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TheEarCollector
October 12th, 2004, 10:23 PM
I'm sure this would be suicide as far as fans go (the fantasy readers would hate the sci-fi, the sci-fi would hate the fantasy... can't we all just get along?) but the way I see it we can really tackle it two ways...

I don't know if there are any books like this (please tell me if there are) but there was a RPG by Sierra named "Arcanum." Basically, you had dwarves, elves, gnomes and magic... so you had all your fantasy goodies, on one side. Opposed to them were the technologists who are more towards the Jules Verne style of sci-fi (1800s tech). I personally thought the game was interesting, but it didn't end up being too popular.

Then, we have the sci-fi/fantasy mix like Star Wars that cleverly masks it. Instead of elves we have aliens and instead of magic we have the force...

Do people consider adding elements of fantasy into your sci-fi to be a sin against nature? Can you have a sci-fi story with a ghost in it without half of the people getting cranky about it being submitted to the wrong magazine/publisher/forum? I know there won't be a clear answer from the people here so let me get your input.
Stories set in the future are inherently sci-fi, throw in some high tech gizmos just to solidify that, now have ghosts and elves hiding in the forest... What do you classify this as?

Expendable
October 12th, 2004, 11:40 PM
Science Fantasy - Fantasy with a consistant science base.

The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey had dragons. You later learn they were genetically modified from local 'firelizards' generations ago by the first colonists to combat 'thread'.

ironchef texmex
October 13th, 2004, 11:36 AM
There's nothing taboo about it. Literally hundreds of authors have done this. Terry Brook's Shannara stuff is set in a post-apocolyptic earth, Phillip K. Dick has ghostly visitations in a bunch of his sci-fi books.

The "dictionary" distinction used to have something to do with internal, scientific logic. But since most of the modern fantasy writing employs a system of magic even that distinction has become very blurry.

You can put ray guns in the hands of your elves, you can have fairies turn your space captain into a frog. Most readers who read one, read the other and most publishers that publish one, publish both.

Archren
October 13th, 2004, 11:56 AM
I more often see fantasy with a little SF than SF with a little fantasy, you know what I mean?

Examples: 1) Fred Saberhagen's Lost Swords series. Basically fantasy, it's got all the tropes: magic, gods, swords. However, it's a post-apocalyptic Earth and there are still some solar-powered flashlights (oohh, big magic!) running around. 2) C.S.Friedman's Coldfire Triology. Again, basically fantasy w/ fey forces and quests and the like, but it turns out to be an alien planet which humans came to by spaceship. (Not too big of a spoiler, I hope).

I guess the counter example is, as always, Star Wars. Basically SF, spaceships and high-tech and everything, but with the "Force" standing in for magic. So, OK, it does cut both ways. When you look at it that way, there's really a lot of crossover, and I think people enjoy it. Adds some spice to our genre lives, eh? ;)

KatG
October 13th, 2004, 12:59 PM
The dividing line is your rationale for the existence of your story elements, not the elements themselves. It doesn't matter if you have elves and if those elves have ray guns or not. What matters for definition purposes is why the elves exist, and whether the ray guns shoot out laser rays or magic fairy dust.

So, if you have a supernatural ghost, like Peter Straub's "Ghost Story," it's fantasy. If you have a ghost created by a person's consciousness put on a computer chip, like in a novel I used to have but now have forgotten the name -- "Night Owl" or something like that -- it's science fiction. Vampire risen from the grave and fears crosses -- fantasy; vampire alien creature who sucks blood -- science fiction. Anne McCaffrey's Pern books where the dragons and telepathy abilities were genetically engineered -- sf, Gene Wolfe's Ur-Sun and New Sun series which are on a generational space ship, also sf. Jonathan Carroll's "The Wooden Sea" seems at first like a fantasy, but since all the phenomena turns out to be caused by aliens and time travel, it's actually sf. Science fiction can be as mythic and lyrical in approach as fantasy, as long as they have a science basis for the story.

If you have both fantasy and sf-based elements in a story, it is usually considered a fantasy story, because by having supernatural elements for which there is no scientific explanation, you have taken science out of the story and made it a fantastical tale. So even if the elves have ray guns and live in a post-apocalyptic Earth, if they are magical elves, it's fantasy. If, however, all seemingly supernatural elements are explained by a scientific basis, however slight and hard to buy a rationale, it's science fiction. So if the elves are descendents of aliens and their mental abilities are genetically inherited, then they are not fantasy elves but sf elves. And if the Force is sub-particle energy that can be manipulated by the mental abilities of Jedi (or, as we later came to be told, tiny alien microrganisms,) it's sf, no matter how whacky that may seem to be.

