Help me name this Sci-Fi Sub-Genre

By David A. Aguilar (CfA) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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!

About Sechin Tower

Sechin Tower is a teacher, game developer, and author of MAD SCIENCE INSTITUTE, a novel of creatures, calamities, and college matriculation. He lives in Seattle, Washington.
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11 Responses to Help me name this Sci-Fi Sub-Genre

  1. Justin Foreman says:

    You should call it modern-sci-fi
    Or, to make it awesome: modern-twisty-plot-in-the-present-sci-fi-like-Jurrasic-park!

  2. Tom Cadorette says:

    Hmmm. It’s pulpy, kinda, or at least hi-octane. So the name should reflect that.

    But there is already, of course, the controversial “speculative fiction” genre, which many authors who write books about the near-to-not-so-distant future, with sci/tech or even dystopic/cyberpunk themes, but where the emphasis is more on character than setting. A good example of that is Margaret Atwood’s “Oryx and Crake” or even “The Handmaid’s Tale,” or even Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series.

    Dunno. PulpSpec? ModPulp? 🙂

  3. Andrew says:

    How about Teslapunk? Perhaps a little too specific.

    Contemporary Science Fiction also sounds good, though Con-Sci-Fi sounds a bit odd.

  4. Andy says:

    What about something like Post-Pulp. It still has that pulpy feel, but it’s not in the classic pulp era, plus it generally has that kind of post-modern sense of self-referentiality (if that’s even a word). Or you could call it something like Sech-fi (since, you’re naming it).

  5. My suggestion is techsci. Short, direct.
    If mentioned as a genre, you know its a kind of fiction.
    I write scifi and fantasy and am not too fretted about genre. Am at the point where I say, “Get over yourself and just read it.”
    Have been reading F. Prose’s ‘Reading Like A Writer.’ Am more convinced than ever that any kind of reading is good for young people.
    Scifi of any ilk though, imo, is a nonthreatening way of exploring tough issues, including morality; and a painless way to get people thinking.

  6. Sechin Tower says:

    So many good suggestions I’ll have to think about. Thank you!

    This one was also brought to my attention: Techno-thriller

  7. James Coombes says:

    How about Tech Noir? The name can be used equally to refer to sci-fi or sci-fact. It is independent of any time period. You can think of noir as connoting technology gone bad but also the seedy characters and situations of the noir film genre. The term also has the added bonus as the name of the club in the original Terminator movie.

  8. R says:

    Alternate Now? Current & Parallel?
    “Welcome Sechin Tower, hottest new author of the Alternate Now writing style….” or “And now for our Keynote Speaker, father of the Current & Parallel genre, Mr. Sechin Tower!”

  9. Jim Cook says:

    Like Andrew, I thought of Contemporary Science Fiction. It has the advantage that when thousands will eventually come to the Con-Sci-Fi-Con.

  10. Cassie Reagan says:

    My friend and i have talked about it and we came up with SciNow this makes sense because it includes scifi and now is always now. I think this makes sense to everyone who is an avid scifi reader. Anyway thats my thoughts.

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