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ESP Science Fiction

What is ESP Science Fiction?

ESP Science Fiction features characters with Extra-Sensory Perception (ESP). The core ESP powers are: clairvoyance, telepathy, and precognition. :

Under a broader definition of ESP, other powers are included: Telempathy (or empathy): reading emotions

Telekinesis: move objects with the power of the mind

Teleportation: move oneself from one place to another with the mind

Levitation: flying (sometimes described as a telekinetic ability)

Healing (redacting): using the mind to heal

Pyrokinesis: use the mind to start and control

Coercion: using the mind to make someone else comply with your will

These powers are sometimes called psi powers, which are a full spectrum of mental powers (including those that don't involve perception) categorized in the pseudoscience of parapsychology. All of these abilities are based on the idea that humans (and sometimes aliens) can perceive things beyond the five senses.

The use of ESP and more specifically, psi powers, saw a boom in the 1950s at the urging of John W. Campbell Jr. a writer and editor of Astounding.

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Other Features of ESP Science Fiction

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  • Level of Real Science

    Low. According to psychologists at Harvard University, ESP does not exist . As such, any science used to explain the existence of ESP in a Sci Fi story is not based on real science.

  • Level of Grand Ideas/Social Implications

    Moderate. ESP Sci Fi explores a common idea: how would society react to people in possession of ESP. Questions of otherness, of government control, of technological impact are all available to the ESP Sci Fi story.

  • Level of Characterization

    Moderate to High. ESP Sci Fi tends to be character driven stories. Characters with ESP are crafted in a thoughtful manner so that when they must cope with the backlash or consequences of these powers, the characters' actions are understood by readers.

  • Level of Plot Complexity

    Moderate to High. ESP is a characteristic that pops up in many types of Sci Fi stories. In some stories, like Dune, there is a complex plot with ESP abilities a part of the world but necessarily the focus of the story. In other stories, like Firestarter, the ESP ability is front and centre and integral to moving the plot forward. ESP has the ability to create action and move the plot forward--there is always a sense of cause and effect in ESP Sci Fi.

  • Level of Violence

    High, mostly. The powers of ESP are mostly used or sought for power. So even if the character does not use his or her power violently, he or she may be tracked down by others seeking to use that power for their own gain.

Related Science Fiction subgenres

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    Superhero Fiction is one direction an author writing about characters with ESP may take. Pulp magazines from the 1950s saw a boom in ESP stories.

ESP Science Fiction isn't for you if...

If you don't like the use of ESP or psi powers as plot devices because you see them as a shortcut.

ESP Science Fiction Books