Though I heartily accept and cherish "science fiction" as a genre that can describe and support the kind of fiction that I'm interested in writing, and I've often really enjoyed very fantastic science fiction--stuff with magic, stuff with aliens--it's not something that has really occurred to me to write. Well that's not true, I've thought about it, but have never really thought of a way to do it without coming off as cliche.
Let me interrupt this reflection with a theory:
I think there are two major kinds of science fiction, the first kind that answers major "what if questions," like "what if there is time travel," or "what if aliens come to visit earth from a far away planet," or "what if a galactic empire collapses and a group of academics does what it can to save civilization," or "what if an alien probe has been watching over human development for the last 3000 years," or "what if corporations and the government wage a war on the internet to control the citizens of cyberspace." The second kind science fiction elaborates on the kinds of questions above, and says "what if modern technology was based on gears and brass rather than transistors and silicon" (steampunk), "what if such and such happened to the collapsing galactic empire," or "what happens if the government is able to crush cyberculture" (post-cyberpunk). Now lets be clear, I don't think that this second class of science fiction is bad, quite the contrary, it's often the best stuff; but I think it contributes to the genre discourse in a very different way. Ok. Done.
There are tropes in science fiction, like aliens, like magic, that are more about fitting in with the discourse of the genre, than about the direct questions that the trope asks. So, often, I think telling a story with aliens is more about responding to and thinking about all of the science fiction that deals with aliens, from Star Trek, to Stranger in a Strange Land, to War of the Worlds. and less about what aliens means in a bigger picture sort of way. I think the same thing goes for magic, the examples are different but the discursive structures are pretty much the same.
So for whatever reason I've kept things pretty realistic in my writing. While I haven't been ultra vigilant about keeping track of the speeds that my spaceships are flying at, and I do muse on the possibility of telepathy a fair pice, other than that... I feel like it's pretty straight up. Humans are from Earth, the speed of light hasn't been broken, the current date system are used, and I occasionally have oblique references to present-day events.
I'm thinking, though, that, my previous aversion to aliens might be misplaced, and I'm actually thinking that aliens might be just what I sort of need in this short story I've been playing with for a while... Anyone have thoughts on the subject or am I just being weird?