Technofantasy: A Genre I've Discovered. Opinion?

Guttersnipe

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Technofantasy is what I think people mean when they call something ostensibly science fiction "fantasy." I think Star Wars, while often called space opera, a type of science fiction (mostly by those not well-versed in interpreting such works), but also called fantasy, is basically this. The Force may have been scientifically explained, but (I've read a bit about the novels) there are also witches who actually perform magic. I'm babbling. What's your opinion? Should this subgenre's name be used more often or is it just a fancy word for science fantasy?
 
Never come across this one before. Makes sense though. See why it exists as a niche that isn't quite Sci-Fantasy.

I feel like Star Trek might be advanced as a prime example. To me, Star Wars seems Sci-Fantasy, as there are aesthetic elements of it that come straight from fantasy. Star Trek, or at least based on the little I've seen of it, is almost entirely Sci-Fi in aesthetic, but the technological explanations are mostly hand-wavey (insofar as I've been told).
 
Never come across this one before. Makes sense though. See why it exists as a niche that isn't quite Sci-Fantasy.

I feel like Star Trek might be advanced as a prime example. To me, Star Wars seems Sci-Fantasy, as there are aesthetic elements of it that come straight from fantasy. Star Trek, or at least based on the little I've seen of it, is almost entirely Sci-Fi in aesthetic, but the technological explanations are mostly hand-wavey (insofar as I've been told).
Oh, I forgot to mention that I see Star Wars as science fantasy as well. I love Star Trek TOS but I won't beg you to watch it if it isn't your thing. I can definitely see Star Trek is technofantasy. I've noted such examples: 1), There's the "red matter" in the first of the newest movie trilogy, 2) The Q is indescribably powerful (then again, I've heard it's just technical beyond our understanding), and 3) Apollo himself is in one of the first series' episodes. You make a great point about the technobabble; you basically have it.
 
Oh, I forgot to mention that I see Star Wars as science fantasy as well. I love Star Trek TOS but I won't beg you to watch it if it isn't your thing. I can definitely see Star Trek is technofantasy. I've noted such examples: 1), There's the "red matter" in the first of the newest movie trilogy, 2) The Q is indescribably powerful (then again, I've heard it's just technical beyond our understanding), and 3) Apollo himself is in one of the first series' episodes. You make a great point about the technobabble; you basically have it.

I think about dipping into Star Trek properly at times, just never get round to it. Not so much not my thing as I never really was in a group where watching it would be the thing, and I don't love sci-fi aesthetics. I'm getting more into them though.
 
It's science fiction, just not hard science fiction.
 
Star Wars is hard core sci-fi. Science fantasy is a term invented by people that are uncomfortable with any SF that isn't as dry as Andromeda Strain, despite heartily embracing the extremely shabby science underpinning everything Azimov wrote.

Technofantasy seems to refer more to horror where the fantastic elements are ascribed to things other than superstitions.
 
I have a question arising out of this - and I mean it as an honest question, not an insult.

Why is it so important that things like Dune, Star Wars, Buck Rogers, Dan Dare etc be excluded from being science fiction? This comes up time after time on this forum and it puzzles me. It always seems to boil down to "The only real SF is hard SF". I would really like to know why some people feel this so strongly, especially since you never see the reverse being argued. Nobody tries to claim that there's a genre called "spec tech" or the like, which would exclude hard SF from being "real" SF.
 
The more I think about it, the more it feels like it's mostly a case of a sliding scale of sf and f. I think there are probably wrongly classified soft sci-fi out there. Wouldn't consider Star Wars hardcore, though. It also seems to me that it could be basically a subgenre of horror, like @Swank said (or, I think, probably just as likely) supernatural/dark fantasy fiction; I'd classify some techno-horror (especially East Asian, as I don't think we have enough filmed in America) films as this.
 
I have a question arising out of this - and I mean it as an honest question, not an insult.

Why is it so important that things like Dune, Star Wars, Buck Rogers, Dan Dare etc be excluded from being science fiction? This comes up time after time on this forum and it puzzles me. It always seems to boil down to "The only real SF is hard SF". I would really like to know why some people feel this so strongly, especially since you never see the reverse being argued. Nobody tries to claim that there's a genre called "spec tech" or the like, which would exclude hard SF from being "real" SF.

