I had a conversation with an author friend of mine about this yesterday. There are differences between science fiction and fantasy, but few understand how to explain those differences.
Dictionary.com defines Science Fiction as “a form of fiction that draws imaginatively on scientific knowledge and speculation in its plot, setting, theme, etc.”
Meanwhile, Wikipedia states that “Fantasy is a genre of fiction that commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary plot element, theme, or setting.”
Both definitions are adequate enough. However, the most important factor in distinguishing the difference between the two is also the simplest.
The (Overly Simple) Explanation
It is all in how the author explains the characters and the situations.
Don’t believe me? Try this…
Hulk steps out onto a street and throws a car. He can do this because his cells are juiced with gamma radiation. He’s a science fiction character.
Thor steps out onto the same street and throws an equally heavy boulder. He can do this because he is a powerful god of thunder. As long as he is a god, he is a fantasy character. If you start calling him an alien, he’ll slip into science fiction just as easily.
Wonder Woman follows the two of them out and throws a different car. Depending on which origin you are reading, she is either a clay baby made by Hippolyta and blessed by Hera or the demigod child of Hippolyta and Zeus. Either way, she’s a fantasy character doing the same work as the boys.
There is no real difference, not in storytelling or in the abilities of the characters themselves. The line between Fantasy and Science Fiction takes place in the author’s explanation of why his or her characters can do the things that are beyond our abilities.
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7 thoughts on “An (Overly Simple) Explanation of the Difference between Science Fiction and Fantasy”
A fabulous expose. I must broadcast this to the 3.5 nerds who follow my blog posthaste.
Reblogged this on Bookshelf Battle and commented:
For all nerds who want to know the difference between sci-fi and fantasy, although technically, if you don’t already know the difference, you might not be a nerd.
Reblogged this on Moon, Stars and Beyond and commented:
Here’s a quick reblog of a quick explanation of the difference between science fiction and fantasy, and I happen to like it very much. It might take you a minute to read, but the content will stick with you for good.
You found a Wonder Woman/Yotsuba&! crossover pic! That’s amazing . . . I’m seeing it play out in my head right now, and it’s absolutely hilarious! 😀
Reblogged this on chrispavesic and commented:
I like the examples in this article–particularly since 2 of the 3 are in the Avengers movies and show how fantasy and science fiction can co-exist.
Sorry … but I DON’T agree!
‘Science Fiction’ must be based on at least a plausible explanation that is either scientifically correct, or COULD be. Everyone should know that ‘gamma radiation’ kills cells. So being ‘juiced’ by gamma radiation is totally non-scientific – something that is IMPOSSIBLE. Therefore, it cannot be science fiction. The best science fiction comes up with ideas that even scientists cannot disprove … and much of it actually PREDICTS the future (just look at the Jules Verne novels). For example, talking about a ‘time warp’ could be science fiction, as there is nothing in physics to prevent this (it might be possible in the future).
Fantasy, on the other hand, is “fantastic” – which is defined as ‘fanciful, irrational, wild, absurd, far-fetched, nonsensical,, unbelievable, unthinkable, or implausible. If it is irrational or absurd, it can never actually happen in the real world (at least, in OUR universe), and therefore CANNOT be ‘science fiction’.
I hope that people reading this comment will understand that there IS a difference – between something that is logical and possible (but perhaps beyond today’s limits of science), and something that is irrational and absurd – i.e., NEVER possible in the real world.
I’m sure that any science fiction writers who are reading this will agree that science fiction is totally different than ‘fantasy’ – the only thing connecting the two is the “good imagination” of the writer.