Science fiction is one of the most popular genres today. Although existing in the books first, the genre has expanded into movies, TV shows, and other mediums. This is because it is so versatile it works with just about everything. Regardless of whether you read or watch sci-fi, you’ll find the most common sci-fi themes that have defined the genre there.
These themes are now almost automatically connected with science fiction. If you encounter a book that talks about the first contact with aliens or explores time travel and alternate history, you’ll know immediately that you’re reading a work of science fiction. And you’ll probably try to find other books that feature similar themes.
Apart from these interesting themes, science fiction is also popular because it explores certain questions we all have. They have to do with who we are, where we are going, what the future might look like, and whether Earth is the only inhabited planet. That innate desire to find out more about ourselves and seek answers to questions is what draws us to science fiction.
As this genre is so gripping, we decided to explore four most common sci-fi themes. If you’re a devoted fan of science fiction, you’ll immediately recognize some of the themes and remember in which books or movies you’ve encountered them before.
Let’s check them out!
First Contact with Aliens
Every human being has wondered whether aliens exist. There is something in us that refuses to believe we’re the only ones in the universe. In short, there has to be someone else in a galaxy far away or on another planet. It would be more peculiar to us if we were the only living souls. Our fascination with aliens has found its way to science fiction.
First contact with aliens is one of the most common sci-fi themes. In fact, we would say it is the most recurring one. Although we haven’t encountered real aliens (yet), the protagonists in science fiction have. And there’s a part of us that envy them for it!
Usually, when people encounter aliens in this genre, things go downhill from there. Rarely do two races live in harmony. Quite the contrary, they are immediately embroiled in war, trying to prove their dominance.
Extraterrestrials in science fiction are often far more advanced than humans. They have technology that is foreign to us, which helps them spread their cause and take over the world. But a protagonist appears — a legendary being who will stop at nothing to prevent aliens from making slaves out of humans. Whether they succeed or not depends on the imagination of the author or screenwriter.
Out of all sci-fi themes, this one comes to mind first. But there are other themes that have kept our imagination running.
Truth be told, the first theme is often combined with the first one. Once humans in sci-fi start exploring space, they find extraterrestrials during their journey. And it’s never an easy ride. It usually entails wars, bloody conflicts, and casualties. But let’s focus on space exploration only.
Humans have always been fascinated with space. It seems foreign to us and we want to learn more about it. Not to mention that some of us dream of traveling to space or inhabiting colonies far away from Earth. In real life, there aren’t opportunities for that. But we can find them while reading or watching a work of science fiction. That is thanks to the most common sci-fi themes.
Movies, TV shows, or books that revolve around space exploration are usually set in a distant future. Technology has evolved so much by that point that it enables humans to travel faster and longer. This creates opportunities for deep space exploration.
While there, they might come across strange beings who seem undefeatable. Of course, some works in the genre take an alien-less approach. They just feature humans in space who have been sent there on a mission. Something always goes wrong, though. An engine malfunctions, someone catches an odd disease, or the crew loses contact with Earth.
Regardless of the approach to space exploration, readers or viewers are gripped. They don’t want to stop reading or watching for fear of missing some good parts.
Aside from these two, there are other sci-themes that engage lovers of this genre!
Time travel is an interesting concept. Imagine if you had an ability to travel through time and witness some historic events. Would you take advantage of that opportunity? We know we would! Who wouldn’t want to have a chance to fix some past mistakes or reconsider certain decisions? For now, that’s only possible in science fiction.
In sci-fi, stories featuring time travel focus on the consequences such an ability would have on the past or the future. The main reason for time travel in these works is to change history. If you alter the past, then the future changes for the better. The time traveler returns home and sees how things have improved due to their time traveling abilities.
In certain books or movies, time travel is an absolute necessity. A protagonist decides to go back in time to find out how their predecessors fought a mutual foe. That could be megacorporations or secret societies that are detrimental to citizens. The only way to resist them is to visit the past and see how others have done it before them.
This is one of the most explored sci-fi themes. And we understand why. There is a certain appeal in the ability to travel through time. Imagine how helpful that would be to our society as well!
Artificial Intelligence and Advanced Technology
Artificial intelligence and advanced technology is an integral part of science fiction. It is one of the main things that differentiates these fictional worlds from the real one. Although our technology has advanced a lot over the years, it still doesn’t come close to the one featured in science fiction.
In science fiction, we encounter machines with human-like intelligence. Usually, a movie, TV show, or book want to show us the effects of creating such intelligence. And those effects aren’t good at all. For most part they involve rebellious robots that turn against their very creators.
The most famous example would be HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. This murderous onboard computer will do everything to stop the crew from abandoning their mission. There are other examples, of course. There is a more benign R2-D2 in Star Wars or the robot in WALL-E. Currently, we can encounter all of them in science fiction. That is why AI is one of the most popular sci-fi themes!
As far as technology is concerned, protagonists and other characters in science fiction often have weapons or objects we still can’t make in real life. There are flying cars, self-replicating machines, plasma weaponry, or cyberweapons. Everything you’d want to see in real life!
Those are the four most common sci-fi themes. Have you encountered them before? Was it in a movie or book?