This week: Fantasy vs. Science FictionEdited by: Robert Waltz
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What I'm working on now - I'm back to fantasy, although considering that it's me, I'm turning it into a kind of science fantasy. It's a vampire story - but my vampires are biological vampires. They didn't become vampires because someone bit them; they were born that way.
I had read tons of science fiction. I was fascinated by other worlds, other environments. For me, it was fantasy, but it was not fantasy in the sense of pure escapism.
Fantasy is my favorite genre for reading and writing. We have more options than anyone else, and the best props and special effects. That means if you want to write a fantasy story with Norse gods, sentient robots, and telepathic dinosaurs, you can do just that. Want to throw in a vampire and a lesbian unicorn while you're at it? Go ahead.
Usually, the line between science fiction and fantasy is pretty clear. Fantasy involves magic; science fiction involves technology. The genres are similar enough from a writing perspective - world building, internal consistency, and so on - but the focus is different.
But what happens when, to paraphrase Clarke, the technology is advanced enough to be indistinguishable from magic?
Then the lines get blurred, and people get confused. For instance, many viewers consider Star Wars to be science fiction. It's not; it's fantasy with science fiction props.
Right now a bunch of you are going "robots and spaceships and laser blasters - it's science fiction, dummy."
But that brings us to the actual difference between science fiction and fantasy, and I'll sum it up first and then explain it:
Fantasy is about the past. Science fiction is about the future.
Now, the explanation: I don't mean that fantasy is *set* in the past. It can be set in the present, or an alternate dimension, or the future, or "a galaxy far, far away." And lots of good science fiction has been set in the past. Doesn't matter what the setting is; the important point is that with fantasy, whether it's Star Wars or Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones or Dresden Files, the plots tend to revolve around the idea of some ancient force (or Force), artifact, being, or whatever is what drives the action. What is new is to be feared and opposed; what is old is to be recovered, or celebrated.
In contrast, science fiction highlights advancement, whether social, scientific or technological. What's old is to be ignored at best, or opposed at worst, as if it were some sort of frictional force on progress. Of course, a major theme running through science fiction is that some advancements are Bad Ideas, but just as often, it's another kind of technology, new idea or breakthrough that solves those problems.
I attended a presentation given by noted fantasy and science fiction (among other genres) author Orson Scott Card once, and I've always remembered the way he described the difference between the two: "Look at the covers," he said. "Fantasy has trees; science fiction has rivets."
While I still think that's a pretty good rule of thumb, it doesn't really address the wide philosophical gulf between fantasy and science fiction. Knowing about the past/future dichotomy is a step in that direction, I think. One way to look at it is this: Fantasy is conservative; science fiction is progressive.
In the end, genre isn't much more than a marketing tool. It matters little what you label something, or what's on the cover; what matters is that you're telling a good story. But hopefully this will help you when you go to describe what you've been reading or writing.
Some fantasy and science fiction for your enjoyment:
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Last time, in "Villain Motivation" , I talked about one way to keep your villains from being one-dimensional.
Write 2 Publish 2020 : I watched an HBo series calle Canavale. If you haven't seen it, fins someone with Dish and watch it. It is one disaster after another. However the plot and characters are so well evloped you can't stop watching it. Conflict is a necessary evil. Too much and you weary the reader so they put the book down. Too little and they get bored. Give the character enough trouble to keep the reader hoping they make a break for it and win. Given then enough rest to recoup before you throw another spear, arrow or monster at them.
[SUBMITTED ITEM: "Creating the Supernatural World" [E]]
Tried watching that show; couldn't get into it. Perhaps I'll give it another shot. I wouldn't call conflict a necessary evil - though opinions, of course, may vary. To me, conflict is central to a story; it's how characters grow, and the resolution of a conflict is how a story ends. I agree with the other points.
Professor Q : I think this is why I was so disappointed with Vandal Savage on Legends of Tomorrow. His comic book corollary has lived so long, he is basically searching for a way to die and doesn't give a rat's tail about who gets hurt in the process. On the show, he hates the Hawks because he was in love with Hawkgirl, but she was with Hawkman? And now he wants to destroy the world, or something? Ugh. So generic.
I try to take the adaptations of comics on their own merits, but I agree that show's first season could have been better in a few different ways. Still, it kept my attention and I'm looking forward to Season 2.
Thanks for the feedback! That'll do it for me for this month. See you in August! Until then,
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