Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Difference Between Science Fiction and Fantasy

Over at Yahoo! Answers, someone asked "What is the difference between science fiction and fantasy?," and I decided to post my own answer to that common question:

Science fiction deals with things that might possibly happen (or, in the case of the subgenre of science fiction known as alternate history, things that possibly could have happened); fantasy deals with things that never could happen.

There is always a path from our here-and-now to the milieu of a science-fiction story: usually that path simply involves time passing and plausible advances in science and changes in society taking place during that time.

There is never a path from our here-and-now to the milieu of a fantasy story: no matter how much you might want to get to the fantasy world, you can't, because magic and supernatural powers do not work in our universe -- you can't get there from here.

Succinctly: there's discontinuity between our reality and fantasy; there's continuity between our reality and science fiction.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


At August 10, 2007 3:23 AM , Anonymous Jim Shannon said...

Well said. Not that I find nothing wrong with the Fantasy genre but it is not Science Fiction.

At August 10, 2007 7:53 AM , Blogger J0hnnyB said...

So... which is Star Wars? I don't think you can get there from here.

At August 10, 2007 11:50 AM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Without question, in my mind Star Wars is fantasy. It's dressed up like science fiction, but it's definitely fantasy: it's about magic (the Force) and wizards (the Jedi Knights); indeed, the term "wizard" is used fo Ben Kenobi in A New Hope. The fairy-tale disclaimer right at the beginning ("A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away") also identifies it as fantasy.

At August 13, 2007 2:00 AM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

And, I'm pleased to note, that my answer was voted "the best answer" to this question. Go me! Best Answer


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