1. Miswrite
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    Miswrite Member

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    Science fiction vs. fantasy

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Miswrite, Apr 6, 2009.

    I've struggled to understand the difference between the two genres of science fiction and fantasy, and all I've come up with is that while surreal activities take place in both genres, in fantasy, they are explained by magic, while in science fiction, they have some sort of scientific-sounding explanation. I say "scientic-sounding" because it's more often than not as made up as any magical explanation - it just sounds logical.

    I enjoy both genres, but most of the people I know, if not all, like fantasy but cringe whenever someone mentions science fiction. This bothers me. They think - and I know because I've asked them - that it's all about aliens and spaceships. Where does that stereotype come from? Heck, Frankenstein is science fiction! I don't try to convert my friends or even attempt to get them to read the genre, but I feel as though they're missing out on a lot. It's just like fantasy, really. What's the difference if an evil queen is taking over some other realm or an otherworldy civilization is doing it?

    Another thing that bothers me is the perception of science fiction as some sort of "geeky" or "nerdy" genre. How is fantasy any different? I don't believe that genres of books define people, but if I was asked, I would say that reading books about dragons is just as stereotypically "geeky" or "nerdy" as reading about aliens.

    So now comes the question: which do you prefer more, and why?
     
  2. Dcoin
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    Dcoin Contributing Member

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    The older I get, the less I take things at face value. Meaning I like things to have a logical explanation and not chalked up as simply "magical".

    My vote is for SciFi.
     
  3. TereFaerie
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    TereFaerie Member

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    I usually prefer fantasy, because good fantasy novels are much easier to find. If anyone wants to suggest some recent sci-fi reads, I'd love to hear it.
    I loved sci-fi as a kid, but it's been a while since a good one resonated with me. Even movies seem to be going back to the classsic sci-fi novels; War of the Worlds, TDTESS, a large # of P.K. Dick novels...
     
  4. KP Williams
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    KP Williams Contributing Member

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    To my understanding, sci-fi conforms to at least somewhat realistic rules and regulations, namely the laws of physics. Fantasy, on the other hand, is less concerned with such triviality. With this in mind, things like Star Wars would probably be better classified as fantasy, since hyperspace travel pays absolutely no heed to Einstein. And then there's the Force, of course, which is technically magic. :rolleyes: Also, fantasy need not have magic; just things that defy science. Shape shifting creatures, for instance. Of course, that's just my rule of thumb as best as I know it.

    That said, I prefer fantasy. By my reckoning, the laws of physics put too much of a damper on things that could otherwise be very interesting indeed. Not that realistic stories are boring.
     
  5. Miswrite
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    Miswrite Member

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    Glad to see there are still some sci-fi lovers out there, Dcoin!

    TereFaerie, have you tried Heinlein? He's got countless sci-fi novels, all of which are generally interesting, but if you can't stand old-fashioned mysogynistic views, I suggest you steer clear, since, Heinlein's books being from the "women are adorable when they try to do a man's work" era, they are filled with mysogynistic remarks.

    FMK, that's just it! Why do there have to be laws of physics? I agree with you on the "rules and regulations" remark, but science fiction is absolutely not bound by any laws. If a novel is set far enough into the future, maybe the rules of physics were proved wrong or just done away with completely. Also, wouldn't fantasy also abide by some rules - just not the ones we're familiar with? Every fantasy creature has some limit to their powers, as a rule - and it's an unspoken rule that every power is limited by the writer's imagination. Usually, typical powers like invisibility, flying, some sort of magic orbs, etc. are used, because nothing else can be thought of. It's the same with the rules of physics - they are usually used, but when someone thinks up something more creative, they can be tossed aside.
     
  6. KP Williams
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    KP Williams Contributing Member

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    I think you misunderstand. When I said "namely the laws of physics," I meant usually. They also have to be believable by today's standards. If the laws of physics have been dealt away with, there better be a damn good reason. No skimping out on explaining.

    Of course fantasy creatures would have their rules as well. It's just that they don't have to have even somewhat realistic rules. Obviously, if a creature can change from an elephant into an iguana, its rules will not echo reality, since we have nothing to base it on in the real world. That's the main difference in my mind: sci-fi could feasibly happen at some point in the future, while fantasy may not be possible at all in the real world.
     
  7. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    There really isn't a difference between science fiction and fantasy. Both are speculative fiction based on "what if" and the only thing that sets them apart is that what fantasy achieves through magic science fiction does the same thing with technology.

