Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Sci-Fi V's Fantasy . . .

I made a discovery last night. That discovery was the fact that I would never be able to write a piece of serious Sci-Fi.

I like Sci-fi, but I mainly stick to watching movies as opposed to reading books. Having mentally scanned through my book mountain, I don't actually recall owning anything in that genre. I have horror (lots of horror), thriller, drama, historical, romance, adventure and fantasy etc - but no Sci-fi. (note to self: read a Sci-Fi novel)

I used to believe that when writing, there was a fine line between fantasy and Sci-fi. They come part and parcel. When hunting for publishers and agents, amoung their lists of accepted genres is their list of unaccepted genres - usually including fantasy and Sci-Fi.

In my opinion the two genres are very similar in that the worlds they are based in is nine-times-out-of-ten completely fictional. They have fantastical characters and aliens, robots and mythical creatures, space ships and enchanted lands, scorcery and technology. However, one happens in space and one happens on land. That's the basic difference.

So why, coming from a person who has devoted the best part of their years to writing fantasy, will I not be able to write Sci-Fi?

The truth is . . . I don't have the brains!

A few people in our writers' circle write Sci-fi, and last night we gave critique to a short piece. And it was a good piece. It was well written, easy to follow, and descriptive enough for me to imagine where we were. Okay, there were a few points regarding characterisation etc, but nothing that couldn't be fixed.

Then they decided to delve deeper into the Science Fiction of the story - and I'm not kidding, I was lost. These people were talking about the laws of physics, what decay would be like in a world with no atmosphere, how the world would differ in sight because of the lack of atmosphere (there wouldn't be a blue sky, for starters. Its the atmosphere that makes that blue) etc. I was stunned. They were discussing the reasons why a world would be desolate, what could possibly have happened to kill the entire world off, and the natural events that would follow within the next million years. I didn't know any of this - didn't even have the foggiest clue as to what they were talking about half the time.

I couldn't help but sit in silence throughout most of it. I offered my part where I could, but I soon realised that writing Sci-Fi is so much different to writing fantasy. There are rules that need to be followed to make it sound plausible and possible, whereas with Fantasy we can just add mystical reasoning - 'it's like that because it is . . .'

Nope, I'm blonde, and when it comes to Sci-Fi, it shows.


  1. Umm, it's not inherently difficult - it's just that you've never spent any time thinking about it or reading loads of sci-fi. And other people have. Also, there's loads of resources, books and online, that can give you a grounding in this stuff.

    Also, fantasy has rules too and lots of complex, abstract things to think about.

  2. BTW, love your new banner - did you do that yourself?

  3. If you try no other sci-fi books, at least give Ender's Game and Old Man's War a chance!

  4. There's Hard SF, with all the techie details (sometimes referred to as techno-porn) and then there's the stuff about people who lust happen to live in an SF world.

    There's a bigger difference between those two, then between SF and Fantasy.

  5. Hey Vic, I know subjects are easy to research these days - what with the great wide web - but you're right. I haven't read enough to even know where to begin.

    And thanks for the compliment on the banner (I'm feeling rather pleased with myself). I didn't draw it, but I did through it togehter with a collection of random images found on the web.

    And Ted, thanks for the recommendations. I'll be sure to give them a try...

  6. Some people would consider science fiction to be a sub-genre of fantasy. Nice image of the flying thing btw... Just trying out Google's new search by image feature. If anyone want to see a bigger version or some other stuff then take a look at my gallery on my website: www.johnmalcolm1970.co.uk