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PostPosted: Thu Jan 28, 2010 10:44 pm 
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How I tell the two genres apart:

Science fiction does not contradict natural or scientific laws but does speculate about possibilities in science and the use of technology that could concievably happen. We just don't know how it happens (yet).

Fantasy can be pretty much whatever you want. It can transcend scientific contradictions through the use of magic or other paranormal phenomena. It explains speculations that way too. I.e. "if you can't explain it, then it's magic."

In short, science fiction is restricted by rules that help to shape what you come up with. Fantasy is completely up to your imagination. Chances are the distinction I mentioned isn't written in stone and other people may very well disagree with me. So find your own distinction. Or let your readers decide for you.

But yah, I agree with what the other members are saying. You really should read more if you want to know about these things.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 29, 2010 7:52 am 
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So you're basically saying I'll never be a good writer of scifi-fantasy lolita hentai, because those classifications are descriptive rather than prescriptive? :P


Seriously, the way I see it, Eddy wants to explore fantastic themes while explotiing sci-fi conventions, i.e. using scifi as cosmetics.

If you don't want to read books, Eddy, at least you should read Ursula LeGuin's advice on writing. Also, this.

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I said yes, indeed, there were stories of eighteen different genres, and I wrote him this TOC to prove it. He thought it was funny, but he wouldn't let me put it in the book. He knew how easily confused reviewers and critics are; he knew they were likely to take it seriously.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 22, 2010 6:29 pm 
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It recently occurred to me that Almea might represent something of an intermediate between fantasy and science fiction. Sure, it has plenty of fantasy tropes and themes, but many fantasy hallmarks seem marginal or absent.

Magic exists, but it plays little if any role in daily life and almost seems like it could be omitted without changing too much. Apart from the fact that hidden powers can manipulate physical reality, the world seems to operate pretty much according to ordinary science. Similarly the world has few if any fantastic creatures running around: no dragons, vampires, or other beings outside natural evolution.

In fact Almea seems distinctly naturalistic in general compared to most fantasy worlds. Most of the ones I have seen take an essentially creationist approach, treating the in-world mythology as literal fact. The gods look and act just as described in myth, intervene regularly in the world, and even created it. Almea by contrast seems to have formed by natural processes like Darwinian evolution and plate tectonics.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 22, 2010 9:05 pm 
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Actually, I don't know how well the concepts of 'scifi' and 'fantasy' can be applied to a setting: aren't those supposed to describe stories?

After all, earth [the macdaddy of all conworlds, AFAIK... at least it's the most detailed one] is the home of stories of all genres so... why shouldn't any other constructed setting be?

Isn't starwars a scifi-like setting? yet I see it as mostly fantasy; conversely, you could write the story of a sentient Von Newman's proble that fell into an obscure D&D-like world from it's perspective and it would still be sci-fi.

just my two cents.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 22, 2010 10:17 pm 
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Torco is on to something... a fantasy setting may look very different from a fantasy story, even one that uses that setting. Look at LOTR: would the experience of most hobbits, or even most men of Gondor, include frequent contact with orcs, dragons, elves, and wizards? Not at all, many probably went their lives without encountering any. But the story is describing an extraordinary time and extraordinary events.

Beyond this, Almea is more naturalistic as a reflection of my tastes. Still, when it comes to writing stories, they're more likely to include wonders (e.g. wizards, malignant goddesses) or at least things not seen on Earth (e.g. the politics of an artist state), because why tell a story on Almea that could equally well have been set in Des Moines?


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 22, 2010 10:47 pm 
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zompist wrote:
Torco is on to something... a fantasy setting may look very different from a fantasy story, even one that uses that setting. Look at LOTR: would the experience of most hobbits, or even most men of Gondor, include frequent contact with orcs, dragons, elves, and wizards? Not at all, many probably went their lives without encountering any. But the story is describing an extraordinary time and extraordinary events.

Beyond this, Almea is more naturalistic as a reflection of my tastes. Still, when it comes to writing stories, they're more likely to include wonders (e.g. wizards, malignant goddesses) or at least things not seen on Earth (e.g. the politics of an artist state), because why tell a story on Almea that could equally well have been set in Des Moines?


Could it be that, perhaps what makes a fantasy-like setting would be told from the level of difference with the physics of our world, while a scifi-like one would push those physics to their maximum? (With perhaps the ultimate blend where the physics are totally different and then exploring its potential?) Pure sci-fi would then be pretending to follow our Universe's law to the letter, while "pure fantasy" probably wouldn't exist, and you would just have to look at the differences.

And then, then Heroic/High fantasy stories would merely be Epics set in a fantasy world.