Well SW, Buck Rogers and Dan Dare definitely are SF. But there are few - if any - books/tv/movies that sit wholly in one camp. Most have humour, love, Thriller, horror and/or fantasy elements. It's the predominant element that determines the genre. And even then, the lines can be blurred. Is Jaws horror, fantasy or thriller?

The way I look at it is to let everyone decide for themselves what genre a story falls into. If they think Red Dwarf is comedy with a think veneer of SF, then fine. If they consider it as SF which simply substitutes drama for humour, then fine. For a laugh, I wrote a brief sketch involving Dave and HAL, and put it in the RD universe. It's quite easy to jump genre. And Darth Vader is very easy to make into a menacing or a comedic villain; the boundaries are almost indistinguishable.

The genre that confuses me - and one that I strongly disagree with - is 'space opera' , especially when it comes to epic movies.
 
I have a question arising out of this - and I mean it as an honest question, not an insult.

Why is it so important that things like Dune, Star Wars, Buck Rogers, Dan Dare etc be excluded from being science fiction? This comes up time after time on this forum and it puzzles me. It always seems to boil down to "The only real SF is hard SF". I would really like to know why some people feel this so strongly, especially since you never see the reverse being argued. Nobody tries to claim that there's a genre called "spec tech" or the like, which would exclude hard SF from being "real" SF.

Who here is saying they should be excluded?

Technofantasy is a subgenre term listed in the Encyclopedia of Science-Fiction.

I know that a lot of people do have a "only hard sci-fi is sci-fi" approach, but I don't think it's much more helpful to immediately assume that's what is going on when people use sub-genres to distinguish between various types of Sci-Fi on grounds of plausibility. Doing so is not exclusion.

Ditto using Sci-Fantasy to denote the various types of Sci Fi whose aesthetics and story choices allow them to be right at home in the fantasy genre. Just because I have my father's name doesn't mean I'm not part of my mother's family, or that nobody feels strongly enough about showing they're part of both that they'd use both.

(Also on the question of why it provokes passion is probably due to the perception of 'soft' sci-fi being something of an offshoot that came to overshadow its parent. See also grumbling about pop-punk not really being punk, modern R&B not being real R&B, Anglo-Cantonese takeaway food not being real Chinese, and probably ten thousand other examples)
 
Who here is saying they should be excluded?

Technofantasy is a subgenre term listed in the Encyclopedia of Science-Fiction.

I know that a lot of people do have a "only hard sci-fi is sci-fi" approach, but I don't think it's much more helpful to immediately assume that's what is going on when people use sub-genres to distinguish between various types of Sci-Fi on grounds of plausibility. Doing so is not exclusion.

Ditto using Sci-Fantasy to denote the various types of Sci Fi whose aesthetics and story choices allow them to be right at home in the fantasy genre. Just because I have my father's name doesn't mean I'm not part of my mother's family, or that nobody feels strongly enough about showing they're part of both that they'd use both.

(Also on the question of why it provokes passion is probably due to the perception of 'soft' sci-fi being something of an offshoot that came to overshadow its parent. See also grumbling about pop-punk not really being punk, modern R&B not being real R&B, Anglo-Cantonese takeaway food not being real Chinese, and probably ten thousand other examples)


Yes, 'casual gamers' was a (usually derogatory term) levelled at those players who only jumped in at the PlayStation 1 stage of gaming, and/or only played games occasionally, never looking to complete or 'ace' them. Is it a term still used today? I don't know, as I don't frequent gaming sites any more.

I'm betting that there are quite a few SF stories that were scientifically plausible at time of writing, but are now (with our newfound knowledge) anything but. Does that 'degrade' them from 'hard' to 'software or even now to fantasy? Or do they stay in the genre they were in at time of publishing? Or is this when they become 'classics'?
 
Who here is saying they should be excluded?

Technofantasy is a subgenre term listed in the Encyclopedia of Science-Fiction.

