Sci Fantasy: the literary genre you’re using and you didn’t know it
My initial words, to shield myself from haters, is that this genre isn’t new, or original, or innovative, nor does this article pretends to be all those things.
In fact, as I was thinking about writing this article, I started to investigate and I realized that Science Fantasy as a concept has been around for a while now. However, it isn’t widely used, and I think it’s appropriate to make it resonate a little bit.
The thing is that we have mistakenly referred as “Science Fiction”, or “Sci Fi” to stories that, well, aren’t of that particular genre.
Allow me to tell you that the name Sci Fantasy clearly comes from the combination of two genres, Sci Fi with Fantasy (at this point I’m pretty sure you already guessed it, right?). And we don’t need many more explanations to get an idea of what we’re talking about.
The features of this genre are quite easy to identify, but first, let’s quickly introduce its parents.
Glorious Science Fiction
We aren’t going to go on and on about this genre in great detail. It will suffice with mentioning its main characteristics. I want those who don’t know what Science Fiction is to read this and say “Oh, there, that’s it”.
A good story of this style includes at least one, two or all of the elements in the following list:
- Possible inventions and scientific discoveries of the future.
- Genetic engineering, biomedical, cloning, mutations, etc..
- Futurism, from utopian to dystopian, or combined.
- Time travel (ugh … I hate time travel…)
- Alien life, aliens of fictitious races.
- Exploration and / or colonization of outer space.
- Artificial intelligence and robotics.
- Advanced computer networks, supercomputers, etc.
- The explanation of the world and the universe is of a scientific nature and / or based on facts
There are more elements that we could mention, but these are enough to give us a general screenshot about the genre.
We found good examples in the famous Star Trek franchise, and in the world of video games I will quote my personal favorite, Starcraft.
Now let’s talk about my favorite literary genre, Fantasy. She is extremely wide, and includes many subdivisions and derivations, including Science Fiction itself.
However, we currently use the term Fantasy to refer to Medieval Fantasy, High Fantasy or Epic Fantasy stories. It’s here where I want you to pay attention.
These three subgenres that I mention have their differences, but it’s important that we make a list with the elements they share. Briefly, this is what we nowadays encompass as Fantasy:
- Ancient or medieval technology.
- Warfare revolves around cold steel weapons; it’s common to include primitive gunpowder weapons and contraptions.
- Magic, sorcery and/or mystic or supernatural forces.
- Gods and entities of real and corporeal existence..
- Fictional races and species.
- Mythological, magical or supernatural creatures and beasts.
- The explanation of the universe and the world is of a magical, divine or supernatural nature.
As examples of this wonder I will quote the father of modern Fantasy: The Lord of the Rings. In the world of video games I am forced to quote my favorite game, the Warcraft Saga.
Now that we have context, let’s go back to Sci Fantasy. Today, many stories include combinations of the elements we mentioned. We can see it in all fields, and as I said it before, this isn’t something new.
The short version is that if we merge futurism with magic (or something that is metaphysical or of mystical nature), we will get Sci Fantasy.
I say “futurism”, because Science Fiction tends to be temporarily located in the future.
I say “magic”, because it’s one of the central elements in Fantasy.
I think that if we delve deeper into the subject, we’ll find many more Sci Fantasy stories that include more elements.
I’m fond of quoting projects and products that I have worked on. The Inferno Trading Card Game, of Argentine origin, can be perfectly placed in the Sci Fantasy genre. It’s temporarily located in a dystopian and post-apocalyptic future, with supernatural Demons and other existential planes, spiritual rituals and advanced technology.
However, I will tag as “Sci Fantasy” a universe that, in my opinion, could be the first to combine Fantasy with Science Fiction. I’m going to risk gaining some hatred from readers, and I’m going to dare to label the Star Wars franchise as the standard bearer of Sci Fantasy.
Why Star Wars?
Because this epic saga combines many key elements of both genres. Advanced technology, space exploration, aliens, robotics are recurring features in Star Wars. But wouldn’t all this turn it into a Science Fiction story?
Yes, until we add “The Force”, and the whole balance tilts towards the Fantasy side. The Force is “magical”, if I may express myself; It is a supernatural element in the Star Wars universe that does not seek scientific explanations.
Science Fiction usually includes Telekinesis, meaning the ability to move objects with the mind, but in the case of Star Wars, the Force goes beyond the mental abilities of the characters.
For those who believe in the Force, it manifests as a kind of deity that exists in the real world. Because not only the Jedi can use the power of the Force; such is the case of Leia in Episode VIII, or Chirrut, the blind monk of Rogue One.
If all of a sudden we removed all the Sci Fi elements, we would have a beautiful story of Epic Fantasy.
Now choose a genre
Of course, we all want to be true to a genre when we write content. Or at least, we try. And of course there are tricks to not derail.
If we don’t want to fall into Fantasy and want to stay in Sci Fi, the most important thing is to try to justify everything from science. We don’t need to be scientific experts, we only need to do a bit of research or try an explanation that sounds academic.
Today, luckily, the internet exists; research and searching for information has become much simpler.
The most important thing as writers is to always keep an open mind, and always seek to learn new concepts.
And if we want to do the other way around, I mean, avoiding Science Fiction?
Generally speaking, Fantasy is set in a medieval or ancient world, but we must understand that we can develop a unique technology, according to a world full of magic.
However, it’s possible to locate Fantasy in modern settings, and I am sure that we should look for a good term for this kind of stories (pretty sure it’s called Modern Fantasy…). Worlds like Harry Potter and the World of Darkness RPGs come to mind.
Personally, I believe that it’s the futuristic touch and the mix with non-existent technology what turns a story Sci Fi. And if we add magic or supernatural beings, we have Sci Fantasy.
Now it’s your turn. I challenge you to question all Science Fiction stories you know to check if they don’t mix with Fantasy.
I do not expect everyone to adhere to my dazzling new and incredibly innovative term. As for me, I’m going to continue writing Sci Fantasy stories.
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