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lady_hockey
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Fantasy vs Science Fiction

They are often grouped into the same genre and put on the same shelves. But how similar are they really?

  • What makes something SciFi?
  • What makes something Fantasy?
  • How are they similar and how are they different?
  • Why are they so often grouped together?

    And most importantly . . .
  • Do you feel they should be? Why or why not?

These are only suggested questions, please feel free to add your own thoughts or questions about this topic here.
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Nelsmom
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Re: Fantasy vs Science Fiction

Science Fiction to me means that the books are based on the Hard science that we know like physics, astronomy, and such. They may deal with other planets but are based on things that se know. Fantasy to me is more speculative and has things or elements that are not based in pure science. And then to me we have some books that have bits of both and so that is why they are grouped together.

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lazrat
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Re: Fantasy vs Science Fiction

The real difference between science fiction and fantasy is whether there is a technological base involved or a mystical base. While most novels are fairly obvious about what genre they belong to because of that there are always those stories that are not so obvious.
Books such as the Shadowrun series based on the popular RPG series combine both high technology and mysticism or magic and could be called either or. I tend to think of it as a sci-fi series because of it's future setting and obvious signs of technology laced throughout but I have a brother who insists that sense it contains mythical creatures and magic it should be considered fantasy.
Maybe the best way to tell them apart is best left to the author or the reader for them to decide what they think it should be.
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Bucci
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Re: Fantasy vs Science Fiction

Sci-Fi usualy deals with the future and advanced technology. It also can deal with space travel, aliens, and lasers. Fantacy is usualy in the past and it has to do more with magic, knights, and mythical creatures. Swords were more promenent than guns (or lasers). This is a simple, watered down, but effective discription. As for them being in the same catagory? I think they are diffrent and should be 2 independant catagories.
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nkico
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Re: Fantasy vs Science Fiction

I think that stating that sci-fi and fantasy are 2 entirely seperate feilds narrows the options and thoughts used for those feilds.
- Take The Rowan - viewed in context it is a blatant mix of future society and the "possibilities" of the human psychy - ie:sci-fi and fantasy - a mix -
- Take Xanth - in the newest novels you see much of a slightly future born era of earth and yet also you have Xanth itself - sci-fi and fantasy - a mix -

Those are just 2 such examples off the top of my head - there are thousands of such mixs since most authors dont care how much science they have in their fiction or vice versa - Orson Scott Card - a blatant mixer so to Ann McCaffrey, Alen Dean Foster and many others.

While they are not in and of themselves the same they are to tightly knit to be seperated completely.

As for deffinitions of each - sci-fi=any science based fiction, fantasy=any fantasy based fiction.
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StonedPhilosopher
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Re: Fantasy vs Science Fiction

There certainly is a grey area for some books but generally I think a distinction is useful because I believe there are very often distinct groups of people that like one versus the other (for example, I like very few fantasy books but very many SF books). SF (an older acrynym meaning "speculative fiction", which I prefer since many good SF books don't emphasize science at all) applies to literature which follows most of the known physical "laws" we know but may bend or break one or a few specific ones for the needs of the story. Faster-than-light travel, for example, or time-travel. The key idea is that the story is completely believable/plausable once you grant the few changes. The wonderful thing about this is that it allows a huge variety of stories, from deep-techie ones to ones that focus completely on characters; a favorite of mine in the latter category is "A Canticle for Lebowitz", which doesn't change any physics at all - it simply is set in a totally possible future of our real world. Jean Auel's "Cave Bear" series can also easily fall here since it speculates on a past that we don't really know in the level of detail she deals with. She doesn't allow herself complete freedom to have anything happen in her stories, she sticks with what is well accepted by researchers and only adds a few assumptions here and there. The stories flow from that new world she has created.

