5 Growing Subgenres In The World Of Sci-Fi

Be it movies or books, the world of Science Fiction is expanding faster than ever. For all of us Sci-Fi junkies out there – that’s great news. With a growing variety of subgenres emerging, it can be difficult to keep up, though.

While some of these subgenres have been around for over a century, they are experiencing a resurgence in popularity. Here are 5 up-and-coming subgenres you’ll want to keep tabs on.

If you’re already familiar with some of these, recommend some of your favorite books and authors in the comments below.

1. Multiverse Sci-Fi

Multiverse - Sci-Fi Subgenres. Inspiration for Writers. BerniceRayHollins.com
photo credit: Alessio Lin

While the definition of Multiverse Sci-Fi might vary from author to author, it all revolves around the theory that there are an infinite amount of multiple universes that exist simultaneously. Even more intriguing is the possibility of multiple versions of ourselves, varying slightly or dramatically from universe to universe.

Multiverse Science Fiction usually revolves around a character learning how to transport themselves to, and explore, these alternate universes. Characters will inevitably encounter different versions of their lives – with slight or dramatic divergences.

The concept of multiverse theory certainly raises some thought-provoking questions. And incorporating the theory into fiction leads to complex plotlines that alienate more casual readers. Multiverse Sci-Fi is ideal for readers looking to explore deeper truths with a healthy dose of physics.

Classic Example: The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

Contemporary Example: Brasyl by Ian McDonald

2. Utopian Sci-Fi

Utopian - Sci-Fi Subgenres. Inspiration for Writers. BerniceRayHollins.com
photo credit: Hon Kim

We’ve been immersed in a flood of Dystopian Sci-Fi recently, it’s time for Utopian Science Fiction to make more of a splash. Utopian Sci-Fi explores how humanity achieves paradise – a world without hunger, war, and other unpleasant aspects of society.

Utopian Sci-Fi usually includes social and political themes alongside scientific themes of advancing knowledge and technology. Since Utopian society doesn’t inherently involve conflict, be ready for underlying Dystopian themes lying under the surface.

This subgenre is typically low on the spectrum of characterization and plot complexity but brings up a lot of philosophical questions to ponder.

Classic Example: Island by Aldous Huxley

Contemporary Example: Uglies by Scott Westerfield

3. Science Fantasy Sci-Fi

Science Fantasy - Sci-Fi Subgenres. Inspiration for Writers. BerniceRayHollins.com
photo credit: Emil Jarfelt

Science Fantasy is a hybrid subgenre that encompasses the magical elements of Fantasy and science of Sci-Fi. It first emerged in the 1930s and generally ignored the rules of science for the sake of the story. As Science Fantasy has evolved as a subgenre, elements have included science developing to the point that it starts to resemble magic more than science.

This hybrid subgenre opens up infinite possibilities for world building, characterization, and plots. While the level of real science is usually pretty low, the incorporation of magic allows more focus to be placed on storytelling.

Classic Example: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Contemporary Example: The Skinner by Neal Asher

4. Dying Earth Sci-Fi

Dying Earth - Sci-Fi Subgenres. Inspiration for Writers. BerniceRayHollins.com

Usually set in the far future, the Dying Earth subgenre focuses on a doomed planet. Barren landscapes are a backdrop for sentiments of melancholy and weariness. Dying Earth is similar to Apocalyptic Sci-Fi, but it emphasizes the end of time, rather than a catastrophic event.

Themes of forgotten technology and science allow for more fantastical elements in these stories. This sub-genre lends itself to some overlap with the Fantasy genre, as stories often envision extraordinary versions of the planet’s future.

The Dying Earth subgenre tends to have sweeping plotlines with a great deal of complexity that spans the entire globe.

Classic Example: The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

Contemporary Example: Confluence: The Trilogy by Paul McAuley

5. Restored Eden Sci-Fi

Restored Eden - Sci-Fi Subgenres. Inspiration for Writers. BerniceRayHollins.com
photo credit: Alexandre Godreau

In the Restored Eden subgenre, stories depict an Earth where humanity has long since moved on from the planet or become extinct altogether. Earth is left to become a sort of paradise, usually with either the help of new inhabitants or a species that has been able to fully evolve without humans around.

Restored Eden often explores themes of humanity’s destructive tendencies – whether it be from advances in technology or abuse of natural resources. Science converges with philosophy in these types of stories.

A common plotline in this subgenre involves a human character returning to the healed planet and discovering what life forms have made Earth their home.

Classic Example: Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle

Contemporary Example: The Books of Ember by Jeanne Duprau

Of course, there’s an abundance of other Sci-Fi subgenres to explore, and new ones always being created. What are some of your favorite subgenres of the Science Fiction world at the moment?

3 Replies to “5 Growing Subgenres In The World Of Sci-Fi”

  1. Star Trek is a good example of Utopian sci-fi, at least as far as the Federation is concerned. It was very different from much of the military or conflict driving novels of its time. The quintessential example of Science Fantasy would probably be Star Wars, at least for those unwilling to put it fully into the fantasy genre.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Star Trek is probably my favorite example of that genre, as it strikes a balance between Utopian ideals while still creating conflict in its subject matter.

      Star Wars certainly has more of a fantasy feel and many people would categorize it as a classic Space Opera.

      Liked by 1 person

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