define science fiction, first, by saying what science fiction
is not. It cannot be defined as 'a story set in the
future,' [nor does it require] untra-advanced technology.
It must have a fictitious world, a society that does not
in fact exist, but is predicated on our known society...
that comes out of our world, the one we know:
This world must be different from the given one in at least
one way, and this one way must be sufficient to give rise
to events that could not occur in our society…
There must be a coherent idea involved in this dislocation…so
that as a result a new society is generated in the author's
mind, transferred to paper, and from paper it occurs as
a convulsive shock in the reader's mind, the shock of
good science fiction, the conceptual dislocation---the new
idea, in other words---must be truly new and it must be
intellectually stimulating to the reader…[so] it sets off
a chain-reaction of ramification, ideas in the mind of
the reader; it so-to-speak unlocks the reader's mind
so that that mind, like the author's, begins to create….
The very best science fiction ultimately winds up being
a collaboration between author and reader, in which both
create---and enjoy doing it, [experiencing] the joy of discovery
--Philip K. Dick,
The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, Carol Publishing,