List of Science Fiction Subgenres
Now for the second in my subgenres series. This time, it’s science fiction. Look out, enormous post ahead! Science fiction is such a broad category and dozens of subgenres are needed. Before you continue, a note on terminology: when I say “people” you can usually substitute “sentients.” When I say human I mean earthling.
[My post on fantasy subgenres.]
[My post on adventure subgenres.]
Science fiction that takes place in an altered or changed reality, but usually recognizable.
Science fiction about other dimensions or “planes of existence” unperceived by humans. Either about the inhabitants of these planes or people discovering a way to see or interact with a new dimension. Dimension is not to be confused with universe.
Science fiction detailing a journey to a complete other world existing with ours where something is altered, minor or major.
This subgenre asks, “What if a historic fact was altered?” and follows that alternate route. Common themes are, “What if the south had wont he Civil War?” and “What if the Nazis had won WWII?”
This subgenres presumes there are many other universes, and makes use of several of them in one story.
Science fiction about the extinction or near extinction of humankind either by forces of nature or by our own means.
Christian Science Fiction
Science fiction that carries Christian messages or the Christian faith, blatantly or allegorically.
A story of humans creating a colony on an ‘other world’ and their trial and triumphs.
Comic Science Fiction
Science fiction that is either humorous or a parody. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a classic example.
Science fiction depicting the downside to technology and a bleak world, typically containing a dark atmosphere.
Like cyberpunk, but this subgenre features protagonists attempting to halt or reverse the ill effects.
Science Fiction Mystery
Science fiction depicting a mystery in a futuristic setting.
Similar to apocalypse, as in the Earth is doomed, but the process is much slower, creating drawn-out affects.
Often near-future science fiction portraying a bleak and harmful future. Sometimes used to warn people of a possibility.
ESP Science Fiction
Extra sensory perception is the ability to use the mind to perform impossible feats. The difference between psychic ability and magic is that psychic ability is supposedly scientifically explained. These include:
Apportation – the twin of teleportation is the mental ability to transport other objects
Bilocation – the ability to be in two places at once
Coercion – the mental ability to make someone else move, speak, and act against their will
Divination – the mental ability to find hidden objects or resources
Healing – the mental ability to heal another person physically or mentally
Levitation – the mental ability to make objects and people defy gravity
Precognition – the mental ability to foresee events before they occur
Psychocreativity – the mental ability to pull elements out of the atmosphere and surroundings and turn them into something else
Psychometry – the mental ability to hold an object or be in a room and and feel who has touched it or been there recently
Pyrokinesis – the mental ability to start fires in other locations
Telekinesis – the mental ability to move inanimate objects
Telempathy – the mental ability to read emotions
Telepathy – the mental ability to read minds
Teleportation – the mental ability to move the body instantaneously to another place
Science fiction about the exploration of space; the means, the effects it has on society, the explorers, what is found, etc.
Science fiction about extra-terrestrials, or aliens, usually sentient.
A classic of the science fiction subgenres. Extra-terrestrials wage war again humankind in an attempt to take over the Earth either to gain resources or exterminate the humans.
Stories of the first contact made between aliens and humans.
Science fiction taking place in a galactic wide setting with many different planets and solar systems politically and economically joined.
Hard Science Fiction
Science fiction focusing on the hard sciences and technology. No known rules of physics can be broken.
Military Science Fiction
Stories centered around a futuristic military.
Science fiction taking place within fifty years and exploring technology and social situations that are expected to develop in that time. A realistic portrayal of the future.
Other World Science Fiction
This subgenre takes place in an entirely fictitious world, but maintains the science fiction setting.
Political Science Fiction
Stories about the futuristic political state of the universe; or stories written with a political statement in mind.
Science fiction telling the tale of the survivors of an apocalypse. These feature a survivalist atmosphere, and often contain aftereffects of the apocalypse beyond the downfall of civilization (eg, mutated animals after a nuclear holocaust).
Soft Science Fiction
Science fiction that focuses on the soft sciences and story and characters.
Science fiction emphasizing adventure, interstellar travel, and battles in space. The plotline contains interstellar conflict and personal drama. There is usually a high good versus evil feeling.
Science fiction about futuristic spies and espionage, and the effects of technological advancement on their professions.
Stories taking place in an era where steam is still used, normally the 1800s and usually Victorian, but containing out-of-era technological abilities accomplished by technology present in that time period. This subgenre commonly ignores scientific plausibility.
Technological Science Fiction
Science fiction honing in on a specific theoretical technological advance. Just containing the technology is not enough for it to be technological science fiction; the story most focus and center around that technology and its effects.
AI stand for artificial intelligence. This subgenre deal with the possibility of robotic intelligence as great as or rivaling that of humans. Sometimes it is written from the AI’s POV.
Stories about reproducing exact genetic replicas of life forms and the consequences.
FTL stands for Faster Than Light. This subgenres is about breaking the speed of light, thought impossible by Einsteinian physics.
Stories about engineering on the microscopic and atomic level. Much technology is theoretically possible with nanotech.
This subgenre starts with the premise time travel is somehow possible. A person or group of people travel either into the past or future. Any number of rules may be used regarding time travel.
Stories of a theoretical perfect society where all wrongs are absent or easily dealt with.
A world that is thought to be perfect, but upon a closer look is revealed to have flaws.
Kudos for you if you read all that! It is a huge list and it would be impossible to name all my sources. Much is from my head (no wonder I can never remember anything – my memory is filled with science fiction subgenres!).
What science fiction subgenres do you write? What subgenres do you like to read? And is there anything I’m missing?