Help! I need a new name for my sub-genre. Mad Science Instituteis clearly science fiction—what other genre could handle cloned lizard-monsters, EMP weapons, and a robot scorpion-dog? My trouble is that people automatically assume that sci-fi means it’s set in the distant future or on a distant planet or both.
But Mad Science Institute takes place right now, with characters who bring dangerous, game-changing technologies into the world as it is today. I’m not aware of any sub-genres that would properly describe this novel, so I want your help in finding or creating a name for these kinds of stories.
I’m not alone in this sub-genre. Michael Chrichton gave us numerous stories of discoveries that change our world, from cloned dinosaurs in Jurassic Park to deadly nanites in Prey. Also, almost any superhero could fit this category, since their powers typically originate from some form of world-shaking technology (often un-duplicable, as in the case of Captain America’s super-soldier serum, or jealously guarded, as in the case of Ironman’s and Batman’s devices). Even the old James Bond movies showed how high tech gizmos could dramatically influence the outcome of cold-war espionage.
Maybe I should go with the category of Cyberpunk, but this connotes a futuristic setting of powerful corporations and advanced computers. I want to throw the net wider to include all sorts of new tech, as well as how it impacts our world right now.
I think we need such stories, because they reflect the changing paradigms of our time. Our world has been restructured by online shopping, reconstructed by Facebook, and renovated by smart phones. When the US went to war in Afghanistan, it had no automated drones in the field and now it has thousands. Private corporations are now sending people into space while our government has to rent seats on Russian rockets. And almost all of that has happened in the last ten years. Ten years.
Technology has thrown our world into a state of massive upheaval: science fiction stories can be set right now because we are already living in a science fiction world. It’s only natural that we would want stories depicting characters reacting to—perhaps even driving—these changes.
Fantasy literature has a name for stories about magic and monsters placed in a contemporary setting. It’s called “urban fantasy” and anyone who’s read Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files books knows that this genre breathes new life into old forms, as well as makes fantastic concepts more immediate to our daily lives. I think we need the same thing for Sci-Fi.
So what do I call my favorite sub-genre: Urban Sci-Fi? Neo-cyberpunk Sci-Fi? Modern S-F? Or am I off my rocker and arguing for something that doesn’t need a category?
Let me know what you think or what name we should coin (if any) by leaving a comment below. Thanks!