Earlier this year, I read a short play called “Rocks, Algae, Water, Stars” by emerging playwright Jonathan O’Neill. O’Neill had submitted the play for consideration in the 4th Annual Lift-Off Festival of Science Fiction Plays at the Navigators Theatre Company, and the piece immediately caught the eye of literary manager, Melina Neves. As the Artistic director of this small Theatre company, I read quite a few short plays every year for our annual festival, and O’Neill’s play was one of them. Our mission as a company is to produce feminist science fiction stories, primarily written by women or female identifying people. “Rocks, Algae, Water, Stars” struck Melina and I as unique for several reasons—primarily because its main character was a female presenting anthropomorphized version of the Mars rover, Opportunity.
Karel Čapek’s formative play R.U.R. (or Rossum’s Universal Robots) is commonly referred to as the first piece of science fiction theatre. More importantly, R.U.R. is also the text from which the well-known term “robot” originates.
Why is Science Fiction (sf) so notoriously hard to define?
Merriam-Webster defines sf as "fiction based on imagined future scientific or technological advances and major social or environmental changes, frequently portraying space or time travel and life on other planets." --but this does not quite cover all the bases, does it? What about sf that happens in the past, like Star Wars? Or sf that is not based in scientific inquiry or technology, such as the novels, A Canticle of Lebowitz, or The Road? What about sf stories that do not employ time travel, aliens, or spaceships, such as the famous short story...
The Navigators are interested in all things science-fiction. We are fascinated by time travel, alien encounters, light speed capabilities, cryogenics, cloning debates, post-apocalyptic narratives, and even zombies from time to time. I myself, however, find no other science fiction sub-category as interesting as... robots.