Technofantasy: A Genre I've Discovered. Opinion?

paranoid marvin

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Most of the 'magic' that happens in Star Wars is because of the 'force', which is an energy field that surrounds all things and binds the universe together - much as gravity does in ours. Those who are best at using this 'force' can do things that would otherwise seem impossible.


Perhaps there  is an as yet undetected untapped energy field in our galaxy. There are quite enough weird things that seem to happen with no (as yet) scientific explanation for them. The force, or some other form of untapped, currently undetected, energy field is probably more likely to be true than not.

If it was magic, then there would be an argument to say it was fantasy. But even if it  was magic, a story that involves spaceships and travel between planets must surely still sit predominantly in the science fiction category. Just because 2000ad features a law enforcement officer doesn't make it a police drama.
 

The Big Peat

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I did not mention the various ostensibly mind produced supernatural phenomena in the original Star Wars trilogy as a way of saying it is not Sci-Fi.

Nor do I mention them as things that could have no reasonable explanation.

My point is that any explanation for them is one that could also be applied to considerable swathes of fantasy books just as easily, with the main reason not do being "we don't".

And that as a result, any definition of Sci-Fi that can permit Star Wars - and I would argue any common usage of Sci-Fi that doesn't include Star Wars is just automatically wrong - results in a permeable barrier between Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Trying to erect one is a seemingly impossible test of logic... that will just be ignored by the many, many people who don't see genre that way.

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.

That requires accepting the credo that Sci-Fi is only the stuff that sits in the publishing genre, and not everything that fits the logical definition regardless of whether it is part of the publishing genre or a different publishing genre. Which I do not. I accept there's a definition of Sci-Fi where that's true, but I don't accept that as the only possible definition of Sci-Fi.

So as far as I'm concerned there's Sci-Fi from people like Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan, and Vladimir Nabokov, who did not intend to write Sci-Fi because they're misinformed snobs.

There are also authors who claim their work is Sci-Fi only for people to go "is it though". Anne McCaffrey's Dragons of Pern series is the prime example. McCaffrey can claim it's Sci-Fi and Fantasy all she likes, it is considered primarily a Fantasy book far more often than it is primarily Sci-Fi.

As such, the pretty strange thing is far from unknown, and I'd state people doing something other than what they intended is just generally a feature of humanity rather than something of modern criticism.


edit: It's also worth noting that if we accept the creator as the ultimate authority, then Star Wars is Space Fantasy anyway (and Sci-Fi too).
 
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paranoid marvin

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I did not mention the various ostensibly mind produced supernatural phenomena in the original Star Wars trilogy as a way of saying it is not Sci-Fi.

Nor do I mention them as things that could have no reasonable explanation.

My point is that any explanation for them is one that could also be applied to considerable swathes of fantasy books just as easily, with the main reason not do being "we don't".

And that as a result, any definition of Sci-Fi that can permit Star Wars - and I would argue any common usage of Sci-Fi that doesn't include Star Wars is just automatically wrong - results in a permeable barrier between Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Trying to erect one is a seemingly impossible test of logic... that will just be ignored by the many, many people who don't see genre that way.



That requires accepting the credo that Sci-Fi is only the stuff that sits in the publishing genre, and not everything that fits the logical definition regardless of whether it is part of the publishing genre or a different publishing genre. Which I do not. I accept there's a definition of Sci-Fi where that's true, but I don't accept that as the only possible definition of Sci-Fi.

So as far as I'm concerned there's Sci-Fi from people like Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan, and Vladimir Nabokov, who did not intend to write Sci-Fi because they're misinformed snobs.

There are also authors who claim their work is Sci-Fi only for people to go "is it though". Anne McCaffrey's Dragons of Pern series is the prime example. McCaffrey can claim it's Sci-Fi and Fantasy all she likes, it is considered primarily a Fantasy book far more often than it is primarily Sci-Fi.

