While many definitions for science fiction have been offered over the years since the genre’s inception, Robert A. Heinlein’s definition, with its easy-to-follow five-point format, remains one of the most specific and comprehensive. Heinlein argues that, in a science fiction story: 1. The conditions must be, in some respect, different from here-and-now, although the difference may lie only in an invention made in the course of the story. 2. The new conditions must be an essential part of the story. 3. The problem itself—the "plot"—must be a human problem. 4. The human problem must be one which is created by, or indispensably affected by, the new conditions. 5. And lastly, no established fact shall be violated, and, furthermore, when the story requires that a theory contrary to present accepted theory be used, the new theory should be rendered reasonably plausible and it must include and explain established facts as satisfactorily as the one the author saw fit to junk. (17, emphasis in original) Octavia Butler’s Dawn fits Heinlein’s definition of science fiction because it takes place in an apocalyptic future, the conditions of which are important to the story; it centers on the human problem of how to maintain a distinctly human identity in the face of genetic, social, sexual, Pretzer 2 emotional, and psychological manipulation and domination by an alien race; and it avoids scientific implausibility by explaining its violations of usual facts.

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