We know them, we love them, science fiction stories. Why do they have such a hold on us and what makes them so fun to read? While there is surely more than a fair share of flubs in the genre, all of the great science fiction stories have a few things in common. These aspects of the story keep us coming back for more.
First and foremost, a good story has to be well written and entertaining. If the author jumps randomly around in the story and makes it hard to follow, the book will end up at the book bank before we ever come close to finishing it. It should also flow properly and not use difficult or confusing terms for the sake of the genre. Keep things on point and easy to understand, and we will turn page after page until the only thing left if the back cover.
The author also has to be gifted in painting a picture that we can wow ourselves with as we translate the words into images in our mind. With a movie, it is easy as they can make it as impressive as their budget allows. However, when we are reading words, those words need to immediately get our creative juices flowing and create a picture that literally makes our jaws drop as we turn the pages. If not, it is just another book.
The one key point to any good science fiction story is that we have to believe this could really happen. Authors need to tap into current technology and get creative with where they think it is going to go. Not only that, but they have to make it believable. Yes, they do need to go to the edges of the envelope, but not so much that the sci-fi story ends up as a fantasy story by the time the book is finished.
We also need to be able to identify with the characters. We actually need to want to become one of them or at the very least, root for them to become successful in their journey. Flying men or people who repel bullets are not realistic. However, serving your country, or your planet for that matter, is something that could definitely happen in the future.
One point of view is that while fantasy has no boundaries, science fiction stories do. Yes, they need to test our imagination, but we need to think these things could eventually happen or they simply are not true science fiction. The word science is in there for a reason, because the story needs to be based on actual science. The tail end of that may say fiction, but that is only because it has not happened, yet.