The Left Hand of Darkness Sci-Fi?

Omits

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In what way is that novel Sci-Fi? It seems to me to be a study in a social issue and taken off-world to do it.
 
Because it's set on another planet, and they're all aliens.
 
It's unlikely that any sizeable novel will remain entirely within one genre. Love, horror, fantasy and thriller are all elements that may help the plot along. Usually there will be an overriding theme that defines what genre a story will be, and as Toby Frost points out, the fact its set on another planet with aliens (and also spaceships) clearly puts it into the category of science fiction.

There are however other stories that feature elements of science fiction whose overriding genre arguably lies elsewhere. Some will say that Avatar or Star Wars are fantasy, or science fantasy, and dystopian tales such as 1984 an Farenheit 451, which in many ways are political novels and feature few (if any) technological advancements.

Mary Shelley didn't write Frankenstein as a work of science fiction (even if the genre had existed back then), she wrote it as a horror story. George Orwell did not write 1984 as a work of science fiction; just as with Animal Farm he wrote it as a cautionary tale of what may happen if we continued along the same political and social path.

But science fiction is such a huge umbrella that takes in many stories and aspects that do not sit comfortably elsewhere. Which is why it is one of the most diverse and entertaining of all genres out there. Long may it continue to be so.
 
First off, this would certainly not be the first novel to be using the medium of Sci-Fi to look into current and local social issues.
Look at 1984 or almost all of the early Star Trek episodes for exactly the same method, but we could site hundreds more.

Secondly it would be interesting to know what you would require in a novel to make it Sci-Fi.
A story set in the far future, on a different planet, involving near-humans with a different biology would seem to be enough for me, with the trivial additions of the arrival there of an earthman in a faster than light rocket.
I think most of the sci-Fi buttons have been met there in one sentence.
 
Haha.

Every few years we have one of those interminable “what is SF?” threads which generates a lot of heat and no consensus between broad and narrow churchists, who were not going to change their minds anyway, and Marcel Duchamp always gets cited at some point.

Having said that, I don’t see any particular issues with LHOD for the reasons Toby has so elegantly given.
 
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And there are spaceships, and it’s set in the far future… it’s non-trivial to come up with a book that has more SF elements, tbh.
It also has Ansibles in it, IIRC.
 
It also has Ansibles in it, IIRC.
Yup. So it's a far future tale, set on a distant planet, with aliens, spaceships and ansibles. Hmmm.

Every few years we have one of those interminable “what is SF?” threads...
We do indeed, and usually some wiseacre makes a facetious contribution along the lines of "it's SF if it has got aliens and spaceships in it". :p
 
it would be interesting to know what you would require in a novel to make it Sci-Fi.
This. While most of us would define s.f. in ways that overlap each other, there's the possibility that your definition is more idiosyncratic than what most posters here would posit.

We do indeed, and usually some wiseacre makes a facetious contribution along the lines of "it's SF if it has got aliens and spaceships in it".
Does this mean "it's s.f. because I point at it and call it s.f." is facetious? Rats. I may have to get a new definition.
 
There isn't a definitive definition of science fiction , but accurate and believable fiction requires the use of extrapolation.
One of the advantages of science fiction is you can dodge most of the problems of extrapolative reasoning by setting up the story wherever and whenever you like. The left hand of darkness is set in the Hainish universe .
 
Not sure how useful it is to pigeon hole every genre or sub genre, though I guess some folk really like their niche stuff. The best writers are often those that are difficult to pin down into a particular genre. Ursula K. Le Guin is an exceptional writer and in my opinion her science fiction is tiers above most other science fiction because she confidently dismantles human/societal constructs in such a believable and critical way. She also did this (in this case) in 1969 which, again in my opinion, makes her a visionary within this genre. The Dispossessed, which is later in the cycle is a top ten book for me across all genres. I guess in some ways her ideas are almost mainstream now.
 

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