Take Star Wars. It's basically the story of the rise of a hero through adventures. A rather common epic throughout the world, really. It features differences from our world : they have the Force, a mystic power (magic, based on the will and the link Jedis have with the Force). But the whole setting explores how a really advance civilization spanning a third of the galaxy (and linking with most of it), with worn technology that is just as normal to them as our shoes are to us, would turn out. Basically, it's mix of technological research and some touches of physical differences. With an Epic hero.

The same goes for Almea, as a setting. It has differences in terms of physics : there is certainly magic, of a rather unreliable kind. But it's also sci-fi : I would argue that Xurno is not fantasy, but sci-fi (albeit of a more social kind) and is a long reflexion of how a civilization could go to become ruled by artists. Stories set in it are Memoirs, or more simply, Biographies : "In the Land of Babblers" is Beretos's Memoirs, and "A Diary of the Prose Wars" is a History book from the compilations of diaries of various historical figures about the Revaudo revolution. "Effect and Counter-Effect" is a short Low Epic for Tiruvan, while The Rogues is an Low Epic adventure for our two favorite Arcelian rogues.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 22, 2010 11:22 pm 
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I don't think fantasy and scifi are polar opposites; they're two genres, just like many other genres: you have your cosmic horror, you have your thriller, you have you detective stories, you have your romance novels, you have your erotica, and millions of other genres. Those two are just a couple more fish in the pond, which is why they can overlap in so many different way just as cosmic horror and science fiction could overlap faster than you can say 'Mulder finally gets his truth that's out there after a short trip to R'lyeh... he, of course, eventually becomes crazy... or at least everyone thinks he's crazy, what with all the conspiracy theories and babbling about ancient gods and all that'.

Now get this: I don't know if I'm right but it ocurred to me: scifi are stories about plausible, rational, grounded-in-science, and yet imaginative scientific speculation, while fantasy is about telling a tall, awesome, emotionally resonating tale and invoking some phlebotinumfor suspension of doubt, so as to be able to focus on the human stuff [like a moral, a few values, or nothing else than a very emotionally resonating story fully loaded with archetypical stuff for extra awesomeness]: in that sense they indeed are kind of opposites, but from a methodological POV.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 22, 2010 11:34 pm 
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Torco wrote:
Actually, I don't know how well the concepts of 'scifi' and 'fantasy' can be applied to a setting: aren't those supposed to describe stories?


I don't see why not. It seems fairly easy to call the Star Trek setting science fiction and Middle Earth a fantasy setting. Of course you could complicate this with an example like Star Wars which includes elements of both science fiction and fantasy.

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After all, earth [the macdaddy of all conworlds, AFAIK... at least it's the most detailed one] is the home of stories of all genres so... why shouldn't any other constructed setting be?


I think the contents of a setting can make it part of a certain genre simply by definition. A world with magic and mythical creatures belongs to fantasy even if individual stories within it manage to avoid addressing anything fantasy-like. Similarly a futuristic world with high technology fits into science fiction even if you tell an otherwise straightforward slice-of-life story in it.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 23, 2010 12:07 am 
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Eddy wrote:
I think the contents of a setting can make it part of a certain genre simply by definition. A world with magic and mythical creatures belongs to fantasy even if individual stories within it manage to avoid addressing anything fantasy-like. Similarly a futuristic world with high technology fits into science fiction even if you tell an otherwise straightforward slice-of-life story in it.


Would you call 'the jetsons' science fiction? :|

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 23, 2010 9:34 am 
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So then, Eddy, please characterise:
- The Book of the New Sun
- Pern
- The Left Hand of Darkness
- The Prestige
- The Cthulhu Mythos
- Shadowrun

Are these fantasy, or are they science fiction?


[I know you've never read any fantasy or science fiction books, so it's only a rhetorical question]

Although to be honest, talking about genre distinctions with a man who's never read a book feels like discussing the difference between red and blue with a man who's never opened his eyes.


--------

Torco: I don't think you really need Mulder in that setting. Lovecraft's stories ALREADY have spaceships, genetic engineering, robot rebellions, interstellar travel, time travel... they're as much sci-fi as the X Files is.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 23, 2010 10:39 am 
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Salmoneus wrote:
Torco: I don't think you really need Mulder in that setting. Lovecraft's stories ALREADY have spaceships, genetic engineering, robot rebellions, interstellar travel, time travel... they're as much sci-fi as the X Files is.


They have many of the tropes of scifi, but it assumes a fundamentally irrational [or post-rational, or trans-rational, or what have you] universe in which scientific laws are local, so it's not as -pure- science fiction as, say, Asimov's 'verse, which is entirely scientifically rational.