As such, the pretty strange thing is far from unknown, and I'd state people doing something other than what they intended is just generally a feature of humanity rather than something of modern criticism.


edit: It's also worth noting that if we accept the creator as the ultimate authority, then Star Wars is Space Fantasy anyway (and Sci-Fi too).


This is true, Lucas apparently considers SW to be fantasy and space opera. Mary Shelley intended to write a horror story with Frankenstein. Much of Steven King is fantasy or thriller far more than it is horror.

Book genre is often determined by the publisher and/or the book store where it is sold.

Is Alice in Wonderland in the children's section? If so, in what age range? Or is it in the fantasy section? Or the generalisation? Or is it perhaps put in the 'classics' section? There have been several times when I have gone into a book store and had to look through several sections before I have found where it was placed.
 

HareBrain

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This is kind of the modern criticism POV, that an author can produce something that isn't what they think it is.
Authors are no less subject to self-delusion than the population in general. Terry Goodkind, for example, is on record as considering his books *not* fantasy, which is a laughable position.
 

Toby Frost

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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.

I agree - the setting doesn't inherently devalue the story.

The trouble with the whole argument about Star Wars is that I (and I suspect the vast majority of people) look at it and think "Spaceships, robots, laser guns, people on other planets. Of course that's science-fiction."

I think genre relies on both setting and story/tone, which can get confusing. Alien is horror in story/tone but is science fiction because it's about spaceships, aliens and robots and is set in the future. It's both. Marketing doesn't help. But it's the need to exclude that puzzles me. Do people feel that it somehow hurts or insults (say) The Andromeda Strain if Dune is on the same shelves?
 

Vladd67

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Authors are no less subject to self-delusion than the population in general. Terry Goodkind, for example, is on record as considering his books *not* fantasy, which is a laughable position.
He also said that if you felt there were similarities between The Sword of Truth and The Wheel of Time then you weren't intelligent enough to read his work.
 

Swank

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I did not mention the various ostensibly mind produced supernatural phenomena in the original Star Wars trilogy as a way of saying it is not Sci-Fi.

Nor do I mention them as things that could have no reasonable explanation.

My point is that any explanation for them is one that could also be applied to considerable swathes of fantasy books just as easily, with the main reason not do being "we don't".

And that as a result, any definition of Sci-Fi that can permit Star Wars - and I would argue any common usage of Sci-Fi that doesn't include Star Wars is just automatically wrong - results in a permeable barrier between Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Trying to erect one is a seemingly impossible test of logic... that will just be ignored by the many, many people who don't see genre that way.



That requires accepting the credo that Sci-Fi is only the stuff that sits in the publishing genre, and not everything that fits the logical definition regardless of whether it is part of the publishing genre or a different publishing genre. Which I do not. I accept there's a definition of Sci-Fi where that's true, but I don't accept that as the only possible definition of Sci-Fi.

So as far as I'm concerned there's Sci-Fi from people like Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan, and Vladimir Nabokov, who did not intend to write Sci-Fi because they're misinformed snobs.

There are also authors who claim their work is Sci-Fi only for people to go "is it though". Anne McCaffrey's Dragons of Pern series is the prime example. McCaffrey can claim it's Sci-Fi and Fantasy all she likes, it is considered primarily a Fantasy book far more often than it is primarily Sci-Fi.

As such, the pretty strange thing is far from unknown, and I'd state people doing something other than what they intended is just generally a feature of humanity rather than something of modern criticism.


edit: It's also worth noting that if we accept the creator as the ultimate authority, then Star Wars is Space Fantasy anyway (and Sci-Fi too).
That doesn't change the fact that you stated that a book published to be SF might get shelved otherwise. Talking about unpublished work doesn't really change how published stuff is regarded.

