Dissertation Conclusion

“At first glance, it might appear to invite self-evident definition, as detective fiction is fiction about detectives and the art of solving crimes. Yet this is not the case, as is proved by the innumerable attempts that have been made to define it. On close inspection, science-fiction turns out to be a highly self-conscious genre; that is, the way it has been defined has an unusually close and symbiotic relationship with the way it has been written.”
Science-Fiction: Its Criticism And Teaching, p.1

Science-fiction appears to be indefinable. I believe that the best way to get close to what the genre really is is to define certain criteria, which if they can be applied to a book, film or television programme would classify something as science-fiction. The categories I have used appear infrequently, if at all, in other genres.

National identity can lend a way of seeing to the genre; examining the cultural life of the English, the Americans or other nationalities provides an insight into ourselves, particularly our quirks of character. Feelings about the current political climate also show through; the original ‘Star Trek’ was optimistic about peace, love and understanding across cultural divides. Now, series such as ‘The X-Files’ and ‘Dark Skies’ show a controlling and manipulative government, often in league with other major world powers not to make life better for the good of the rest of the world’s population, but to render them powerless. No other genre is as concerned with showing the innate resourcefulness of the human race, and their ability to survive anything that is thrown at them.

Science-fiction is also making more accurate predictions as it is projecting ideas into a much closer future. The science and fiction elements are becoming more closely interconnected, where writers are showing the scientists how their theories could be wrong and correcting them, and occasionally providing new ideas worth investigating in the future. Fiction writers can also look back and consider how previous scientific experiments may have failed and why. Providing theories about where technology is taking us is vitally important, bringing up ethical considerations that may not have been considered, as well as pointing out dangers. Although nuclear power was originally believed to be the answer to the world’s energy problems in fact and fiction, some authors saw the potential for disaster that it provided long before the Chernobyl disaster. No other genre can claim to have invented the latest technological miracles or warned about the dangers of artificial intelligence before they were a reality.

The entertainment factor of science-fiction can also become a means to an end. ‘Jurassic Park’ gave a powerful condemnation of the dangers of genetics, but the fact that it was simultaneously entertaining enabled its message to get into the minds of those watching or reading it without them realising it. Worlds which are too harsh and bleak can be depressing and off-putting, stopping ideas being communicated.

The key to science-fiction is the astonishing ability it has to cross all barriers;

1/ Science-fiction is read and watched by the young and the old because of the way it operates on a child’s level of fun stories, while adults can discern a deeper meaning.

2/ There is always a light at the end of the tunnel. However pessimistic the vision of the future there are optimistic points. For all the problems in Orwell’s world of ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’, at least there is no prejudice. Gibson’s cyberpunk world can be just as thrilling as it can be sinister.

3/ Science-fiction has the ability to adapt almost any genre into its own by giving it a slightly different twist. In ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ alone, there have been stories that could be classed as romance, western, horror, mythological, detective fiction, film noir, comedy, courtroom drama and historical tales, and they all work as examples of both one of the above and science-fiction simultaneously. Therefore, it can include something for all tastes.

4/ The media crossover works in a similar way; science-fiction works no less effectively whether it is as a book, a film, a CD-ROM, a radio show or a television programme, as my examples have shown, and each type of media adds something new. Combined, the experience is complete. As this quote says, once someone is drawn into the science-fiction world, it is difficult not to get caught up in, above all else, the fun of it all:

“Without its unorthodox vocabulary and grammar, its generic intertextuality, science-fiction is next to meaningless. Once acquired, it becomes a tongue muscular in the expression of cognitive excitement, wonder, awe, astonishment: states and emotions repressed in a workaday world.”
Reading By Starlight, p.8


Factual Works

The Cinema Book edited by Pam Cook British Film Institute, 1985

The Cyborg Handbook edited by Chris Hables-Grey Routledge, 1995

Doctor Who: The First Doctor Handbook by David Howe, Mark Stammers & Stephen James Walker Virgin, 1992

