Science Fiction or Fantasy?
When I started reading SF and Fantasy, there were very clear lines between the two genres – and very sharp definitions. A lot of people argued about the definitions and tried new ones out all the time. Science Fantasy is an example.
Things have changed. In Fantasy we have a sub genre like Urban Fantasy and in SF the science has gotten softer or at least the emphasis on people and characters has grown. Today a lot of books are a combination of SF and Fantasy with no clear lines of what is what.
There still are differences between SF and Fantasy of course. But keep in mind what author Arthur C. Clarke stated in Clarke’s Three Laws:
- 1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
- 2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
- 3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
If you acknowledge the third law, you may argue that there is no real difference between SF and Fantasy.
I won’t go as far as that, but things become a lot easier if you use the term Speculative Fiction, which encompass the genres of science fiction, fantasy, horror, alternative history, magic realism, and superhero fiction including combinations of these genres. (Wikipedia).
All this to let you know that when I use either the term SF or Fantasy in my reviews, all it means is that to me the book has the feel of either SF or Fantasy.
Why read Science Fiction and Fantasy?
Most fiction is supposed to entertain you or convey a point of view. A small percentage tries to teach you important lessons as well. This also goes for SF and Fantasy.
My inclination is towards a good story, if I am looking to be entertained. Others prefer beautiful language and adherence to the rules of the craft of writing. It’s a bit like the difference between form and function – you see a beautiful chair, but it feels very awkward and unpleasant to sit in. To me the best books are the ones, where form and function merges into a higher level, but if that is not possible, I prefer function to form.
The best books tells a good story in the best way – and on top of that teaches you something about life, people, society or love that makes you think and feel that what you have just experienced is very fine and valuable. I don’t like being preached to, but the best authors can write a book that rewards you with the above without resorting to preaching.
What SF and Fantasy does extra is teaching you about change and difference. Change in society, jobs, technical inventions and living conditions. Difference in people, gender, understanding and acceptance of difference.
Reading SF and Fantasy not only keeps you entertained and teaches you important lessons, it also prepares you for the changes in todays fast changing world and helps you accept the differences of people and societies around you.