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What's Your Favorite Sci-Fi Sub-Genre?

Science fiction has some commonalities across sub-genres, certainly. But upon close analysis of today's sci-fi films, video-games, and virtual reality experiences there is incredible diversity. As digital technologies, artificial intelligence, and machine learning become industry standards, rather than distant hypothetical queries it's no wonder this genre and its many art forms are booming.


Sci-Fi allows us to grapple with deep philosophical questions about:

  • What it means to be human,

  • If we are alone in the universe,

  • How humans and machines interact,

  • Ethical quandaries related to our species' mortality.



In this post we look at 8 sub-genres of sci-fi.


#1: First Contact: When humans meet aliens.

Is there life beyond the cosmos? Will humans ever have contact with other life forms? In this sub-genre that critical first meeting is woven into a rich narrative of friend or foe, suspicion or trust.

>>Examples: Arrival, Contact



#2 Galactic Empire: The glorious empires of our alien neighbours.

If life in the cosmos is possible, what do our neighbours' empires look like? Are they thriving utopias, or horrible dystopic realities that make us question our humanity? Marvel has created a vast and expansive rendition of characters and places in a modern take on this sub-genre.

>>Examples: Anything Marvel


#3 Cyberpunk: A dark, stormy, and strangely, sexy, future dystopia.

One only has to look at the influence of Blade Runner, to see how this sub-genre has infiltrated pop culture and our visions of a dark and stormy future infiltrated by Artificial Intelligence. Film Noir meets space, these films are dark, moody, and intriguing.

>>Examples: Blade Runner

#4 Dystopia: A fully de-humanized imagined reality.

Technology gone made, humanity on the brink of collapse with no end in site, a bleak world, that reminds us what matters in the here and now of our current reality.

>>Examples: The Matrix


#5 A.I.: Robots with the likeness of humans.

The last two decades have seen incredible growth in the field of Artificial Intelligence. As this growth continues, this genres asks, what is our relationship to machines? Do machines have rights and what is the tipping point to protect them like humans? Will machines ever experience feeling as we do?

>>Examples: Ex Machina

#6 Alternate History: An alternate historical thread that asks how things could be different.

We've all asked, how could things be different in our lives. In this sub-genre that question becomes a global meta-narrative that examines the world with a historical twist embedded sometimes with time travel.

>>Examples: Back to the Future

#7 Colonisation: Human colonisation of other worlds.

Will Elon Musk succeed? Will we one day have humans on Mars or beyond? Will we inhabit other worlds? Sometimes out of exploration and adventure, other times out of need and necessity, the characters look to create a human civilisation on another planet.

>>Examples: The Martian

#8 Alien Invasion: Aliens conquer the world scenario.

Will aliens conquer the world? Are they already here? Have they visited the earth before? This art form looks at the question 'are we alone in the universe' and extends it to its bleakest possibility: Humans vs. Aliens.

>>Examples: Back to the Future


To the uninitiated Sci-Fi can appear bleak and jaded; yet, from a pathological perspective Sci-Fi allows some of the deepest expressions of human fear, human potential, and human hope in the face of adversity in the modern narrative forms. These 8 sub-genres are not the only sub-genres of Sci-Fi, there are many more we can work with you to explore.


To learn how our designers can help you to build a custom sci-fi experience, get in touch for a free virtual consultation.