Due to recent debates, we’ve decided to put out a
call to our readers to help us define science fiction
and fantasy so that we can agree on which materials
are Bureau 42 content, and which ones aren’t. Full
details and a public apology are below.

In a recent article, debate grew in the comments
about whether or not certain titles were Bureau 42
content. Due in part to the job stress that led to
the review, I posted
a reply
in that thread which was a bit snarkier
than necessary. I want to publically apologize for
that. GusherJizmac was one of our earliest posters,
and despite our disagreements, I respect him for
supporting his opinions instead of simply posting a
“no, you’re wrong” type of message. We want to breed
intelligent discussion here, and that’s what he does.
I should have stayed more polite in my response to
him, and I apologize for not doing so.

On to the point of this column. If we could agree on
what elements define science fiction and fantasy,
then we could eliminate (or at least give an
appropriate home to) much of the discussion we had
the other day. We’re looking for science fiction and
fantasy for sure. After some discussion with other
authors, it looks like the science-based textbook
reviews are staying too, since they generate a lot of
page views (if not a lot of hits.) In that area,
expect a review of Suppes’ Axiomatic Set
Theory
in a week or so.

As for the main subjects of the site, we’re looking
at science fiction and fantasy, with television,
movies, novels, comic books, and video games being
the media in the order of reader interest (again,
gauged by page views of each article.) I propose
that we use the aforementioned GusherJizmac’s idea of
defining common elements, and decide both on how many
such elements should be present, and which other
elements we should include. We already have:

  • futuristic settings
  • laser blasters
  • aliens
  • mythical settings
  • magic use, often in swords and sorcery settings

I propose adding the following to the list:

  • significantly advanced technology (ie. flying
    cars, not better mileage)
  • time travel
  • alternate histories
  • mythical creatures (dragons, vampires,
    werewolves, etc. regardless of other setting
    elements)
  • severe social differences (ie. 1984, We,
    Clockwork Orange, etc.)

The two questions we need to ask: 1) what should be
added and/or stricken from the lists? and 2) how many
elements need to appear for something to be
considered genre? (For this, I’ll use the mode
average from the responses given by different
posters.)