Fantasy takes a much more free reign with the physical world (magic often being part of the physical world in these stories). Fantasy builds a whole set of alternate laws of the universe - but like any good story is then consistent within that world. Bad fantasy, like bad SF and any bad stories, are written by lazy authors that don't stay within the world they have built. Once we readers have "signed up" for a facinating universe created for us, we naturally resent when we have the rules changed just to get an author out of a corner they have painted themselves into.

That's been my working definition of these two genres and it's stood me in good stead for the 40-plus years I've been reading more than "Dick and Jane". I hope it will be useful to others.
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Rebma55
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Re: Fantasy vs Science Fiction

In my opinion Science Fiction novels are more modern than Fantasy. It's based more or less on things that we know, or things that can come to be such as space travel at light speed, aliens, lasers, sort of like Star Trek with space ships and such things that involve scientific elements. Fantasy has more of a medieval flavor to it, with the swords and the dragons, magic and such things. I'm solely Fantasy but have recently picked up a Sci-fi book. Fantasy can be solely in a whole different world with relation to a culture or folklore from a certain people but enhanced to the writers vision. If I pick up a book and anywhere in there does it mention anything from our world such as a time, a country anything like that I won't pick it up because I won't be able to get into it. The only similarities I see between the two is that they are entirely fiction. Sci-fi may have some references to true events but I haven't seen any in a Fantasy book, or a book that was solely fantasy. I believe they may be grouped together because they are stories of something that is not probable in our day and age, they both have things that we don't have. Such as laser beams, light speed traveling, magic, dragons, orcs, goblins, etc. Sometimes I look to science fiction as something probable because all is not proven and human society has a far way to advance and laser beams, light speed traveling, and aliens are somethings that can probably be found/achieved. Fantasy can be probably such as dragons or magic, or other worlds that have such things but there isn't a sci-fi element to it where there is a space ship that brought people there or found a planet occupied by orcs and people that still use the sword and magic. I don't believe they should be grouped together but I can see why they can be.
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StonedPhilosopher
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Re: Fantasy vs Science Fiction

Your definitions (very well expressed, by the way) do work for many SF and fantasy books, I agree, but I've found enough exceptions over the years that led me to the definitions I described. For example, you said "Sci-fi may have some references to true events but I haven't seen any in a Fantasy book". Check out the wonderful "Alvin Maker" series by Orson Scott Card. Although there are no dragons there is a rich magic basis in these - and yet they are set in a pretty familiar (tho fascinatingly different) colonial North America, with references to Ben Franklin (a master magician known as a "maker"), Chief Tacumsah and plenty of other familiar people and events. These are clearly fantasy IMHO since magic is a complete rewrite of physical laws, not just minor tweaking. On the other side, Anne McAffery's dozens of "Pern" novels posit a totally SF universe populated by dragons and dragonriders ("Dragonriders of Pern" was her first, I believe). Everything has a firm physics basis (tho she doesn't over-dwell on the technical aspects, the books focus more on character and the society) and so qualifies as SF to me, dragons nonwithstanding. Check these out if you have a chance and see what you think.
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Rayek
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Re: Fantasy vs Science Fiction

Where would you place authors like Vandermeer and China Mieville, its hard to denfine some.
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Rebma55
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Re: Fantasy vs Science Fiction



StonedPhilosopher wrote:
Your definitions (very well expressed, by the way) do work for many SF and fantasy books, I agree, but I've found enough exceptions over the years that led me to the definitions I described. For example, you said "Sci-fi may have some references to true events but I haven't seen any in a Fantasy book". Check out the wonderful "Alvin Maker" series by Orson Scott Card. Although there are no dragons there is a rich magic basis in these - and yet they are set in a pretty familiar (tho fascinatingly different) colonial North America, with references to Ben Franklin (a master magician known as a "maker"), Chief Tacumsah and plenty of other familiar people and events. These are clearly fantasy IMHO since magic is a complete rewrite of physical laws, not just minor tweaking. On the other side, Anne McAffery's dozens of "Pern" novels posit a totally SF universe populated by dragons and dragonriders ("Dragonriders of Pern" was her first, I believe). Everything has a firm physics basis (tho she doesn't over-dwell on the technical aspects, the books focus more on character and the society) and so qualifies as SF to me, dragons nonwithstanding. Check these out if you have a chance and see what you think.




