Still from The Landing, Josh Tanner dir
Here at Other Worlds Austin, we have a very broad definition of SciFi, but since you don’t know us, and right now you are asking yourself ‘Is My Film SciFi?’ we’d like to help you make that determination.
First of all, let’s look at some definitions of Science Fiction:
That branch of literature which is concerned with the impact of scientific advance upon human beings. ...Modern science fiction is the only form of literature that consistently considers the nature of the changes that face us, the possible consequences, and the possible solutions.
Science fiction is really sociological studies of the future, things that the writer believes are going to happen by putting two and two together.
Arthur C. Clarke
Science fiction is something that could happen - but you usually wouldn't want it to. Fantasy is something that couldn't happen - though you often only wish that it could.
Robert A. Heinlein
A handy short definition of almost all science fiction might read: realistic speculation about possible future events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world, past and present, and on a thorough understanding of the nature and significance of the scientific method. To make this definition cover all science fiction (instead of "almost all") it is necessary only to strike out the word "future."
Science fiction represents the modern heresy and the cutting edge of speculative imagination as it grapples with Mysterious Time---linear or non-linear time. Our motto is Nothing Secret, Nothing Sacred.
Ursula K. Le Guin
All fiction is metaphor. Science fiction is metaphor. What sets it apart from older forms of fiction seems to be its use of new metaphors, drawn from certain great dominants of our contemporary life -- science, all the sciences,and technology, and the relativistic and the historical outlook, among them. Space travel is one of these metaphors; so is an alternative society, analternative biology; the future is another. The future, in fiction, is a metaphor.
Fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science Fiction is the improbable made possible.
I would consider these the SciFi thinkers I grew up with, along with H.G. Wells (who predates any attempt to define SciFi) and Stephen King who draws from Science Fiction when it suits him, but lies more in Fantasy. All of these seem to be very open and inclusive definitions of SciFi. Of course, my favorite author of all time, I think, provides the best quote on SciFi, and the one I based this festival around:
Philip K. Dick
I will define science fiction, first, by saying what science fiction is not. It cannot be defined as 'a story set in the future,' [nor does it require] ultra-advanced technology. It must have a fictitious world, a society that does not in fact exist, but is predicated on our known society... that comes out of our world, the one we know: This world must be different from the given one in at least one way, and this one way must be sufficient to give rise to events that could not occur in our society…
I like that because it perfectly includes X-Men but not Lord of the Rings.
But that’s all very heady and collegiate. How ‘bout something a wee bit simpler. I offer this checklist. If your story has any of the following items playing a major role in the plot, we would consider it SciFi:
THE OTHER WORLDS AUSTIN SCIFI CHECKLIST
(Blade Runner, Terminator, Alien, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Day The Earth Stood Still,Westworld, Star Wars, Short Circuit, Alien, The Iron Giant, Wall-E, Metropolis, Star Trek: Next Generation, Robot & Frank, Battlestar Galactica (original series), Black Hole, Robocop, Transformers, AI)
(Alien, Star Wars, Star Trek, Contact, Event Horizon, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, War of the Worlds, The Fifth Element, District 9, Cloverfield, Avatar, The Matrix, The Thing, Predator, The Abyss, Flash Gordon, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Superman, Battlestar Galactica (original Series), Stargate, E.T., Dune, Men In Black, V., Mars Attacks, Plan 9 from Outer Space, Super 8, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Earth Girls Are Easy, Cucoon, Species, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Signs)
(Alien, The Day The Earth Stood Still, Star Wars, Contact, Event Horizon, Wall-E, Star Trek, 2001, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, War of the Worlds, Solaris, The Fifth Element, District 9, Cloverfield, Avatar, Moon, Sunshine, Serenity/Firefly, Flash Gordon, Planet of the Apes, Battlestar Gallactica, Stargate, Black Hole, Dune, Apollo 18, Battle Beyond the Stars, Pitch Black)
(The Matrix, Inner Space, Tron, Inception, Flatliners, Dreamscape, Being John Malkovich, Total Recall, The Lawnmower Man, The Cell)
(The Time Machine, Looper, Primer, Terminator, Time Bandits, 12 Monkeys, Donnie Darko, Time Bandits, Back to the Future, Hot Tub Time Machine, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Time Crimes, Time Cop, The Philadelphia Experiment, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home, Midnight in Paris, Peggy Sue Got Married, Groundhog Day)
◻︎Parallel Universes/Alternate Realities
(The Matrix, The Thirteenth Floor, The Wizard of Oz, Terminator, Battlestar Galactica (new series), Time Bandits, The Adjustment Bureau, eXistenZ, Vanilla Sky, Pleasantville, Dark City, Being John Malkovich, Another Earth, Upside Down, Last Action Hero, The Truman Show, Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series, Run Lola Run, Thor, White Man’s Burden, The Golden Compass)
◻︎A Historical Setting in an Alternate Past That Contradicts Historical Record
(Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, It Happened Here, Stargate, All Planet of the Apes movies after the 2nd one, Watchmen, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Southland Tales, Wild Wild West, Iron Sky, Time After Time, Warehouse 13, Sliders)
◻︎Geo-Political Allegory through alternate society examples
(1984, Dr. Stranglove, Gattaca, Metropolis, Clockwork Orange, Logan’s Run, Battlestar Galactica (new series), Tron, Demolition Man, District 9, Planet of the Apes, Starship Trooper, Dawn of the Dead, Shivers, V for Vendetta, White Man’s Burden, Fight Club, The Golden Compass)
◻︎Dystopian or Post-Apocalyptic Settings
(Blade Runner, The Matrix, Terminator, Sleeper, Metropolis, Clockwork Orange, 12 Monkeys, The Time Machine, Farenheit 451, Planet of the Apes, The Omega Man, Soylent Green, Mad Max, Robocop, Demolition Man, Waterworld, Children of Men, The Wall, Code 46, Cloud Atlas, Judge Dredd, Escape from New York, THX 1138, V for Vendetta, Rollerball, Idiocracy, AI, Delicatessan, Minority Report, Brazil, The Hunger Games, Jericho)
◻︎Cyberpunk, Steampunk and Dieselpunk Settings
(Blade Runner, Serenity/Firefly, The Time Machine, Time Bandits, Dune, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Matrix, Johnny Mnemonic, Strange Days, Hardware, Minority Report, City of Lost Children, Frankenstein’s Army, Sherlock Holmes (new Robert Downey Jr films), Stardust, Van Helsing, Wild Wild West, The Golden Compass, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Sucker Punch, Warehouse 13, Time After Time, Captasin America: The First Avenger, Brazil, Rocketeer, From Hell, Hellboy)
◻︎Invented Technology with Unexpected Consequences
(The Fly, 2001, Contact, Sleeper, Dr. Strangelove, Frankenstein, Gattaca, The Abyss, 12 Monkeys, Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, The Invisible Man, Godzilla, The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Andromeda Strain, Tron, War Games, Back to the Future, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Primer, X-Men, Total Recall, The Prestige)
(Star Wars, Star Trek, Serenity/Firefly, Donnie Darko, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Superman, Dune, X-Men, Minority Report, The Prestige, The X-Files, Ghostbusters, The Sixth Sense, Scanners, Heroes, Carrie, Jumper, Chronicle, From Hell, The Hulk, Knowing, Stir of Echoes, Black Hole, Spiderman, Hellboy, Push, Next, Hereafter, What Women Want, That’s So Raven)
I hope that helps you classify your own story and if it can fit any of the above categories, or fall under any of the above definitions, we would love for you to submit it!