1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

Sci fi vs. Fantasy – what’s the difference

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by WordyWonderland, Mar 17, 2019.

  1. WordyWonderland

    WordyWonderland Journeyman

    25
    5
    3
    Maybe you have chosen this topic during a debate with friends, too. – What’s the difference between fantasy and science fiction? Or is science fiction even a sub-genre of fantasy? MY answer to the 2nd questions is: NOPE, it isn’t it.


    Fantasy

    Ok. – What’s, in my opinion, fantasy? Of course, those typical worlds with wizards, elves and giants. But fantasy has a lot of sub-genre. Dark fantasy, urban fantasy, etc.. Especially in YA, urban fantasy is the most used sub-genre of fantasy. I mean, just think about Harry Potter or Percy Jackson. Well… I think, the most people connect fantasy with products of your mind. And yeah! If you use the last description, science fiction would be fantasy as well.


    Science Fiction

    However, science fiction is so much more! While fantasy is often a true piece of (light) entertainment (and a snack for the reader), science fiction can truly f*ck your mind. Ok. Star Wars may be a snack of films. But hey! Maybe you watched Matrix. Now think back to the first time you watched it. Right! Your mind was blown like a raw egg in the microwave. It had so much symbolic, which fantasy haven’t these days. (Old stories in fantasy have it. But hey! Have you ever met a kid or teen, who has READ Lord of the Rings these days?) Of course, science fiction can be a snack of entertainment, too. I mean, last year I read a book where Cinderella is a cyborg and set in a futuristic Asian. But in Overall, science fiction is so much more than fantasy.


    But what’s your opinion? Are you more “Team sci fi” or “Team fantasy (and sci fi is a subgenre for you)”? And why?
     
  2. pmmg

    pmmg Dark Lord

    1,244
    608
    113
    A friend and respected member of another website i used to belong to decribed the difference as fantasy is showing a reality were impossible things can happen and no explanation is required, where as scifi shows the same reality and tries to explain how it could be. (I think he may have said it more elegantly—but i liked this answer so here i reproduced it.)

    ‘Scifi is so much more’ is kind of putting ones thumb on the scale I think. I would not call it more. I would call it the same. Both genres can be equally complex and both can say cool and revelational stuff about us, the universe and the great struggles we all wrestle with. I might dare say there is not a scifi story that could not be a fantasy with only a few small changes and vice versa. It occurs to me as i am Writing this that the difference might seem as compelling as the difference between faith and reason. That is a great to place to be. Advocates on any side, or anywhere in between, ought to be able to make a lot of material out of that. If one is to think that reason prevails and faith cannot be as interesting, they should prepare for their belief to be shaken. And if one believes the opposite, the same is coming. There is value in all of it, and the greatest stories of one will rival any.

    I dare say, fantasy has been shaping human belief for as long as there have been humans. Whether you grew up to the stories of gilgamesh or heracles, you still had a role model to help guide the life you lived. It is powerful stuff.
     
  3. WordyWonderland

    WordyWonderland Journeyman

    25
    5
    3
    pmmgpmmg I wouldn't suggest that mythology is fantasy. Ok. It's from the human mind. But often fantasy steals stuff for its own stories. Greek mythology was originally a RELIGION.
     
  4. Futhark

    Futhark Mystagogue

    235
    105
    43
    I read a book many years ago about science fiction and the role it plays in society, or art. Basically, the argument goes that sci-fi is an extrapolation, extending from the present towards possible futures. Often it can include inventions, whether technological or social, that can and do eventually become reality. Fantasy on the other hand, is an exploration of the human psyche, where myths and fables intersect with humanity’s narrative. There is often no clear boundary between the two, as they do borrow elements from each other.

    I suppose it comes down to one’s own personal definition. I find that there are sub-genres in sci-fi. Hard sci-fi is rooted in reality, soft sci-fi has a few potential impossibilities (like Star Trek and warp drive), and science fantasy (like Star Wars), which are basically fantasy stories in space.

    A purist would probably say that they are two distinct genres, with many bastard offspring and hybrids. Is science fiction “more”? I don’t think so. Some fantasy stories have definitely blown my mind and changed the way I look at the world. Does this happen more often in science fiction? Yes, I would agree with that, but often that’s the whole purpose of the work. Apples and oranges, ya know?
     
  5. pmmg

    pmmg Dark Lord

    1,244
    608
    113
    I am not sure what to make of that. And SciFi does not? I think the elements of story are borrowed well in any genre.

    Suppose i would argue most religious stories are also fantasy stories. They are attempts to explain the unexplainable and often rely on what is essentially magic to bring things about. (Which is not to say any particular religion is not true, a true religion would just be fantasy stories that happen to also be true).

    I am of the opinion that these two things stand on equal ground, and will just watch for a bit to see what ppl say. We can all have personal experiences and preferences, but i dont think those can make true the statement that scifi has more and fantasy is light and less stimulating for a serious reader. I think im gonna stick to the fiction of those asking big questions in fantasy and finding answers that seem fantastical is every bit as compelling as those who do the same with science.

    It could be that in any given time one is more trendy, has a greater share of the better thinkers and writers and so is producing better work, and so the appearance may be there that one is putting to shame the other, but i think in the span of time the pendulum will swing back. We can ask questions like how to we get to speeds faster than light, and ask questions like does God still love us even though the universe has no place for him both at the same time, and both answers can matter a whole lot to us little fleshy collections of atoms.

    I like em both. I love space. It is endlessly cool. But perhaps the biggest questions are not really the ones for science to answer. Ill just have to take em both.
     
