Science fiction literature: what it is, its emergence, characteristics and main authors.


What is science fiction literature?

Science fiction is often confused with fiction, being this the genre from which it originates. Thus, when we talk about science fiction we refer to a subgenre of literature, especially the narrative literary genre, which was officially born around the twentieth century from a series of explorations that would later serve as inspiration for the content of other artistic fields.

What is science fiction literature

Thus, science fiction includes all those texts in which its principle is the creation of works that are related to technology and science, often with the creation of future worlds and situations that evidence technological advances that will have an impact on the lives of human beings. However, it is necessary to mention that within its possibilities also emerge interests towards worlds characterized within the utopian, dystopian and / or uchronia, which we will talk about later.

Emergence of science fiction in literature

The origin of this type of literature, also applying the use of its term, is located in modernity, a moment in which science and technology are seen as renovating elements that can offer answers to a rational society, which is why there is an abundance of rational texts that look with positive eyes to the future.

Thus, the literary subgenre of fiction will be key at this time, especially in the form of science fiction and particularly from the utopia, a speculation of longing for a much better possible world, as it projects an ideal world. However, with the passage of time, modernity will begin to receive strong criticism, especially by the emerging literary movements, among which is Romanticism, which observes with disappointment the hopeful look of modernism as a solution to many problems of humanity of its time.

In this process and with these conditions, artists, in this case of literature, begin to explore and also to take up other spaces of unreality that will give rise to fantastic literature, science fiction and then to horror literature. In particular, the authors of science fiction speculate on the possible negative consequences of the arrival of science and technology, as well as the fear of what they do not know and in this sense to imagine new worlds in the future. Thus, the novel by Mary Shelley, called Frankenstein, will be the work that marks the beginning of this type of literature.

Periods and manifestations of science fiction literature

It is important to emphasize that this type of literature, in particular, has undergone an important evolution over time, a process from which other manifestations and expressions have emerged. We will take a tour through them to learn about their most important characteristics. Let’s see:

Primitive science fiction

It gathers that which takes place before the formalization of the genre. It often deals with fantastic journeys with the intention of entertaining. One of the texts included in this period is Thomas More’s Utopia.

Modern science fiction

The first exponents of the genre appear, characterized by laying the first foundations of its development. Authors such as Jules Verne, Mary Shelley and H.G. Wells, will be the first representatives before a society of imminent changes.

Golden Age

It is considered the moment of greatest boom of the genre with a great diffusion of texts of this genre that begin to make their way in the literary world. Authors such as John W Campbell appear, as well as key magazines such as Space Opera and Pulp.

Silver Age

In its evolution, this next stage is characterized by the division of magazines and a greater maturity around the development in which elements of destruction appear in the texts. Important authors such as Isaac Asimov and Robert A.

New wave

This period implies a change in relation to the style handled in the works, as well as the recognition of other authors who give greater diffusion to science fiction. They increase the level of speculation and it will be seen in works by authors such as Brian W. Aldiss and Robert Silverbeg, among others.


It arises in the 80’s where a distrust of science is experienced at the same time that advances in the world of technology are observed. The authors opt for dystopian futures in which humans are dominated by new technologies.


It observes technological advances with optimistic eyes and is interested in new technologies where the characters maintain and improve science. However, it is a manifestation that has not had as much development or diffusion compared to the previous ones.

Development of science fiction literature

Development of science fiction literature

In short, a text is considered science fiction when its content is an assumption or exaggeration in the creations, based on technology and science. One of the fields in which this type of literature has grown fundamentally has been in the narrative genre, particularly in the short story and the novel. However, it is also possible to find this type of literature in other fields such as cinema and adapted to video games, comics, among others.

Now, it is time to know the three most important divisions of science fiction literature and which are its most important characteristics, adopted by a great variety of authors who have created fundamental works for the literary world. Among them we find the following:

Social science fiction

According to the invention, in this section we find works that take place in scenarios that develop either in the future or in the historical past of mankind. In them we find utopia, dystopia and uchronia.


The term Utopia comes from Thomas More’s work Utopia, although at that time it did not have the notion that is used today. Utopia refers to an ideal reality or a project that is desired and can be realized. In literature, it will be works that present a kind of ideal society in which the author imagines a possible perfection according to its organization, for example.


Related to the previous modality, these are stories of a future considered as perverse utopias or lacking utopias. It often includes elements such as an oppressive government, domination of human freedoms, as well as a denial of human rights. 1984 is one of the most important works of this type, written by George Orwell.


This third format is based on the assumption of a change in a known historical event, and in this sense, the possible consequences it would have on the future of human beings. One of the most important works of this modality is The Man in the High Castle written by Philip K. Dick.