I know that a lot of people do have a "only hard sci-fi is sci-fi" approach, but I don't think it's much more helpful to immediately assume that's what is going on when people use sub-genres to distinguish between various types of Sci-Fi on grounds of plausibility. Doing so is not exclusion.

Ditto using Sci-Fantasy to denote the various types of Sci Fi whose aesthetics and story choices allow them to be right at home in the fantasy genre. Just because I have my father's name doesn't mean I'm not part of my mother's family, or that nobody feels strongly enough about showing they're part of both that they'd use both.

(Also on the question of why it provokes passion is probably due to the perception of 'soft' sci-fi being something of an offshoot that came to overshadow its parent. See also grumbling about pop-punk not really being punk, modern R&B not being real R&B, Anglo-Cantonese takeaway food not being real Chinese, and probably ten thousand other examples)
Many of us understand SF and Fantasy to be mutually exclusive sides of the same speculative coin. Not a spectrum. Either the speculation takes places in our reasoned universe or it does not.


So when someone calls something "science fantasy" this may sound like brunch, it is really like saying dinner-dessert. "Fantasy" means we have gone to a place where the impossible happens, and that essentially demeans an SF title as being so poorly conceived that it is just crystal balls and witches.
 
Technofantasy will suffer from the same dilemma that SF, Fantasy, horror, and so many other genres suffer from. And that is that the edges of all these and more are so cross pollinated that a lot of what's written defies definite genre designation. I believe these terms are only really helpful to people who are looking for a certain kind of book. I've said it before and I'll say it again. -- In the end a book is what the author/publisher says it is. --

Everybody may have an opinion but only one vote really counts.
 
Technofantasy will suffer from the same dilemma that SF, Fantasy, horror, and so many other genres suffer from. And that is that the edges of all these and more are so cross pollinated that a lot of what's written defies definite genre designation. I believe these terms are only really helpful to people who are looking for a certain kind of book. I've said it before and I'll say it again. -- In the end a book is what the author/publisher says it is. --

Everybody may have an opinion but only one vote really counts.

1) That's not how it works. Booksellers and librarians can put a book into any genre bucket they please to no small extent and as such, determine a great deal of how genre is perceived. Academics can expound their theories of what a book is and isn't, and at times influence how a book is perceived as through these too. Not to mention the sheer mess of public opinion can change these things too. JK Rowling has protested the Harry Potter books are not fantasy. Take a quick search on Harry Potter to see how that's gone from her... or not, as well all know that's how it's gone for her.

2) That's not how it should work. Words have meaning and nobody gets to unilaterally declare that is not the case and expect everyone to go along with it. If I tell you I'm going to serve you steak and instead give you fried onion, it doesn't become steak because I the cook and waiter tell you it is. If I ask you if you'd like to listen to some classical music and you say yes and I stick on Slayer, you are justified in any protest you'd make. Books should not be any different.
 
1) That's not how it works. Booksellers and librarians can put a book into any genre bucket they please to no small extent and as such, determine a great deal of how genre is perceived.

I suppose that to a degree that's true. But I doubt that if the book says on it's cover "A three part Science Fiction Series" that it will be placed in the "Romance" section.

Words have meaning and nobody gets to unilaterally declare that is not the case and expect everyone to go along with it. If I tell you I'm going to serve you steak and instead give you fried onion, it doesn't become steak because I the cook and waiter tell you it is.

Words have an "agreed" on meaning. If you and I agree to call fried onion, steak, for us it is steak. Everyone else may disagree but among ourselves we are not wrong. For words like Science Fiction. Fantasy. or Technofantasy there is no complete agreement as to what they mean, so there is a lot of wiggle room.
 
Words have an "agreed" on meaning. If you and I agree to call fried onion, steak, for us it is steak. Everyone else may disagree but among ourselves we are not wrong. For words like Science Fiction. Fantasy. or Technofantasy there is no complete agreement as to what they mean, so there is a lot of wiggle room.

Well that is somewhat the root of my point.

Words have an agreed upon meaning, which means the author and publisher alone should not be considered sole arbiter.

