Hello Writer Bees,
Today, we’re jumping into a spaceship and exploring the subgenres of science fiction. Let’s blast off and discover some sci-fi subgenres.
As the name would suggest, this sci-fi subgenre takes place in outer space, without the opera singing. Plotlines center around high-risk adventure and space travel. And yes, there’s usually a sweeping romance mixed in for good measure. Space exploration is prevalent in this subgenre. Which means your characters may encounter warfare, political rebellions and exotic locations with interesting inhabitants. World building is critical in Space Opera. You not only must create one planet but an entire universe. Try keeping notes for each location close by as you write to act as a guide to your galaxy.
Dystopian & Apocalyptic
In Dystopian and Apocalyptic fiction, every day is doomsday. The world is in turmoil. Every living creature struggles. The apocalyptic story takes place in an alternative reality or timeline, after a catastrophic event or the end of the world. After the decline of the human race or the end of Earth itself, your heroes do whatever they can to survive. As a whole, this sci-fi subgenre can be looked as a metaphor. A chance to explore social and political structures, if you’re into that sort of thing. Examine the different directions humanity can take depending on their choices. What the end result of those decisions? That’s up to you. When writing a dystopian story, keep in mind the message and theme you are trying to convey. That message will act as your compass are you craft the dystopian world.
The cyberpunk subgenre is a futuristic world centered around computer technology. This sci-fi subgenre tends to have an urban, gritty, futuristic vibe. Sometimes, cyberpunk stories have elements of dystopian fiction mixed in, making for a nuanced narrative. With overt surveillance or advanced weaponry, technology has overtaken everyone’s lives on way or another. And characters may not be 100% human. Be prepared to construct characters that aren’t all flesh and blood, that may have some machinery incorporated into their bodies. Think about how the added metal impacts their day-to-day lives.
Get those cogs turning with steampunk fiction. In this sci-fi subgenre, it’s all about a specific aesthetic. It’s retro and futuristic and whimsical all at once. Technological innovations are based on the shiny brass and steam powered marvels of the 19th century industrial era. Not only are the contraptions vintage inspired, so are the character’s clothing. Goggles on top hats is a look. Authors such as H.G. Wells and Mary Shelley are huge inspirations for this sci-fi subgenre. Might be a good idea to brush on that Victorian era history. Some aspects of Victorian era culture and societal norms can still be prevalent in a steampunk world.
Imagine if you could go back in time and change one historical event? In the Alternate History subgenre, you can. Use fiction to twist the past. In this sci-fi subgenre, a momentous event from the past occurs and is resolved differently than what happened in real life. How does the altered resolution effect the rest of the timeline? Not only that, how does this change in the timeline effect characters and society as a whole? It’s up to you as the writer to redesign history. Create what the world looks like when history has derailed from its known course. For this sci-fi subgenre, make sure you do the research beforehand. Once you have a solid understanding of history, then you can distort history with creative liberty.
Interested in learning about other subgenres? Check out these!
- 5 Subgenres of Horror Fiction
- 5 Subgenres of Mystery Fiction
- 5 Subgenres of Fantasy Fiction
- 5 Subgenres of Romance Fiction
What’s your favorite science fiction book? What sci-fi genre do you gravitate towards? Talk to me in the comments.
Write with heart.
2 thoughts on “Five Subgenres of Science Fiction Explained”
Writing, I’m definitely in the Space Opera camp, though I do love reading Alternative Histories and Dystopic fiction. Steampunk, I’ve enjoyed a few. I’m regrettably lacking in cyberpunk experience.
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Pretty much my interest in the exact order. Alt history has to be done right for me to enjoy it, but I couldn’t tell you what ‘the right way,’ is.
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