Beyond Literary Landscapes—Science Fiction Sub-Genres

Space Operas, Space Westerns, and More!

Beyond Literary Landscapes—Science Fiction Sub-Genres

From my early beginnings as a young introvert, the public library has always been a bit of a refuge.  Years later, not much has changed, albeit with an additional affinity for endless hours spent scouring second-hand bookstores to add to my ever-growing “to-read” pile.

From one bookworm to another, this column will be underscoring and outlining various literary genres, authors, and recent reads and can serve as an introduction for those unfamiliar with these works, as a refresher for long-time aficionados, and maybe as an inspiration for readers to share their own suggested topics.  Do you have a topic that you would like covered in this column?  Feel free to contact me for an interview and a feature in an upcoming column.


In the final column of my three-part series on science fiction, this week, we further break down the sub-genres of science fiction.  (Be sure to check out my previous general overview of science fiction and its two main sub-genres of hard and soft science fiction.)

In particular, some examples of additional sub-genres include military science fiction, space westerns, space operas, and dystopian science fiction.

Military science fiction can be defined as texts which feature “characters who are likely in the military and/or the main plot has to do with war and/or the military.”  Space westerns focus on “Western genre elements within an outer space setting,” while space operas are “usually set in interstellar space.”  Finally, dystopian science fiction focuses on “societies in cataclysmic decline, with characters who battle environmental ruin, technological control, and government oppression.”


An example of military science fiction is Starship Troopers by Robert A.  Heinlein.

In addition, an example of a space western is The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, while a good example of a space opera is Dune by Frank Herbert.

Finally, an example of dystopian science fiction is Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.


These novels take place throughout various galaxies and planets.


Many of these works take place during a future time.


Science fiction appeals to a variety of readers.  For those who enjoy the hard sciences, hard science fiction novels and short stories may present intriguing statistics and figures about physics and mathematics.  In contrast for those who prefer soft sciences, soft science fiction may be interesting to those who enjoy considering the political, historical, or psychological themes of texts.  In particular, the abovementioned sub-genres often fall into the latter category, with more of a focus on societal problems over pure physics.  However, there are often exceptions.


AU’s wide range of diverse courses make it easy to study this topic in depth.  Courses related to various science fiction sub-genres are available in a variety of disciplines, including one’s that may fit into your Degree Works.  (Always check with an AU counsellor to see if these particular courses fulfill your personal graduation requirements!)

AU students interested in learning more about this topic may enroll in POLI 277: Introduction to Political Science I: Concepts, Structures, and Institutions, a junior-level, three-credit course, which “introduces students to the basic concepts, ideas, processes, and institutions of politics.”  (No prerequisites are required for this course.)  Happy reading!