Wednesday, February 16, 2011

John Scalzi Weighs In

American science fiction author John Scalzi.Image via Wikipedia
John Scalzi has weighed in over at his AMC blog on the ongoing debate of Science Fiction vs. Fantasy or where the line is drawn between the two.  His original point of contention was the use of the term Science Fantasy to describe works that aren't particularly science based.  He makes a poit that all science fiction can be classified under the broader genre of fantasy. 

"To engage in further nitpicking, everything you can possibly label as "science fiction" is in fact just a subset of a larger genre, which is correctly called "fantasy." This is because science fiction -- along with supernatural horror, alternate history, superhero lit, and the elves-and-orcs swashbuckling typically labeled "fantasy" -- is fundamentally fantastic. Which is to say, it involves imaginative conceptualizing, does not restrain itself according what is currently known, and speculates about the nature of worlds and conditions that do not exist in reality. It may gall science-fiction fans to think of their genre as a subset of fantasy, but it is, so calling a film "science fantasy" is in most ways redundant."

I take issue with the words "in my opinion" being ommited here.  My opinion is that words take on new meanings as time progresses.  Awful is great example of this.  Originally it meant full of awe, but is now a term of disgust.  So too went both the terms Science Fiction and Fantasy.  I will go so far as to say that by Miriam Webster's definition of fantasy, "the free play of creative imagination," all good fiction would fall under the fantasy category.  I would say that the definition has changed and will probably continue to do so.  Currently, the fantasy genre represents worlds where magic exists.  With sub genres of lite, dark, and high popping up, I can only imagine ti changing further in the future.  The same could be said of science fiction. 

Scalzi does point out one thing that is at the base of this arguement.  Elitism.  Some science fiction fans don't want to be associated with "fantasy" or even some sub-genres of science fiction.  This is an attempt to give what they read more literary merit.  Tearing something down to make something else look bigger is nothing but an optical illusion.  If what you are reading is good, it will shine on its own regardless of genre. 

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Pat Tillett said...

If it's good, it's good, no matter what you call it.

SteveB said...

I've never understood some folks' need to classify (into sub-sub genres if necessary) everything out there.

I agree -- good is good and a great story can transport and challenge you no matter what the genre label applied.

Budd said...

Pat- A rose by any other name...

Steve-I like to categorize and sub categorize, but sweeping generalizations are never good.

Bill Housley said...

Orson Scott Card wrote a book called "How to write Science Fiction and Fantasy" in which he put the two genres side-by-side as the same...yet seperate. I don't recall his exact words, but he refered to a "gadget" in Scifi serving the same purpose as a "talisman" in Fantasy, and that "Sorcery" amd "Tech wizardry" served the same purpose in each. He is a very successful author who writes both, and yet still keeps them seperate and doesn't place one within another.

Book stores where I hold signings sometimes place SciFi, Fantasy, and sometimes horror under the "SciFi" section on the store, or at least group them close together.

Us writers/producers don't help. We mash them together in our stories. StarWars is a great example of that with its magic and sword play, so is Alien with its monsters. Some of the most popular Star Trek the Next Generation episodes are essentially zombie shows (The Borg).