And I think you discount epistemological assumptions of genre readers. You're taking a view that mind reading is mind reading, regardless of genre. But genre readers care quite a bit about whether the world building they are reading makes that mind reading magic or science. World building is the essential underlying trait of SFF. We are invited to imagine a place and time, and that goes along with imagining our relationship to it.
This is true, Lucas apparently considers SW to be fantasy and space opera. Mary Shelley intended to write a horror story with Frankenstein. Much of Steven King is fantasy or thriller far more than it is horror.
Lucas is not the sole author of SW. Mary Shelley is the first SF author, so it is hard to say that she didn't intend to write in a genre that didn't yet exist.


Part of the problem with genre comparison is that SF and Fantasy are essentially equals - they are different from each other for exactly the same reasons - mostly setting. Which is entirely different than a genre like Horror, Mystery or Romance that have no setting constraints like SFF, but are defined entirely by the way the story works out. Of course you can have SF/Horror or Western Romance or Fantasy Mystery - there is nothing mutually exclusive about combining a setting genre with a theme genre. Where you get in trouble is when you say overlap setting genres or theme genres. Few want to read Romance Horror and Historical SF doesn't actually make much sense (yes, I am already thinking of the exceptions - but take the general idea).

So when genres are similarly defined is when we see conflicts in combining them.

Is Alien or Frankenstein more horror or SF? Hard to say on the first viewing, but not by the third.
 

The Big Peat

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This is true, Lucas apparently considers SW to be fantasy and space opera. Mary Shelley intended to write a horror story with Frankenstein. Much of Steven King is fantasy or thriller far more than it is horror.

Book genre is often determined by the publisher and/or the book store where it is sold.

Is Alice in Wonderland in the children's section? If so, in what age range? Or is it in the fantasy section? Or the generalisation? Or is it perhaps put in the 'classics' section? There have been several times when I have gone into a book store and had to look through several sections before I have found where it was placed.

That's another point. There are a number of creatives out there who've said their work is both, or that they don't see a distinction between fantasy and sci-fi. Roger Zelazny is probably the most famous of "there is no difference", and I know Steven Brust agrees with him. There's probably more who'll talk about the difference, but it isn't a universal view.

And yes, age is often a big one in terms of split genre presentation.


Anyhoo, to try and bring this back to technofantasy... I can't say I've seen a whole lot of it in the wild, going from the examples they give in the articles, if we're going to call it a very specific thing rather than another name for sci-fantasy. It's like how wikipedia lists Bangsian fantasy as a sub-genre - there's maybe 10 books in it!

I love a good bit of pedantry at times, but sometimes it's all about measuring a slice of the genre so so so wafer thin that it wouldn't have caused Mr Creosote to explode. I feel like Technofantasy could be an example of this.
 

paranoid marvin

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That doesn't change the fact that you stated that a book published to be SF might get shelved otherwise. Talking about unpublished work doesn't really change how published stuff is regarded.

And I think you discount epistemological assumptions of genre readers. You're taking a view that mind reading is mind reading, regardless of genre. But genre readers care quite a bit about whether the world building they are reading makes that mind reading magic or science. World building is the essential underlying trait of SFF. We are invited to imagine a place and time, and that goes along with imagining our relationship to it.

Lucas is not the sole author of SW. Mary Shelley is the first SF author, so it is hard to say that she didn't intend to write in a genre that didn't yet exist.


Part of the problem with genre comparison is that SF and Fantasy are essentially equals - they are different from each other for exactly the same reasons - mostly setting. Which is entirely different than a genre like Horror, Mystery or Romance that have no setting constraints like SFF, but are defined entirely by the way the story works out. Of course you can have SF/Horror or Western Romance or Fantasy Mystery - there is nothing mutually exclusive about combining a setting genre with a theme genre. Where you get in trouble is when you say overlap setting genres or theme genres. Few want to read Romance Horror and Historical SF doesn't actually make much sense (yes, I am already thinking of the exceptions - but take the general idea).

So when genres are similarly defined is when we see conflicts in combining them.

Is Alien or Frankenstein more horror or SF? Hard to say on the first viewing, but not by the third.


