Fantasy vs Science Fiction: A Poll

Which do you prefer?


  • Total voters
    383

Emphyricist

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Between eleven and sixteen, I read a lot of fantasy, and what I quickly discovered is that while young adult and some children's fantasy was fun and creative (Jane Yolen, Patricia Wrede, Dianne Duane, Dianna Wynne Jones), I generally found adult fantasy rather less so. Part of the issue, I think, is that people I knew mostly read epic fantasy, and epic fantasy generally ranges from OK (David Eddings) to utterly terrible (Dennis McKiernan), and pretty much all of it is heavily influenced by Tolkien.

After I got into science fiction, I think the only fantasy I've read since then—not counting stories by people like Jack Vance, Fritz Lieber, L. Sprague DeCamp, and Ursula LeGuin who also write science fiction—was Mercedes Lackey. I read a lot of her books, and liked them well enough as escapism, but I didn't have the feeling of wonder I had reading children's fantasy or a lot of science fiction. Now, it's possible there's some truly innovative, well-written stuff going on in the world adult fantasy, but the problem is that with fantasy, the people who recommend books to me seem to have questionable taste. With science fiction I've mostly either gotten recommendations from my father (who as similar tastes to me), or found new authors via anthology.

On the other hand, I have an anthology of classic fantasy short stories, and the only story that inspired me to look up the author was one of Jack Vance's Dying Earth stories. (On the flip side, that anthology is how I discovered Jack Vance.) So I think that for whatever reason, there's a difference in how SF writers and adult writers of fantasy approach storytelling, and I like the former better.
 

hopewrites

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Facts vs Emotion.

Not that facts can't be emotional, or connect on a visceral level. Nor that emotions take no bearing from facts, or convey any less truth.


The SF that I've read is like reading fun doctorate dissertation (emphasis on the fun).

The fantasy that I've read is like reading psychological case studies without the case.



If I were to guess, that's the sort of thing @Emphyricist is talking about when they mentioned different approaches to writing.
 
Joined
May 27, 2017
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For me it all comes down to two aspects:

1. Storytelling / Worldbuilding rigour;
2. Sanitation

1. I absolutely, utterly, unwaveringly detest and loathe lazy handwavium alla Deo ex Machina. With this in mind it is simply a question of statistical levels of rigour. From all the fantasy and scifi I have read the balance comes out slightly in the favour of scifi.

2. Almost all retero-historic works run into the question of plumbing and soft toilet paper. It is a question of pragmatism. I simply don't like the idea of not being able to wipe my behind without it itching insufferably.

With this in mind, if I must vote for only one despite having a fondness for both, it must be the logic cistern of science fiction.
 

althea

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For me it all comes down to two aspects:

1. Storytelling / Worldbuilding rigour;
2. Sanitation

1. I absolutely, utterly, unwaveringly detest and loathe lazy handwavium alla Deo ex Machina. With this in mind it is simply a question of statistical levels of rigour. From all the fantasy and scifi I have read the balance comes out slightly in the favour of scifi.

2. Almost all retero-historic works run into the question of plumbing and soft toilet paper. It is a question of pragmatism. I simply don't like the idea of not being able to wipe my behind without it itching insufferably.

With this in mind, if I must vote for only one despite having a fondness for both, it must be the logic cistern of science fiction.
Fair points. I'm a fan of good sanitation myself.
 
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As far as I can tell, in neither Sf nor fantasy does this question ever arise
Oh contrare! I know of at least one SF book ('The Ice Palace' I think it was called) that addressed sanitation and hygiene quite well.
As a general trend, I have lost track of the number of Fa books that describe various levels of 'fetid stench' in poorly plumbed city quarters. Do you propose that under developed drainage can co-exist with fluffy toilet paper? Or perhaps everyone just 'hexes' their buts clean in Fa?
 

