I stumbled across Dorotie’s Blog the other day and read a post called “Crossing the Boundaries – Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror” and I found it raised a few interesting points. Admittedly it left sci-fi and fantasy sitting together and contrasted both genres simultaneously with horror but it was still a good read.
The arguments brought forward are that in fantasy and science fiction the heroes have abilities that are comparable to their antagonists (yes, there are exceptions but for the most part that is true), that usually one of the characters has knowledge about what is going on or why it is happening (or they can find someone who can explain it), and that most of the characters will make it through the climax and live to the end of the story (again there are exceptions but generally this is true). These things happen in fantasy and science fiction. In horror the heroes are usually completely powerless compared to the antagonist, they are usually completely clueless or misinterpreting the situation and most of them die in tragic ways usually long before they reach the climax.
All and all, I agree with these distinctions for the most part and it was something I hadn’t really thought about before. I read all three genres prolifically and yet because most of the horrors I read are fantasy/horror or science fiction/horror I never bothered to think about what distinguished horror from the other two genres. I have however spent a lot of time wondering where the line between fantasy and science fiction begins and ends.
I classify myself as a fantasy writer. I deal with magic, mythical creatures, mental powers, gods, destinies and prophecies. Mostly these are set in make believe worlds with very occasional attempts to write fantasy stories set on Earth in modern day without putting too many cues in that might date the story.
I have attempted to write a story set on a space ship. The ship is alive and talks, has a very annoying personality (based on the original pilot of the ship) and the characters are all slightly off-kilter. This is not a science fiction story. There is no explanation of technology, no exploration of themes such as do machines have souls and what does it mean to be human, the physics of careening through space are left completely out of the story. The ship flies. It is piloted telepathically. It is a fantasy. The characters deal with their own personal demons, relationships form and are tested, and there is a minor political drama midway through that disappears entirely by the third act. I will admit I class this as an attempt to write a fantasy in space. I don’t think it was overly successful as the couple of fantasy readers who have had a look at it, don’t like it the setting and the science fiction readers who have read it claim there are too many scientific impossibilities. Well, we have to try new things occasionally and I like enough of this story that I may salvage it and relocate the events to a fantasy world, or maybe I’ll just research myself up a storm and have a go at writing straight science fiction (somehow I doubt it).
What genre do you write? How do you classify your genre? Do you cross between or do you stick to one? I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
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