Friday, January 6, 2012

"Fantasy" is NOT The Same Goddam Thing as "Scifi"

Every time I walk into a bookstore or library, I usually make a brief stop in the section labeled "Science Fiction." Yes, yes, I'm a nerd, but if you'll stop snickering now, I'm going to make a point of literary taxonomy that may just blow your mine; Goddamn dragons and swords and magic and scantily clad amazonian warrior women do not belong in the goddamn "science fiction" section...

I don't have anything against the dragons, or swords, or magic, or the scantily glad amazon warrior women gracing the covers of these books (in fact I am rather pro-scantily-clad-female as a general rule) but the fact is that this kind of story simply does not belong in the science fiction section.  As the name, "science" goddamn "fiction" might suggest, a scifi story is a work of fiction that derives many of its main plot points, scenes, and characters from an imagined form of science. Generally, it's important that the science used within the story be plausible and well researched, lest the other nerds make fun of you for the impracticality of your FTL drive.

Fantasy, on the other hand, contains elements that are... well, they're "fantastical." Meaning beyond the realm of what could conceivably occur within our understanding of the universe. Often, these follow laws of physics and/or use beings that have been pre-established by mythical traditions from various cultures.  Examples include dwarfs, vampires, wizards, dragons, the use magic etc. Most of these mythical elements are left unexplained by science, because why a vampire exists is less important to some stories than say, describing his abs in excruciating detail.

I'll allow that the line between science fiction and fantasy can grow blurry. As Arthur C. Clark once said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." So one might argue that a world of dragons and magic is occurring in a parallel timeline, or that energy can be gathered and manipulated through a genetic fluke. One could argue that, but unless the science behind this is at least acknowledged (if not explained) by story, then it remains a work of fantasy.

If that argument isn't enough to convince you, allow me to demonstrate that it's really not that difficult to tell the two apart: Let's take a brief quiz.

Does the book cover pictured below belong in the science fiction or fantasy section?
Could be scantily clad women on the spaceship...

Let’s see, advanced technology was used to create a spaceship that seems reasonably plausible and it's floating above an alien world. Okay this is an easy one, it's science fiction!

Great! Now see if you can classify this one:
There is no science that can explain what is keeping her breasts in place.

Let’s see, we have a scantily clad, possibly elvish woman holding a jeweled scepter with some sort of demonic mythical creature next to her. This must be fantasy!

Correct again!

I'm not arguing that one genre is better than the other. I do tend to enjoy science fiction more myself, but there are fantasy books that I also find enjoyable. All I'm saying is that the American people, at the very least, are owed a signed letter of apology and a personal pledge from President Barack Obama to pass the 28th amendment to the US Constitution reading: "No venue of books or literature shall in any way combine the goddamn Fantasy books with the goddamn Science Fiction section."

1 comment:

  1. Not gonna lie, I really like having my two fiction-loves together. :D I can understand the frustration, but I don't think anyone's going to confuse their preferred genres. :) Sometimes there's just not enough room in the bookstore to separate them. That and with the cross-pollination (my hyphenated word for the day) of the genres...either they go together or you have a whole brand new section that you have to check out for the intermingled (i.e. paranormal romance being the newest genre to have its own section in the store).


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