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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: eto_theipi
2007-05-23 06:48 pm (UTC)

It's "science fiction"

I don't think "science fantasy" is a good term for that sort of thing, since there's no "science". I'd call it "space opera". We shouldn't conflate "science" with "the future".

I don't think the spaceship tropes are the core of "science fiction", I think the "science" is: taking a hypothesis and reasoning about the consequences. Sometimes the hypothesis has to do with human space travel, an FTL drive, intelligent non-human life, advanced computer systems, the collapse of civilization, or psychic powers. Sometimes it's about "magic" or big lizards.

I'd have a hard time declaring something like Iron Council was not "science fiction". The author explicitly explores a quirk of how the book's world works through a character who goes and researches it. The fact that what he's studying is "time magic" instead of "stasis fields" doesn't change the essence. Nor does the fact that the world is populated by fantastic creatures and has a lower tech level than ours.

By this logic, a substantial amount of "fantasy" deserves to be classed as "science fiction". Well thought out magic systems. Economies that depend on magic users.

The contrast is "fantasy" where wondrous events ("magic") are not a consequence of the mechanics of the world ("Oh, it's just that he's the Chosen One!"). Similarly, in "magical realism" fantastic things happen for thematic or plot reasons, rather than because of the world's rules.
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[User Picture]From: eto_theipi
2007-05-23 07:06 pm (UTC)

Re: It's "science fiction"

Of course, that doesn't help you if you want a fun label to attach to your writing. How about a play on "science fiction" by taking a different root meaning "to know"? "Gnosceric fiction"? "Kennic fiction"? Someone with a better sense for Greek/Teutonic languages could probably come up with better formations than those.

Or a term that plays with the fact that the hidden is made known? "Inarcane"? ("Inarcanic" has a nice ring to it) "Noccult"?
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