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University of Texas University of Texas Libraries

Science Fiction

A guide to the UT Libraries science fiction collection for research and leisure reading.

Glossary of Genres

Glossary of Genres

Here are some definitions for common Science Fiction terms and genres/subgenres. Click the links below to see our "Starter Pack" recommended books.

Science fiction - Fiction that explores worlds with imagined innovations in science and/or technology. Often dives into the consequences of these innovations.

Speculative fiction - An umbrella term that covers works and genres with elements that separate them from reality such as magic or the supernatural. Science fiction, fantasy, horror, alternative histories, and more can be considered speculative fiction.

Space opera - Think Star Trek or Star Wars: a subgenre of science fiction that features grand adventure in space. Often includes depictions of aliens and advanced technology like faster-than-light travel.

Climate fiction (Cli-Fi) - Science fiction that deals with the impact of climate change, usually on Earth but can include fictional planets. Cli-fi works can be either utopic or dystopic/apocalyptic and often take place in a near future.

Cyberpunk - A subgenre of science fiction that blends advanced technology with societal collapse or decay. Many cyberpunk works use elements from hard boiled detective fiction and film noir.

Steampunk - A genre that features the technology and aesthetics of the 19th century’s steam-powered machinery. These works tend to take place in alternative history settings, such as reimagining the Victorian era with advanced, steam-powered technology. Steampunk can also include elements of fantasy, horror, and more.

Solarpunk - The utopian counterpart to cyberpunk, solarpunk is a subgenre of science fiction that explores a future where advanced technology is used to create a sustainable society.

Dystopian fiction - A speculative fiction genre that explores an oppressive or otherwise undesirable society. Authors often draw upon contemporary political issues when crafting their dystopias.

Utopian fiction - A speculative fiction genre that envisions a perfect and ideal society. Utopias can be read as critiques on contemporary society or they can be seen as goals to aspire to.

Human-Alien Encounter - A subgenre of science fiction that involves stories of humans meeting/interacting with extraterrestrial beings. This genre can overlap with space opera.


Carol Pettijohn created new content and updated this page during Summer 2023.

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