1. theutopian12342
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    theutopian12342 New Member

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    Sci-Fi: Setting or Genre?

    Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by theutopian12342, Dec 15, 2008.

    Science Fiction, is it a Setting or Genre? Is it both? I'm was just wondering and wanting to hear other people's thoughts.
     
  2. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    I'm not really sure if Science Fiction can be a setting with its definition and what makes a setting and all....
     
  3. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    It's a genre. You can't really call it a setting because science-fiction is far to vague a term for any setting. It can be in space, on earth, in another dimension, it can take place 1492 when columbus sailed the ocean blue. Settings tend to transcend genre; Earth can be a setting for any genre of fiction, and so can space or alternate dimensions. Genre defines themes and content of story and plot lines all of which are essentially free and can be worked into any setting you like.

    Of course there are typical setting's for science-fiction and fantasy and the like. Space full of aliens and futuristic technologies and ancient forgotten kingdoms of magic, but I can use ancient forgotten kingdoms in a sci-fi story as easily as I can use space and aliens in a fantasy story.

    Science-fiction = genre
     
  4. Thagryn-Sylrand
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    Thagryn-Sylrand Senior Member

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    Sci fi is a genre. If you write sci fi you get to create the setting for it i.e. futuristic earth, different planet, different galaxy, in a computer etc. The setting is up to you but sci fi is the genre.
     
  5. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    For the sake of rocking the boat, I'm going to say it can be both. Let's keep in mind there is such a thing as a subgenre. For example, urban fantasy must take place in an urban setting, space stories typically take place in outer space, time travel sories typically involve multiple time periods, etc, etc.

    But science fiction as a whole is a genre, not a setting. Until you tag on a subgenre, the setting can be anyplace, anytime, as others have said.
     
  6. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think sci-fi is usually defined as a genre.

    Having said that, in recent years there have been so many takes on it, I think it's sometimes difficult to distinguish when it's sci-fi and when it's fantasy.

    I think for it to be sci-fi, perhaps there should be some kind of speculation about scientific discoveries/developments, or the way modern inventions/political mechanisms have altered the world it is set in, which plays an important part in the plot.
     
  7. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    Generally, sci-fi and fantasy are both sub-genres of the much large genre "Speculative Fiction" which encompasses science-fiction, fantasy, horror, and supernatural fiction. You'll notice these types of novels tend to be mixed together in most book stores that organize by genre.
     
  8. ManicParroT
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    ManicParroT Contributing Member

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    Glad you brought this up. The lines between genres are getting a lot blurrier, which leads to some interesting results. I mean, what does Jeff Vandermeer write? Gene Wolfe has aliens and swords, what's going on there? Is China Mieville writing sci-fi or fantasy?
     
  9. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd say science fiction is a genre, but as most genres, it has a number of common settings associated with it (galactic empire, post-apocalyptic future, dystopic future, alternate history, etc).

    These settings can be borrowed by other genres, making it meaningful to talk about a "science fiction setting". For example, "Independence Day" has borrowed the "alien invasion" setting from science fiction, but apart from that, it's a pretty straightforward heroic tale, without any reflection on the implications of science or technology.

    Star Wars, on the other hand, I'd classify as a classical sword and sorcery fantasy tale that has borrowed its props (spaceships, laser swords) and the "galactic empire" setting from science fiction.

    Anne McCaffrey's "Dragonriders of Pern" I'd put in the science fiction category, because:
    1. It's conceivable that the whole story is taking place on a distant planet in the future, and the "dragons" seem more scientific than supernatural.
    2. The world in the novel is understood through rational analysis (as opposed to the mystical world of fantasy, which is understood by having wisdom handed down from gods or elders).
    3. The main characters overcome difficulties by understanding them rationally (not merely through the heroic effort seen in fantasy).
    4. It takes place in a progressive society (as opposed to the nostalgic society of fantasy).

    EDIT: I should have called Star Wars "high fantasy", not "sword and sorcery"...
     
  10. Acglaphotis
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    Acglaphotis Contributing Member

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    Sci-Fi tends to cater to what we hope, what may be. Fantasy is what we yearn, an appeal directly to the heart about how things should be that in some ways stretches back to the ideal of childhood. Or something like that.
     
  11. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Star Wars is a unique being interms of genres. Or at least it was when it was new, because there have been books that branch off from the style. It is a high fantasy in a lot of ways, but it's also got the kind of setting and scope of Star Trek, and the political side is a lot more complicated than a normal high fantasy with a medieval setting. That's why it, and similar books, tend to be called Space Operas. They aren't scientifically plausible enough to be sci-fi, but they aren't really fantasy except in its most basic definitition, being that a fantasy deals with what is percieved to be impossible (I say percieved, because we never know what is impossible).

    slightly off topic. As for the question: sci-fi and fantasy are not directly related to the setting. Fantasy deals with the impossible, and science fiction deals with what is scientifically plausible, with minimal exaggeration. Both of those can be done in any setting.
     
  12. skewedvision
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    skewedvision New Member

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    Science Fiction is a genre, mostly because publishers, editors etc have made it that way. Their constant need to pigeon-hole writers has, alas, obliged writers to think in those terms. It wasn't always that way. Nor are such labels necessarily a good thing. For instance, should Oscar Wilde now be labelled a "horror" writer because of Dorian Gray? Ditto for Dickens' "A Christmas Carol?" What about H G Wells' Time Machine? I know it's difficult to ignore labels, but don't let yourself be ruled by them.
     
  13. Acglaphotis
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    Acglaphotis Contributing Member

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    Dorian Gray wasn't horror at all.... More like light fantasy or magic realism...
     
  14. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Genres are useful in marketing, and as publishers are commerical institutions, this naturally means they are useful to them. Science Fiction is a genre by definition, and yes, this fact has a lot to do with its use by publishers. But that doesn't mean it isn't useful to others as well, especially readers.

    As a note; this really isn't the place for a rant against the publishing industry. Let's try to stay on topic.
     
  15. Mangyhyena
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    Mangyhyena Member

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    Depends on the function of the science fiction elements in terms of plot and character development.

    I think Gattaga was a fantastic science fiction movie, but the sci-fi was mostly setting, not the engine that drove the plot. Others would disagree, citing that same lack of plot driving of the technology.
     

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