Social Commentary in Science Fiction and Fantasy

Fire Breathing Dragon

How are science fiction and fantasy fiction literature defined? Are their certain criteria that need to be met? Should these genres continue to constantly center around social commentary? For decades, science fiction has been strongly defined by the portrayal of societal issues and how they affect or could affect the general populace, hence the alternative genre title of speculative fiction.

Fantasy has had a more relaxed criterion. There is clearly much of the fantasy genre that comments on matters present in the time these pieces are written, but are not quite as “in your face” as science fiction. Should fantasy fiction be as intensely focused on social commentary as science fiction?

With the influx of popularity in these genres as they are introduced to mainstream media, here is a thought: should these genres give us more than amusement and distraction? That is the question that Damien Walter asks in his article for The Guardian, titled “Should Science Fiction and Fantasy Do More Than Entertain?”

Should creators of fantasy stories have the self-awareness to properly represent gender and race in their work? (I'm going to step out of rhetorical mode for just a moment to say, yes, they bloody well should.) As a writer and as a reviewer, and in my quest for weird, I find that those writers who make a critical understanding of fantasy part of their work create better stories than those who remain, sometimes deliberately, ignorant of it.

Read the rest of Walter’s article here.