table of contents
Science Fiction
May 2001

One-line summaries of SF sub-genres

This delightful little game was invented by Ahasuerus in the usenet newsgroup, rec.arts.sf.written. The idea is to summarize SF sub-genres in one line, preferably with a bit of irony. I decided to gather the various suggestions into a web page.


What the Subject line says. As an example, net.porn would look something like “Until that night I had never thought of my pet piranha in sexual terms.” Anybody wanna play? 🙂

Keith Morrison

Space opera: “The galaxy was about to blow up and a young waitress decided to do something about it.”

Star Trek: “Everything looks like it will change, but we’ll just hit the reset button at the end so it doesn’t matter.”

Lost in Time: Oh my lord, I’ve mysteriously ended up in the ancient world, but thank goodness I’m a genius, happen to speak the local language and am an encyclopedia of technological information.

Michael Schilling

Mil-SF: Them bugs ain’t gonna take over this here galaxy if me and my buddies and that there 6 gigatonnes of advanced weaponry have anything to say about it.


Cyberpunk: It dont mean a thing if it aint got that ping.

Time Travel: I never should have killed my great, great, great grandfa….

Alternate History: Ya knew, ef we ad lost in 1066, I cood bi speckin annudder dialec.


Post-Apocalypse: “Most of my friends are dead – not to mention civilization – but at least I have this really great car.”

Techno-thriller: “You’re troubled, I’m troubled, politics is murky, I’m catnip to the ladies, thank God and Apple Pie we have these Super Advanced Plot Devices.”

Superfuture (Niven/Sheffield/Vinge): “We wouldn’t have survived the last 5 billion years if it weren’t for our clever use of Stuff That Never Breaks. (tm)”

Jesper Lauridsen

Post-Apocalypse: “The world is barren wasteland, where your life is worth less than a petrol can, and my car does 10 miles to the gallon.”

Doug Palmer

Galactic Empire: Emperor Claudius^H^H^H^H^H^H^HMaxtor the Great, the province of Hispania^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^HRigel III is revolting.

Steinn Sigurdsson

The Sequel: “Send Admiral B’lrusas to subdue to barbarians in the fourth quadrant, he is far too good a boy scout to rebel if victorious, and if not his wife is really hot”

Captain Button

First Contact: “I’m sure we’ll discover that these totally incomprehensible identical blob-like aliens are just like us deep-down.”

Psionic Outcast Teenagers: “At last we can love each other while we use mind control to Take Over The World!”

Doomsday Thriller: “I’m sure we can stop a world determined on its own total self-destruction.”

Jean Lamb

Romance Futuristic: “So I got kidnapped by a UFO, but the captain was so wonderful I couldn’t help falling in love with him/her” (works for either gender, though the combo is usually het).

Exploration: “We’re pretty safe in these environmental suits we’ve field tested on over a thousand pla–oh shit!” (yes, I know this phrase has been used. I like it anyway).

Andrew Wheeler

Sociological: “These aliens are completely incomprehensible to everyone but the reader (from p.1) and the incredibly- smart-but-no-good-at-playing-politics heroine (from about p. end/2).”

Modern Space Opera: Lots of stuff blows up…for a Moral Purpose!

Contemporary Urban Fantasy: “I am an artist of some incredibly cool form that my author loves and/or I am a street person. Unpleasant magical things happen to me because the world is cruel and run by Republicans, but I will be saved by my Friends.”

Near Future Planetary Exploration: “Two Americans, two Russians, a Japanese and an Indian can get to Mars, if they follow this equasion…”

Dan Goodman

Psychohistory: “Our flawless calculations show that 93 years and fifteen seconds from now, our beloved society will die because a lefthanded waitress spills a cup of coffee — unless we take certain preventive measures!”

Keith Morrison

Revisionist Psychohistory: “Thankfully, the androids will be working behind the scenes to make sure it all works out without us knowing about it!”

Robert Amesz

Psychohistory (modern version): “Somewhere in the Brazillian rain forest a small butterfly will flap its wings which will eventually, through a chain of chaotic events, cause a huge storm over the Atlantic, obliterating most of western Europe and the east coast of the US. Let’s go kill that troublesome bug!”

Steve Miller

Source of Psychohistory: (paraphrase from memory) Our Visualization of the Cosmic All indicates a barber will nick your ear while shaving you when a young female cat named Thomas jumps to your lap and jostles his arm after you’ve brought great empires to their knees in the meantime….

Matthias Warkus

Cyberpunk: “The world was sick enough even without a terabyte of stolen information burning in my brain and that Japanese guy in a trenchcoat being out to get me in the foggy night.”

Terry Stachura

Cyberpunk: I’m a shit hot babe, bike mesenger, martial artist, ready to kick ass and save the guy that knows the REALLY BIG SECRET.

Guy Gordon

“I’ve got this tiny little special talent, that I discover can be applied to many, many things; and over the course of seven books (or even just one book), it’ll grow in power till it becomes obvious that I am GOD.” — just about any Orson Scott Card novel.

“Hey, we just found this object in space, and it’s big! No, I mean BIG, really REALLY BIG. Let’s go wander around on it a while.”

Stewart Robert Hinsley

Lost in Space: Oh my lord, I’ve _unfortunately been forced to land on a primitive_ world, but thank goodness I’m a genius, happen to _a univeral translator_ and am an encyclopedia of technological information

Eimear Ni Mhealoid

Space Horse Opera; Protagonist (usu. female) is stranded on planet long separated from mainstream of galactic civilisation, and falls in love with low-tech lifestyle, and also with hunky local after love/hate hijinks; often with added Psionics for extra crunch.

Simon Slavin

Fantasy: I will retrieve the magic stone of Krondar — just me, my pet who talks like a six-year-old, and my psi powers. Oh, and that mysterious handsome man I caught a glimpse of.

Andrew Dynon

Mecha (Superheroic): I’m a teenager who pilots a giant robot that is far beyond any other tech on Earth and fight the Evil Overlord’s giant monsters every week.

Mecha (Military): I’m a teenager who pilots a giant robot which is not far beyond other tech, fights other giant robots in a morally-ambiguous war, and angsts about it.

This page was last updated May 3, 2001.

table of contents
Science Fiction
May 2001