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Comment from: Brent Lynn [Visitor]
Brent Lynn

Science Fiction and fantasy are cut from the same cloth. However, it is the author’s attitude towards fantasy that determines how the book is labeled. The author who takes comfort in an orderly universe where scientific laws provide explanations for everything even at the smallest level will write the Jules Verne type book. I think this sort will even write the H.G. Wells type book because even though his science fiction often predicts doom, it is still a prediction based on knowledge of the laws of science. This type of author makes it his mission to show all those who are prone to fantasy?which usually means those who believe in religion?are disillusioned about reality. Such people, the author claims, need to face up to the fact that our total existence can be broken down into the laws of science. And if there is a god, she?s also subject to those laws. However, whether this type of author wants to admit it, he/she is still writing fantasy.
Here?s why. First, scientific explanations for everything are always changing because understanding of science is always changing. What was once a sure fact later becomes modified or is discounted altogether. Many authors of this type would probably admit that they know the theories they base their odysseys on are just that?theories. However, they feel sure that reality must be something like that even if some of the scientific facts change along the way. Second, such an author usually has characters who understand everything there is to know about all the sciences. They are generalists in the field; thus, they can know a little about everything. In addition, they can usually fly spaceships, fix spaceships, climb asteroids, punch out space pirates, and communicate with aliens and so on. Again, no matter how fantastic these characters and their situations are, they are always given just enough ?science? to show that what is happening is at least possible?theoretically. Finally, everything in these types of stories usually works out for the characters (at least the main ones) as if they were guided by Providence throughout their adventures. And even if the author decides to be a hard realist and kills off all of his characters through a malfunction in oxygen, a crash with a runaway comet, or a malfunctioning computer, then that author has to face up to the fact that no comfort can be taken in the laws of science because everybody eventually dies anyway. Thus, they are forced to realize that maybe a little fantasy in their stories is not such a bad thing in the end since it is the only way they can gain any meaning in life.
I really think the question asked here should be, ?Where does Fantasy come from??

08/17/10 @ 11:25
Comment from: Brian Pinar [Visitor]  
Brian Pinar

Chris asks where Science Fiction comes from, Brent says the better question is where does fantasy come from. I do not attribute either subject to authors, as stories were well and truly spoken long before they were, or weren’t in many cases, published. However I do have some kind of an answer for both. Belief and/or faith. Simple, not very eloquent, but there it is.

Fantasy is a fictional story that has a great deal of elements left unexplained because they are not meant to be understood being believed to be beyond understanding, or beyond the understanding of us mere humans anyways. Thus fantasy is a story of faith. Faith being the belief in something with no proof of it’s existance whatsoever. Since the moment humans began to imagine stories that had no basis in thier everyday live, fantastical or not, fantasy has existed.

Science fiction is written with the idea that all things can, and maybe will, be understood with time and effort regardless of whether we do at this moment in time. Belief and not faith because science fiction is based on what we believe are facts and not just taken whole. While you bring names like H. G. Wells and Jules Verne as suggestive origins of science fiction, I tend to lean more towards names like Archimedes and Divinci for thier beliefs that they could figure everything out. (Obviously some names that are probably better and of an earlier origin can be found, but these are the two that popped into my head.)

As for ‘road’ books, I think not. In order for that to be true wouldn’t your characters have to feel the place they left from was home? Seems to me that they rarely ever come to a place they do not feel is thier home. In the Warlock series the adventure is Rod finding that this wonderful and hard to explain place, Gramarye, he has come to is his home. A Wizard in Rhyme the same. Though I would say that your Starship Troupers series feels like a road story, but the road IS thier home in itself. But, as to the point, none of your characters that I’ve read to date seem to feel like they are trying to return home, so much as they are trying to find one.

12/30/10 @ 22:09
Comment from: Misiaczek [Visitor]

That’s bloody ordinary isn’t it?

01/03/11 @ 05:21
Comment from: Falchion Wielder [Visitor]
Falchion Wielder

Perhaps the defining criteria is one of speculation. If one speculates that a human can move things solely with the mind, then the story can proceed from there. This would be true in either Fantasy or SciFi.

The trick is to then be consistent with the all rules, the ones specified and the remainder that must be more or less untouched in order to provide a frame of reference to the characters in the story and the readers.

The ‘rule change’ along with the scene and plot line, shapes the genre in which the work is identified. So the mix found in the Warlock books is interesting as psi powers to that degree work anywhere, as Gwen ably demonstrated upon her trip to Earth.