2DaveWixon

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There are many possible sources of fetid stenches, and while they often involve poor sanitation, the issue here seems to have been soft toilet paper -- and that has little if anything to do with sewers and stenches...
Underdeveloped drainage, as you put it, existed long before there was soft toilet paper.
And who ever said that all the butts in fantasy were clean?
My point was primarily aimed at the fact that very seldom do either fantasy stories or sf stories actually get into such issues -- a fact of which I'm glad.
 

Stewart Hotston

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I hate dues ex machina tales. For me, as a one time proper scientist, I find poorly written sci fi irritating in the extreme and by that I generally mean sci fi that doesn't look at science and say 'holy sh*t this stuff's counter intuitive...what if???'. It's why I can't watch Star Trek.

As for Fantasy, well, for me at least, worlds have to be self-consistent. If you've got magic, make it systematic, make it obey an internal sense of rigour. Now, you don't have to tell the reader how it works (Erikson never really did until right at the end of a 10 books series) but I can sense a writer who's decided that they need to do the fantasy equivalent of reverse the polarity.

I like stories that are layered, I sometimes like grimdark but not for its own sake. In general I like both, finding that both can be politically subversive, both can be rigorous, both can be challenging to today's world (although because SF tends to be slightly closer thematically to ours it is often easier to do that in SF). So I love Erikson, I like Adam Roberts, Jeff Vandemeer. Generic sword and sorcery bores me silly as do most space operas. I'm not really interested in yet another young orphan hero discovering s/he is the key to world/galactic salvation no matter how interesting the world building. It's why, having just finished Nevernight, I'm wondering what all the fuss is about. It's effectively the grimdark version of harry potter - yet another orphan goes to magic school.

Having said that, and I'll finish my ramble here. The best fantasy I've read (other than Erikson) is Pratchett and he's really better described as compassionate satire because of his focus on reflecting our world in the trappings of the discworld and then remorselessly poking fun at our tropes, prejudices and (british) sensibilities.
 

Cathbad

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I agree that both Fantasy and Sci-Fi stories have to be grounded in/based on a set of rules; but as a reader, I don't want to suffer through the explanations. That's what turned me off Niven.

If you have a laser pistol, don't give me a description of the schematics - just don't change it's functions mid-story.

If you have magic that is based on a caster's stamina, I don't want to be told exactly how much stamina is lost per spell - just don't have one man who seems to have infinite stamina.

I've found you can usually tell when an author has his stuff together, and when he's fudging - or just winging it.
 

Mirannan

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Jan 20, 2013
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There are many possible sources of fetid stenches, and while they often involve poor sanitation, the issue here seems to have been soft toilet paper -- and that has little if anything to do with sewers and stenches...
Underdeveloped drainage, as you put it, existed long before there was soft toilet paper.
And who ever said that all the butts in fantasy were clean?
My point was primarily aimed at the fact that very seldom do either fantasy stories or sf stories actually get into such issues -- a fact of which I'm glad.
Indeed. It is true, though, that cleaning magics in a lot of magic-containing fantasy milieux are rather basic and commonly used. Unfortunately, the D&D group of which I'm a part seems to have ground to a halt - but I came up with the idea of a gambeson (look it up!) with permanent magical enchantment to keep it clean and dry. Using their rules, it would be rather cheap - and probably rather popular with warrior-types especially those who commonly wear heavy armour. Much the same enchantment could be applied to the armour itself; armour that never goes rusty would be even more popular!

The relevance to this? Well, a self-cleaning sponge would be just as easy.

Actually, one common problem with fantasy game design is that magic is grossly under-used - almost as bad as Star Trek's technological amnesia. Self-cleaning surfaces, maintenance-free street lighting, disease control - all simple, using fairly low level magic. One has to come up with a reason why it doesn't happen.

(An example of the Star Trek amnesia is that according to one Next Gen episode, the Enterprise crew invented (on the fly!) a procedure for immortality. It has to do with the transporter; no more spoilers!)
 

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