Fantasy versus Science Fiction

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I am obsessed with fantasy fiction. This addiction probably arose from childhood. Growing up I wanted to either be a Jedi Knight or a dragon rider. Unfortunately, neither of these fields is currently hiring. I am eternally disappointed. Anyways, it has taken me about three years but I have read three-fifths of my local library’s fantasy/sci-fi collection. So I am obviously an expert by now. What I find frustrating is that fantasy and science fiction have been merged into one unwieldy genre.  Fantasy and science fiction are incredibly unique genres. I know there are sub-genres- like science fantasy-which merge the two, but there are intrinsic differences.

For instance J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is a fantasy series and Isaac Asimov’s Robot Series is a science fiction.  What is the difference? After all both genres do not seem rooted in reality. I am glad you asked! Science fiction and fantasy both explore alternate realities; however, science fiction expands upon our reality and fantasy is generally pure make believe. Science fiction logically projects modern technological and societal trends into the distant future. The pioneers of this genre include Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Orson Scott Card, and Robert A. Heinlein. While there are various sub-genres, the main two are “hard” and “soft”. The narratives in “hard” science fiction are driven by fictional advances in:

  • physics
  • astrophysicsi_robot
  • mathematics
  • robotics
  • chemistry
  • computer science
  • biology
  • astronomy

“Soft” science fiction tends to rely more on the social sciences:

  • psychology
  • sociology
  • economics
  • gender studies
  • political science
  • anthropology

Well-known authors of this sub-genre include:

  • Philip Dick
  • George Orwell
  • Aldous Huxley
  • Margaret Atwood
  • Ray Bradbury
  • Ursula K. Le Guin
  • H.G. Wells.

On the other hand, fantasy narratives tend to rely upon magic and the supernatural.  The majority of fantasy novels and novellas take place within imaginary worlds or sometimes, parallel universes. Fantasy is distinguishable from science fiction because scientific advances rarely influence the primary plot device. For the most part, fantasy worlds romanticize the medieval time period. Common fantasy elements include:

  • swords
  • the ancient pastnarnia_art2
  • mythology/folklore
  • mythical creatures
  • prophecies
  • legends/myths
  • paganism
  • magic
  • wizardry
  • witches/ warlocks

Well-developed fantasy worlds explain the presence of magic-or lack of- and rarely utilize modern society as a plot point. Some of my favorite fantasy authors are:

  • J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings)
  • C.S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia)Purple_Dragon_by_deligaris
  • Terry Goodkind (The Sword of Truth Series)
  • Patrick Rothfuss (The Kingkiller Chronicles)
  • Stephen Lawhead (The Pendragon Cycle)
  • Robert Jordan (The Wheel of Time)
  • Hans Christian Anderson (Collected Fairytales)
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley (Avalon)
  • George R.R. Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire)
  • Jennifer Roberson (Sword Dancer Saga)
  • Brandon Sanderson (The Stormlight Archive)
  • Lynn Kurland (The Nine Kingdoms Series)

Science Fantasy is a genre which utilizes motifs and themes from both science fiction and fantasy. For instance, both Star Wars and Star Trek can be classified as science fantasy. Calling them purely fantasy denies the scientific elements. Lasers, droids, ray guns, the Millennium Falcon, black holes, red matter, pod racing, intergalactic travel, warp speed, hyper-speed, and light sabers all fall under the heading of science fiction. However certain elements-the force, Vulcan mind reading, Ewoks, Wookies,  Klingons, Khan, the Borg, Jabba the Hut- fall under the fantasy genre. This particular meshing of science fiction and fantasy is really a genre unto itself. The most popular subgenres are: urban fantasy, Gaslamp fantasy, planetary romance, post-apocalypse, steam punk, space operas, cyber punk, dying earth, and interstellar exploration.Some of my favorite authors in this genre include:

  • L.E. Modesitt, Jr. (The Corean Chronicles)
  • Frank Herbert (The Dune saga)
  • Brian Herbert (Dune Prequel Series)
  • Mary Shelley (Frankenstein)
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs (John Carter of Mars)
  • Stephanie Meyer (The Host)
  • Kevin J. Anderson (Young Jedi Knight Series)
  • Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park)
  • Douglas Adams (The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy)
  • Stephen Lawhead (Bright Empires Series)

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Kenyan Library

Life in the pages :) Literature Obsessed, Lover of Art & Photography... Say Hi and Stick Around.

Life of Chaz

Welcome to My Life

The Renegade Press

Tales from the mouth of a wolf

What's She Reading?

Because the only thing better than reading is more reading.

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