    Rod sterling apply said: "Fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science Fiction is the improbable made possible." I don't even think it's uncommon for the two genres to really blend into each other. Ever read a Warhammer 40K novel? It's like someone spilled their fantasy into my scifi. I love to call it Lord of the Rings, in SPACE. Then there's the Final Fantasy series which often blends scifi into it's fantasy with recent releases. Star Wars does a lot of mixing of the two. Jedi are pretty much wizards with a scifi explanation for what they do. The Halo series though very scifi, keeps in line with Bungie's tradition of putting what are typical fantasy story line elements into a scifi setting.

    I actually like both genres, but I often have trouble finding fantasy I want to read. Too many Tolkein-esc novels out there, and once you've read one Lord of the Rings wannabe you've really read them all. Of course that's a problem with writers not the genre and I've found some fantasy I like. I've been meaning to get into the Black Company novels cause I've heard lots of good things about them but haven't gotten around to it.

    I read more science fiction which I more readily find diversity in.
     
  8. Moira
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    So when I think of Sci-Fi I generally think of spacey. Like Star Trek. But when I think of Fantasy I think of Eargon or Lord of the Rings. Here's my question, where do the vampire book fall into? Sci-Fi, or Fantasy. o_O Lol.
     
  9. Miswrite
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    Miswrite Member

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    Fantasy, Moira. Vampires are 'magical.'
    (and sparkly of course! :rolleyes: )
     
  10. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Vampires, unless you can find some evidence that they could have existed, would be fantasy.

    The basic definitions I've always heard go something like this: "Fantasy has one element of the impossible." "Science fiction follows (or expands on) accepted scientific beliefs and speculations."

    So it really has nothing to do with settings.
     
  11. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Technically, yeah, they are more of a horror thing. Though if you do use that most basic definition, a lot of horror counts as fantasy, because you have monsters that don't exist... spells, curses
     
  12. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    Vampires can be geared to fit into a fantasy world, but I don't think that of themselves they would be considered fantasy.
     
  13. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    But again, it depends on how strictly you want to define it. I define fantasy as having one element of the impossible. Since vampires and wearwolves don't exist, it counts.
     
  14. A.J.Crowley
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    A.J.Crowley Senior Member

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    Very good :p

    My question is when does science fiction effectively become fantasy with spaceships, where magic has been replaced by 'highly advanced technology'? Star Wars is a good example of this.

    And can fantasy become Science Fiction? For example American Gods winning both the Hugo and Nebula awards or how many modern fantasy writers use the idea of parallel worlds and multiple realities in their work i.e. Phillip Pullman, Raymond E Feist, Terry Pratchett.
     
  15. KP Williams
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    Star Wars didn't replace magic with anything; it simply took a name change, from "magic" to "the Force." But even if it didn't have that, the fact that ships in that series can traverse 120,000 light years in a matter of hours removes all traces of credible science (admittedly, it's more complicated than that, but that's just my Star Wars nerdiness talking :p). And that's just one of the things that are impossible with our understanding of physics.
     
  16. Bob Magness
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    Bob Magness Senior Member

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    Well, I don’t think the science in the story has to be correct or even credible to be science fiction. It just needs to be portrayed as science. I think the faster than light speed travel in Star Wars falls under sci-fi even though as I understand it such travel is not only beyond our ability, but beyond the laws of physics.

    I read a sci-fi book once (a bad one) that was based on increasing the percentage of our brain that we use. It stated the old claim that we only use 10% of our brain. That is false. We use 100% of our brain. But even though the scientific premise on which the book was based was absolutely incorrect, it was still science fiction.
     
  17. Phantasmal Reality
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    I feel that Sci-Fi takes what we understand now as at least being possible and extrapolates it to "what could be", whereas Fantasy looks at what we have and explores "what could've been". Why aren't there vampires and werewolves? Why can't people perform magic? What if a mad scientist figured out a way to piece together a human from spare parts and brought it to life? What if scientists discovered a new principle of physics that allowed "faster-than-light" space travel?

    I think crossover between fantasy and sci-fi exists because they're not mutually exclusive at all, and the blend of both can sometimes be quite interesting. I can see it now... vampires in space! Well... ok, maybe the world isn't ready for that yet. (Just watch, someone will post a link to a book with that exact plot now.) :rolleyes:

    P.S. I didn't mean to offend anyone who is currently working on a story that involves vampires in space. Just make sure it doesn't suck.