Now, if I were to read your statement as "in the case of a book's genre, I regard the author and publisher as the clear single authority and align my opinion of the word with theirs", I would still disagree as (from least to most important):

a) I don't agree with having single authorities on matters so trivial
b) While I'm not a hardcore death of the author type, I do generally take some cues from schools of thought that hold the author's intentions over the work should not be held as paramount to what the work is, as I find that increases the pleasure I take from many works.
c) Occasionally, some authors will provide opinions as to the genre they wrote in that lie outside common and dictionary usage by orders of such sufficient magnitude as to lay upon the logical and semantic resources of the English language a heavier burden than they can reasonably be expected to bear.

Or to put it another way, they are simply wrong.

Because while genre definitions are fuzzy enough that there is no complete agreement, the level of wiggle room is finite and some books just do or don't fall within a genre definition. Oh, you can have all sorts of fun arguing about the margins, but the definitive texts and definitely not texts are clear. As long as those admittedly unusual (I feel sure genre fans know they're not screamingly rare though) occasions exist, it seems erroneous to me to declare the author/publisher the clear single authority.

And speaking of arguing about the margins...

Many of us understand SF and Fantasy to be mutually exclusive sides of the same speculative coin. Not a spectrum. Either the speculation takes places in our reasoned universe or it does not.


So when someone calls something "science fantasy" this may sound like brunch, it is really like saying dinner-dessert. "Fantasy" means we have gone to a place where the impossible happens, and that essentially demeans an SF title as being so poorly conceived that it is just crystal balls and witches.

It is fundamentally impossible for me to find a definition of reasoned universe that admits ghosts, telekinesis, telepathy, extrasensory perception, energy fields created by all life that bind everything in the universe together, and shooting lightning out of one's fingers in a galaxy far, far away, but which does not admit large swathes of fantasy.

Also as someone who has at times just had a giant dessert for dinner, the idea of dinner-dessert is not as incoherently illogical as you find it.
 
It is fundamentally impossible for me to find a definition of reasoned universe that admits ghosts, telekinesis, telepathy, extrasensory perception, energy fields created by all life that bind everything in the universe together, and shooting lightning out of one's fingers in a galaxy far, far away, but which does not admit large swathes of fantasy.
It is fundamentally impossible for me to find the idea of a math program that predicts future history accurately over tens of thousands or years, or a type of programming that revolves around 3 verbal rules which even an intelligent person would struggle to apply as reasonable extrapolation of science. But we call Asimov's ideas SF.

All SF claims is that the things you are viewing arose in our reality. All Fantasy claims is that the stuff in the story is the impossible stuff we call myth, magic, legend and sorcery.

I've had electricity come out of my fingers using a Tesla coil, so when someone tells me that science is the source of what I'm viewing, then science it is. Same with holographic non-corporal people, reading the quantum state out of a person's brain using an alien internet sown into structure of all matter - which can also be used to engage tractor beam fields. If there were ghosts, the story would call them ghosts and it would be fantasy, because we know ghosts don't exist, but uploaded people might. Nowhere in SW does the word "ghost" appear. Nor "ESP", "telepathy" or "force lightning". The only time anything superstitious is mentioned in the film is when other characters disdain the Force.

There are no special SF stories - they are all full of BS. But it is SF BS. The disdain leveled at certain works because of the nature of the action seems to make some people feel that the work ought to be discredited - no matter how excellent the bona fides in every other way we judge genre work.

Really, it seems like the main way to have your work bashed as "not SF" is if there is some sort of blade involved. That is code for "medieval fantasy".

Now, if I were to read your statement as "in the case of a book's genre, I regard the author and publisher as the clear single authority and align my opinion of the word with theirs", I would still disagree as (from least to most important):

This is kind of the modern criticism POV, that an author can produce something that isn't what they think it is. But authors who write SF intend to write SF and they follow genre conventions to create SF, so something pretty strange has to happen for that intent to end up on an entirely different shelf after the author wrote it and the publisher saw it as a viable genre piece and published it as such.

And as funny as we all find Hitchhiker's to be, it is mainly funny because of how it engages genre material while sticking to the genre plot structure. Not shelved in the humor section.

There are SF books that are intentionally written as non-genre. Gravity's Rainbow or maybe The Road. But those novels clearly do things that aren't genre and largely leave genre readers dissatisfied. Again, on with intent.
 

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