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The SciFaiku Manifesto
saifaiku -- in katakana

a declaration of the principles of SciFaiku
established July 1995

SciFaiku is a distinctive and powerful form of expression for science fiction. It packs all the human insight, technology, and vision of the future into a few poignant lines.

SciFaiku is haiku and it is not haiku. It is driven by the inspiration and many of the principles of haiku, but it takes its own direction. It deviates, expands, and frees itself of haiku.

What is SciFaiku?

SciFaiku takes its form from contemporary international haiku. A usual poem is 3 lines and contains about 17 syllables. The topic is science fiction. It strives for a directness of expression and beauty in its simplicity. Here is a representative example:

Asteroids collide
    without a sound...
We maneuver between fragments.


While SciFaiku is open to experimentation and flexible in using the rules of its form, it nevertheless draws its inspiration from haiku. As with haiku, a poet strives to convey a sense of immediacy -- to capture a moment, to make readers feel that they are part of a scene. This immediacy might be obtained, for instance, by incorporating words that strike directly at the senses -- sounds, smells, visions... In striving for directness of expression, SciFaiku avoids abstract concepts and metaphors and describes rather than philosophizes. Leave the implications to the reader's imagination:

Digging up an ancient city,
finding the print
of a tennis shoe.


Like haiku, SciFaiku seeks terseness of expression. It is minimal and elegant. The standard length is 17 syllables. Traditional haiku is composed of 3 lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables respectively. This is a useful guideline, but need not be followed strictly. More than 17 syllables is permissible if well-motivated. Fewer syllables or fewer lines are appropriate if the poem still successfully conveys a message:

he sees she isn't human

Science Fiction

Traditional haiku is about nature. SciFaiku is about science fiction. It need not contain elements of nature, though it may.

Traditional haiku contains a season word -- a word which evokes a season, as snow evokes winter or tulips evoke spring. SciFaiku often contains a "science" word that evokes a technology or science-fiction setting: words like space, genetics, robot, or laser. Every poem needs to clearly evoke a science-fiction premise as well as express its own observation of that premise, and this is perhaps the most challenging aspect of writing SciFaiku.

Technical words often involve many syllables, such as teleport, terraform, alien, or supernova. This adds challenge to keeping a poem concise, since there are that many fewer syllables remaining to complete a poem. One such difficult word is "biofeedback":

with biofeedback
to heal the burns:
I flip a burger, nonchalant

A few approaches can be taken to deal with this challenge:

  • It is acceptable to spill over the limit of 17 syllables, particularly when the subject matter clearly involves a complex technical term (transmogrification -- already 6 syllables), though this should be avoided.
  • Seek a substition for a longer word, e.g. droid instead of robot, but don't do this if it seriously reduces clarity or disrupts the mood of a poem.
  • Sometimes SciFaiku can be written in a series. The first few can establish the science-fiction premise, which can be merely alluded to in subsequent poems. However, each poem should stand independently if at least the context is known.

Human Insight

Comets Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of science fiction is how it provides deep insight into the human condition, even when the subject matter is computers or aliens. Not restricting itself only to the tangible, SciFaiku permits an exploration of the thoughts and feelings of characters within a poem:

In a ramjet -- wistfully thinking of you

(A Bussard ramjet, or ramscoop, is a spaceship powered by scooping interstellar hydrogen into a fusion reactor -- the implication is that the traveller is on a very long interstellar voyage, perhaps long enough that there is no intention of returning.)

Where to Go Next

Be sure to browse the entire website. There's plenty of poetry to read, links to other SciFaiku websites, and opportunities to share SciFaiku with others.

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