    P.P.S. Forgive the bad vampire pun. :D
     
  18. Moira
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    I really like that explination, as for the Vampire's in space I was seriously toying around with something like that. Star Trek kind of, but with a vampire who falls for an Alien. I guess more like Star Gate then Star Trek. :D Lame I know.
     
  19. lynneandlynn
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    This discussion reminded me of a series written by Piers Anthony (title of which slips my mind) where the main character slips between a sci-fi technology based world and a fantasy world. I loved the merging of those two genres in one book and it was very well written.

    For me, I prefer realistic fantasy, and yes, that is actually a genre now. Books where the main characters have some sort of psychic abilities rather than an all-out world with creatures and the like. I was never too big into sci-fi because when I was younger a lot of the concepts were hard to grasp. I will have to admit to loving the Ender novels by Orson Scott Card, though.
     
  20. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    They might be similar in many ways, but fantasy has a very different feeling. Typically, people that read sci-fi want and like the shiny metal, plastic, and up to date or futuristic settings.

    I like sci-fi, but I could really care less for books like LOTR.

    There is also a different feel behind a dragon and a reptilian, an elf and a Vulcan. Also between laser blasters and magic wands.
     
  21. Miswrite
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    There's also the question of, why do so many beginning writers choose to write fantasy instead of science fiction? It may seem less complicated at first glance, but like someone before me said, sci-fi doesn't need to be science-y, it just needs to be accepted as science. Fantasy, I feel, has a much deeper history to write for - more and more, I find people putting off the actual writing of their fantasy book and spending months plotting out maps and histories of their fantasy world. I've never seen that done for sci-fi, actually. Although, I think the reason so many beginning writers chose fantasy is because of the inspiration Harry Potter books provided them, since currently, I see more and more people who start out writing select a topic that ranges from "vampires" to "werewolves" (But never just werewolves! There must be vampires at some point) thanks to the cursed gift of Twilight.
     
  22. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Sci-fi can have just as much history as fantasy. Frank Hebert studied and thought about the planet Arrakis for four years before writing Dune.
     
  23. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are plenty of sci-fi books/movies that aren't all shiny and plastic, or even futuristic, necessarily. The last movie inspired by War of the Worlds is a good example. There is nothing unscientific about it, as far as we know, because they do not attempt to explain how the aliens got there, or how long it took. And lasers that act as weapons are an extrapolation on tasers.

    Robert Sawyer almost never sets his books in the future. Illegal Alien was set when he wrote it. The story was about people from another planet arriving on Earth, explaining how they got there using current scientific beliefs regarding space travel. A human dies, and they believe one of the aliens is responsible.

    There are also hundreds of fantasies that look nothing like Tolkien. You just have to know where to look.

    This is why I don't like to over-define a genre. It causes people to develop certain expectations, and so many books do not fit the neat little packages people create for them. Or you end up with fifty sub-genres, and you drive yourself crazy trying to figure out which one your story fits into.
     
  24. Castlesofsand
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    Castlesofsand Banned

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    A choice between sci-fi and fantasy eh? Ugh, hard to say, i think it depends on the reader and the story behind. when reading we have to place the setting in our mind, regardless to what it is, we adapt it to what we know, compare it to life around us. a man walks, a dog drinks, birds fly. it is why its so hard to find an uniquely styled book.

    if its too alien, we can't grasp it. But in fantasy you can put sci-fi in it, have old races of 'old magic' and still make it believable.

    I don't know if i can choose between the two. I've seen good and bad on both, if I had to pick a favourite to write, i'd choose fantasy because its easier and gives more leeway for imagination. in sci-fi you have to explain things more so requires research and more thought. space flight and the technology involved, planet terra-forming and such.
     
  25. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I am aware not all fantasy is like LOTR, but I pointed that kind out because I don't like it. I did however enjoy The Neverending Story. I enjoy that sort of fantasy.

    Also, I said futuristic settings, not necessarily set in the future. In War of the Worlds aliens use futuristic technology and walked around in huge, metal daddy-long-leg-like machines. It has a sci-fi feel to it.

    Some novels are borderline. It is hard to say if they are sci-fi or fantasy, but it comes down to what the publishers label it as. If they say it is sci-fi then it is, even if we don't agree.
     

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