Should Fantasy and Sci/Fi really intertwine?

Sharukem

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People have been arguing this point for many a century, and have had many a conflict with each other. But I think that it is about time that we discuss this point amongst us.
 

aarti

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I have been a fantasy buff for ages but never really read sci fi. I don't actually know why I don't- I just never found the outer space or science components that interesting. Maybe because in fantasy, I usually lean towards the epic or historical variety. I don't really ever read "urban" fantasy, or fantasy that takes place in the current day.

As for fantasy and sci fi intertwining- I think most people think they're the same, anyway! At least, when I go to the bookstore, they are all together in a very hodgepodge way. However, I guess I don't really know what you mean by intertwining. Do you mean, writing a book that has both fantastical and science fictional elements? I'm sure there are books out there that do that (though I admit I don't know what they are). Being a fantasy fan, I find sci fi a bit more intimidating, but eventually, I'm sure I'll dip my feet in!
 

Pyan

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I started off my addiction to both genres with hard sf - the first book I remember reading was by Isaac Asimov- but find myself tending these days to Fantasy. But it really makes no difference: the last few books I have read include Wintersmith, by Terry Pratchett (F), Consider Phlebas, by Iain M Banks (SF), Deed of Paksenarrion, by Elizabeth Moon, (F), and The Book of Lost Tales, by JRRT (F). There is no real pattern to my choices within SF/F: I just pick a book that looks interesting and dive in.
There are some sub-genres that don't interest me at all: Cyberpunk, for one. But generally I would advise people new to SF/F not to be put off by the label: be as catholic as you can in reading within SF/F: and don't pass over a title because it's been categorized as either SF or Fantasy. The diffence is blurred anyway: how would you label Anne McCaffrey's Pern books, for instance?
 

j d worthington

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People have been arguing this point for many a century, and have had many a conflict with each other. But I think that it is about time that we discuss this point amongst us.

Um, "many a century" is a bit of a stretch, as sf hasn't even been around (as such) for a century yet.....;) (Wells and Verne wrote "scientific romances" where the science could be accurate to the knowledge of their day, or complete fluff, for example). And what we know as fantasy really doesn't date much further back than William Morris in the 1880s....

However, to step down from being pedantic: They always have tended to do so. If you read the sf or the fantasy of the 1910s on, you'll find plenty of examples of the lines being blurred... sf is an outgrowth of fantasy (or the imaginative tale, which also includes the tale of supernatural horror, ghost stories -- scary or humorous -- etc.) Personally, I think there's plenty of room for a variety, and I'd prefer to keep it that way: some that are rigidly scientific ("hard" sf writers such as Benford, Bova, etc.), fantasy of various sorts (from the delicate touch of a Dunsany to the mega-doorstops like Jordan, Martin, etc.), and those that fall inbetween ... whatever they may be. (How would you, for instance, classify most of Rod Serling's work? SF? Fantasy? Horror? Or Lovecraft, who wrote in all of these. Or James Tiptree, Jr.? etc.)

In the end, I'd say for the writer to follow the demands of the story ... but I'm not a publisher or agent, and professional writers also have to listen to what will sell -- and therein lies the rub; for marketers like nice, cleancut divisions (until they stop selling because they've become too insular). But in the long run, crossbreeding the stories gives them more vitality, and allows for more growth, than any rigid systematization. So I'd say it's a healthy thing.
 

Urien

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Simpler to classify it all as "Speculative Fiction."
 

Talysia

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When I first started reading, I read both Sci-Fi and fantasy, as they were both lumped together in the same section in my library. I guess that shows how people think that they're one and the same. Now I mainly read fantasy, but I still like a good Sci-Fi tale once in a while. Come to think of it, I started with Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series, and I still haven't been able to decide whether they're Sci-Fi or fantasy. Apparently, the author says that they're Sci-Fi, but with some of the early books, the line between genres is very fine.
 

littlemissattitude

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I'm sorry for keeping this one up, but I can't resist: LMA: We're talking marketing. Imagination? Surely you jest!....:p

Look at it this way, j.d....encouraging the blending of genres, and thus inducing nervous breakdowns in marketing executives (it will happen to them all, eventually, because as you point out none of them have imaginations) is just my little way of keeping the therapists in business. Look at it as my little contribution to the economy. :D

And, on a more serious...and on-topic...note: I have never really understood the need for such strict categorization of genres, to the point that no science fiction should, according to some, seep over into fantasy, or fantasy into science fiction ("Don't cross the streams. That would be very bad"). The same with other genres. Some of my favorite novels cross genres. Look at Kage Baker's In The Garden of Iden. It's science fiction. It's romance. It's probably also fantasy. And it works really well, in my opinion. Perhaps it is because I read in most genres and enjoy them all the same, where some will only read science fiction, or fantasy, or detective novels, or whatever.

With my enjoyment of all genres and the blending of more than one in one story, I guess I just don't understand what is so difficult about selling something that crosses genres. I offer as an example the film Field of Dreams. It was sold as a baseball movie. And it was a baseball movie. But it was also a fine fantasy, only I didn't know that until I went and saw the thing, because of the way it was sold. I don't know if they were afraid that baseball fans couldn't handle the fantasy aspect and wouldn't go see the movie, or if they figured that fantasy enthusiasts are all pasty white couch potatoes who hate sports and would stay away if the fantasy didn't include swords and dragons or whatever. And maybe my faith in people's imaginations is misplaced. But it would seem to me that advertising it (or any cross-genre entertainment, be it book, movie or whatever) as being of more than one genre would actually increase, not decrease, the audience.