Frankenstein is one of the most interesting pieces of literature, especially for that outside of the 20th Century. It was effectively written for a ghost story competition. Even if science fiction was a genre back then, it was intended to scare the listener.

It was later added to and amended, and we know much about that too. One of the most interesting books ever written, but more interesting for how and why rather than the story itself.
 

paranoid marvin

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Going back to technofantasy, this sounds suspiciously like the similarly named 'technobabble' - or should that be 'Treknobabble' - that Star Trek used to cover the science-y bits.

It also sounds like another way to move stuff away from science fiction - note it's a subgenre of fantasy, not a subgenre of science fiction.

I accept that there are different viewpoints, and that every person's opinion is valid, but I struggle to see how any story that features aliens, starships, travel between planets and laser battles on space-stations and in space can be anything other than science fiction.
 

KiraAnn

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Personally, I am of the opinion that differentiating between science fiction, science fantasy, high fantasy, etc, is more of an ego-boosting gate keeping thing.

In short, I don't worry about it and just enjoy it.
 

Bick

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Ha - just seen this thread. Can I just say that I’m enjoying the irony of SF fans regularly debating what it is we’re fans of. If we don’t know, why are we here? It’s like some kind of existential paradox. Kafka (or Dick) would approve. FWIW ‘techno-fantasy’ seems silliness to me.
 

Swank

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Ha - just seen this thread. Can I just say that I’m enjoying the irony of SF fans regularly debating what it is we’re fans of. If we don’t know, why are we here? It’s like some kind of existential paradox. Kafka (or Dick) would approve. FWIW ‘techno-fantasy’ seems silliness to me.
The fact of the matter is that we aren't actually fans of the same thing. Some people enjoy what would loosely be termed "SFF" and like it as exotica, unconcerned with the underlying mechanics. For other people, the why and how of a SF or Fantasy story makes the drama and action worthwhile and believable, grounding the reading experience in the same kind of rules that make reading a Mystery satisfying - that the mystery will be solved.

This is little different than why two people might enjoy bicycling or cooking for entirely different reasons, even though the act of reading, cooking or pedaling are essentially identical.

The frustration comes from the POV that everyone who enjoys something must enjoy it in the same way. So the assertion that Fantasy and SF are the same is essentially de-valuing the way in which some people take their enjoyment in favor of some other person's way of understanding their pleasure. As if "I like Fantasy because of the swordfights" was the only way anyone should like Fantasy.
 

Cosmic Geoff

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'Technofantasy' sounds like a good label for the kind of fantasy novel I write, which is epic fantasy in form but where the 'magic' (according to me at least) actually employs the super-technology of a long-vanished race, the 'Builders'.

The 'science' basis of much popular sci-fi actually seems very ropey, and one could call the interstellar adventure stuff 'space fantasy' by analogy with 'epic fantasy' (GRR Martin) and 'historical fantasy' (South wins the US civil war, etc).
 

BAYLOR

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Empire of the East by Fred Saberhagen A post apocalyptic fantasy series in which World War III brought back magic .
 

AltThinking

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My country is living Technofantasy. Most people under 80 have high-speed internet. The government is abolishing cheques & cash payments in favour of internet-banking. Most businesses no longer use the mail system but send quotes by email & need deposit payment by internet-banking.

They all believe that technology not rational thinking or behaviour will solve all the world's problems:cautious:
 

BAYLOR

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My country is living Technofantasy. Most people under 80 have high-speed internet. The government is abolishing cheques & cash payments in favour of internet-banking. Most businesses no longer use the mail system but send quotes by email & need deposit payment by internet-banking.

They all believe that technology not rational thinking or behaviour will solve all the world's problems:cautious:

It won't .
 

Parson

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They all believe that technology not rational thinking or behaviour will solve all the world's problems:cautious:
Technology is not the answer. But I don't think that rational thinking and behavior is likely to become universal at any time.
 

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