1. AltonReed
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    AltonReed Active Member

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    Difference between Sci Fi and Fantasy?

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by AltonReed, Jul 16, 2011.

    Right, this could get controversial here, so I'm going to make it clear I don't want to offend fantasy writers. Or Sci-Fi for that matter.

    Are they really any different?

    In Fantasy if you replace Monster with Alien, curse with infection, magic with technology, ship with Space Ship, realm with planet/dimension you get sci-fi do you not?

    It works the other way too. Take Doctor Who. For people who don't know it (You really should!) its about an alien who travels around Time and Space fighting Aliens and creatures. In a bigger on the inside (Dimensionally Transversal) blue box. And he has a Sonic Screwdriver which can do anything by using sound waves.

    If they called the Doctor a god in a magic box who travels realms to fight monsters with a magic wand, they'd call it fantasy, would they not?

    So is my theory, Sci-Fi and Fantasy being the same thing sound? Anyone got anything different to say?
     
  2. Mr Mr
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    Mr Mr Active Member

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    They are essentialy the same thing, sci-fi just involves science instead of magic. Thats about it.
     
  3. East
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    East Member

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    Exactly, science and tech vs. magic and mystical creatures. That's about it. The genres are mostly used to make it easier for readers to get an idea of what to expect from the story.
     
  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I disagree. Science fiction has to follow established laws of science or, where it deviates from them, provide a rational scientific explanation or extrapolation. Just adding in aliens and space ships does not make it science fiction. That is just fantasy in space.
     
  5. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not all SF includes aliens, for example.

    Books such as: One Second After or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Movies such as Blade Runner and Johnny Mnemonic. No aliens in sight.

    But that isn't the point. Every genre has its setting and elements that makes it what it is, be it western, mystery, romance, SF, fantasy, horror, etc.

    Yes, in fiction you swap out one type of conflict or habitiat or setting for another, because at the foundation and framing of the story are the characters and the plot. The rest such as window placement, carpeting, furnature, etc. are the elements that provide the backdrop for the story.

    So, you can swap out a shag carpet for waxed hardwood floors. You swap out a kingsized waterbed for a set of bunk beds. You swap out a pack of raptors for a pack of werewolves. You swap out an underground bunker with pillboxes and razorwire for a castle with a moat.

    But as Steerpike indicated, there are sublte differences that are staples and required for certain types of SF, for example. Hard SF is one of these (characterized by an emphasis on scientific or technical detail, or on scientific accuracy, or on both).

    Nothing surprising in the theory that Fantasy and SF have a lot of parallel elements. It's just that some folks would rather read about characters in a setting with a pack of raptors to deal with than a pack of werewolves. Just like some readers of romance would rather read about someone falling in love with a vampire (paranormal) rather than a viking hero (historical). But you could swap out the setting even further and have the backdrop being WW II, where a woman falls in love with an occupying enemy soldier. What is it then, a romance, a war story, historical, thriller, action-adventure, or even a nonfiction tale--if it is actually about real people and what really happened?
     
  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Star Wars is a good example of something that is not science fiction. It's fantasy in space. Or, as some have labeled it, a fantasy western in space.
     
  7. Quezacotl
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    Quezacotl Contributing Member

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    Science Fiction books attempt to explain technology and give a 'what if' scenario. Fantasy accepts whatever is unique to the world into its societal norm - the magic may have its own laws with parallels in real life science, but it gives little thought into actually explaining things.
     
  8. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Most of what is usually called science fiction is really fantasy. The better term, and one that is sometimes used, is "science fantasy". Star Wars and Star Trek and the like depend on faster-than-light travel, which is not possible given our current understanding of science, therefore they are science fantasy, not science fiction. (I know some physicists talk about wormholes and stuff like that, but those concepts are such a long way from being usable in reality that they're really fantasy.)

    Science fiction, properly, should be based on extrapolations of current technology within the limits of what is scientifically possible.

    "Science fantasy" or "speculative fiction" are better terms for much of what gets called science fiction.
     
  9. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you look at magic as a form of advanced technology, then it isn't all that different from sci-fi. :D
     
  10. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    If you don't have an explanation for it grounded in science, and you're just waving your hand and calling magic "technology," then it's not science fiction.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Speculative fiction is the term that includes both science fiction and fantasy.

    I would not lump Star Wars and Star Trek that closely together. Star Trek has certainly fallen short in terms of science quite often. Warp drive was an attempt to remain consistent with known physics, and to be honest, they did a better job with that than they did with simple things like orbital mechanics in the beginnings of the series.

    Star Wars, created in a time when John Q Public was more science aware, is deeper into the fantasy side. The biggest difference is the story focus. Whereas Star Trek focused more on extrapolating from more or less plausible scenarios to their consequences, Star Wars focuses on mysticism. The Force is pure magic. Lightsabers are simply a fancy way to make swashbuckling sword fights seem "sciency", but there is really nothing about them that makes any kind of scientific sense.

