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So what's the difference...


So what\'s the difference...

between science fiction and fantasy? Is it as easy as whether it has aliens or dragons in it? Or do we just know by what it says in TV Guide?

Take the X-Files, for example. Which is it? Sometimes there are aliens and UFOs. Other times it's magicians or clairvoyants. It's on the "SciFi Channel", but I don't think it's necessarily science fiction.

How about Buffy/Angel? Vampire stories are usually considered fantasy, but they are often lumped into the sci-fi genre. Maybe if the vampires were from space or something...

There is another thing I've noticed at the video store. Many movies I've thought were sci-fi are in with the "Action" movies. However, most of the movies I saw like this were ones that tended to consist mostly of extreme violence and Arnold Schwarzennegar or Bruce Willis.

I've heard Star Wars being compared to ancient mythology and Star Trek as a western in space (have to say I never got that one). But where do we draw the lines? I guess it's all up to where it takes place and the violence quotient. If it's in space or in the future, it's probably sci-fi. If it deals with the supernatural, but nothing out of this world, then it's fantasy. And if most of the people end up dead, you can call it "action".
Re: So what\'s the difference...

Science-Fiction: a form of fiction that draws imaginatively on scientific knowledge and speculation.

Fantasy makes less of an attempt to extrapolate from science to what they show in the episode.

e.g. In B5 and Crusade, Technomages were more of a fantasy element than a science-fiction element. B5 and Crusade are sort of a combination of science-fiction and fantasy. Some things are extrapolations of current science, and other things are just presented and not explained. I'm willing to let the idea of "Technomages" slide on the basis that it's science that's so advanced that we just can't understand it. Indeed, in B5 and Crusade, Technomages are beings who use science to simulate the effects of magic.

In contrast, I think Farscape was much more of a pure fantasy. It had less in extrapolations of current science, and more in "Just accept what we show you."
Re: So what\'s the difference...

Science fiction tries to bridge the gap between current reality and possible realities, speculating how one can become another, and what will change.

Fantasy doesn't try bridging them, and sometimes depicts things which are logically impossible, yet still somewhat imaginable.

In that sense, from a technical viewpoint, X-Files is between science fiction and fantasy. Form a social and historical viewpoint, it is fantasy.

In my eyes, B5 generally aspires to be science fiction, both from technical and social viewpoints.
Re: So what\'s the difference...

</font><blockquote><font class="small">In reply to:</font><hr />
I'm willing to let the idea of "Technomages" slide on the basis that it's science that's so advanced that we just can't understand it.


Wasn't it Arthur C Clark who said that any extremely advanced science would appear to be magic?
Re: So what\'s the difference...

I did a paper on this a while back, let's see if I can remember...

Science fiction has to be based on real, proposed, or developing scientific theories, things, or technologies. It has to have an explanation in the real world to be science fiction. And, on top of that, science has to be so integral to the story that without that theory or technology the story would fall apart.

Now, that's the definition of Hard SF, I believe. There are varying degrees of "SF," but fantasy is not one of them. Fantasy is a genre unto itself.
Re: So what\'s the difference...

Both are ways of going beyond current reality. Fantasy is fantastic -- we know it could never really happen. Science fiction explores possibilities, conjectures, drawn from our current understanding of the universe. Traditionally, science fiction speculates on possible futures, and fantasy is often based in a fictional past. There are of course, many exceptions, and lots of line crossing.
Re: So what\'s the difference...

That is definitely a question with no definite answer. /forums/images/graemlins/laugh.gif And one that will be debated as long as there is science fiction.

But yea, basically science fiction is based on science and what it might bring about. And fantasy fiction is based on fantasy. Of course, who defines "science" versus "fantasy"... /forums/images/graemlins/confused.gif /forums/images/graemlins/laugh.gif

As I said, it is an eternal debate. We each do seem to find our own kind of definition for them.

Personally, I think more simplistically. If it has a dragon, a vampire, or John Edwards, it is not science fiction. /forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif /forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif
Re: So what\'s the difference...

To quote Lisanne Norman, "If it's got a spaceship on the cover then it's science fiction."
Re: So what\'s the difference...

