Musing: Fantasy and Sci-Fi


I’m not sure more awesome can fit in one place. Artist: GREG CAPULLO

For the longest time, I assumed the difference between Science Fiction and Fantasy was simple.   Sci-Fi has spaceships.   Fantasy had dragons.  While this has the potential to be true, it’s more about what those two things mean.

As I get more experience with writing, I realize the most important difference between the two genres is a mindset.  A spaceship is something that exists, we elaborate in our stories adding on plausible technology that hasn’t been invented yet to make I more interesting.   A Dragon is an imaginary creature that we have no proof ever existed, based on understood ideas enriched by our imaginations.

This is the important distinction between the two genres.  I recently came across a great article talking about what makes these two genres stand out.  Here was my favorite part:


> Science Fiction consists of improbable possibilities.

* Fantasy consists of plausible impossibilities.

> Science Fiction the literature of change.

* Fantasy is the literature of longing.

> Science Fiction is a transformational kind of fiction.

* Fantasy is a normative kind of fiction.

> Science Fiction often ends with the establishment of a new order.

* Fantasy often ends with the re-establishment of order.

> Science Fiction usually is optimistic about change.

* Fantasy is rarely optimistic about change.

>In Science Fiction, the unknown is to be understood and thereby changed.

* In Fantasy, the unknown is to be loved for its strangeness.

> Science Fiction takes place in a fictional world is ruled by laws that are understandable by human reason, and eventually controllable by human effort.

* Fantasy takes place in a world where capricious supernatural entities run the show.

> Science Fiction stories works based on a set of rules that are explicit throughout the story.

* Fantasy stories works by rules that are rather vague and shadowy.

> Science Fiction is more likely to involve general laws, applied by people who are in the right place at the right time, or have the right insight or the right tool handy.

* Fantasy involves people who have special talents that enable them to do special things.

>Science Fiction characters make their power by understanding natural laws which are made known in textbooks or re-discovered by the characters themselves.

*Fantasy characters tend to gain power by studying arcane lore or by knowing the true names (natures) of things or people.


I find it interesting how well the two interact with each other and cool things happen when one bleeds into the other.   When you look at the two genres in this light you could have sci-fi dragons or fantasy spaceships.   Food for thought.

2 thoughts on “Musing: Fantasy and Sci-Fi

    • It’s not as strange really. Sci-Fi would seek the explanation of what makes a Dragon tick: A Reptilian creature capable of belching fire. From that stance a ‘dragon’ could exist.

      On the other side of the coin, Fantasy may see a ‘spaceship’ as a vessel to get to another world. So they may utilizing magic (rather than intricate engine design) to secure transportation to a distant world/dimension.

      In Fantasy the results are absolute. In Science understanding the explanation yields results.

      Thanks for reading.

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