What is ‘real’ science fiction? For some, real science fiction is hard sci-fi. Hard to read, I’d say, at least for me. For these people, real science fiction deals with science and technology that is explained and entirely possible given our known scientific laws and theories.
Then there is soft science fiction that is, uh, not so scientific. You have tunnels that appear out of nowhere, and spaceships whizz by at the push of a big red shiny button. Or the explanation for the technology is wishy-washy and barely plausible, not explaining anything. Some sci-fi elements include the soft sciences -sociology, psychology, and anthropology.
Now we come to the third level of science fiction: science fantasy.
Is it science fiction, or is it fantasy? Believe it or not, the two genres under the umbrella of Speculative Fiction are difficult to tell apart. Both genres deal with the unreal, but perhaps they differ in how unreal.
Where do you draw a line between what is improbable and impossible? A witch shapeshifting into a cat? That’s generally impossible. Travel at the speed of light into tunnels? I’d say improbable….for now…but not impossible if you’re the next brilliant Einstein. And time travel? Is that portal fantasy, litRPG, or a rift in space that’s not so impossible?
If hard science fiction is at one endpoint and fantasy on the other, then you might say science fantasy is the lonely child of the two. Fantasy with a dash of sci-fi or sci-fi with a touch of fantasy.
Star Wars is popularly considered as science fantasy with its mix of spaceships, ghosts, and the mysterious Force. So are space dragons and mind-controlling spells across planets.
Is it really fantasy, though? One could argue that one man’s fantasy and magic is another man’s science fiction. Who knows what will be considered ‘possible’ in a hundred years? Our understanding of science is constantly evolving, and what was once impossible might just become probable one day.
So why is science fantasy not called just fantasy? I guess it comes down to publishers and stores and how books have to fit into a perfect category – some will mush both sci-fi and fantasy in one perfect spot on their bookshelves. It comes down to readers too. A fantasy reader may not want futuristic cities, lasers, and robots, and a science fiction fan will hate reading about dwarves and elves along with blasters and AI. Which reminds me of the fantastic Guardians of the Galaxy movie. I love Rocket the raccoon and cute Groot. Epic! ❤
Science fantasy is nothing new. In fact, science fantasy is the rule in anime and manga rather than the exception. It’s perfectly normal for fantasy to include robots and mad scientists and science fiction to include mages, sorcerers, and potions.
In my opinion, it all comes down to a good story, science fiction or fantasy. If a story can evoke any kind of emotion in the reader, sadness, joy, hope, then it is a good book.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. 😊
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