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Sci-Fi -v- Fantasy

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Initial post: Feb 14, 2013 4:28:30 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 14, 2013 4:52:24 PM PST
Brian says:
Everyone knows that science-fiction is generally clumped together with fantasy. This used to make perfect sense to me, until I tried to write science-fiction and realized how very different the genres are.

Do you prefer fantasy above science-fiction? If so, why?

Posted on Feb 14, 2013 4:41:29 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 14, 2013 4:41:57 PM PST
I like them both. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish them. There is a joke about the difference: in fantasy, dragons can hover.

Consider the Warlock series (The Warlock in Spite of Himself). The first book is clearly fantasy, with a small dose of science fiction. The later books try to rewrite the first book's world to make it science fiction.

Posted on Feb 15, 2013 3:00:15 AM PST
a lot of SciFi is fantasy with a liberal dose of high tech thrown in, often replacing magic as the plot device.
That's probably the main difference between the genres, and the reason there's so much overlap.

Posted on Feb 15, 2013 4:36:24 AM PST
Brian says:
I don't know that I agree (not a point I do). I think back on the Foundation series and others similiar works; The story drives it, but the technology is definately essential. From a typical readers perspective, their may be very little difference. Both need flights of fancy and a creative mind. But from the point of view of the creator, it really isn't the same. I rarely tackle science fiction due to the massive reseach I must do as a person who majored in history and not science. Of course I've heard tell of sci-fi writers who don't bother, but most get raked over the coals for bad science.
With fantasy, the writer gets to decide the laws of nature. With sci-fi, the laws are written (and much more complex).

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 15, 2013 5:28:23 AM PST
Fantasy, all the way.

Actually, I have read very, very few Sci-Fi books, and the only one I definitely remember reading I never finished (it was Red Planet by Robert E. Heinlein). (I don't count the novelisations of two of the "Aliens" films, because I only read them because I love the films - see below.)

It's odd, really, because I really enjoy Sci-Fi films, but I don't enjoy reading books in the genre. For me it's fantasy all the way, and even then I'm quite picky about what interests me.

Posted on Feb 15, 2013 5:52:50 AM PST
Maryam says:
I started reading science fiction back when there was a lot of what is called "hard" science fiction. Technology was important, with interaction with aliens certainly, but no magic elements. And I've read "The Warlock in Spite of Himself" as well as a selection of Heinlein and others. I've also read a lot of fantasy, and found a lot of the Tolkien wannabes just unreadable-I want something more original and substantive, no matter how much magic or mythology you include. So I love "The Mote in God's Eye" as well as "Dune" as well as "Song of Fire and Ice," but also Barbara Hambly's books that mix the modern world with worlds in which magic works, and other straight fantasy. I started reading straight science fiction before Tolkien became the rage, and enjoy both.

Posted on Feb 15, 2013 6:12:02 AM PST
I prefer Fantasy over Sci-Fi because there are times where I don't understand some Sci-Fi concepts and I don't know if something in a Sci-Fi book is realistic.

In a Fantasy book, it is hard to question something when its "magic" because like someone said earlier, Fantasy authors get to create their own rules.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 15, 2013 8:41:50 AM PST
I'd probably agree with you that, to an extent, that's why I've always found it so difficult to read Sci-Fi. But it isn't so much about being "realistic", as much as it's about my just not being interested in sciency things.

Would you not agree that, in Fantasy, it must still be 'realistic', inasmuch as there has to be logic? It still has to be believable, even when there are things like magic involved. I'm no scientist, and don't understand more than the most basic concepts of astro-physics, for example; but I still have to "believe" that such things as are described are held together by logic. It's the same with magic in a fantasy book - I have to believe that what's happening *can* happen. It's the skill of the writer, in both genres, to convince me that it can.

Posted on Feb 15, 2013 12:32:32 PM PST
Good point Marcus. I do agree that things need to be realistic in a fantasy novel.

The difference I see is with the level of detail to describe an event. In a Sci-Fi book, the author may do an immense amount of research on the laws of physics and that creeps into the description when something cool happens (e.g., traveling through a worm hole).

In a fantasy book, the character utters some phrase and a magic portal appears. :-)

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 15, 2013 3:46:58 PM PST
That might well be the case with Sci-Fi ... but not having read much I'll have to take your word for it! :-)

Posted on Feb 15, 2013 4:28:11 PM PST
Brian says:
I guess, after reading the posts, I can only come to one with everything, it's taste. You like what you like. Me, I like both as a reader. As a writer with limited science background, fantasy is far easier. For those writers out there...and those who are like me and simply enjoy talking books, and not just "your own" books, the sheer research involved is daunting in science fiction. From that perspective fantasy and science fiction have nothing in common.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 15, 2013 4:30:20 PM PST
R. Wilde says:
"There is a joke about the difference: in fantasy, dragons can hover."

