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 “
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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