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SF Subgenre Guides
Colonization Science Fiction
What is Colonization Science Fiction?
The pioneer spirit is celebrated in Science Fiction across all sub-genres, but is perhaps most pronounced in a sub-genre of exploration like Colonization Science Fiction. While there are Sci Fi stories about aliens colonizing Earth, these fall under the Alien Invasion sub-genre. Colonization Sci Fi is about colonies on other worlds. However, colonies are sometimes setup in artificial environments on orbital satellites, like in Mack Reynolds Lagrange Five series.
Humans may start a colony for various reasons such as: overpopulation on Earth, the Earth becomes uninhabitable, pure exploration and discovery, search and acquisition of resources, threat of human extinction. In fact, space colonization is a topic in non-fiction discussion and publications.
There are two veins of Colonization Sci Fi: romantic and realistic. In the romantic vein the alien worlds tend to look like an exotic Earth where humans and humanoid aliens co-exist. Politics of exploitation are not usually the focus here, but can be a plot device. Frequently, there is a focus on ecology and adaptation with the alien environment. The realistic vein is a more practical approach to Colonization stories, and epitomize a blood, sweat, and tears storyline. This vein tends to align itself with Hard Sci Fi and often has a sense of cynicism. It is worth noting that the word "colonization" often has a negative connotation and there is a debate in the Sci Fi world about the use of "colonization" to describe Sci Fi works.
You can view the crowd-ranked "Popular" Colonization Science Fiction Books list and vote and/submit entries to it.
Other Features of Colonization Science Fiction
- Level of Real Science
Divided. In the realistic vein of Colonization Sci Fi, real science is of the utmost importance. However, in the romantic vein real science is rarely the focus.
- Level of Grand Ideas/Social Implications
High. Transplanting human populations to other worlds is a big idea. There are lots of implications to explore: social structure, theology and philosophy, relationships between humanity and alien races, relationships between humanity and its environments, colonization itself, scientific advancement, the human spirit, otherness.
- Level of Characterization
Moderate. Colonies are filled with characters, which are integral to the development of a Colonization story--after all there is no colony without its people. However, some stories may focus on developing ideas or science than on characterization.
- Level of Plot Complexity
Moderate. There are some tried and true plots for Colonization stories, like a group of humans set out to explore an alien world and encounter and overcome various complications by learning and adapting to the alien environment--a relatively heroic tale championing the pioneering spirit.
- Level of Violence
Moderate to High. Violence is a common occurrence in Colonization Sci Fi. The violence may be battles between humans and aliens or colonists and Earth-bound humans. The violence may be a conflict between colonists and the environment. Violence can even be looming on the edge of the story, influencing the plot, but not explicitly described to readers.
Related Science Fiction subgenres
Hard Science Fiction. Colonization and Hard Sci Fi often cross over to tell a tale about colonizing alien planets in a believable and realistic manner--as opposed to a romantic optimism.
Political Science Fiction. Colonization can be quite brutal and the issues surrounding such brutality are often explored in Colonization Sci Fi.
Social Science Fiction. Writers often build a human colony on another world in order to examine a distorted society or explore other sociological ideas.
Lost Worlds. Science Fiction about discovering new worlds -- adventure science fiction. Often these lost worlds are primitive places with dinosaurs, strange landscapes, etc. This subgenre is often incorporated into fantasy, though there is the science fiction version of it as well (travel to mysterious planet with dense jungles, strange creatures, where it's man vs. wilderness etc).
Terraforming Science Fiction. This is about re-engineering a planets over a long period of time to make them suitable to support life. Directly tied to Colonization Science Fiction; however, Colonization SF tends to be more of the inital story of humans taming an exotic and harsh environment while Terraforming is more of a "after a planet has been colonized" type of story.
Colonization Science Fiction isn't for you if...
If you prefer your stories to take place here on Earth.
- 1 Last and First Men
By Olaf Stapledon. Humans migrate to other worlds as a result of the Earth becoming uninhabitable.
- 2 The Word for World is Forest
By Ursula K. Le Guin. This a story of brutality--exploitation, slavery, genocide even--that mimics Earth's pattern of colonization and exploration, but on an alien planet.
- 3 The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
By Robert A. Heinlein. An award winning novel about a colony that rebels against the Lunar Authority that controls it.
- 4 Of the Fall
By Paul J. McAuley. Explores the uneasy relationship between Earth and its colonies.
- 5 Orbit Unlimited
By Poul Anderson. A collection of short stories in the Hard Sci Fi sub-genre about a band of people fleeing an oppressive Earth.
- 6 Search the Sky
- 7 Rim World series
By A. Bertram Chandler An example of Colonization Sci Fi where the colonies are not isolated, but rather a part of an extended chain of remote colonies.
- 8 Red Mars
By Kim Stanley Robinson. One of the great colonization science fictions out there that deals with terraforming an entire planet. A trilogy, Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars.
- 9 Dune
By Frank Herbert. The whole series over time shows the colonization and taming of the wild planet Dune over thousands of years.
- Dune (Frank Herbert)
- Coyote (Allen Steele)
- Freedom's Landing ()
- Titan (Stephen Baxter)
- Dragonsdawn (Anne McCaffrey)
- Wogen (muchow gunter)
- Freehome (Raymond Boyles)
- Forerunner (Andre Norton)
- Hellhole (Brian Herbert)