It might be a stretch to say that every story is a science fiction story. After all, there are certain motifs that come to mind when the phrase “sci-fi” enters one’s brain; cloning, robots, and space are just a few examples. And, of course, all the crazy pseudo-scientific ideas that push the boundaries of imagination. But really, all science fiction does is reflect society’s relationship with technology. Sometimes that technology is imaginary. This is where the “fiction” side of the phrase comes in. But sometimes we underestimate just how much of a role technology can play in how a story unfolds. And it is in this resepct where one could draw the conclusion that every story is sci-fi.
In an age of remix, reboots, and adaptations, storytellers are constantly looking for new ways to put spins and twists on the old. A lot of times this is as simple as telling an old story in a new time period. It could be moving something into the past, bringing it to the present, or simply moving it into the future. When that happens, the story must adapt to the technology of the time. How would a modern day story differ without instant communication like cell phones or email? Likewise, if you took a classic, such as something written by William Shakespeare, and turned it into a space opera, what details would have to be changed? All these questions have to be taken into consideration.
It’s often imagined that setting isn’t as important as the other building blocks of storytelling. After all, it usually comes secondary or is a mere tool to further a plot. But through the example of time period, setting is a relatively simple way to make an old story new. And as these stories start to grapple with the questions of technology and its effect on the plot, it’s the “science” of the times that will dictate when and how things happen, such as if a character can use a teleporter, a train, or a horse-drawn carriage to travel.