Genre and Science Fiction Genre, as defined by the Oxford dictionary (2010), is “a style or category of art, music, or literature”. It is a term that is easy to define but hard to understand. The mere division of what one genre is compared to another has been problematic for academics and scholars for centuries. As noted by Robert Allen, genre study has become “the division of the world of literature into types and naming of those types”.
This has led the study of genre to become a more scientific process of comparing and contrasting between texts, until a definitive answer is reached. However, though it is determinable, the overlapping and blur between two or more genres is still apparent. For example, “science fiction” has become a debacle of over the last 200 years; science fiction has been shifted and shaped, almost a reflection of the context. Previously, science fiction was stereotypically denounced as just “robots and aliens”.
Conversely science fiction has much more to offer; renowned authors such as Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Aldous Huxley and William Gibson have all written texts centuries, and if not, decades ago that have become seminal and central to the genre. In addition, just these authors alone have reflected the transient and fluid nature of the science fiction genre. Considered the first ever science fiction text, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) grounded and laid the pathway for future science fiction texts.
Shelley’s text, though ignorantly is just about a mad scientist who creates a monster, holds a much deeper understanding to it. The notion of man’s ability to create a somewhat third kind caused fears around its readers, whereas the contemporary audience can just suspend their disbelief and merely accept what is told or shown to them which highlight the shifting nature of audiences’ ongoing acceptance of new aspects of science fiction.
This foregrounding of this new genre led to many authors with comparably yet contrasting ideas over the years which has led science fiction to be still not definitive. Verne’s work represented what was exciting about the age and furthered Shelley’s idea that man’s capabilities were “infinitely possible” including air travel and deep-sea exploration.
Verne’s “successor”, Wells, reflected his times through presenting the industrial revolution as negative, the ability to time travel as well as this concept of life beyond Earth; almost as a forecaster of greater yet possibly sinister events to come; namely the atomic bomb and space. Science fiction is the “search of man and his status in the universe” (Brian Aldiss) which mab be on the basis of “innovation through science and technology” (Kingsley Amis) but most importantly how different generations perceive the world to be and what it could be.