I've tried to read the Orson Scott Card books but found them more SciFi than fantasy for me. I guess I should pick them up again and see if they intrigue me well enough. Magic is an element more focused in fantasy novels but it can be interloped used in SciFi/Fantasy books as well. Yes, I have come across series/novels/books where both genre's are combined to make a fantastic story, such as Anne McAffery and Marion Zimmer Bradley. However, for me, a fantasy books holds more that interests me. Any kind of technology, anything that may reference to anything in our world kind of sets me off. The Sara Douglas's Wayfarer's Redemption was very very good, I loved the story, but in there, the is reference to what something like our Earth but in the future when humanity learns to space travel.
For me, to really enjoy a book, it has to be solely fantasy. Sara Douglas's books I enjoyed them immensely even with that little bit of SciFi in there but it was still fantasy more than anything else. Fantasy is just something that I can lose myself in. It brings me into an entirely different world where there is nothing but what the writer knows and envisions for their book. I meet characters that have personalities like the people around me but then don't, I see worlds with dragons and orcs, goblins and orges, dwarves and gnomes. If I could, I seriously would live in such a world for as long as I could before I was killed :smileywink:.
As much as SciFi and Fantasy can correlate and be one in the same for some authors, I still look at them as different genres. They should be, but as I said, I can see why they are grouped together. There is too much shared with both types. They are both fiction and they are both genres about things that aren't normal, that have information or events aren't known except through the author. With other fiction, there is always the message that this can happen, or this has happened like with romance, mystery, drama, horror, etc.
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Clippership14
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Re: Fantasy vs Science Fiction


lady_hockey wrote:
They are often grouped into the same genre and put on the same shelves. But how similar are they really?

  • What makes something SciFi?
  • What makes something Fantasy?
  • How are they similar and how are they different?
  • Why are they so often grouped together?

    And most importantly . . .
  • Do you feel they should be? Why or why not?

These are only suggested questions, please feel free to add your own thoughts or questions about this topic here.


Should fantasy and science fiction be intertwined? I think it shows great versatility on the part of an author if they can do it -- but do it well. There are many cliches and standard material often reused in both that sometimes, I think, an author needs to criss-cross genres to make something that doesn't sound like the old familiar walk up the lane to a reader. Of course, staying determinedly in one genre without diving at all into the other can still be original and well written. Many people I know enjoy both genres and don't find a mixture offensive. Books that have an underlying tone of research (or deep development in the imagination of a writer) tend to interest me more. But that goes for any genre I read. I like to feel I have placed myself in the hands of a writer who didn't just jot down the first words that came to them but that they have done their homework and are about to teach me something or unveil new things or ways of thinking to me. That's what's so neat about fantasy and science-fiction, they both leave the door wide open for experiences like that.
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Baker
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Re: Fantasy vs Science Fiction

They can be somewhat similar but it depends on what you think of them. Or more importantly how well you understand them. Fantasy is really out there sometimes. The topic can have like vampires or something like that in it. In science fiction the topic could possibly happen in real life. I really don't think vampires exist or can happen in real life so that really can't be science fiction. So I really don't know why they group them together maybe it's just to save money on labels.
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M-Elffriend
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Re: Fantasy vs Science Fiction

sci -fi out of this world. spacial and completly alien. Science recreated, real science and theoritical science. but it is also fantastical an illusion and completly a part of our imaginations. so it comes close to being the same although it is easy to seperate out as definatly different. scifi always has abase that comes from theory or true science and so is more reality based from its roots, huh? what am i saying??