Post-apocalyptic science fiction

In this section are all those works that have as a point of development disasters that reduce much of humanity, where the authors focus on the course of the stories of those who manage to survive. One of the most important works is the book World War Z written by Max Brooks.

Military science fiction

As the name suggests, these are works in which varied themes are explored in relation to soldiers and the battles they face. Many of them are focused on the feelings of soldiers after participating in war conflicts.

Space colonization

It includes all those works in which human beings have the intention of conquering planets, for example. In their journey, they reveal processes such as the desire to perpetuate the human species, explore the universe, among others.

Space opera

These are works characterized by using galactic scenarios in which fights or confrontations take place, but also romance and other relationships that take place in this type of places within science fiction.

Time travel

This is one of the most important subgenres of science fiction and one of those that has gathered the most interest. It includes here texts whose development involves time travel through portals, machines, dreams, among other processes.


And in this last section, also known as punk, it includes a great variety of modalities. They express concrete ideas, in particular, as a response to a specific historical moment. Steampunk includes scenarios from the Victorian era of the 19th century with important inventions; dieselpunk takes place between the period of World War I and World War II; cyberpunk relates elements such as futurism and dystopia; and biopunk presents decadent futuristic societies with combinations of biotechnology.

Characteristics of science fiction

Characteristics of science fiction in the literary field

After reviewing the above information, it is time to take a look at those features that have consolidated the foundations of one of the most important subgenres of the literary world in its modalities and that will be key to its further development. Among them we find the following:

Possible world

One of the most important characteristics on which this type of texts are created is that they are based on the invention of a possible world. In this process, the authors set up plausible situations in a subsequent world where they begin to narrate each of the events that take place there. In this way and with the reader’s interpretation, in the course of the reading, the possible world becomes the real world.

Reality is not pretended

The premise of this type of texts is not to pretend that the facts presented, the environment, the world and its characters can pass as real. The difference in this type of literature is that the author makes a pact with the reader in which the latter assumes as real the world that is presented in the development of the story. That is why this process has also been called a fictional pact.

Marks of fictionality

These are elements that are strange if we start from a look from the real world but that, in the process, become those that allow the construction of this possible world. Thus, among them we find elements such as planets different from the earth, subway cities, extraterrestrial creatures, spaceships, among others.

Scientific and technological discourse

One of the most important features that also lay the foundations of this type of literature is the authors’ interest in both scientific and technological discourse, from which they start to raise new possibilities by questioning reality. Likewise, various related themes emerge, such as death, life and time, which are transcendental.

Artificial Intelligence

Hand in hand with the technological discourse, artificial intelligence is one of the most frequent aspects, especially in science fiction literature of recent years, where robotics plays a fundamental role in the course of the stories, solving and generating reflections about human beings in relation to their own progress, but also with creation and nature.

Adventure in space

Often fiction and in it the science fiction literature is interested in the journeys around the universe, a process that is possible through the speculation of life on other planets and that gives rise to themes such as the cultures of extraterrestrial creatures, also the discovery of the origin of the universe, among others.

Natural phenomena

This is an element that we will see mainly in one of its aspects such as dystopia, where the authors use science and technology as driving forces of natural phenomena that later become allies for humans to continue their life on earth.

Export of science fiction

The use of elements such as technology, which have been of great interest to a large part of the reading world, has also attracted the attention of other fields that have adapted the works of this type of literature to their own formats. Thus, it is possible to find this type of texts in film and television versions, especially.

Comparison of worlds

Some texts of this type of literature base their plot on a kind of comparison that relates the real world with the world they propose. This is done in order to analyze the real world facing a new possibility in which the reader must pose the verisimilitude of these through the pact of fiction, as we have already mentioned.

Authors of science fiction literature

Authors of science fiction literature

We end our journey through science fiction with a series of important authors who have developed and set the guidelines for its continuation in the literary world. In this sense, we have authors such as: Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Mary W. Shelley, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Brian W. Aldiss, Robert Silverberg, Phillip K. Dick, Ray Bradbury, Stanislav Lem, Adolfo Bioy Casares, Jorge Luis Borges, John W Campbell, among others.

We can also identify important works that emerge from their different stages of evolution. Thus, we can find the following: Flowers for Algernon, The Demolished Man, I Die Inside, Amazing Stories by Hugo Gernsback, I, Robot by Isaac Asimov, Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke, Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, I Am Legend by Robert Matheson, The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares, Neuromancer by William Gibson, Utopia by Thomas More, The Republic by Plato, City of the Sun by Thomas Campanella.