Science Fiction Or Fantasy?

(Note to readers: I am republishing some oldies but goodies from my old blog. When I shifted to Squarespace version six, somehow my best, most popular posts never made the shift over. So I had to dig them up and re-post them. This is an old post, from about a year and a half ago.)

I have a lot of stories that I want to tell. One of them has been brewing in the back of my mind for some years now. I've always thought of it as a science fiction story but the more I think on it, I have to change how I think about the genre it will be categorized in. It really is going to be a work of fantasy with science fiction elements.

 

Why? Let me explain. Science fiction deals strictly with the natural world, or that is what my current understanding of the genre tells me. Fantasy, on the other hand, deals with myth and the supernatural, be they ghosts, demons, gods, or God - and here is my point: this next trilogy I plan to write most certainly deals with God. He, like the God I worship, is not bound by natural laws and He exists outside of time and space. Although the story will deal primarily with politics, war, social themes, intrigues and rising technology it also deals with prophets, religion and God. There will be no magic, vampires, elves, fairies, zombies, werewolves or the like in this story. Still, that three letter word changes the genre.

 

Another thing I have noticed is that many fans of fantasy have increasingly become militant about wanting their fantasy to be realistic/historical or set in a more natural world. It is as if they are trying to strip fantasy of the supernatural. According to the popular belief today as I understand it, magical systems are supposed to be explained as if one is dealing in scientific endeavor. Many of these people don't like and don't want to see talking trolls or animals in certain works or any fairy tale elements of any kind. Personally, I'm offended by this. Fantasy, myth and fairy tale will always be entertwined. There is no way to separate the three and to try to do so in some misguided attempt to bring the rational to what is necessarily the irrational, the dream, the myth is silly. If these kinds of things integral to fantasy bother a person, then perhaps they should stick to science fiction. Fantasy by its very definition is supernatural storytelling. It deals directly and engages the creatures and beings that inhabit the supernatural world.

I don't have an issue with rigid, science-like standards for magical systems, if that's what the author has chosen to write about in the story. But ultimately for me scientific laws in fantasy don't make much sense since magic does not follow natural law. That's why it is magic. If it does follow scientific laws, it is no longer magic but mere technology and if things in a fantasy world are explained away through science, it is not fantasy.

Therefore, a book that deals with a supernatural being, no matter how many other science fiction elements are in the story is a work of fantasy. I think I'm finally fine with that. After all, even though I love both, I have always preferred fantasy.