Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A distinction

Between Science Fiction and Fantasy:


This past semester I took a class in Speculative Fiction, and for a significant portion of several classes, we debated the line between Sci-Fi and Fantasy.

Therefore, I have several sets of definitions for each.
Sci-Fi: Takes place on Earth, past, future, or modified present. It does not have to technically be on Earth, but there has to be a connection to Earth. Examples: Star Trek, Dresden Files, Harry Potter, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.Fantasy: Takes place on another world. No connection to our Earth is allowed. So- if it is on Mars, it is not legitimate. Examples: Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Codex Alera.

I don't really like those definitions, they don't seem to get to the essence of the experience of the genres.
Sci-Fi: A world that we might live in. Examples: Star Trek, 1984, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.Fantasy:A world that we would want to live in that is not wholly ours. Examples: Star Trek, The Giver, Star Wars.

I don't like these definitions either. It is not a good classifier as Star Trek fits into both categories and stories that are generally not considered either, are classified as one or the other.
Sci-Fi: A world where the unusual elements are explained by science. Examples: Star Trek, Star Wars, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.Fantasy: A world where unusual elements are explained by magic. Examples: Dresden Files, Harry Potter, Codex Alera, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars.

There is some contention on parts of these last definitions. For example Star Wars is classified in both categories again. The Force is explained away as magic, whereas everything else is explained with technology. Some people in my class argued that Star Wars was not Sci-Fi because the technology is not explained. However, the elements that are beyond the current standards of earth are explained by the existance of advanced technology, 
not some magical hocus-pocus.

Now to the question at hand. I would argue that although the above definitions say otherwise, Star Wars is distinctly Sci-Fi. The fact that it is not of Earth is not a strong enough barrier to not call it Sci-Fi. If we want to get technical (and I do) it is based in a Galaxy, although far away from our own, it is still in our universe. Then, although, technically incorrect, I would say that we could live in a world similar to Star Wars. With a large enough Human Empire, that world could come to pass. The only part that would be missing from it is the Force. Of course, it is vital to note that the number of Force sensitives is very low. At the beginning of the Clone Wars, there were only a few thousand Jedi in the entire galaxy. So it is possible that there have not been enough human births to statistically create a Force sensitive (this is me trying to keep my dream of becoming a Sith Lord alive).

Finally, although the Jedi do have a staggeringly huge impact in the Star Wars galaxy, the vast majority of the population are not affected by them, whereas many, many more are affected by the technology of the time, indicating that from the final definition we can grant more to the vote that says it is Sci-Fi.

So- just my two cents.

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