Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Lolly_pop, Jan 11, 2010.
What's the difference in terms of chosing which genre best describes your manuscript?
Before I attempt to explain in general terms, realize that within SF and Fantasy there are subgenres (High Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Magic Realism, Sword & Sorcery, etc. or Hard Science Fiction, Soft Science Fiction, Space Opera, Steampunk, etc.) Often there is bleed over between fantasy subgenres and science fiction subgenres, as well as blending of SF and Fantasy elements, which sometimes (especially in recent years) gets lumped into Speculative Fiction, where Horror and even Paranormal Romance can sometimes have place.
To know where your work falls, you have to determine which element(s) dominate the plotline, and best define the world you've created. Sometimes that can be difficult to tell. My novel is classified as a fantasy, although it has elements of science fiction, techno thriller and even some would say horror. Magic and fantastic creatures such as dragons, giants and zombies weigh more heavily in setting it apart from the world we live in than the other elements which only play a brief part, such as parallel dimensions.
You can google or yahoo terms with respect to genres and subgenres for more precise definitions. Take a look at a few to determine the trend of what best describes them.
Hope that helps a little.
It’s not too hard to determine. You should look up the terms, as noted above.
If the world your story takes place in is not earth, chances are you have now entered the realm of high fantasy or science fiction.
If it is earth, it’s either low fantasy or science fiction.
Now, both fantasy and science fiction can be set in the future. If the technology is so advances as to be unrecognizable, seeming like magic, you have fantasy. Science fiction primarily deals with technology that seems attainable within the next few hundred years.
Like teleportation, time machines and universal assemblers?
We need to get busy to make the deadline, then.
Even if we used 'The Time Machine' as our set, we only have a life time to make this in.
Fantasy and Science Fiction are most different in their themes and agendas.
Science Fiction typically has some moral, idea, or concept to be learned. Or the story will be based on some philosophy or ideal (i.e. Utopia, Dystopia, etc.) Its often grounded in believability of where humanity will "end up", no matter how close or far the time period.
Fantasy has no primary agenda but to tell its story and be lost in the adventure. It is typically more character driven, and even its usual themes of triumph, glory, longing, sehnsucht, etc. are secondary to the experience of the journey and characters.
Using that criteria, consider the following:
Star Wars - dominantly Fantasy
Star Trek - dominantly Science Fiction
Tron - dominantly fantasy (with some obvious sci-fi themes peaking the surface)
Watchmen - dominantly Science Fiction
Blade Runner - dominantly Science Fiction
Terry brooks: explores the use and abuse of power.
Terry Goodkind: his themes are directed at individualism.
Robert Jordan: he bends over backward to express the theme of gender.
All literature has theme. None any more so than others.
yes, all literature has theme.
Romance, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Mystery & Suspense, etc.
Some rely more on their themes to ensure its genre. Of course a story cannot cease to be fantasy because it has a strong theme, BUT... you cannot convince me that a book that expresses the theme of gender is fantasy just because is has dragons and swords in it. There's something else going on....
Also, its important to realize that fantasy (or any other genre) cannot be fantasy because of its imagery. Design should follow function, not the other way around. Many "fantasy" tales could have been told the exact same way outside of the chosen imagery and setting.
Star Wars, for instance, could be told without science fiction imagery, except that the sci-fi imagery at that time served to enhance the fantastical and wondrous elements in the story. This is a clue that the story is more fantasy. Star Trek, arguably, cannot do this.
when I'm done watching Lord of the Rings, I don't dominantly say, "wow, I really learned a lot about humanity, and the depravity of man, and of evil, and of the conquest of love, and of the providence of the divine" (<-- all true) Hell no! I say, "What a magnificent adventure I was on. I wish to go on thinking of it!"
But when I'm done watching Blade Runner or Children of Men, I'm often left thinking, "wow, something meaningful was said there" and I find myself watching it again to "figure out the meaning"
Of course this is all my opinion, but I needed to clarify that I do think fantasy has themes, and some very strong ones! But A book that focuses to much on its moral or idea will sometimes lose its adventure -and for me - cease to be fantasy.
The line between science fiction and fantasy can be extremely fuzzy. The main distinction is whether the technology can be reasonably extrapolated from known science. Fantasy favors what can only be termed as magic, and often extrapolates from acknowledged mythology.