  6. Orc Knight

    Orc Knight Scribal Lord

    636
    348
    63
    I don't see one as being greater then the other, though I side a lot with fantasy. Both are open to a lot of sub genre's within them and the two also casually mix and blend. The softest sci-fi to me is just fantasy in a tech cover. And that's where Science Fantasy sits too (Star Wars being an example at times) and the hard stuff a possibility. Fantasy can come at it from a different end and you still get spaceships and the portal travel and dimensional jumps along with aliens.

    It's all one big mixed bag that we seem to pick and choose at will and not everything fits neatly into the categories we want it too. And I've read mythological stories retold in sci-fi apocalypse punk. There's a lot to be had with them all.
     
  7. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Mystagogue

    288
    59
    28
    Science Fiction has some grounding in Science - it may be far fetched but it's possibilities are higher. Could we re-create dinosaurs? Yes, at some point we can, we've cloned other animals. So it's not implausible.
    Fantasy isn't based in reality.
    But I think it also depends on the novel itself.
     
    Reaver likes this.
  8. Reaver

    Reaver Kwisatz Haderach Moderator

    3,343
    1,170
    163
    Dinosaurs still exist. Just look out any window and you'll see them perched on branches chirping vehemently that they never left. That's because there are (more precisely were) avian and non-avian dinosaurs.
     
  9. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Mystagogue

    204
    108
    43
    For me the difference between science fiction and fantasy is that science fiction centres around technology and/or science. Fantasy is anything that involves the fantastical such as magic or other worlds that are not as advanced as our own.

    Star Wars is science fiction because it is primarily about science and technology although it does include fantasy elements such as the Force, the Jedi and laser sword fights.
     
  10. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Mystagogue

    288
    59
    28
    Obviously I was referring to Jurassic Park and what those animals looked like at that time.
     
  11. Reaver

    Reaver Kwisatz Haderach Moderator

    3,343
    1,170
    163
    I know. Just wanted to chime in with my useless trivial knowledge.
     
  12. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Mystagogue

    288
    59
    28
    LOL I have evidence of Dinosaurs - my Mother used to hunt them
     
    Reaver likes this.
  13. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    7,350
    2,896
    313
    First of all, the core, or essence, behind where the Matrix gets its power isn't in science fiction or in symbolism. It's in horror. It's the slow realization that your world isn't real. The sci fi elements are honestly mediocre at best.

    Fantasy and horror don't mix very well. Of course there's a ton of paranormal horror, but it's all real world, present day, modern people. You need that element of realism to create pure horror, which you can get in sci fi more than in a fantasy world.

    If you liked the Matrix, I would recommend you try Promised Neverland. Don't read the caption - just watch the first episode all the way to the end.

    But to answer the question, fantasy and sci fi, I'll throw in horror and superheroes, are all very different genres. There's a lot of overlap of course, and lots of things which cross genres, but I think they have different strengths. I'll put it this way:

    Science Fiction does a better job with macro themes, what's happening in society, because you can paint a picture of how the world gets there.

    Fantasy does a better job with personal themes, in part because you can use "chosen one" magics to force people into situations they should have no business being in (i.e., Luke being a Jedi in Star Wars).

    Superheroes do a good job exploring values, how people with power behave with the power they're given.

    Horror does a good job breaking down our expectations and showing us how cruel the world can be (i.e., the Purge).

    Of these, I honestly respect science fiction the least because it's used to paint what I often find to be unbelievable portraits of society, where storytellers project their own cynical or privileged or other worldviews onto everyone else, and honestly believe that it's an inevitable reality.
     
  14. Mizore

    Mizore Apprentice

    11
    0
    1
    It is absurd that science fiction is more than fantasy. On the contrary, science fiction is a subgroup within fantasy: both are fantasy because they are fictitious and they do not seem that they can happen, but science fiction is based more on real science while fantasy is not. But the difference is only gradual.
     
  15. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    11,030
    3,420
    413
    Star Wars isn't a good example of "science fiction." It's not science fiction, it's pure fantasy, just put into a space setting.

    I feel science fiction should generally operate within the known laws of physics, or extrapolations from what we currently know, or offer up some scientific rationale for when the story departs from what we know or can reasonably extrapolate. It's the latter that allows an author to get out there on the edge while still falling within the realm of science fiction.

    Fantasy stories don't do those things.
     
  16. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

    5,123
    3,215
    313
    There was an early and rather dismissive review of Star Wars in Omni Magazine when the movie first came out. By Roger Zelazny, maybe? Anyway, he called it cowboys and Indians in space, which I've always thought was a decent summary. Except I liked the movie, whereas the reviewer did not.
     
  17. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    11,030
    3,420
    413
    I think that's a decent description as well. I liked the original. I also like Westerns. I just don't call them SF :)
     
  18. Mizore

    Mizore Apprentice

    11
    0
    1
    Star Wars also has elements of science fiction, it's not pure fantasy, it extrapolates the real space race and creates the whole world of interstellar travel. Or it is based on real robotics and creates all those fictional droids. Only those elements are less important than in other works of science fiction.

    There is no sharp difference between fantasy and science fiction. And if science fiction is limited to those we know, then it is not science fiction, only fiction. It's as if I narrate a story about a couple traveling to the moon. It can be fictitious because it has never happened in precisely that way, but it is not science fiction because we know it could happen.
     
  19. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    11,030
    3,420
    413
    I don't agree, because it doesn't treat any of those elements realistically or scientifically.

    I don't agree with this either. Science fiction can certainly about things we know can happen. A lot of it, especially near-future science fiction, is exactly that.
     
  20. Mizore

    Mizore Apprentice

    11
    0
    1
    But if Star Wars treated those elements realistically, then it would not be science fiction or fantasy.

    So it's not science fiction, just fiction. Let's see, why would a story about a couple traveling in a spaceship to the moon be science fiction? It would be science fiction at the time of Jules Verne but not today.
     
Loading...

Share This Page