Doctor Who: The Third Doctor Handbook by David Howe & Stephen James Walker Virgin, 1996

A Pictorial History Of Science-Fiction by David Kyle Hamlyn, 1977

Potboilers by Jerry Palmer Routledge, 1991

Reading By Starlight by Damien Broderick Routledge, 1995

The Red Dwarf Programme Guide by Steve Lyons & Chris Howarth Virgin, 1993

Science-Fiction Filmmaking In The 1980’s by Jean Marc Lofficier McFarland, 1995

Science-Fiction In The 20th Century by Edward James Oxford University Press, 1994

Science-Fiction: Its Criticism And Teaching by Patrick Parrinder Methuen, 1980

Science-Fiction-The Illustrated Encyclopaedia by John Clute Dorling Kindersley, 1995

The Star Trek Compendium by Allan Asherman Titan, 1987

The Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion by Larry Nemecek Titan, 1995

State Of The Fantastic edited by Nicholas Ruddick Greenwood Press, 1992

Them And Us by Patrick Luciano Indiana, 1987

Fictional Works

Discworld Books by Terry Pratchett 1986-Present (Gollancz)

Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick 1968 (Rapp & Whiting)

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley 1818 (Unknown)

From The Earth To The Moon by Jules Verne 1865 (Unknown)

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien 1937 (George Allen & Unwin)

The Island Of Doctor Moreau by HG Wells 1896 (Unknown)

Journey To The Centre Of The Earth by Jules Verne 1864 (Unknown)

The Lord Of The Rings by JRR Tolkien 1954/55 (George Allen & Unwin)

Neuromancer by William Gibson 1984 (Gollancz)

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell 1949 (Unknown)

A Sound Of Thunder by Ray Bradbury 1996 (Topps Comics)

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne 1870 (Unknown)

The Time Machine by HG Wells 1895 (Unknown)

The War Of The Worlds by HG Wells 1898 (Unknown)

We Can Remember It For You Wholesale by Philip K. Dick 1987 (Rapp & Whiting)


Batman Comics DC Comics, 1939-Present

Doctor Who Magazine (Various issues/articles) Marvel UK, 1996/1997

Superman Comics DC Comics, 1938-Present

TV Zone (Various issues/articles) Visual Imagination, 1989-1997

Voyager 38 Bristol Starfleet Registry, 1996

Web sites






Back To The Future (Robert Zemeckis, US, 1985)

Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, US, 1982)

Escape From New York (John Carpenter, US, 1981)

Judge Dredd (Danny Cannon, UK/US, 1996)

Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, US, 1993)

Mad Max (George Miller, Aus., 1979)

Metropolis (Fritz Lang, Ger., 1926)

Robocop (Paul Verhoeven, US, 1987)

Star Wars: A New Hope (George Lucas, US, 1977)

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kershner, US, 1980)

Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi (Richard Marquand, US, 1983)

The Terminator (James Cameron, US, 1984)

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (James Cameron, US, 1991)

Total Recall (Paul Verhoeven, US, 1990)

War Of The Worlds (Byron Haskin, US, 1953)

Westworld (Michael Crichton, US, 1973)

Television Series

Alien Nation 1989-Present (US)

The Avengers 1961-1969 (UK)

Babylon 5 1993-Present (US)

Doctor Who 1963-1996 (UK)

Hercules: The Legendary Journeys 1995-Present (US)

The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy 1978 (UK)

Quantum Leap 1989-1994 (US)

Sliders 1995-Present (US)

Star Trek 1966-1969 (US)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine 1993-Present (US)

Star Trek: The Next Generation 1987-1994 (US)

Star Trek: Voyager 1995-Present (US)

Red Dwarf 1988-Present (UK)

Xena: Warrior Princess 1996-Present (US)

The X-Files 1993-Present (US)

I hope you found my dissertation interesting. Now you could return to the Portfolio page or to the front page.

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