The genre of science fiction is one of the most well-known and popular of all literary genres, despite being one of the more recent compared with others, such as adventure, romance and horror. The term itself became popular during the 1920s when it began to be used by the American publisher Hugo Gernsback, although the term has been retroactively applied to a lot of works written before the 20th century as well.
A lot of writers before the 20th century, such as H.G. Wells, made attempts to imagine futures populated with advanced technologies, most of which have been either made redundant by existing technological innovation or are now deemed impossible. It was not until the initial start of the 20th century that many science fiction writers attempted to limit themselves to more realistic technical concepts, although this was more difficult to imagine before the advent of computer technology.
Several technological themes are prevalent in the science fiction genre, with space travel being one of the most well-known. The 1950s and 60s saw a massive increase in space-based science fiction, helped along by the space races which were taking place at that time. There are many common themes in space-based science fiction, ranging from near-future through to far-future. Near-future science fiction commonly revolves around manned trips to Mars, with the movie, ‘The Martian’, being a notable example in popular culture.
Further future science fiction tends to split into two different branches, with one focusing on what would happen if mankind progressed around its current rate, and the other branch which tends to focus on post-apocalyptic scenarios. Although not a book, Star Trek is one of the most well-known science fiction creations, depicting a future where humanity has managed to come together to explore and expand civilisation into the cosmos, and the show features several off-world settlements.
Post-apocalyptic science fiction typically features futuristic technology in a world which has been ravaged by either war or natural disaster. Much of the emphasis in these types of stories is about the struggle humanity has to go through, to rebuild alongside learning, to cope in a more naturalistic state.
The types of science fiction which are popular at any given time are seen as a representation of the general mood of society, with hopeful organisations trending more towards science fiction with positive outlooks, and negative or struggling societies tending to prefer more dystopian stories. However, this is not an exact trend, and both styles have been popular at almost every point in history, since the invention of the genre.
Science fiction is now an established genre and continues to grow in popularity, in both written media, as well as films and television shows.