SF publishers used to publish fantasy stories under the umbrella of sf, so when it looked like publishing straight fantasy was going to be profitable, they were the natural ones to put out titles, which is why sf publishers also publish fantasy. But they do slot their titles into one genre or another and the rationale the author uses for story elements is usually the dividing line. Lots of authors use both sorts of elements in their stories but they chose a fantasy or sf explanation, which puts them in one camp or the other. That does not mean that fans of one genre cannot enjoy stories from the other genre if they seem similar, and indeed, many fantasy fans simply ignore any science explanations in a story they want to claim as their own, especially if the author is someone who writes both fantasy and sf. And quite a few authors, though they've chosen one or the other direction for their work, like to pretend they haven't and eschew all such distinctions. Nor do all sf stories have to be futuristic. Some sf stories take place in the past, or alternate versions of the past, or in the contemporary day.

If you want to have a very sf set-up but have fantasy elements that have no scientific explanation to them, a good example is Stephen King's horror post-apocalypse fantasy, "The Stand." There are lots of sf elements in "The Stand" -- the destruction is caused by an engineered plague that gets loose, etc., but there are also many mystical elements that don't have any scientific explanation -- visions, character transformations, strange events, and so on, that make the work a fantasy. If you want to have a sf story with no definite fantasy-based elements but a fantasy-like feel to it, then you want the sf sub-genre that has been dubbed, for want of a better name, science fantasy. The lead titles in that sub-genre are McCaffrey's Pern books, C.S. Friedman's Coldfire trilogy, Wolfe's Sun books, and C.J. Cherryh's Rider at the Gate series. All of these novels read very fantasy like, but the phenomena in each story is given a scientific basis to explain it.

So mix all you like, and then choose your explanations, I guess. As for how it will be received, well, it won't be a new thing, whichever way you go, so I wouldn't worry about it too much.

SubZero61992
October 13th, 2004, 05:46 PM
I think StarWars masters that?

Chris G.
October 13th, 2004, 07:52 PM
In my first novel, Earth Stone it was all pure fantasy except for the fact that the Lead protagonist, Henry, is from contemprary Earth.

In the sequel, Realm World Henry goes back to the Realm using current NASA tech, he goes by space shuttle and the the shuttle uses a "Nuclear Pulse Engine" (VERY widely used FSF propulsion method, theorized back in the 1950's).

The synopsis to both books are on this bulletin board if you want to check them out.

Antoher book I'd like to write is a story about a group of colonists travelling to another world. It wil take, let's say, 10,000 years to get there. Medical science, in the book, has learned to freeze the body, but not the mind. What to do? They'll all go MAD frozen solid for 10,000 years while being conscious!

Well, here's what I do. In order to keep the colonists from going insane, the scientists freeze their bodies and feed a virtual reality fantasy world program into their brains. So, the story basically flip flops back and forth between the SF element of other world colonization and the fantasy world they live in while frozen.

Piers Anthony wrote a really good series of books . I can't remember the first title in the series, but the second title was "Juxtaposition." Its about a SF world based in science called "Proton" and an alternate world that some of Proton's people learn to get to called "Phaze." The worlds are side-by-side and are mirror images of each other. One of the BEST series I ever read and its STILL in print. Actually, I think the first book was called, "Out of Phase."

Bitter Buffalo
October 15th, 2004, 08:41 PM
Antoher book I'd like to write is a story about a group of colonists travelling to another world. It wil take, let's say, 10,000 years to get there. Medical science, in the book, has learned to freeze the body, but not the mind. What to do? They'll all go MAD frozen solid for 10,000 years while being conscious!

Well, here's what I do. In order to keep the colonists from going insane, the scientists freeze their bodies and feed a virtual reality fantasy world program into their brains. So, the story basically flip flops back and forth between the SF element of other world colonization and the fantasy world they live in while frozen.

Really interesting idea you have there. Hope you write it cause it sounds like something I'd like to read. :)

One question. What do you "flip" to out of the artifical fantasy world, isn't it just a bunch of frozen people in a spaceship? That sounds quite boring. Maybe the ship is run by an AI and you could give the AI's side of the story. Frederik Pohl used an AI as a narrator in "Heeche Rendezvous" (well, co-narrator at least). Anyways, just a suggestion.

Expendable
October 15th, 2004, 11:31 PM
And what if the colonists don't know they're colonists? I mean, not all of them.

Won't a 10,000 year lifespan confuse them though? Unless they periodically 'die' and get 'reborn', as directed by the AI. Sorta Matrixy. The AI could introduce Kharma.

I wonder how many times and under how many conditions you could build a colony in simulation?

TheEarCollector
October 15th, 2004, 11:46 PM
That sounds like a twisted sci-fi version of "Groundhog Day"