But there is a great deal of writing considered science fiction that violates scientific principles without a second thought (or even a first thought), and there is fantasy with all the trappings of advanced technology. In many instances, the classification is in the eye of the beholder.
As far as a publisher's genre classification, there are often guidelines they apply, and that you can either inspect or infer by looking at their published material.
From a sales perspective, it doesn't really matter a huge amount. Most bookstores shelve sci-fi and fantasy in the same place, so even if you class yours as sci-fi, you'll be on the shelf next to fantasy novels (and, depending on the store, horror).
I seem to remember Rod Serling (who is awesome) saying something along the lines of "Science fiction makes the implausible possible, while fantasy makes the impossible plausible."
I think a lot of things that combine the two (Star Wars, Artemis Fowl, etc.) often end up being better than either of the two individually, but usually things are either Sci-Fi with Fantasy elements or vice versa. It would be interesting to see them more seamlessly combined.
Also, I think its interesting that most genres describe story and character elements, but Sci-Fi and Fantasy really just describe setting. You could easily have, for instance, a mystery novel about wizards, or a romance novel set on a spaceship. Or wizards on a spaceship, for that matter.
Wait, wizards in space?
Isn't that just Star Wars?
Remember, people are defined by the times they live in, so traditional wizards in traditional space is impossible without leaning toward one genre or the other. Or resorting to surrealism, of course.
As far as I'm able to tell, the major difference between sci-fi and fantasy is that fantasy tends to veer off the logical, scientific course for the sake of its storytelling, going with more magical and mythological aspects, while sci-fi uses the logical and scientific along with sometimes extraterrisical (spelling?) to be the backbone of the story.
To find out which yours is more defined by, ask yourself if the story is about swords, sorcery, dragons and demons or more along the ideas of robots, far away planets and aliens. Now that's a pretty broad way of looking at it, but once you break it down from there you can go even more detailed, thus giving a fairly clear idea as to what you're working with.
Also, keep in mind that you may have your story overlap in other areas with comedy, romance, horror, etc. This is very natural and in fact beneficial IMO since it makes the story more multi-dimensional. Don't get too tied up in defining it though as that inspires you to be generic and thus cliched.
I think it's fairly simple.
Consider the age-old scales of science and mysticism as dichotomous concepts. Science fiction is fiction about science, while fantasy rests on the other scale. The scale of myth and magic. Whatever weights heavier on your scales decides the genre.
Both genres are equally open for philosophical themes, really. It just happens that fantasy as a genre more often tends to fall prey to simplistic, cliched themes. Still, themes are seperate of genre, so there's no real excuse for that. I happen to love fantasy stories that truly screw with my mind -- unfortunately they're rare, and apparently they don't sell as well as "Farm Boy learns from a prophecy that he must grow strong and defeat Lord Evil, so Mr. Mentor helps him do so and then everyone's happy."
What about things with swords, sorcery, dragons, demons, robots, far away planets and aliens?
I think many authors, of all genres, sometimes write without having a real message or are using a theme that has been done a thousand times.
How many science fiction stories are just about mankind coming together as one species? Or about racism? (thinking of “Enemy Mind” great movie)
It’s actually pretty hard to call a theme cliché. How many stories are about “how far would you go to save your loved ones” or “becoming a man?”
All genres are equal when it comes to these things.
But fantasy more often than sci-fi tend to have overly simplistic and dated notions about such themes. For example: "The enemy must die because they're evil. They're evil because they're the enemy." No further questions are raised. Once the Good and Just knight has most honorably slain the enemy hordes, balance is restored. The absurdity in that shoots off the chart.
Enemy Mine took that terribly primitive concept and exposed its weaknesses -- but why did it have to be a science fiction story that took up that task? I'd like to see more fantasy that did.
True. What I really meant was that the take on the theme was cliché. And to avoid further semantic issues, I should probably replace the word cliché with banal.
I don’t think you’ve been exposed to enough fantasy. I think you’re thinking of a few top titles and making an assumption about the whole genre. That’s like watching Star Wars and Star Trek and saying all science fiction is about star ships and laser blasters.
Try reading John Marco’s books, starting with The Grand Design (his first book was not all that great.) There’s a lot of “deep” fantasy out there.
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