There is the misconception that if you set any kind of story in the desolate environment of space, this is automatically a sci-fi product… Like —coff coff— Star wars —coff coff— And this isn’t the worst assumption but it goes pretty close.
The science fiction is a poetic composition of both science and fiction, or at least, it has to be based on a theoretical science branch. And being theoretical you can even use a small amount of your own view on the science component, but still using the solid structures that shape the science as such.
Star Wars is a great space opera, even if I’m not a fan of it I have to admit it. But if you go into the scientific component. It lacks in every minimum factor. But I think that is actually unnecessary to change it because it is his mark… We just need to stop to call it sci-fi.
Star Trek is a lovely merge between the genre because yes, there is a massive lore, a complex fantastic structure that form the background of the space exploration but then there are plenty of amazing concepts science-based, even if most of them regard the discovery of new planets itself, and even if is totally invented science sometimes.
But Star trek even go into the analysis of deeper concept but this is another story.
Here a short list of stories that can be classified like sci-fi in his real identifications:
The martian touches the complex meaning of making all is in your power for help even a single person. Andy Weir, the author of the book, is a kind of science nerd and was not difficult for him to find a way to put together the story. Yeah, even if he got help from his fan due to peer review.
Contact use a high amount of explanation of how important and common is the math in the universe. And all who is inside science, know that this is actually true… Math is the only language that can be used universally.
Arrival also speaks about language, but the classic one this time. The communication between species that don’t even have the same relationship with words could be almost impossible, but if you understand the logic of their language and even you open your mind on the possibility that language can even involve the manipulation of nature well… Welcome.
Interstellar is an open book. Is impossible to don’t understand it due is a whole explanation of science. It explains how humans interact with their end… But there is a lot of science involved too.
2001 Space Odyssey is the most famous and well-known sci-fi opera in history. Went out when humanity was facing the real opportunity to go on the Moon, it went there and beyond in the solar system.
I know that most, those can be sorted in the hard sci-fi collection, well know as operas with ridiculous and deep attention to the science… But from here to call Star Wars a sci-fi movie, there is an abyss to cross…
Take, for example, Alien. Is not a sci-fi. Is a horror movie with aliens that hunt humans. And vice versa but Prometheus that was designed for being a prequel of it is less speculative and more deep about the basis that builds the movie. Same brand but the different concept (Maybe is for this that a lot of fans hated it… except me and a bunch of few).
We can even go further with the explanation of what can be considered science fiction and what not. sci-fi represent the imagination of looking beyond and in the future to imagine how could be the unknown but still knowing which are the pillars that we must to follow, even if this involves the social structure of the future.
Like Asimov did with Robots (I can’t speak about Foundation and Empires because I didn’t read it yet).
On this point, Star Wars don’t work really good because is actually how to look into the society of a long long time ago on this planet… But in another galaxy and with deadly and impossible laser blades.
Instead of Star Trek work at this level because, at least in the first series, bit less in the next ones, there was the space exploration that is only the visible part of a majestic society that left back insidious structures like capitalism… No money, yes party…
For this, I suggest you watch movies like Equilibrium, and What happened to Monday a few more like those… Even if they are a bit hard and possibly a bit exaggerated. And even, this is examples of science fiction not set in space.
Summing all of this. The science fiction set in a novelized story a science plausibility.
You need to be a scientist to understand a sci-fi opera? Nope. You just need to enjoy it even because the best authors are able to merge explanation and story.
Sci-fi and the misconception of hostile machines