What is the definition of Science Fiction and Fantasy?

Ian The Poet

Wizard Time Traveller
Oct 29, 2009
Actually I am an Alien from outer space. My real n
Science fiction is fiction based on science, often involves future technology and strange worlds. It often prides itself on being scientifically feasible.

Fantasy covers a wide spectrum of possibilities: paranormal (ghosts, demons, etc.), sword and scorcery, witches and wizards, a lot of quest novels with sword type warriors, often with supernatural/magic elements or overtones. And much, much more.

So, simply and generally put: Science fiction starts out based on science ideas. Fantasy starts out based on a world that includes magic or the supernatural.

And, oh yes, the two can be combined. There's a tremendous amount of variety.

I generally see them as two different genres, but they do get blended quite often, Fantasy has elements of the supernatural, it generally has magic, and other fantastic elements, talking animals, fantastic locations and different species, such as elves, dwarfs and trolls. Prime examples would be Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, and the Chronicles of Narnia.

Science Fiction is based more on Technology, it may have fantastic elements, but they are rationalized by technology, It may have space travel, other planets, aliens, and technologies beyond our own. Some examples would be Star Trek, Alien, and Transformers.

I would consider Star Wars, with it's use of the magical "Force" to be a blend of the two, even though Lucas added a technological explanation in the later movies.

The two genres also share many of the same fans, which is why they are often lumped together.

Science Fiction - its imaginary elements are largely possible within scientifically-established or scientifically-postulated laws of nature (though some elements in a story might still be pure imaginative speculation). Exploring the consequences of such differences is the traditional purpose of science fiction, making it a "literature of ideas".[1] Science fiction is largely based on writing entertainingly and rationally about alternate possibilities[2] in settings that are contrary to known reality.
How long is a piece of string? How long have you got?...:p
Science Fiction is fiction that might be possible with a factor or two that hasn't been figured out yet. Fantasy is fiction that can't be true (but we really don't care). Otherwise stated fiction beyond our understanding and fiction beyond our belief, respectively. Both, of course requiring suspension of disbelief.
Science fiction is whatever YOU think science fiction is and fantasy falls into the same catagory.


It was the only definition I could think of that would come close to suiting everyone.
Science fiction is whatever YOU think science fiction is and fantasy falls into the same catagory.


It was the only definition I could think of that would come close to suiting everyone.

Cribbing from Damon Knight, are we?:D

Yes; as noted in each and every one of the threads on the topic (unless I'm mistaken) as well as nearly every critical work... each is a label which has proven almost impossible to pin down, because each has been used in such a variety of fashions by writers, editors, critics, lexicographers, and readers, that no one definition is likely to actually be accepted by the majority of even the most thoughtful.

For myself, as I have noted elsewhere, I tend to think of the difference as being more of mode than incident; science fiction has a more rationalistic approach to the world presented, whereas fantasy tends more toward the numinous, the magical, or the "irrational", fantastic approach. But each can easily bleed into the other, and often has, so any hard-and-fast definition is likely to be more problematic than otherwise....
I attended a panel discussion at Norwescon a few decades ago and heard Damon Knight say (almost verbatim): Science fiction is whatever you point your finger at and say "That's science fiction." Pretty much agrees with my own personal assessment that science fiction is too big a forest for one type of tree.
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