Science Fiction is a huge genre which can inform many kinds of story. And a major reason for its popularity is because there's something inherently cinematic about it.
One way to think about it this is to concentrate on the basic themes animating its stories - so let's take a specific example.
In some ways, Spike Jonze's HER (2013) is essentially a story about an isolated man who has separated from his wife, is in the throes of divorce, and can't deal with real relationships. So he takes refuge in fantasy.
It's also about the way in which people (especially men?) can become deeply involved with their computers, forming relationships with them which verge on the sexual.
Q. How would such a story play out in a more realistic genre?
A. Possibly as a tormented Psychodrama, in which a sweaty shut-in overindulges in internet porn, outed only when he furtively takes his laptop in for servicing.
In other words, it could have been a bit dour and introverted.
But Science Fiction enabled Jonze to tackle the topic in a lighter, less individualistic way.
He took the leeway SF offers to fabricate an infantilised, primary-coloured world around Theodore, his protagonist - a world in which everyone, male and female, is falling in love with their computer.
This meant that Jonze could look at the theme from various directions, and surprise us with our own reactions. Rather than repelling us with Theodore's behaviour, for instance, the story lets us share his giddy delight in the early flush of love with 'Samantha'.
Jonze uses Science Fiction to create a world that is visually intriguing, with a bittersweet story containing drama, emotion, surprises and reversals - in other words, a cinematic story.
Why is Science fiction cinematic?
Science Fiction opens up stories because the writer is obliged to create an entire world (or at least infer one) to support their basic "what if ..?" proposition.
Everything from from decor and design to customs and speech patterns underline the "what if..?"
This doesn't mean that Science Fiction films have got to be expensive.
We may only see one small corner of the new world, as in EX MACHINA (2015) or MOON (2009). In such cases the clues are particularly concentrated, with small indications pointing to a larger external reality.
Writing Science Fiction - a workshop
My Writing Science Fiction workshop takes place on September 26th. Come along to find out more, and leave with notes towards your own stories in the genre.
Click here for more details.