Just call me Pollyanna, I suppose.;)
 

ScottSF

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My gut reaction is to say “NO!” to this question.

A more tempered response is that people can mix fantasy and sci-fi but it will most likely be something I won’t be interested in reading.

I am a fan of both but I usually prefer each to be solidly in it's own genre. Something like Terry Brooks having Gnomes and Elves crawling out of a post apocalyptic modern world just turns me off as a reader. I had similar issues with Sarah Douglas' Wayfarer Redemption, I think it should have just stayed fantasy and left more mystery. I would also prefer they were in separate sections of the book store so when I'm looking for a Sci-fi book I don't have to wade through all the wizards and goblins. If you look in Writers' Market publication there's always a demand for 'hard' science fiction because plenty of people write what I call 'space fantasy.

I suppose it all comes down to Magic v Science and that’s where you can have genre mixing. One culture’s Science is another culture’s Magic. Or the Supernatural is actually part of a greater natural universe that we have barely begun to understand. I remember once a guy on the train was trying to get me to make a donation for some Hindu based literature. I think it was Veda Yoga (please correct me if that’s not a real thing) and he kept talking to me about the material vs. the immaterial and I was talking about Einstein’s equations were basically telling us that mater and energy were the same thing so there really is no immaterial world and at the same time there really is no material world and. . . I was really biting off more than I can chew but I can never forget the look of distaste on his face when I was talking about ‘science’ because I think Science was a threat to his Magic. I don’t like the term Speculative Fiction. I hope it doesn’t catch on because it may be harder to weed out the half-A**ed sci-fi from the real deal.
'
 

j d worthington

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Well, as I've said before, through the majority of its history, sf has been often blended with fantasy -- not necessarily the faux-mediaeval fantasy, but fantasy nonetheless; and some of the most highly respected writers of sf have done such: Heinlein, Anderson, Asimov, Silverberg, Le Guin, Sturgeon, to name only a few. While, for aspiring writers who want to more easily sell their books, it may be better in that sense to keep a sharp line of demarcation, in the end what you end up with is a very insular attitude that cannot but hurt each branch of imaginative literature. Cross-pollenization is healthy for both the stories and for the writers; it keeps each from going stale. That is true of any branch of literature. Literary taxonomy is and has always been a slippery thing; and so it should be.

I realize that this may sound odd in light of some earlier posts I've made on the subject of the science in science fiction, but it isn't, really. If you are going to write a "hard" sf story, then you need to know what you're about with the science; but flexibility in what a writer can do with a story is the only way to keep that writer and what they write from becoming vitrified. And, as Ballard's novel showed, while such may be very pretty, in the end, it is stasis, and therefore death to any sort of art.
 

Pyan

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I don’t like the term Speculative Fiction. I hope it doesn’t catch on because it may be harder to weed out the half-A**ed sci-fi from the real deal.
'

I doubt it will: if it hasn't caught on in nearly 60 years, since Heinlein used it in 1948, it's unlikely it will now.
It could be a useful categorization, though, if you want a phrase that relates to all of the genres in which things occur, events and processes, that we do not fully understand or can only hypothesize about: science fiction, horror, fantasy, future or alternative history, supernatural fiction, etc. But I would think that it would be too broad a definition for most readers, who would find that they prefer closer targeting of their particular tastes.

The problem that I have with the phrase, though, is that it sounds tautological to me: by definition, fiction is speculation: otherwise it would be fact.
 

williamjm

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Um, "many a century" is a bit of a stretch, as sf hasn't even been around (as such) for a century yet.....;) (Wells and Verne wrote "scientific romances" where the science could be accurate to the knowledge of their day, or complete fluff, for example).

I'm not sure much has changed, modern Science Fiction can still be accurate to the knowledge of our day or complete fluff ;)
 

steve12553

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Through all this, I've got 2 points. First I have to think that both Welles and Verne wrote Science Fiction even though today it appears to be Fantasy. What they wrote was not outside the science of their times anymore than writers today are outside today's science. It's not outside the realm of possiblity that fifty years from now the Science Fiction of today will look like Fantasy because the advances in science make the backdrop of science look like a fairy story. I really believe you have to take into account the author's knowledge and the science of the times it was written. The other point is that when mixing genre, Fantasy dominates. If you take a Science Fiction story and throw in a troll without explaining the science of genetically engineering a troll, you have a Fantasy regardless of the rest of the story. They really don't blend, the content defines them. I like both although I lean more toward Science Fiction. I do see distinct differences which suit my moods perfectly.

Edit: Got distracted in the middle of this post and did not see the one above.
 
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Parson

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If you take a Science Fiction story and throw in a troll without explaining the science of genetically engineering a troll, you have a Fantasy regardless of the rest of the story. They really don't blend, the content defines them.

Well said Steve 12553. I agree but you still have to deal with Anne M.'s Pern whose only real nod to the SF which she claims for it is she talks about the Dragons being genitically engineered to destroy thread. But for all the rest smacks like Fantasy of the first degree.

Give me David Weber any day.
 

Pyan

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Yes, but only at the start of the series. As it goes on, it gets more and more sff-y, with the introduction of AVIAS and the back-stories of the First Founders.
 

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