I guess the mythos are one of those many places where fantasy and scifi overlap

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 23, 2010 12:35 pm 
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Quote:
So then, Eddy, please characterise:
- The Book of the New Sun
- Pern
- The Left Hand of Darkness
- The Prestige
- The Cthulhu Mythos
- Shadowrun

Are these fantasy, or are they science fiction?


I really don't know. The point of this thread is sorting out questions like that, what hallmarks, if any, distinguish fantasy and SF.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 23, 2010 1:39 pm 
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Eddy wrote:
Quote:
So then, Eddy, please characterise:
- The Book of the New Sun
- Pern
- The Left Hand of Darkness
- The Prestige
- The Cthulhu Mythos
- Shadowrun

Are these fantasy, or are they science fiction?


I really don't know. The point of this thread is sorting out questions like that, what hallmarks, if any, distinguish fantasy and SF.

Alternatively, to realize that there is a huge gray zone between them, and that there is no sensible delineation, and any such delineation will run into contradictions.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 23, 2010 1:46 pm 
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didn't work out last time
see eg. the resurrection of this thread


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 23, 2010 1:47 pm 
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Eddy wrote:
I really don't know. The point of this thread is sorting out questions like that, what hallmarks, if any, distinguish fantasy and SF.


Isn't that kinda thick? his point is that futuristic settings =/= science fiction

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 23, 2010 1:47 pm 
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yes!
the lesson is *eddy is a retard* and you should never talk to him.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 23, 2010 3:31 pm 
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Torco wrote:
I don't think fantasy and scifi are polar opposites; they're two genres, just like many other genres: you have your cosmic horror, you have your thriller, you have you detective stories, you have your romance novels, you have your erotica, and millions of other genres. Those two are just a couple more fish in the pond, which is why they can overlap in so many different way just as cosmic horror and science fiction could overlap faster than you can say 'Mulder finally gets his truth that's out there after a short trip to R'lyeh... he, of course, eventually becomes crazy... or at least everyone thinks he's crazy, what with all the conspiracy theories and babbling about ancient gods and all that'.


I don't think I have argued that fantasy and sci-fi are polar opposites. Far from it, I argued that they are aspects of the diegesis of the story, and that each relies on different things : a fantasy setting twists the physics of the world, a sci-fi setting is more about taking the physics of the world, and pushing them over nine thousands. In many ways, that means that pretty much everything that will be sci-fi will usually feature fantasy-like elements and the opposite as well. (D&D +bazillion weapons are basically sci-fi-like)

But to me, they're not genres, or at least, they are not a genre in the same way a muder mistery or a drama is. Sci-fi and fantasy are a lot more concerned about the setting (diegesis, the conworld behind the story) and playing with it, than about the story itself. For reference, Babylon 5 is clearly a novel, and it's story is mostly an account of a war, with the various factions and the intrigues involved. Sure, it is IN SPACE, but that's just cosmetic. Epics happen to be at their best in fantasies, because the hero can face more difficult challenges. But Epics are fun because we see the rise of heroes, models that we can follow. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is clearly in a fantasy setting, but it's a coming of age story for troubled teenagers.

You do have a genre, however, which central theme is the exploration of possibilities. In French, we call it Fantastique, and Jules Verne is the best at it. The central stories of Verne's books are not narratives : the central stories are there to make you discover wonders. Side stories can and do exist : Phileas's love story and his runaway from a damned policeman is one that comes to my mind, but they're just a side story. In effect, "Fantastique" is basically writing something for the sake of showing you a world, mostly "The World" in Verne's case.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 23, 2010 4:53 pm 
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there's hardly any proper scifi on TV, if you think of scifi as being the exploration of what could be grounded on viable scientific speculation [which is, IIRC, Asimov's version of the definition of the genre]. But yeah, save for such stuff as short stories which basically posit an interesting scientific question, there's hardly any genre you can call scifi.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 11, 2010 8:00 pm 
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I was thinking about the distinction between mythos and logos described by Karen Armstrong recently and figured it might relate rather well to this question. Science fiction embodies the concept of logos rather well, in its rational exploration of scientific and social possibilities. Fantasy seems to fit the notion of mythos like a glove, with its often explicit exploration of mythic themes. That would explain why Star Wars feels like fantasy, perhaps. It may have the set pieces of science fiction, but it deals more with mythic ideas like the heroic journey than scientific ones like the impact of space travel on society.

