Hi crew! 👋🏻 Last month I talked about horror subgenres that don’t work for me, and I want to flip the script and talk about my favourite sci-fi subgenres instead.
There are very few sci-fi subgenres that I actively avoid – like hard sci-fi and military sci-fi – which means that it’s a lot easier to talk about the subgenres that are my favourites.
Dystopian is a subgenre that we haven’t seen a lot of in recent years after the huge boom of YA dystopian series that came out in the early 2010s, but it will always have a special place in my heart because dystopian fiction is where I started my journey into sci-fi outside of Futurama and Dragon Ball Z.
You would expect me to go from Uglies to other YA dystopian series, but I actually went from Uglies to the harder stuff by reading Nineteen Eighty-Four when I was fourteen years old. I didn’t really understand it other than knowing that it’s a satire of the Soviet Union at the time, but I didn’t know that much about George Orwell’s personal politics. Now I know that he was a democratic socialist who thought that communists weren’t left-wing enough, but back then all I knew was that totalitarianism was, and still is, a terrible thing. Also, I shouldn’t have to explain why the Soviet Union was not the communist utopia that people today try to prop it up as. Stalin and Mao were not the right people to base your political beliefs on.
Examples: Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Hunger Games, Uglies, A Clockwork Orange, The Handmaid’s Tale.
Cyberpunk is a subgenre that I thought I wasn’t well versed in, but that was just because I thought it was just people with metal body parts running around shooting laser guns. That’s a huge common misconception and cyberpunk is a lot more than that. Cyberpunk borrows heavily from hard-boiled detective fiction and deconstructs the idea of a technological utopia and often presents a dystopia where technology is used and abused for profit and pleasure.
This is a subgenre that I’m still coming to understand fully so I can’t comment on the philosophy that’s often present in cyberpunk, but I’ll come to get it in time.
Examples: Blade Runner/Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Ready Player One, Akira, The Matrix,
Tech-noir could technically be a subgenre of a subgenre since it slots into cyberpunk very nicely. The main theme of tech-noir is technology being a dangerous thing that can threaten humankind, and while I don’t think of technology in that way, it is interesting to see how tech-noir works explore it.
These kinds of stories usually circle around violent crimes, like film noir does, and it does it in a stylised way that comments on society. For example, RoboCop has themes of police corruption, corporate greed, and personal identity set against a gritty urban Detroit setting. It fits very well into the cyberpunk subgenre, but I think it’s a great example of tech-noir too.
Examples: RoboCop, The Terminator.
Horror is my favourite genre ever, with sci-fi very close behind, and when those two combine together, magical things happen for me. Space is a terrifying place that I would never want to go to, and science can be used to do some horrifying things to people and the world around us.
I love seeing the differing attitudes towards science in fiction and I often feel that horror can be the perfect place to explore the more dangerous sides and aspects, such as genetic engineering going horrifically wrong.
Examples: The Thing (1982), The Fly (1986), Alien, Frankenstein, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Re-Animator.
‘Kaiju’ translates from Japanese into English as ‘strange beast’ and is a term often used to describe giant monsters that appear in Japanese media. So if they’re monsters, you’d think this would be a horror subgenre, right? Well, yes and no. The original Godzilla movie from 1954 is absolutely a horror movie but as time has gone on, the series has fully embraced science fiction.
Kaiju can be from the Earth or from different planets, they can be fought off with mundane weapons, fantastical sci-fi weapons, or with giant robots, and they can be metaphorical in nature. Godzilla, for example, is representative of nuclear weapons and reflects the fears that post-war Japan had over atomic power.
And sometimes kaiju are just really cool and don’t mean anything, and that’s fine too.
Examples: Godzilla franchise, Pacific Rim, King Kong, Cloverfield, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Attack on Titan,
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What are some of your favourite sci-fi subgenres?