Well, I'm sure a lot of us will disagree with that. StarWars is a good case in point. Its first seen opening "Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away..." sets it up as classic fantasy, but obviously it has the overt appearance of scifi. Some say it isn't scifi at all. I say it is a complete blend of the two. A space ship may make it presumptively scifi, but there are many exceptions.
Re: So what\'s the difference...

Eureka! /forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif /forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif /forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

Here's a post I got from Gharlane (Hope he's having a good time, wherever he is. /forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif ) on this subject in May 2001:

> Come to think of it, with the exception of stuff like Asimov,
> Clarke, Heinlein and all the other SF "greats", very little modern
> stuff is actually *science* fiction.

Some is, some isn't. All three you mention above have written unabashed
Fantasy, mainstream fiction, and many other things; Heinlein himself
began to espouse the use of the term "Speculative Fiction" over half a
century ago, to avoid constraint to a specific sub-genre.

> I suppose B5 is, because it's got the usual spaceships and aliens,
> but then again, I've seen some hard-nosed Sci-fi fans complain that
> it's a space soap-opera (I have little respect for that POV however).

Use of techie props does not "Science Fiction" make. The hallmark of
Real True Science Fiction is internal consistency, coherence, and
careful avoidance of cavalier violation of known aspects of physics
and engineering; and Joe Straczynski doesn't have the training or the
experience to write it. He writes SPECULATIVE FICTION that happens
to be set in a superficially "Science Fictional" framework; but sans
the ability to do basic arithmetic, or make proper use of a competent
technical advisor, he will never produce "Science Fiction."
( By me, this is not a problem; I have two bookshelves filled with
the best-quality video captures of 110 B-5 episodes and several
B-5 movies I was able to get hold of, and I count myself a staunch
fan of the series and the man; but this does not mean I regard him
as competent to do 'Science Fiction.' )

> Personally, I get fed up of what are basically "Creature Features"
> being described as science-fiction because I think locating them in
> space, or making the monster an alien is not terrible convincing.

They're called "Science Fiction" in the same way that Network Suits
refer to all "Trek" garbage, all incompetent booshwah with anything
resembling a lab, anything resembling tech terminology ( which is
simply substituted for "We put an Evil Spell On Him And He Turned
Into A Monster" since the writers and the producers don't know
any better... ) or anything resembling hardware or tech that can't
be bought off the shelf at the moment.

> So, is there a definition of Science Fiction, or does it not really
> matter? And what about the boundary between Science Fiction and so-
> called "Fantasy" or horror?

Easy. The term, as nearly as we can track down, was first used
in print in an editorial in 1929, in the magazine "AMAZING." The
editor, a Euro Import who'd long been fond of Germanic Agglutinate
Puns, had coined the term "Scientifiction" to describe the stuff
he printed in his magazine. ( Hugo Gernsback; the "Hugo Award"
is named after him. ) He finally relented after a decade or so
of not being able to get U.S. people to use his pet term, and
apparently coined "Science Fiction" as a catch-all for extrapolative
fiction, although it tended to be machine- and engineering-oriented.
It stayed undefined until about 7 or 8 years later, when a young
chemical engineer who'd written some blockbuster pulp SF novels,
John W. Campbell, Jr, took over the editorship of "ASTOUNDING,"
a competing magazine. In an attempt to formalize his description
of the kind of stories he was looking for, for his magazine, he
promulgated this definitiion, which antedates -- and is more valid,
by coinage and priority -- anything else in the field:

|| ||
|| "It's Science Fiction if, presuming technical competence on ||
|| the part of the writer, he genuinely believes it could ||
|| happen. Otherwise, it's Fantasy." ||
|| --- John W. Campbell, Jr. <1937> ||
|| ||

Additionally, a note; Campbell normally defined "technical
competence" as a four-year degree in Physics, Engineering,
Chemistry, Pre-Med, or any serious technical discipline, *OR*
equivalent experience.

Please note that this does *NOT* demean "Fantasy," by any means;
Campbell founded a separate magazine, "UNKNOWN WORLDS," specifically
to print good Fantasy that he didn't want to put in his SF magazine.

Now, the problem with this sort of thing is that we've created
clearly defined sub-genres of Speculative Fiction; and without
understanding the characteristics of each sub-genre, it's very
difficult for Idiots In Suits to tell them apart, since they
have no bluidie idea what is and isn't possible; this is why
it all gets lumped together as "Science Fiction," even though
it's *PROPERLY* called *SPECULATIVE* Fiction.

