Monday, April 1, 2013

Fantasy and SF

Cthulhu

What difference separates Fantasy and Science-Fiction? Other than the obvious superficial, nothing. Nothing at all. The two genres have no wall dividing between them, nevertheless a wall does exist. A paradox.

Where is the line drawn? Science-Fiction is more or less seen as the stories of humantities future. Take note that these tales range from a contemporary setting to a far future in outer space, if it takes place on Earth at all. Remember these "contemporary" periouds have been made for years, so a few are now the past. Fantasy is more or less seen as the stories from ye old times. Regardless Fantasy stories range from medieval to contemporary, if they take place on Earth at all. A spaceship or a long boat are commonly viewed transportation for both, even though nothing says dragons cannot associate with starships. Why couldn't they? Here time itself is a major, if illusionary, classification tool in marking the difference.

It all gets muddy around modern times, doesn't it? Mechanisms must come into place lest anarchy reigns. For this example I'll use superpowers. Perfect for cutting through the bullshit that is generic explanations. A Fantasy may use magic to explain how protagonist/antagonist has gained such power. Runes, tomes, and mystical objects can be abound. A Science-Fiction story may use genetics to explain how protagonist/antagonist has gained such power. DNA, radiation, and aliens tend to stream forth. It can be argued that SF is more pausibile in its explanations, but it's not.

Even basing SF on hard science changes absolutely nothing. In an ever evolving world, it is simply a matter of time before scientific work becomes reworked, leaving the story behind with it. This selects the author to create the plausibility of events to charm readers into their worlds. Plausability is the magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat trick. An author is a magician and the trick is the story. Does it matter how the trick is performed, except well? The rabbit being pulled from the hat, the magician's pants, or from the audience's ears, must be performed successfully. If the answer to the rabbit is magic, it's magic. If the answer is aliens, it's aliens. Drawing the audience in is all about the showmanship on display. Working on a soldier in a star battalion is the same amount as a knight in a legion. Luring the audience in is about entertaining us and gluing our butts to the seat awaiting more.

Taking into consideration time periods and mechanisms, something else creates the distinction between both SF and fantasy. The quality of the storytelling. It is the reason why the perceptions surrounding SF these days are more positive than Fantasy. A higher quality of narrative is pushing out into culture. People are more willing to give an SF story a go as opposed to checking out a tale of swords and sorcery. As a genre, Fantasy is known where boys play war with dragons, and for the most part they are right. The wraithlike tendrils of Tolkien still have an unflinching grip over Fantasy authors and the worlds they create.

To move Fantasy forward it will require a change. No more black and white morality. Having the protagonist hate slavery while everyone else loves it is sloppy and crude. No more one dimensional villains. Orcs, see previous example. Cut down on the use of white farm boys who receive mystical weapons, like a sword, and making them a monarch. I'm especially tired of that one. Stop trying to shove down my throat your world's history. Tolkien didn't create the Similarion over a few Domino's pizzas, what makes you think any different?

Honestly, quit riffing long dead ghosts.