Monday, May 30, 2011

Science Fiction =/= Fantasy

I was browsing through the threads on a forum, and there was one about the Christy Awards. I clicked on the link to see who the nominees were, and I noticed there apparently wasn't a fantasy category. I did a little research, and came across this, which gives a deeper explanation of each category (the categories being Contemporary Romance; Contemporary Series, Sequels, and Novellas; Contemporary Standalone; First Novel; Historical; Historical Romance; Suspense; Visionary; and Young Adult).

The explanation says for the category of visionary:

Visionary - Imaginative fiction including allegory (fiction in the form of extended metaphor in which objects, persons and actions are equated with meanings that lie outside the narrative itself), fantasy (fiction that deliberately breaks free from reality, setting the story in a nonexistent and unreal world or concerning incredible or unreal characters), futuristic (fiction whose action, plot, and characters occur in a future period of time), and science fiction (fiction in which scientific facts or hypotheses form the basis of adventures, often in the future, on other planets, or in other dimensions of time).

And so I became aware that once more fantasy had been grouped together with science fiction as one genre. It seems an odd phenomenon that fantasy and science fiction are always lumped together simply because they both present worlds that break from reality. Aside from that one detail, they are not really that similar at all.

One genre tends to be about worlds that possess fantastical creatures (read: not aliens) and there is always at least one character with some form of magic. The other genre is about hypothesizing a world in which science may have become more advanced than we currently think possible(or has digressed to a point of cavemen-like qualities). Magic is not at all relevant in such a genre. One genre tends toward taking place on nonexistent universes (though it can take place in an alternate Earth if we are dealing with Urban Fantasy or something of the sort). The other tends toward taking place on earth, or at least acknowledging Earth's existence. One is generally always about defeating some nefarious foe (especially in High Fantasy, such as Lord of the Rings), while the other is sometimes about defeating nefarious foes and sometimes simply about teaching lessons (The Giver or Fahrenheit 451) or postulating about what the future may entail.

Certainly you will find quite often that people who like one genre tend towards liking the other as well in books, but just as often you find that people who like one genre don't particularly care for the other (in High School, I knew many boys that were Sci-fi nerds, but cared little for fantasy. Likewise, I rather enjoy fantasy, but I don't tend to read much sci-fi).

Perhaps this is something that only bugs me for the simple reason that when looking for fantasy books, I have to dig through science fiction books, even though I am not a fan of reading sci-fi (I do enjoy watching it, though), because people don't seem to realize that sci-fi and fantasy should not be grouped together in bookstores or search engines.

What is even more troublesome is that romance can often be divided up into multiple sub-genres (even for this Christy awards things they have contemporary romance and historical romance as two different categories), yet science fiction and fantasy are lumped together. As someone that has read a fair share of romance novels, I can tell you that it doesn't matter where or when the story takes place. They all have the same plot line: woman is alone, meets a man that needs fixing, something climatic happens that makes it seem like the two cannot get together, the woman and man get together in the end. The only difference between historical and contemporary is that one of the woman is wearing dresses.

For sci-fi and fantasy we might say some of the plot lines are similar: there is something wrong in the world/universe, and someone(s) must step forward to put things to right, battle, successful victory by the hero(es). However, as I have already pointed out, not all sci-fi and fantasy stories follow that plot line. Many sci-fi novels are critiques of modern society or warnings against what society may become. Some are simply fanciful tales about what the future may be like. Some are about what might happen if science is used for nefarious reasons (nanotechnology seems to be a favorite theme). Many fantasy novels are endless series that simply follow the life of one character without truly encountering some evil foe or all-out war/battle.

Basically, the two are not very comparable. I mean, imagine if someone said to you, "Pick which is better in the sci-fi/fantasy genre: The Giver or Prince Caspian." What exactly am I supposed to be comparing between those two stories? Sure, it might be a little easier if someone said "Pick which is better in the sci-fi/fantasy genre: Star Wars or Lord of the Rings." but even then it is an unfair comparison if one is predisposed to dislike sci-fi and like fantasy, or vice versa.

And to read at your leisure to further display the differences between sci-fi and fantasy, wikipedia articles!!!! ... because everyone know Wikipedia is the go-to source for reliable and accurate data: sci-fi v. fantasy

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