Here's a breakdown I posted about a year and a half back, the
last time we were having this discussion on this topic:

-- Sent: Saturday, January 08, 2000 11:21 PM
> They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so let's save some
> verbiage, here....

Gharlane's Definition of Science Fiction

> "SPECULATIVE FICTION" would include all non-real-world fiction with
> fantastical elements. Things like "PT 109," "DYNASTY," "MIAMI VICE,"
> "THE COSBY SHOW," "SIXTY MINUTES," and anything where Peter
> Jennings tries to convince us he knows anything all count as
> "Speculative Fiction," since they deal with a world that does
> not exist but might be fun to visit, if only for the horror.
> "FANTASY" would include all utterly impossible fictional frameworks,
> ranging from "I LOVE LUCY" through "I DREAM OF JEANNIE" to Sarah
> Brady's speech to the Democratic National Convention, or even more
> horrific, "FRIENDS."
> TV-Fantasy is normally inordinately putrid; happy exceptions in
> recent years include "BUFFY" and "ANGEL."
> Respectable class efforts like "BRIMSTONE" have been made.
> "CLASSIC FANTASY" would be the great works that transcend time, era,
> and review by litterateurs; Homer, Vergil, Aristophanes, Tolkien,
> Spenser, Lonnrott, Malory, and their ilk; numerous religious works
> fall in this category as well. This category can range from
> Gilgamesh to simplistic archetype exercises such as Michael Landon
> playing a Magic Angel.
> I rate "XENA" as good Classic Fantasy, and "STAR WARS" as an
> also-ran.
> "SCI-FI" is Fantasy that lifts props from Science Fiction without
> laying the groundwork or establishing the need for technology.
> ( example; Crichton could just as easily be a human transported
> across the Rainbow Bridge to Asgard, being Earnestly Interviewed
> by Loki; we haven't seen any use of actual technology that can't
> be handled just as easily with Magic Spells; he has a Magic Spell
> to get home with, but it's clouded until the Right Time. At least
> Manning had the class to slip "Froonium" in as *intended* as guff.)
> Most of the "TREK" products range from "Fantasy" to "Sci-Fi," with
> occasional coherent efforts that slip across the line into being
> something that vaguely resembles real Science Fiction. Of course,
> none of these occasional efforts have been seen on "VOYAGER," or
> on a show that Braga or Taylor worked on.
> "SKIFFY" is something that puts on airs about being "Science Fiction"
> and isn't; unlike some "Sci-Fi" and some "Fantasy," it is almost
> never respectable, and is only rarely worthwhile. It's a sort of
> illegitimate offspring of "Sci-Fi," and is normally engaged in by
> Production Suits with delusions of sapience. Typical examples
> would include the late and unlamented "PREY," "SPACE: ABYSMAL AND
> BORING," "SINKQUEST," and "EARTH 2." I believe that "PREY"
> probably carries the all-time high score for insegrevious putridity,
> although the others cited are certainly close runners-up.
> "GET SMART" was often SkiFfy.
> "Hard Science Fiction" is written by people who know enough of
> science and technology to know what is possible, and create a
> narrative milieu based on the availability of something we haven't
> got yet, but can have.
> VERY few people do "Hard Science Fiction" without slipping over the
> edge here and there, so the real thing is very rare indeed. On TV,
> the only two examples I can think of offhand are "MEN INTO SPACE"
> and "STAR COPS."
> "Soft Science Fiction" is an exercise in coherent extrapolation;
> given one presumption, how would life/society/human beings be affected,
> and what would they do about it? Historically, some fairly wild one-
> presumption schticks have been allowed, when developed with skill and
> respect by the writer involved. ( My favorite examples here are
> Alfred Bester's two best books, "TIGER, TIGER" and "THE DEMOLISHED
> MAN," which aside from a few noncritical props, posit only one
> departure from present knowledge, the trainability of ESP powers. )
> ( I just re-read "THE DEMOLISHED MAN," and was amused to note that
> Bester seems to have scooped the cosmetic surgery people by half
> a century; they've recently been touting adjustable inflatables
> that you can set to the size you're in the mood for, and avoid
> silicone implants... )
> The best "Soft Science Fiction" I've seen on TV that comes instantly
> to mind was the old "PLAYHOUSE 90" Bradbury script, "THE SOUND OF A
> DIFFERENT DRUMMER." There were, of course, several examples of
> decent "Soft SF" on both incarnations of "THE TWILIGHT ZONE," and
> one or two good tries on the old "OUTER LIMITS." ( And a couple
> of good ones on the NOL, after the staffing shakeups. ) The
> best current-production example, in my opinion, is "STARGATE SG-1,"
> which is often actually worth watching.

