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SF subgenre [May. 21st, 2007|11:55 pm]
So, on the subject of speculative fiction, we've got our two big divisions, sci-fi and fantasy, right?

Sci-fi is often called the "fiction of ideas", and is all about exploring what the world would be like if X were true, and it has a particular set of tropes (starships, aliens, new technologies, etc.) that go along with that.

Whereas fantasy is about telling mythic tales about archetypes -- the trickster, the hero, the journey through the underworld, etc. -- and it has another set of tropes (dragons, magic, swords, etc.) that resonate with that kind of story.

Now, we have some stories (Star Wars being perhaps the best example) where the author uses the tropes of sci-fi to tell a mythic tale in the fantasy mode. The story doesn't explore the implications of space travel, it uses the spaceship as a substitute for the hero's trusty steed. These kinds of stories get called "science fantasy".

My question for you, dear reader, is what would you call the inverse of science fantasy? That is, a story that explores the implications of various speculative statements made involving fantasy tropes? A story that doesn't use the dragon as a symbol of greed and power, but inquires what are the consequences of dragons being top predators in a primarily thaumivorous ecology?

Because I think that's a lot of what I'm interested in writing.

[User Picture]From: dpolicar
2007-05-22 02:17 pm (UTC)

I think what's usually called "urban fantasy" or "modern fantasy" often is striving to be this. Perdido Street Station (which I just finished reading) has something of the feel of this, although ultimately is more a superficial tour-de-force than a real exploration... and I'd probably call that modern fantasy, despite not really being "modern" in the strict sense.

Her Majesty's Wizard strikes me as being in roughly this vein, asking "what if everything really worked that way?", though again not entirely successful, and I'd just call that "Fantasy."

And when I think about other hypothetical examples, they mostly fall into the self-conscious category of gently mocking fantasy tropes under the guise of taking them seriously and seeing how they fall apart -- the sort of thing Terry Pratchett writes -- which isn't really what you're talking about, I think... you mean seriously exploring those ideas, as if they were viable, right?

Yeah, I haven't read much of that, if any.

If there were enough of it to merit a genre name... hm.
Continuing the pattern of "science fantasy" and "science fiction", I'd probably call it "magic fiction."

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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2007-05-22 11:08 pm (UTC)
You mean seriously exploring those ideas, as if they were viable, right?

Yeah, exactly. Rather than just seeing how they fall apart, I'm interested in figuring out what it would take to keep them from falling apart.

I liked the first few Warlock books by Stasheff, before he started writing entire books on the basis of punny titles. I'll have to read HMW sometime.
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