Do some topics make something ‘de-facto’ sci-fi?

For example is any story that involves time travel by default considered sci-fi? Other topics that might fit this question extra-planetary space travel, aliens, parallel universes, ect.



2 Answers 2


I'd say all those automatically count as scifi (well... mostly). From wikipedia, the definition of scifi is

Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible (or at least non-supernatural) content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities. Exploring the consequences of scientific innovations is one purpose of science fiction, making it a "literature of ideas".

Science fiction is largely based on writing rationally about alternative possible worlds or futures. It is similar to, but differs from fantasy in that, within the context of the story, its imaginary elements are largely possible within scientifically established or scientifically postulated laws of nature (though some elements in a story might still be pure imaginative speculation).

Generally, science fiction is taking established facts of science and adding a "what if" to it, either in the form of "what if X happens in the future", or "what if Y happens right now". The problem is that it's almost impossible to have a single solid definition, since almost any piece of fiction could be viewed as science fiction, depending on how you define it.

That said, most science fiction as viewed by the general public will consist of aliens, time travel, the future (at least 10 years into the future), parallel universes, travel between planets (other than the moon, unless there's a space station and moon base), or robots. Any of the above, or combination of the above is enough to label something science fiction in most people's minds.

It gets harder when science fiction starts to blur with contemporary fiction, or horror or spy fiction. Often, supernatural elements (ghosts, werewolves, vampires) aren't scifi, but horror, or fantasy, mostly because there's no science behind them. At some point, it becomes a question of what is the main focus? Often, the exploration of "what if" is the best possible answer to "what is scifi".


Time travel yes, until such time as technology can produce it.

Extra-planetary space travel? No. Apollo 13 is not a science fiction movie. I wouldn't consider Deep Impact or Armageddon to be scifi. They use advanced space ships, but not outside the realm of engineering possibility.

Something that steps just on the edge of today's accomplishments shouldn't be considered scifi (or fantasy), it has to go a little beyond that. I.e. Limitless wouldn't be a scifi, but Jurassic Park is.

  • Actually this (or something like this) is part of the reason I asked this question, if it was theoretically possible for us to clone a dinosaur would Jurassic Park then no longer qualify as Sci-fi? Dec 30, 2011 at 20:21
  • I don't know about theoretically, but if someone cloned a dinosaur, than Jurassic Park would definitely no longer fall squarely in the realm of "fiction." Dec 30, 2011 at 20:26
  • But writing an entire OS for the Jurassic Park and maintining it with one fat slob STILL qualifies it as SciFi Dec 30, 2011 at 20:28
  • @DVK In the book he was just the on-site pointman. He had a team of developers working on a lot of stuff back at his office. Dec 30, 2011 at 20:32
  • Ok, real world example... you know that ball that Luke practices with on the Falcon? NASA started building prototypes of that a couple of years ago (not one that shoots but is self propelled and has cameras ect) – so until they started making that orb was it sci-fi and once it became possible for us to make one it no longer is? – I know this is a small example, but was the first one that came to mind. Dec 30, 2011 at 20:33
  • There's actually a lot of technology that has appeared in various forms of fiction that have since been invented in the real world, and yet yet those works would still be considered fiction, because they were fiction when they first appeared. The invention of something doesn't make it go from fiction to non-fiction.
    – thedaian
    Dec 30, 2011 at 20:40
  • 1
    Just because it's possible doesn't make it not sci fi...
    – Ben Brocka
    Dec 30, 2011 at 20:54
  • How is Deep Impact and Armageddon not sci-fi? Dec 30, 2011 at 23:43
  • If scientists actually cloned a dinosaur, a previously-published book about a fictional theme park, with fictional characters, using technologies that may or may not have been the same as those used to clone the real dinosaur, describing a story that did not actually happen, would no longer be considered "fiction"? Huh? "Alternative History" is on topic. Just because that alternative history uses technology that later becomes possible does not mean it is no longer on-topic, and it certainly doesn't change fiction to fact.
    – Beofett
    Dec 31, 2011 at 15:09
  • @Beofett Saying it wouldn't be fiction was wrong of me. But it wouldn't be science fiction. Would a book in the 1800s about flying machines (airplanes) be considered science fiction to us? No, because we have them. Feb 10, 2012 at 18:08
  • See the last two sentences of my comment above.
    – Beofett
    Feb 10, 2012 at 18:19
  • @JackBNimble: Shouldn't we make the classification based on the science of the time the work was created? If something is now science fiction, but decades later it just so happens to become true, it does not change the intention of the work in the time it was created.
    – vsz
    Aug 9, 2012 at 17:40

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