Off Topic: Science Fiction v. Fantasy



Hey folks,

Since I've been working on freelance non-stop for the past week or so, I've had very little time to create tutorial videos. Similarly, all my current work is tied in NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) so I can't share too much about them. However, I will be beginning a new batch of contracts on the 16th when I return from the IMC and some of those I should  be able to share.

Also, I do have some final glamour shots of the nanite sculpt to share, but they are currently idling on my camera's internal memory.

Anyway, I thought I'd take some time to talk about something a bit off-topic, my personal preference between Science Fiction and Fantasy.

I've done quite a bit of scifi and fantasy reading and watching over the years, and although fantasy was originally my favorite flavor, over the years I've found that my tastes have moved more into scifi.

There are quite a few possible reasons for this shift, not all of which I think can be articulated clearly. Regardless, I'll try to explain my predilection to the best of my abilities.

1. Risk
In fantasy, there never really seems to be much "at risk." What I mean is that in scifi, at least in hard scifi, often focuses on the threat new technology poses to status quo and the social implications of said technology. Furthermore, characters in scifi often must reconcile the changes that technology will make in their lives and their place within the universe.

Fantasy, on the other hand, doesn't really have this sort of risk. Yes, there are always the "risks" inherent to a looming threat, new alliance, awakened creature, etc, but these sort of risks can be found in many scifi stories, too.

2. Magic vs. Technology
This is probably just me, but I always find magic to be less interesting than technology. In my opinion, magic is either yet unexplained science, or so nebulous that its origin is impenetrable and meaningless. I find soft scifi (non-reality based/ fairly unexplained technology) to be less interesting for this very reason.

3. Limitations and Logic
One thing that always bothers me about magic is that it seems fairly limitless in power and ability. What really perturbs me is when there appears to be a magic spell for every situation. Have broken glasses? There's a spell for that. Need to find an object? There's a spell for that. Similarly, many magics appear to have randomly imposed limitations, like the need for channeling devices (wands, staves, runes) or require incantations. Why do they require these devices? Who established that certain words are bound with certain powers? What's the point of doing anything when magic can do it more easily and effectively than you can? A pet peeve of mine from the Harry Potter series has been why wizards use cameras and other technological devices (trains, radios, electric lighting) when they could be using magic. Similarly, do wizards have any grasp of basic science or medicine? Do they understand that the universe is governed by physics?

I like the limitations in scifi because, to me at least, they make more sense. Why can't we do something? Because we are limited by our technology. I find it easier to understand a universe with rules which are based on logic and technology, even if I don't fully grasp the intricacies of the science behind it.

4. Allegory
I find that scifi is a better device than fantasy for conveying deep principles and conducting theoretical explorations. The greatest works of science fiction generally address societal issues pressing the reader whereas the greatest fantasy works are best known for their immersive settings. I love a well-developed universe as much as anyone else, but I find the addition of risk to make these universes even more compelling.

5. Development and Stagnation
Lastly, I view fantasy universes to be the paradigm of stagnation. In a world saturated with magic, there is no progress, no development, no science. What need is there to develop new technology when one can simply speak a few words or wave a wand to have their wishes fulfilled? Many fantasy universes attempt to bring "research" into their magics, but the point of such research always seems to be uncovering forgotten lore or mastering existing spells. Since magic is ethereal, I can't really wrap my head around testing and developing new spells (this goes back to the Limitations and Logic issue).

In science fiction, on the other hand, there can always be progress. Technology builds upon previous technology, so, as long as understanding is maintained, there is always a race for better tech and new science. I find this universe to be limited only by time and the rate of scientific progress, not some esoteric or arcane laws set forth by (presumably) a deity. It is also possible that this issue might be exacerbated by my atheism.

Anyway, I'd love to hear your feedback and thoughts on the subject. As I've mentioned before, I love all fiction and enjoy fantasy greatly, but hopefully you all can see why I prefer scifi.

Please forgive any typos, I haven't had the time to read this over before posting!

Best,
Nick

5 comments:

  1. I agree 100% but I still enjoy a good dragon here and there

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  2. I must say I disagree! Fantasy appeals to me much more than sci-fi. I often find Sci-fi too metallic? Although I don't mind a bit here and there, landscapes for a example are fantastic. But characters and that sort of jazz, not my thing! Fantasy however, I feel is more focused around nature. I like to be able to create mystical worlds, forests and big wild animals with armour on(haha). Not to mention I love fantasy novels such as Lord of the Rings, Dark Magicians trilogy and at the moment the Last of the Wilds(by Trudi Canavan, you should check it out!), they certainly give me inspiration!

