What is Science Fiction Fantasy?

star warsAbout a year and a half ago, I started out on an incredible journey writing a science fiction novel. As the story unfolded in my head and onto paper, I realized I did not want to write a strictly science fiction story, but felt the pull to make it into something more. I wanted to add elements of fantasy in the tale. In doing that, my novel transcended from straight up science fiction to a lesser known genre called science fiction fantasy.

This sub-genre is not well defined, and some believe it has an element of actual fantasy like Tolkien’s Lord of the Kings complete with dwarfs, elves, and talking trees. Some science fiction fantasy stories might have these things, but that’s not the kind of fantasy I’m talking about here. The sort of fantasy I’m referring to can seem “magical” to some because there is no satisfactory explanation to call it anything else.

In my search of what makes science fiction fantasy different from regular science fiction, I found this quote from Rod Sterling who claimed that science fiction was “the improbable made possible” and science fiction fantasy was “the impossible made probable.” In short, science fiction fantasy gives a guise of things that just can’t happen in the real world; whereas, science fiction is the possible allure of things that could happen to some extent or in some distant future.

Well known stories like H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine and Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek fit firmly in the science fiction genre. These stories have distinct roots in science with a satisfactory explanation or understanding that leaves the reader believing things like time travel, warp drives, and transporters could be possible- one day.

Then there’s George Lucas’ Star Wars that straddles both worlds with the possibility of space travel and cool weapons like light sabers and blasters. And then there’s the impossibility of super human feats through a powerful element called the Force.

That’s the kind of story I want to write. A story based in science, but with an extra element that makes it fantastical. I grew up idolizing the characters Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, and the lovable “walking carpet” Chewbacca. But mostly, I loved the world in which they lived, fought, and loved.

Again there is the melding of science and fantasy in Frank Herbert’s epic saga of Dune. The Guild folds space and time to move fleets of ships from one planet to the next. The Fremen wear stillsuits to combat the extreme weather of the desert planet Arrakis. These both with a base in solid science with the idea that it “could be” possible. And then there’s the spice that alters the mind, bestowing almost magical perception upon the person who ingests great quantities.

Basically, science fiction fantasy is a genre of two worlds where realism and imagination come together in harmony. It’s a merging of two schools of thoughts that, I think, creates incredibly unique and intriguing stories.

So that is what I am attempting to create in my Emperors of Ethia novel series. For better or worse, I’m finding it a fun ride, which still has a ways to go. Right now I am currently finishing up the third draft of the first book of the series. I hope to complete the book by the end of 2014.

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4 thoughts on “What is Science Fiction Fantasy?

  1. I share your appreciation for Science Fiction Fantasy. There are elements in the novel I’m revising that may put it in this sub-genre. Thanks for another possibility to ponder while revising. Best of luck to us both in finishing our books in 2014!

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