Change that to *USUALLY* worth watching; "STARGATE" continues to
turn in respectable, worthwhile work, often downright good.

> "SCIENCE FICTION THEATER" did several hard-SF scripts, and a
> number of soft-SF, and a whole bunch of Sci-Fi.
> "Space Opera" can range from "CAPTAIN VIDEO" to "STAR TREK," with
> stops at "SPACE RANGERS" and "QUARK." I haven't seen any Space
> Opera produced to date that qualifies as "Science Fiction," but
> I've certainly seen a lot that I enjoyed.
> As for "FARSCAPE," it's "Kiddie-SkiFfy," but we're cutting it
> some slack and calling it "Sci-Fi," since it's got Good Muppets.
> ( And we know that Muppets *can* be built. )
> For a formalized view of this sort of thing, constructed by someone
> with a bit more formal academic rigor, see the "rec.arts.sf.tv"
> FAQ created by the Estimable Hines; it's in the archive sites.
> =======================================================================
> | |
> | "If the universe were an empty canvas, how would you fill it? |
> | If you were the creators of STAR TREK: VOYAGER, you'd begin |
> | with bold strokes of color; you'd introduce contrast, texture, |
> | and dimension.....and in the end, you'd have a masterpiece. |
> | |
> | "Tonight, UPN invites you to the unveiling of something truly |
> | extraordinary. ( Chakotay: "My god." Echo: <my god> ) |
> | <grams UP, choral music swell> ( Kes: <indecipherable emoting> ) |
> | |
> | "It's not just a season premiere, (Paris: "We're being pulled in!") |
> | but rather a two-hour television event that elevates Science |
> | Fiction to an Art Form. ( Janeway: "Get. My. Crew. Home." ) |
> | |
> | "STAR TREK: VOYAGER. Coming up next, on UPN." |
> | |
> | <grams CUT> <hard cut to opening scene, despoiled by the TV-14 |
> | and UPN logos in the party-per-bend corners > |
> | |
> | --"VOYAGER" season opener, 3 September, 1997; a date which now |
> | ranks with 7 December, 1941 in terms of sheer criminal obtusity. |
> | |
> =======================================================================

Re: So what\'s the difference...

My personal definition:

If it includes speculative science and/or technology then it is science fiction.

If it includes supernatural, magic (without tech), etc. then it is fantasy.

If it includes a relatively large proportion of combat and/or chase scenes then it is an action movie.

If it is funny then it is comedy.

None of these are mutually exclusive.

Nothing says that a single movie can't be in 2, 3, or 6 different categories.

Video stores are marketing their wares and trying to get the highest number of people who might pick up a particular video to see it. Therefore, they are likely to put Total Recall in the action section rather than the SF section. They figure more people will browse there.
Re: So what\'s the difference...

</font><blockquote><font class="small">In reply to:</font><hr />
If it has a dragon, a vampire, or John Edwards, it is not science fiction.

So "Dragonriders of Pern" series is not SF? /forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif

I must say I'm often a fan of combining bits of both in my stories. The one I'm working on now combines the two elements nicely.

B5 had a little of both. Lorien definately edged toward the fantasy element. Even if we use a good scientific explanation for telepathy, how do we explain the ability to see into the future (either possible or likely) that many Centauri have? And there's that whole ghost thing on the Liandra ...
Re: So what\'s the difference...

</font><blockquote><font class="small">In reply to:</font><hr />
How do we explain the ability to see into the future (either possible or likely) that many Centauri have?

[/quote] While abilities of First Ones might be explainable with vast reserves of information for analysis and prediction, Centauri visions of the future are indeed beyond scientifically defensible region. Telepathy is right on the border.

Given modifications (and telepathy was supposed to originate from Vorlon modifications) you might have telepaths able to communicate among themselves. However, telepaths able to communicate with mundanes... is much less likely.

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