize the evils of slavery and racism as well as American Southern society. Other popular satirical targets of the period include policies in government, law, philosophy, and religion particular to the time period.

Major advances in technology, political discontent, abuses of power, and wars that marked the 20th Century became the targets for modern satirists. Famous works from this period include Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932) and George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945) and 1984 (1949).

Today, satire has transcended many different mediums including film, television, plays, comic strips, and political cartoons. The genre is very widespread in shows like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Simpsons, South Park, and The Colbert Report. Present day artists and writers view satire as an effective way to reveal the follies and mistakes of a wide range of targets from political policy to members of the government to popular culture.

Mystery Novels

Mystery is a literary genre that centers around the solving of a puzzle. The puzzle is usually a question or riddle to be answered or a crime to be solved. The protagonist, along with the reader, is provided clues to the puzzle, but must also use the tools of deduction, logic, observation, and sheer luck in order to completely solve the puzzle.

Mystery fiction is very popular due to the excitement and sense of challenge aroused in the reader to solve the mystery.

A story must contain certain elements in order to be categorized as a mystery fiction. The story usually revolves around a crime. Most novels are about trying to solve a murder, but the crime isn’t always murder. The crime must function as a means to provide the question of whodunit . Detectives are also an essential element and are the main characters . The detective usually works alone, with a sidekick, or with a group of sidekicks. The detective must then conduct an investigation by searching for clues and interviewing suspects in order to solve the crime. The story usually ends when the culprit has been identified and the crime has been solved.

The origins of mystery fiction can be traced back to Edgar Allen Poe’s The Murder in Rue Morge written in 1841. This story featured the first fictional detective, C. Auguste Dupin. Poe was greatly influenced by Charles Dickens’ Bleak House (1853) and The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870). Dickens’ work contained many elements of mystery, however, it was Poe who shifted the focus of mystery from atmosphere to a study of the criminal mind. Wilkie Collins continued Poe’s device of the detective, but added more emphasis on characterization. Collins wrote the first full length mystery novels such as The Woman in White (1868) and The Moonstone (1868). Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was the next major writer of the genre to emerge with his story A Study in Scarlet (1887). This story was the first to feature the famous detective, Sherlock Holmes. Through his character, Doyle turned the solving of crimes into a science. Sherlock Holmes solved crimes by careful study and interpretation of evidence as well as his own powers of perceptive recognition.

The 1920’s is referred to as the golden age of mystery fiction. This period ushered in the work of some of the most famous writers of the genre such as Agatha Christie and Dashiell Hammett. Agatha Christie created the “Cozy” with her novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920). A Cozy is a mystery in which a crime is committed in an English country house involving a closed group of people. They all become suspects in a clean murder that is solved by a great detective. Dashiell Hammett further revolutionized the mystery genre by creating the “Hardboiled.” This type of mystery focused more on realism and life on the streets. Hammett’s novel, The Maltese Falcon (1930), introduced the character of Sam Spade and popularized the tough private eye.

The popularity of mystery fiction has created many sub genres including thriller, suspense, and true crime. It has also transcended other media such as television and film. Television shows such as CSI, Monk, and Law and Order follow the framework of mystery fiction New writers of the genre include Sue Grafton, Janet Evanovich, James Patterson, J.D. Robb, Dan Brown, Mary Higgins Clark, Tom Clancy, and Patricia Cornwell. Their works are very diverse and wide in scope. As the popularity of the genre continues to grow it will continue to branch out and adapt to new innovations. The future of mystery fiction remains open and as exciting as ever.