Of course this hardly rules out works that fall between the divide, as one could easily include both logos and mythos at different points. I suspect the great majority of speculative fiction leans strongly toward one or the other, even if they have a bit of both. Mythos and logos are rather opposed (albeit complementary) ways of thinking and it seems quite challenging to engage in both to equal degrees at the same time. And as Armstrong warns, trying to conflate mythos and logos can lead to some nonsensical conclusions.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 11, 2010 8:12 pm 
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 11, 2010 8:24 pm 
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That might be right, actually... maybe that's why most 'fantasy-scifi hybrids' end up not being a smooth blend of those two, if it makes sense.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 13, 2010 10:31 pm 
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Eddy wrote:
Sound like a reasonable hypothesis, or does someone have some devastating counterexamples?


The most devastating point is your implicit assumption that it's an either/or situation--that the world can be explained purely in terms of one or the other "mindset"; instead, both might be non-exclusively true. Moreover, a trend in contemporary high fantasy has been to put a quantitative veneer on magic; Robert Jordan's One Power in the WHEEL books, e.g., or Goodkind's additive/subtractive magic. These magic systems work by quantitative rules (albeit vaguely sketched in many places) and might be considered forms of alternative physics, if one were inclined to view them that way.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 17, 2010 3:09 pm 
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vohpenonomae wrote:
The most devastating point is your implicit assumption that it's an either/or situation--that the world can be explained purely in terms of one or the other "mindset"; instead, both might be non-exclusively true.


A good point, though I kind of assumed it was rather difficult to do both at the same time, at least with the depth and realism one expects from conworlders. It seems like quite a challenge to balance mythopoetic and naturalistic elements in a convincing way. Imagine trying to explain dragon biology using both scientific mechanisms and mythic forces. You would probably either give one aspect the bulk of your focus, overshadowing the other, or end up with a confusing patchwork of explanations. Of course, this could simply represent a personal difficulty of mine, as I have always found it challenging to integrate fantastic and mythic elements into a realistic setting.

Quote:
Moreover, a trend in contemporary high fantasy has been to put a quantitative veneer on magic; Robert Jordan's One Power in the WHEEL books, e.g., or Goodkind's additive/subtractive magic. These magic systems work by quantitative rules (albeit vaguely sketched in many places) and might be considered forms of alternative physics, if one were inclined to view them that way.


So in other words, they give magic more of a scientific slant, albeit with imagery drawn superficially from myth. The difference from science fiction, then, lies with the use of different motifs and rules rather than a truly different mindset.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 17, 2010 4:55 pm 
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Speculative Fiction is not a clearly segmented super-genre in any way shape or form. It isn't Sci Fi, Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Horror, it's a whole range of subgenres that blend together and with non SpecFic genres.
I had a story I was convinced was fantasy, but maybe science fantasy, so I posed in the "is it sci fi" thread on the NaNoWriMo forums, and was told it was not at all fantasy and it was clearly sci fi. If I had asked specifically in the Fantasy forum (I asked what subgenre it was not whether it was fantasy), they would have said "yeah, it's fantasy, specifically science fantasy."
Science Fantasy isn't magic in a modern world, that's actually a better definition of Magical Realism than Science Fantasy. Science Fantasy is basically a fantasy world with magic or inexplicable things someone tried to explain rationally. Star Wars is Science Fantasy (or Sword and Planet by some accounts).

Knowing what genre you are as you write is mainly to find out whether a writing group will accept you (and most genre fiction groups do it as "sci fi/fantasy" like a bookstore). The only real purpose of the genres outside of literary analysis is so publishers know if there should be a tree and sparkly magic or a spaceship and a robot on the cover.

If you must have a definition, I read once the following (paraphrased, I forget the author): Sci Fi is what could be but isn't, Fantasy is what couldn't be. Orson Scott Card described the difference as of "perception.". Another thing I remember reading once, possibly also by OSC, was that Sci Fi tends to obey the laws of physics or some variation based on them (such as if you fall off a cliff you will go splat against the ground unless some other force slows your descent). Fantasy makes its own rules (of magic for example, or a world where everyone can fly).

More late i have to go.

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PostPosted: Wed May 05, 2010 8:37 am 
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What do you call a genre that features a (nearly) scientifically plausible world without any fantasy elements like magic or gods, that doesn't doesn't contradict itself or break any natural laws that we know of, but that doesn't have any advanced technology either? I had thought of the term geofiction but that seems to include all of conworlding in general.

My conworld is essentially a historical drama but it takes place on a fictitious planet that was created through speculation. Practically all of the technology on it is perfectly achievable so the only speculation in the genre is in the place itself which, as I have typed, has tried to remain as faithful to what we know today.

For that matter, what do you call Mark's Almea? Or any of the other dozens of conworlds on this board? I know they are all conworlds but is there a certain genre they fall into?


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