Posts Tagged ‘speculative fiction’

The Increasingly Muddy Line Between Fantasy and Science Fiction

Have I shown you my speculative fiction pyramid, squiders? Hold on, let me do a quick paint drawing for you.

Speculative Fiction TriangleTada! Behold, the speculative fiction pyramid. Because, back when I was doing the Subgenre Study, I found it increasingly difficult to tell where one genre ends and another begins. Something like Pern looks like fantasy on the outside, but actually takes place on a planet that humans colonized.

The Pern books are admittedly kind of old-school at this point, but it’s certainly not the only example I can provide. The Shannara books (getting new life through the upcoming TV show) have always hinted that it takes place in our world after some disaster at some point in the distant past. And one of my favorite books that I read this year, The Queen of the Tearling, has every high fantasy trope you could want, but makes mention of England and Scotland and some passage made to get to where the story takes place. (And, actually, apparently Amazon has its sequel, The Invasion of the Tearling, which I have sadly not read yet, filed under Science Fiction>Dystopian.)

So while it’s true that most speculative fiction falls somewhere on the speculative fiction triangle (dark fantasy would go between fantasy and horror, say, and science fantasy would go between science fiction and fantasy), it almost feels like a lot of fantasy has pushed off toward the science fiction end.

My own personal theory is that we, as a technical society, like to know how things work, and so magic systems have become more technical and, over time, morphed toward the old “Any sufficiently advanced technology looks like magic” end of things. So maybe a world has magic, but instead of being true magic, it’s just considered magic because the Ancients who came up with the technology are dead and long gone, and the knowledge has been lost through whatever.

…one sec, I have to write down a story idea.

This co-written novel I’m working on right now has some elements of this too. What do you think, Squiders? Elements of our time? Is is really as pervasive as it seems, or do I just keep falling into that particular type of book?

What Ifs

Yesterday I took my first business trip with my new job.  I fly fairly often, but it makes me nervous.  (Unnecessarily so.  I am, as I have mentioned before, an aerospace engineer.  I know how commercial aircraft work.  In terms of safety, a jet beats just about everything except sitting still not doing anything, and even then you have to worry about things like blood clots and obesity and muscle degradation.)

With my old job, I traveled much more often, but I was only going from the San Francisco Bay Area to LA.

Reasons why this was the best airtravel commute ever:
1.  Same time zone
2. Less than an hour actually in the air
3. Low probability of turbulence
4. If you have to stay through the weekend, you can go to Disneyland

Disneyland!  Happiest place on Earth.

Anyway.  Now I no longer live in California nor travel to California and the whole business trip thing is more of a big deal.  (Also, I had to go to a facility I’ve never been before and I didn’t know what building I was supposed to be in and I was late.  Rawr.)  That’s why this entry is again on Tuesday instead of Monday.  I bet you guys didn’t even know I was supposed to be posting on Mondays, based on my success rate.

Anyway, flying always brings out the worst in me.  I begin to think of things that could go wrong.  Not things like “Oh God what if the plane falls out of the sky?” because realistically I know that doesn’t happen.  Things like “I have a giant, swollen bruise on my leg (because I knocked it hard against the corner of a flatbed cart at Home Depot because I was paying more attention to moving the 120 lb grill than as to where the cart was) – what if it sends a blood clot to my brain?” or “If you were pregnant and didn’t know it would the x-ray scanners damage the embryo?”  My imagination gets very grim around airports.

Even though I find it kind of disturbing, these “what ifs” are one of the greatest tools a speculative fiction writer – or any writer, really – have in their arsenal.  What if there were a secret magical society hidden within our own?  What if the ancient gods were real?  What if our country declared war on China?

The answers to these questions and others have produced some amazing works of literature.  As distressful as my imagination can be at times, I would still take that over not questioning anything at all.