SCBWI's Blueboard - A Message & Chat Board

Science vs. Magic

Discussion started on

I saw this and had to share:

http://www.pvponline.com

In the wake of "blending" genres such as Changeling, Steampunk, Cyber-Mages, etc. I find it interesting how we still struggle to categorize something in the spec'fic' genre. I always figured if the unexplainable was rooted in magic, it was fantasy, and if it turned to technology, it was science-fiction; but getting a load of one of my fave graphic novels, Girl Genius, you can see where Phil Foglio merrily plays havoc with the preconceptions in his take on Germanic steampunk-y mad science:

http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20050520

What do YOU think?
#1 - September 10, 2008, 06:24 AM

RyanBruner

Guest
I think a LOT of technology and pseudo-science-based fiction is still fantasy.  To mean, the science needs to be used realistically or in a way that extrapolates (if set in a future) to something plausible.  If it doesn't...if the technology is doing things that is impossible, then it is still fantasy.

But I don't think that is what the market would say.  For example, typically the superhero genre is considered science fiction.  Me?  It is undeniably fantasy, even when pseudo-science is used to explain abilities (such as mutants in X-men, or lightening bolts, or meteor rocks, or what have you).  It isn't magic, but it is still fantasy, since we are in the realm of the "fantastical".

Compare this to "Ender's Game".  It is science fiction because it is an extrapolation to a plausible future grounded in real science.

There are exceptions to this.  There is a form of science fiction that is Wellsian SF.  In this case, you change ONE thing about the world, and leave everything else the same, then write a story that conjectures how that change plays out.  I enjoy this form, and have written several short stories that would fall under such a description. 
#2 - September 10, 2008, 06:42 AM

YA & Spec Fic Writer
Member
Poster Plus
I think it's all just labels, and that's why I usually just say "speculative fiction" (as in, any fiction that speculates about things beyond the realm of normal human experience, whether it be in a science-y way or a fantastical way or a paranormal way or any combination) rather than try to figure out exactly what any given book is.  ;)

It is interesting to see the various ways traditional genres are being blended, though!  I love it when writers put new spins on old tropes.
#3 - September 11, 2008, 05:35 AM
YA paranormal, sci fi, & fantasy:
GIVE UP THE GHOST
Fallen World series
Earth & Sky trilogy
A MORTAL SONG
http://www.megancrewe.com

RyanBruner

Guest
It is important to realize that in YA and MG, fantasy and science fiction are typically shelved together, so the difference between various forms of SF is, as melusine suggests, unimportant.
#4 - September 11, 2008, 05:46 AM

Fair enough. Although when you mentioned the "change one thing in history" option, I wouldn't have qualified this as either science fiction OR fantasy, but rather pure "speculative fiction" (being that you are "speculating" what may have happened and the rest of the changes cascaded from that change). That's why I, too, go with melusine's definition.

I'm not as curious about how they are shelved but, rather, how they are *pitched* as agents, editors and the reading public like to know what they're getting before they pick it up. (I'm talking queries, blurbs, marketing, etc.) I have a pretty clear understanding of "straight" fantasy (swords and sorcery) and straight sci-fi (science and tech), even some offshoots like "steampunk" and "cyberpunk" have unique flavors that are easy to tap-into and identify, but when you start messing more in the dark fairy tale/mythologic trope/paranormal funkiness, it gets a little less clear. In my current case, without any of the usual suspects (no witches, wizards, aliens, vampires, ghosts, goblins, fairies or what-have-you), it becomes AWFUL challenging to tell what you've got. In many ways this is a good thing, and in others it is a pain in the butt.

If you write fairies, go to FairyCon! If you write fantasy, WorldFantasy is for you! If you write for the graphic novel crowd, then ComicCon is where it's at!

The middlin' stuff...s'where I wander!

(And does science really kick fantasy's butt? ;-) )
#5 - September 12, 2008, 05:40 AM

RyanBruner

Guest
Fair enough. Although when you mentioned the "change one thing in history" option, I wouldn't have qualified this as either science fiction OR fantasy, but rather pure "speculative fiction" (being that you are "speculating" what may have happened and the rest of the changes cascaded from that change). That's why I, too, go with melusine's definition.

That definition isn't actually my own, but the definition academia uses.  I took a science fiction literature class in college, and the professor is the one who pointed out that a type of science fiction was "Wellsian" science fiction (examples given were The Time Machine and War of the Worlds). 

However, it is an important point that the term "speculative fiction" is a more recent term, and so it is fair to say what was once considered Wellsian merely falls under "speculative". 
#6 - September 12, 2008, 06:21 AM

CarrieAnn

Guest
One of the nice things about "spec fic" as a label is that it does away with those annoying multi-hyphen things. Putting myself in an agent/editor's shoes, how annoying would it be to get a humorous-futuristic-speculative-fantasy-with-dragons, or whatever? I struggled with it a little when trying to decide how to label my book in my query. I could have said that it's a young-adult-humorous-superhero-fantasy-set-in-an-alternative-world, but the annoyance factor there is huge so I called it a YA comedy and let the rest come out in the brief plot description. My agent may change that when she pitches; my goal was just to keep it simple.

And duskydawn, I'm now wasting oodles of time on Girl Genius!
#7 - September 12, 2008, 06:28 AM

And duskydawn, I'm now wasting oodles of time on Girl Genius!

Ah, good! My work here is done. (Not really, Phil Foglio's stuff *rocks*!)
#8 - September 12, 2008, 09:24 AM

Members:

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.