Anyway we all know fantasy is whatever we choose to make it, our imaginations come to life. Magics and illusions are the driving force. creatures of the same world not out of world. beauty and danger a part of the same. dragons and elves, wizaeds and warriors. or pehaps just the plain folk the jones down the street with their adopted orc son. or perhaps lobb and darco the Giant and dwarf who run the local tavern at pullson crossing.
and as for omagination anything goes for we have magic on our side. how did he do that, why magic of course.

Now another question?? where do super heroes fit in, reality based as earth is thier home. full of magiccal and m,ystically powered creatures, but also filled with scientifically altered humans. where do they belong scifi or fantasy?
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coultersca
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Re: Fantasy vs Science Fiction

I think that books that invoke magic use the magic to change the basic rules of the book. I dont like rule changes, the author's challenge is to overcome these needs. I like science based fiction.
I agree that speculative fiction asks the question 'Could this happen?' and this guideline for many of the books I enjoy.

I very much dislike the merging of horror with SF. The stories often fit in the 'true crime fantasy' section, there is no speculation about them. In fact mixing horror with science fiction just stops me from searching among the science fiction for new books. Separating the horror section would not take more space, 'just' some thought. The Star Trek books are separated from science fiction! I have had some fun in bookshops, making life harder for the workers, turning the horror books down on the bookshelves to count how many there are. Perhaps sales of SF would improve?
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PatienceP
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Re: Fantasy vs Science Fiction

DC superheroes are definitely fantasy; Marvel superheroes probably are.
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lady_hockey
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Re: Fantasy vs Science Fiction



PatienceP wrote:
DC superheroes are definitely fantasy; Marvel superheroes probably are.




Could they also be SciFi?
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thinker
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Re: Fantasy vs Science Fiction

Fantasy is based on the imagination, however SciFi takes something out of reality and exaggerates on it, I suppose that based on the fact that they both seem so far fetched they are often associated with each other, however one should realise that there is a difference, so i don't think they should be grouped. For example, nuclear wastes can cause insects to develop some form of mutation but not suddenly grow larger than Mt. Everest!!!!







lady_hockey wrote:
They are often grouped into the same genre and put on the same shelves. But how similar are they really?

  • What makes something SciFi?
  • What makes something Fantasy?
  • How are they similar and how are they different?
  • Why are they so often grouped together?

    And most importantly . . .
  • Do you feel they should be? Why or why not?

These are only suggested questions, please feel free to add your own thoughts or questions about this topic here.


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PatienceP
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Re: Fantasy vs Science Fiction

Depends on what you're looking at, I imagine. Spiderman or the X-Men could mostly qualify as present-day sci-fi. Even Superman could--we know where his powers come from. But explaining Captain Marvel (the fellow who transforms in a bolt of lightning when he says "Shazam") or the Green Lantern's ring pseudo-scientifically might be stretching it.
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Thomas_T
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Re: Fantasy vs Science Fiction

So what about things that jump between them, that have sci-fi and fantasy, what do we call those?

Examples: Peirs Anthony's Apprentice Adept series
Michael Woodring Stover's Blade of Tyshale and Heroes Die.
"I aim to misbehave" Malcolm Reynolds Serenity
" To die will be an awfully big adventure." Peter Pan
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Vampyre
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Re: Fantasy vs Science Fiction

The way it was explained to me was fantasy has no basis in the real world. A fantasy world has it's own make up, rules and mechanics not found in our real world.

Science Fiction, as stated above, generally takes known facts, rules, principals and technology and then says "What if? Good sci-fi is a reality based on extended known rules and facts.

Then there is what some call science fantasy. This one is kind of murky. People used to call Star Trek Science Fantasy because of things like the phaser, warp speed and the transporter. They were considered to fantastic to ever become a reality.

This may be changing. Scientist are already experimenting with teleportation. They have reported telporting light particles. Doing the same to a complex organic subject is a long way off.
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