Now if you only really read straight literature (and there’s nothing wrong with that) you’re probably thinking, “What’s he on about? Sci-Fi and Fantasy are the same thing.” But that’s cos you don’t know.
The mainstreamers stare across the High Street bookstores and see our small section (that’s if we haven’t been buried in the basement by those gosh darn mother-truckers – I’m talking to you EASONS!!!!), and just see shelves full of sheep…
It might surprise people to know that often fans will only read one or the other, I describe myself as a FantSci head because I happen to fall in to a smaller subgroup who like both equally… I also read prolifically outside in the straight sections too (mostly because I don’t have a TV and/or kids, so I have the time), which makes me a real oddity, but such is life.
Anyway, here’s some of the key differences that are there to notice, if you ever want to step over to our side of the street.
1 – Future vs. Past
Fantasy always feels like the past… Science Fiction always feels like the future… did you ever notice that?
I only need one sentence to sum up exactly what I mean; “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….”.
Hands up, who among us have ever considered STAR WARS as being set in the past? Not me… nor anyone I know (well that’s a bit sweeping, but I just checked with the two lads behind the bar and they agreed with me… so that 3 outta 3) – and it’s written right at the beginning of every movie!
2 – “The Possible”
In Sci-Fi, the wondrous feats of mind and body, space and time; no matter how improbable, are always theoretically possible… they can be explained, even if we aren’t currently intelligent enough to explain why we can’t explain the explanation at this time. Fantasy isn’t the same, it has…
3 – Magic
Magic. Magic is simply magic. It can’t be explained, it just is, some people or things can influence it, or manipulate, or even in the rarest cases create it.
But it’s something beyond technology, it’s not something that can be achieved through advancement, often it’s based in the past (goes with point one) and is being forgotten, the great practitioners being legends and myths from bygone eras.
SciFi’s approach, “all magic is just science beyond what we currently understand”.
4 – Our Universe v Their Universe
Science Fiction usually takes place within our own Planet / Solar System / Galaxy / Universe – based on pretty much the accepted rules within it.
Fantasy takes place in other places, with rules of their own… Middle-Earth doesn’t once feel like a place you can travel too… much like the Four-Corners of Creation…or Narnia, or…well, you get the point.
5 – Talking Animals
You get talking animals in Fantasy books, but you don’t in Sci-Fi …perhaps it’s because you get talking robots and computers.
I don’t have any deeper understand of this point. It just is what it is.
Just some general rules, certainly not hard fast at that – although I’d fancy that 3 or 4 out of the 5 will apply to almost every FantSci book you read (and movies too).
[Note: Before I leave the subject; Comic Books / Graphic Novels – the readers and lovers often get lumped in with FantSci heads…and that really isn’t fair…they deserve to be acknowledged as other, different and perhaps beyond – it’s a completely different style of storytelling (one I’ve been experimenting with, and don’t pretend to understand]
[Oh, and “Dear High Street…” please take us out of the basement, and out of the kid’s sections – we deserve better.]