Basics:

Sub-genres

  • Alien Invasion: Involves aliens who invade Earth (usually).
  • Alternate History: Just as the name suggests, this genre deals with alternate histories. This can include traveling back in time, changing something, and returning to the changed future (such as Back to the Future).
  • Apocalyptic/Post-apocalyptic: This genre deals with the “end of the world” or what happens after such an event.
  • Artificial Intelligence: Involves artificial intelligence, usually one that becomes more “human”.
  • Astronaut: Deals with astronauts, often those who run into aliens or other disasters in space. The characters often die or disappear.
  • Biopunk: This genre is about altering genetics and DNA. These stories often take place in the near-future in which humans have been altered or in which human experimentation is common.
  • Cyberpunk: Involves a cyberworld or A.I. and is often set in the near-future. Blade Runner is a good example.
  • Detective: A cross-over between detective fiction and science fiction.
  • Dystopian: Dystopians are often “false utopians”, but underneath there is suffering.
  • Environmental: This genre focuses on the environment and threats against it.
  • Generation Ship: In which a society lives entirely on a ship and has been there for generations. They often know nothing of outside worlds. The ship in Wall-E is an example.
  • Gothic Sci-fi: Science fiction with a horror element. Think Frankenstein.
  • Hard Sci-fi: This genre pays special attention to scientific detail and accuracy.
  • Humor: This genre is light and humorous.
  • Kaiju: This is a Japanese sub-genre that involves a large monster as the antagonist.
  • Lost Worlds: As the name suggests, this genre has lost worlds or mysterious places. Lost is a prime example.
  • Military Sci-fi: Self-explanatory. Deals with war and military elements in a science fiction setting.
  • Multiverse: Involves many universes.
  • Robot: Involves robots as the main focus of the story.
  • Soft Sci-fi: This sub-genre does not put too much emphasis on scientific accuracy or detail.
  • Space Opera: Features adventures in space, such as Star Wars.
  • Steampunk: Involves Victorian-like settings with high technology.
  • Superhuman: Involves making humans superhuman or giving them extra abilities.
  • Time Travel: Self-explanatory.
  • Utopian: The opposite of dystopian, though characters may still see problems with this type of society. Utopians are ideal societies.
  • Western Sci-fi: Science fiction with Western elements (as in the Wild West). An example is Firefly.

Word Counts:

  • Hard Sci-fi: 90k - 100k
  • Space Opera: 90k - 120k
  • General: 80k - 115k
  • Middle Grade Sci-fi: 30k - 75k

Setting:

  • Most sci-fi takes place in the future or the near-future. Where does yours take place? Why does it take place in that time period? Once you know when it takes place, figure out the society. You’ll need to know how society got to that point and why. Was there a war? Did one country become two because of that?
  • Other than the time period you’ll need the actual setting. Does it take place in space? On a planet? Where on that planet? Or does the setting change because of travel?

Science:

  • The less you know about science, the softer your sci-fi will be. Take what subject you know most about (biology, chemistry, ecology, etc.) and use that for most of the science stuff, as long as your confident in your knowledge. However, keep it general and broad.
  • Technology advances more and more each day, much more than it did one hundred years ago. Establish the technology of your world and how quickly it evolves. Decide what is common place and what is rather new. Do only certain people get certain technologies? Why?
  • With more advances in science comes better medicine and probably longer life. Think about how long your characters are likely to live and establish what medicines are available (like if there is a cure for cancer or if certain diseases have been completely wiped out).

More:

Reading:

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    Very helpful. This will really help with the novel I will most likely never finish because I’m so indecisive.
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