    On the note of Harry Potter, I do love HP the books! But I do agree with you why don't they just use magic for everything? Well the answer is there wouldn't be much of a storyline then huh? Just like Lord of the Rings, why didn't Frodo just get on the back of that giant eagle right from the beginning and get to Mordor in 2 days? Who knows :P

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  3. I am more Scifi than fantasy fan, but I don't fully agree with you. Your points are valid and logic however I guess you miss two points : passion and styles.

    - Passion : Litterature (any kind) is a matter of passion. You search for and read what you like best most of the time. You just changed with aging, like all of us ;)

    - Style : what kind of fantasy and/or Sci-fi ? The panels are really wide in both universes. Is 50's Scifi like modern Scifi,... Hard Science, space Opera, steampunk, uchrony, post-apocalyptic, cyberpunk,... The same for fantasy : heroic fantasy, light fant, high fant, dark fantasy, science fantasy, low fant, ...

    The most important is the trip we having, not what we have in our backpack :)

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  4. I agree with what you've said although I'd say it was more noticable in some books than others. Being a big fan of Warhammer I've read both fantasy and w40k novels and found that as you put it the status quo can't really change in fantasy. The reason being it's set on one world, whereas in w40k whole systems can be wiped out and the danger factor in ramped up. I've come to the conclusion that a Sci/Fi book only needs to be good to be readable but a fantasy book needs to be great to bypass it's own limitations. Also in my experience I find Sci/fi is more action based with the plot woven in whereas fantasy books (at least those I've read) tend to come to a grinding halt to inject plot. There are exceptions however, like the Malus darkblade books but those concentrate on the character over the world.

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  5. Personally I like both for different reasons. Fantasy I love as it portrays a world more connected to nature, there is trees and rivers, birds and beasts. There are the farmers in the fields and knights rinding around on horses. It depicts a world in witch I wouldn't mind living. Sci-fi on the other hand generally depicts a world I would not be so keen to inhabit, however it is still great to read about. It is generally more disconnected from nature, it is cold and calculated. This is not to say one is better than the other, more that they are in some ways contrasts of human creativity. The creative and the logical. Not to say sic-fi isn't creative, it's just more based around logic than I feel fantasy is.

    One is our past, the other our future (though both with a bit of imagination thrown in). For this reason I believe sic-fi is far more open than fantasy. If we read about a knight with a laser gun we go "hey now, that wouldn't happen!" but if we have a bounty hunter with a sword we don't really mind. Because fantasy has in a sense already happened we know what is and isn't possible. Sci-fi on the other hand is set in the future so we we can't really say what is possible (within reason of course; we can assume that the laws of physics won't change too much in the future). This is where magic comes in handy as we have no really world reference for magic. We can't really say "no a fireball spell wouldn't do that" or "a protective charm wouldn't behave in that way". I totally agree with you that the magic in books like the Harry Potter series creates rather large plot holes, but like Holly said you wouldn't have much of a story if they used magic for everything. There are plenty of books in witch magic is more light hearted and doesn't need to be thought about too much otherwise you may find it to be made on very wobbly foundations, but magic can also be very interesting and provide great opportunities for storytelling, as well as being very well thought out.

    I think for many readers sic-fi is easier to relate to as the issues it will deals with are present in society today. For instance the effect technology can on our life and the environment, the impact of humans and there actions on the world around them, the threat of nuclear and/or chemical warfare, global warming. All of these things are popular themes in sic-fi and all can be seen as depictions of what may happen to us in the future. Fantasy though is harder for relate to as it is not a vision of our forceable future. personally I'd love to go back to using horses and having knights in shinning armour to protect us from dragons and the undead but unfortunately I don't feel this is a possible outcome of not recycling or of making a cure for cancer.

    Really I guess what I'm trying to say is that I like fantasy for it's closeness to nature and a simpler way of life. I also like sic-fi as it is exciting and 'new' and makes you think about what it could be like in a hundred years time. Both are great and both contain aspects of each other witch make them even better.

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