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Books and Reading: Science Fiction

An exploration of the science fiction genre past, present and future. Enjoy!



Science fiction is sometimes referred to as “Speculative Fiction”

Science fiction historical background

Science fiction has its’ origins in the industrial revolution and the technology that developed as a result.

Characteristics of science fiction

1.       Is speculative and usually set in the future.

2.       Explores moral, social intellectual, philosophical and ethical questions outside of everyday reality.

3.       Is evocative of another time, place or reality with these alternate worlds rooted in logic.

4.       Takes a rational approach to the world.

5.       Is written with ample technical and scientific details.

6.       Focuses on issues and an “atmospheric” setting.  Characters are generally secondary.

7.       Is often written as a series due to the complexity of creating another world.  Series feature continuing characters or characters that inhabit the same world for more than one book.

8.       Has a storyline that may unfold fast or slow.  If the emphasis is on physical action the pace may be faster.  If the emphasis is on ideas, the pace may be slower.


Science fiction literature has always had an active fan base that supports emerging authors and independent publishers.  Readers of this genre are also loyal to established writers further into their writing career.  Effort will be made to add works to this collection that are representative of both new and old(er) writers with an intentional focus on:  . 
  • Authors that are from or live in Minnesota.

  • Authors who have gained recognition by either winning or being shortlisted for Hugo, Nebula, or Arthur C. Clark awards



A dystopia is defined as “a community or society, usually fictional that is in some important way undesirable or frightening. It is the opposite of a utopia. . Dystopias are often characterized by dehumanization as a result of totalitarian governments, environmental disaster(s), or other characteristics associated with a cataclysmic decline in society.


 Works by the big three in science fiction include: Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert A. Heinlein.  The Northfield Library will endeavor to provide access to the signature work of each of these authors.

All science fiction subgenres are of enduring interest and the Northfield Library will endeavor to maintain a well-rounded collection that provides representative works from all these subgenres, including:

 1.       Alien invasion

2.       Androids, Robots and Cyborgs

3.       Alternate History

4.       Biotech

5.       Celestial bodies such as Mars and the Moon

6.       Classics ( Books that have literary merit and continued popularity)

7.       Cyberpunk

8.       Dystopias

9.       End of the world

10.   First contact

11.   Genetic engineering

12.   Killer computers

13.   Mutants

14.   Space operas

15.   Time Travel

16.   Science fiction humor (blended genre)

17.   Science fiction mysteries and thrillers (blended genre)

18.   Science fiction romance and religion

19.   Steampunk

20.   Virtual reality



Unlike the science fiction of the 1930s, 40s and 50s that were primarily about space travel, space warfare, alien contact, the far future, or colonizing other worlds.  Unlike, the optimistic space opera adventures of the 1960s and 70s, contemporary science fiction is darker and paradoxically set much closer in time and space, or far into the distant future. 

The subject of new speculative science fiction often focuses on post-humans, the post-human environment on earth, dystopias, explorations on the nature and existence of human consciousness, expanding possibilities of information processing and virtual reality technologies, artificial intelligence, and robots including human- mimicking companions.

The science fiction collection at the Northfield Library will include representative works that reflect these issues and others as they become more prevalent in the literature.


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