Hmm, I need to reread the Pern books again... I could have sworn that her dragons hovered even after the series switched to science fiction. :)

I like both... which I prefer changes fairly often, it depends on my mood.

Posted on Feb 16, 2013 9:00:33 AM PST
K. McNamara says:
I've always felt that what science fiction and fantasy have in common is the theme of people trying to do their best in the face of disaster, despite the cards of the universe being stacked against them. Or at least, that's why I tend to prefer science fiction and fantasy over the angst of a lot of "realistic" fiction. My favorite science fiction is less about the science, and more about the relationships between people: C.J. Cherryh Foreigner, Lois Bujold's Miles Vorkosigan books, Suzette Haden Elgin's Native Tongue, Sheri Tepper's The Gate to Woman's Country.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 17, 2013 11:22:45 PM PST
"With fantasy, the writer gets to decide the laws of nature. With sci-fi, the laws are written (and much more complex). "

true, but that means you have to be a lot more careful setting the laws so as not to be seen as producing random deus-ex-machinas to get your heroes out of trouble.
Of course SciFi authors also have to do such work where and when they extend technology and laws of nature to provide a plot element, but there's a stricter framework within which to move, they can't just have someone create a new magic spell out of thin air at the crucial moment and leave the reader stunned as there's no mention of that thing being possible (or worse, 700 pages ago there was explicit mention of that kind of magic not existing for the race of your hero).

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 17, 2013 11:25:22 PM PST
"I do agree that things need to be realistic in a fantasy novel."

Realistic within the framework of the fantasy universe the author created, yes. Which doesn't have to have any bearing whatsoever on what we know and experience in ours.

Posted on Feb 19, 2013 4:51:54 AM PST
Harris LBB says:
This one is a combination of s/f & fantasy. Very imaginative Children of Another Mind

Posted on Feb 21, 2013 8:30:31 PM PST
greymouse says:
With science fiction, suspension of disbelief depends on faith in the powers of technology. With fantasy, it depends on faith in the powers of magic.

Posted on Feb 22, 2013 4:50:34 AM PST
I think there'll be a scientific explanation for most magic one day so I like the nebulous world between the two where the 'science' can't really be explained but isn't quite magic either. That probably makes no sense...

I'm interested about the pure fantasy thing though... you folks who read and write about mythic races, elves, dwarves etc. I have a question for you.

Is writing about mythic races not fraught with the danger that you'll get stacks of e-mails from people who are convinced that they know more about mythic races than you do - people like Sheldon Cooper - telling you that you are doing it wrong? Personally, I enjoy those slightly less for the simple reason that there are so many stories about them that they're getting a bit too 'real' for me, unless they're done with a new twist.

So... just wondering.



Posted on Feb 22, 2013 8:30:05 AM PST
Good question M.T. McGuire.

I'm not an author, but I read a book recently where Wood Elves were doing something that seemed so strange to me -- they bought lumber from humans to build houses!

I have some preconceived notions about Wood Elf behavior and that seemed so strange to me. While I did stop and think to myself, "That's not what Wood Elves do!", it didn't make me want to stop reading.

I think it is kind of interesting when authors incorporate their own unique viewpoints into the mythic races.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 22, 2013 1:34:21 PM PST
greymouse says:
"When magic really works--and it sometimes does--it's probably just science not yet figured out."
(Rachel, formerly known as TGF-48)

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 22, 2013 2:19:36 PM PST
Rachel, formerly known as TGF-48 has clearly been inside my head for some years! But she's a heck of a lot more succinct than I am isn't she?! ;-)



In reply to an earlier post on Feb 22, 2013 2:50:52 PM PST
L. S. Jansen says:
I like the 7th Doctor's corollary to Clarke's law which is "Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology." (Doctor Who: Battlefield)

Posted on Feb 22, 2013 2:51:26 PM PST
greymouse says:
Sometimes she's amazingly succinct; other times she obsesses over small details. Rachel is one of those characters that seems to take over much of the job of writing of a story. My favorite sort, really.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 23, 2013 1:37:40 AM PST
As a total whovian, that's probably, subliminally, where I got the idea from!



In reply to an earlier post on May 29, 2013 7:41:56 PM PDT
M. Malone says:
I'm just a total Heinlein fan!! Also love Bradbury
Stranger in a Strange Land my all time fave!
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Discussion in:  Fantasy forum
Participants:  18
Total posts:  32
Initial post:  Feb 14, 2013
Latest post:  May 30, 2013

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