Plenty of imitators have tried to match the heights of our No.1, but none have come close.
By Adrienne Westenfeld, March 21, 2022
Since time immemorial, mankind has been looking up at the stars and dreaming, but it was only centuries ago that we started turning those dreams into fiction.
And what remarkable dreams they are—dreams of distant worlds, unearthly creatures, parallel universes, artificial intelligence, and so much more. Today, we call those dreams science fiction.
Science fiction’s earliest inklings began in the mid-1600s, when Johannes Kepler and Francis Godwin wrote pioneering stories about voyages to the moon. Some scholars argue that science fiction as we now understand it was truly born in 1818, when Mary Shelley published Frankenstein, the first novel of its kind whose events are explained by science, not mysticism or miracles.
Now, two centuries later, sci-fi is a sprawling and lucrative multimedia genre with countless sub-genres, such as dystopian fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, and climate fiction, just to name a few. It’s also remarkably porous, allowing for some overlap with genres like fantasy and horror.
Sci-fi brings out the best in our imaginations and evokes a sense of wonder, but it also inspires a spirit of questioning. Through the enduring themes of sci-fi, we can examine the zeitgeist’s cultural context and ethical questions. Our favorite works in the genre make good on this promise, meditating on everything from identity to oppression to morality. As the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Doris Lessing said, “Science fiction is some of the best social fiction of our time.”