The medieval culture of Gramarye helped define the series as fantasy. Another series could be written in a futuristic ‘world’ where psi powers fit into more of a SciFi definition. I’ve often dreamed of plot lines where Magnus ‘hangs a right at Albuquerque’ and enter orbit around some future world that needs a it of revolution to free the oppressed.

01/14/11 @ 20:35
Comment from: Ortho the Frank [Visitor]
Ortho the Frank

I definitely agree with setting up (and sticking to) the rules of the magic system or technology you create for a story. A challenge for novice writers, however, is explaining the rules adequately. Sometimes it devolves into an “info dump” that bores the reader.

On the other hand, not explaining the rules at all is just as frustrating for the reader. One of the things I disliked about the Lord of the Rings series was that we never know how the magic worked, or just what the limits of Gandalf’s powers were. This resulted in several magical “dues ex machina” moments that irked me. If I had known Gandalf was capable of making the river flood, for example, then I wouldn’t have been worried about the heroes’ safety in the first place.

JK Rowling in the Harry Potter series and Jim Butcher in the Dresden Files do this quite well, explaining the rules a bit by bit at just the right times, and only the rules that the audience needs to know at the moment to understand the story. I get the impression that both writers have carefully thought out the rules and stick to them, even though they may not have necessarily explained ALL of them to us (nor do they need to).

01/19/11 @ 07:49
Comment from: cstasheff [Visitor]

I?m delighted with this dialogue. The question has evolved from ?Where did science fiction come from?? to ?Where did fantasy come from?? The answer, of course, lies in the ancient past, and is as much a matter of suspending disbelief as of belief itself. One source I read said that though the ancient Greeks believed implicitly in the stories of their gods and goddesses, their descendants regarded the myths as charming fables.

Okay ? so what?s a myth?

I tried that one on a psychology professor, telling him that I had read Campbell?s THE MASKS OF GOD and read about one religion after another, and thought it was very interesting, but when were we going to get to the myths? He laughed loud and long ? because, of course, myths are the stories of gods and goddesses.

That does NOT mean that the myths aren?t true. A lot of them grow out of kernels of fact. The legend of Billy the Kid is well on its way to becoming a myth, even though William Bonney is an historical character around whom legends grew.

So what?s the difference between a myth and a legend?

Time, mostly ? if the story?s around for a few hundred years, it has probably grown into a myth because it has evolved to deal with fundamentals of being human. Mostly, though, it?s a matter of scale. The gods and goddesses of the ancients were archetypes, and the characters of myth and legend also become archetypes, if their stories last that long and grow as they pass from one teller to another. This doesn?t mean that they?re not true ? it only means that they have grown to the point of impacting our lives. The psychology professor thought for a while, then came up with a definition of myth that fitted our present discussion ? that a myth is a story that is so profound and so encompassing that it helps us figure out how to live our lives ? or not to. Billy the Kid lived a vivid life, but died young. So the moral to the story is ?You can?t fight the law??

No. Of course not. It goes much deeper than that. Billy has become ?the running boy,? the eternal youth, the embodiment of the romantic ideal: the individual against the institution. He also shows up as a character in Delany?s THE EINSTIEN INTERSECTION. He may be dead, but his story is immortal.

The morals to the myths are complex and multiple, possibly to the point of not being able to be put into words ? you have to feel them more than state them. If, in the process of myth formation, the historical figure becomes lost in the larger-than-life mythic figure, does that really matter? At least, to the teller of tales who wants one more try at telling Billy?s story in a way that will help people today live their own lives successfully? (Okay, so now we need a dialogue about what constitutes a successful life ? because SF, like all literature, is trying to tell us how to live).

That, I think, is what religion is all about. It asks the eternal questions that science can never answer because it can?t ask them ? such as, ?What is the purpose of life?? and ?What does it mean to be human?? Instead, science asks ?How does the universe work?? which is a question that religion can?t really answer ? it?s a completely different frame of reference ? until the really advanced sciences begin to show us evidence of a Higher Power. Ultimately, both ways of learning and knowing bring us to the same understanding, each to his own way of cognition – but it?s a lifelong discipline.

I don?t claim to be able to understand either one fully ? but that doesn?t mean I won?t try to share what I do comprehend through my novels. After all, by writing science fantasy, I?m trying to follow both paths at once, so doesn?t that double my chances of success? And if occasionally I throw in fantasy creatures based on science, such as Maxwell?s Demon or Schroedinger?s Cat, please understand them as two different routes to the same destination.

01/22/11 @ 13:02