    The truth is, Science Fiction varies widely in how much science is in the fiction. Hard science fiction is the end of the spectrum in which the author tries very hard to stay within the bounds of what current science allows. There are ways of approaching faster than light travel that are not ruled out by moidern science - whether they are ruled out when we know more is another matter. But in hard science fiction, extrapolation of the science is an integral part of the story. The consequences of the science is the story.

    Soft science fiction also makes an attempt to be true to science, but the science is not the main story focus. Extrapolation is still the key to the story, but it is more often social extrapolation. The science is a means to nring about an alternative society, and the society is the story's focus.

    Most Star Trek stories are soft science fiction. You could argue that Star Wars fall into that category as well, and I might even agree, where it not for the dominance of the Magic (the Force) in the story.

    Therein lies the greatest divide between science fiction and fantasy. Fantasy makes little or no effort to base the main plot elements on grounds of plausible reality. It is often based on creatures or abilities we "know" are immeasurable and/or unprovable, if not purely wishful thinking.

    That line will always be blurred, because the division between science and religion is itself often fuzzy.
     
  12. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    Magic may be grounded in science or it may be an unexplained wild card. It's up to the author.

    I'm just pointing out that if you tried explaining the internet to someone who has no idea or understanding of computers or even electronics, they may see the internet as an all knowing oracle.

    Likewise, if you were to play World of Warcraft, someone could say your character is you in an alternate dimension.

    Gatorade and Monster could be seen as potions of rejuvenation. :D

    It's all in how you describe it. :)
     
  13. Reggie
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    Reggie I Like 'Em hot "N Spicy Contributor

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    I think that fantasy works in a way that it is impossible for something to happen in reality. Though God is a supernatural being, he may be used as science fiction, since it can be scientifically proven that God does exist.

    And on the other hand, a dream sequence can be described as fantasy, since in a dream we can see the door then it disappears all of a sudden (that's what I think fantasy is).
     
  14. KarlSmith
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    KarlSmith Member

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    Personally I think science-fiction and fantasy are completely different story-wise, science-fiction isn't always about going into space and fighting monsters, it could be about a whole range of other topics and is usually set around the present time or future (but not always - sci-fi does have time travel)
    Whereas fantasy usually revolves around the past, going on quests, fighting evil etc (again not always but usually) --
     
  15. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    As an aside, I'd like to see you post a scientific "proof" of the existence of God, Reggie. I do not believe that such a proof exists, so I'm interested to see what you've got :)
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Not here, please. That is potentially a highly explosive debate.
     
  17. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    OK. Fair enough. But it is an interesting statement to make :)
     
  18. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would have agreed with this when I was younger, but I have since learned there are a lot of things that happen in reality that are stranger than anything thought up in fiction. :)
     
  19. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, but "stranger" and "impossible" aren't the same thing :) Anything that happens in the real world is not impossible (by definition).
     
  20. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wrote a post on this very subject on my blog a while back (AncientIslander), but it's a little too lengthy to post here.
     
  21. A.J.Crowley
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    A.J.Crowley Senior Member

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    Ahhh, the often abused Clarke's law.
     
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  22. Eilish
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    Eilish New Member

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    Science fiction also often makes a political or social commentary. I'll use the previously mentioned example of Doctor Who since that's what I'm most familiar with.

    The Doctor saves the world from a whole bunch of different kinds of aliens, but rather than focusing mainly on the fact that the Earth is once again being invaded, there's a comment on the way human society is run.

    For example, there are quite a few episodes and monsters that revolve around the general fear people have of aging death. Cybermen were created in order to prevent a man from dying. Cassandra went through countless plastic surgeries and wound up being nothing more than a flap of skin stretched across a metal frame to keep from looking old.

    Then there are the monsters who kill anyone who isn't the same species as they are because they feel that everyone else is weaker (Daleks for those of you who don't know what I am refering to). I believe there was one episode where one of them realized that doing so actually makes their race weaker.

    And in season five there was a two part episode where the homoreptilians wanted to reclaim the Earth from the humans and members of both species turned to war and murder as the only solution. The Doctor spent most of the episode trying to convince either side that war is not the way to solve a problem.

    I think that's enough examples. But that is, in my opinion, the main difference between science fiction and fantasy. Fantasy may sometimes make a comment on society, but science fiction is based around social commentary and uses science and a good story to show how we are wrong or our views on certain things are completely ridiculous.
     
  23. Sabreur
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    Hm, well I think that is a false dichotomy. I've read science fiction that was little more than bullet-porn in space and I've read fantasy that made insightful commentary on social perceptions, most often our perception of heroism (here's looking at you, Joe Abercrombie ;) ).
     
  24. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    The social commentary distinction doesn't make sense as a genre boundary. There is nothing inherent within science fiction that necessitates social commentary and nothing inherent in fantasy that precludes it (and as Sabreur notes, there is a lot of fantasy that is social commentary). The distinction between the genres lies in the word "science" and the adherence to, or extrapolation from, existing science and known scientific laws that makes science fiction.
     
  25. colorthemap
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    My God, he's got it. This I make the premise of my stories. And is that how he "sonics" stuff.

    *FACE PALM* (WTF MAN SONIC!!!!!)
     

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