Science Fiction Subgenres

February 25, 2007 at 5:20 pm | Posted in fantasy, science fiction, speculative fiction, subgenres | Leave a comment

flash-gordon.jpgBerger, A.A. (1992) Popular Culture Genres: Theories and Texts. NY: Sage.

Herald, D.T.& Wiegand, W.A.(Ed.)(2006). Genreflecting  A Guide to Popular Reading Interests (6th ed.).Westport,CT: Libraries Unlimited.  

Saricks, Joyce G (2001). The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction. Chicago: ALA Press. 

aliens.jpgThe science fiction and fantasy genres encompass a rich variety of themes, and both may be subsumed under the category of  “speculative fiction”. Berger (1992) identified 8 science fiction subgenres: aliens, alternate history, dystopia/utopia, postcastrophe (apocalyptic), sword & sorcery (fantasy), space travel (technology), time travel and unknown worlds.

Below are  recommended online resources which define and give examples of popular SF subgenres. Although the lists differ, most distinguish between “hard” technology or science driven works vs. “soft” works focusing on psychological or social  aspects of the “what if?” question.  

Fiction Factor: Science Fiction sub-genres   Concise descriptions of more than a dozen SF sub-genres, including a few missing from other sites: dystopia, extrasensory perception, and religious SF. (Accessed 2/24/07)  Science Fiction  Good list of themes, but no explanation or examples provided. Genreflecting observes that SciFi genres are numerous because they’re based on content rather than being driven by plot or structure differences. Subgenre themes include: aliens, alternate history ,bleak future, cybernetics, high tech (hard), humorous ,militaristic, parallel worlds, shared worlds, space opera, time travel, and cross- genres (detective, fantasy or romance Sci Fi). (Accessed 2/24/07). 

 CT Readers Advisory Intro to SF Good overview of style and content characteristics of the SF genre. Discusses Joyce Saricks’ model of two major SF subgenres:  Storyteller Focus and Philosophical Focus. Fascinating discussion of which works example each type and why. (Accessed 2/24/07) 

SF Site: Science Fiction & Fantasy: A Genre with Many Faces Defines and lists representative books for seven science fiction subgenres: alternate universe, cyberpunk, military, hard, space opera, speculative and science fantasy as a cross-genre. (Accessed 2/24/07) :  Sci Fi Sub genres Overview for potential science fiction writers on alternate history, apocalyptic, cyberpunk cross-genre, first contact, Hard SF, militaristic, humorous, near future, future fantasy, time travel, slipstream, sociological and space opera. Doesn’t address “speculative”. (Accessed 2/24/07)


Create a free website or blog at
Entries and comments feeds.