A Note on Genre: Speculative Fiction

found while looking at David Simpson’s “Science Fiction”

A Note on Genre

To recognize some works as precursors of SF makes sense in any case because literary genres aren’t absolute classifications. They’re fuzzy sets. Moreover, individual works of literature–especially modern ones–are seldom entirely tragedies, or comedies, or satires, or adventure stories, or SF tales, or lampoons, or any one thing. Instead, they tend to be complicated amalgums of various genres. Twain’s Connecticut Yankee, for example, combines elements of comedy, satire, parody, farce, fantasy-adventure, and prophetic nightmare. Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle offers a similar mix. Yet without question both novels also qualify as specimens of science fiction.

(Emphasis mine.)

other good stuff from there:

It’s visionary.

The mere fact that a novel or film deals at length and seriously with science and technology does not necessarily mean that it’s honest-to-goodness SF. The novels of the British writer C.P.Snow, for example, are largely about science and scientists, but they’re hardly examples of science fiction. In fact these novels are actually much closer in style and character to standard historical or political novels than to sci-fi products. That’s because Snow’s concern is entirely with character, power, and moral conflict in a realistically rendered present–a precisely depicted here and now. Traditional SF, on the other hand, tends toward the hypothetical and has a decidedly more prophetic or apolcalyptic goal. The SF writer, that is to say, is more concerned with future scenarios and vivid alternatives, with provocative extrapolations and exciting possibilities, than with the naturalistic transcription of current circumstances. In short, true science fiction is visionary writing about science and technology.

Other options on words for “genre” in this sentence: “We can conveniently sub-divide SF into a set of modes, sub-categories, or sub-genres…”

Those sub-divisions:
fantasy adventure
utopian or dystopian
exotic travel narratives (Gulliver’s Travels again)
moral/philosophical tales

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