Fantasy V. Sci-fi: My Classification Problem

(in which I lament about genre classification and use Wikipedia as my quote-point extensively. If you don’t like Wikipedia, perhaps this post may not be the best to read.)

Surprise, surprise, one Googles 'science fiction' and one gets the spacey.
Surprise, surprise, one Googles ‘science fiction’ and one gets the spacey.

I am more and more convinced that to define my novel as ‘fantasy’ is incorrect. It is speculative fiction, but popping over to Wikipedia cements my opinion that it should be involved more with the science-fiction of genres. Sure, it’s not hard SF, and, logically, I can see why some people have said ‘there are no typical sci-fi elements in the first pages, therefore, it’s fantasy’, but, from simply reading the Wikipedia pages on both, I would still lean towards sci-fi. And let me explain why.

Let me first say that I am a fan of sci-fi having main sub-genres of sci-fi: Hard sci-fi (spaceships, aliens, distant planets), and soft or ‘social’ sci-fi, describing ‘works based on social sciences such as psychology, economics, political science, sociology, and anthropology.’ [wikipedia] I guess, as a social science student, I was bound to find myself in the midst of that category! After all, one of the reasons I intend to study Psychology is to delve into motivation, intention, and deceit behind what it is to be human (or…mostly human).

All the ‘-punk’ suffix genres also fall under sci-fi. Interestingly enough, I had steampunk on my query not four months ago. Query was cluttered, so I axed it, but still, there must be something behind that thought… *shrugs*

The first of its eight overview bullet points says ‘Science fiction elements include:

“A time setting in the future, in alternative timelines, or in a historical past that contradicts known facts of history or the archaeological record.”

*clears throat* I may have Descartes and Plato and Apollo and Artemis – but 2010 ends up in a world sans electricity, and it is highly that, although the world itself is not an Earth by name – just as technological objects are not named as we call them – it bears the qualities humanity has had: gods, races, a sun and continental land-mass shifts.

Later, Wiki says, about sub-genre sci-fi and feminist sci-fi:

“Some of the most notable feminist science fiction works have illustrated these themes using utopias to explore a society in which gender differences or gender power imbalances do not exist, or dystopias to explore worlds in which gender inequalities are intensified, thus asserting a need for feminist work to continue.”

Whilst my world is no dystopia (not specifically to my characters anyway), its themes of class and gender inequality are prominent and the main driving motivations behind some of the characters and their actions. This may well tie in with my interest in social sci-fi and psychology.

However, one feature stands out beyond the others:

“Scientific principles that are new or that contradict accepted laws of nature, for example time travel, wormholes, or faster-than-light travel or communication.”

One of the elements I secure for my novel is that it is relatively scientifically viable. As a former Physics student, the Newtonian and particulate worlds (isn’t ‘quarks’ just a gorgeous name for ConceptImage_Zara'sWatchan elementary particle?) are of great importance to me. It has taken – in my opinion, obviously – a great deal of time for me to think the time-travel through. But that is not the glory in the science. Not really. That comes more in the sequel, in which the Main Character steps into a ‘time-manipulator’, which, whilst not intentionally being a time-machine, has the consequences thus.

But, in a world without electricity, I have to make do without the Marty McFly tricks. Changing steam and diesel into electricity to power a ‘jump’ through time is not a challenge but an experiment. And it may provide an explanation for electric-based cars.

However, I also provide a more natural look at science. Last week’s post about time-streams explains the quality of my time in detail.

In that way, one could argue that my novel has more of a ‘magic’ focus than a ‘science’ focus, and thus is better suited to fantasy.

But I’m not entirely convinced. Wikipedia (as biased as it is) shows immediately fantasy to be the type of mystical creatures and magical skills or powers, of which I have none. Whilst magic comes from nature, too, my incidents are due to nature alone.


Science-fiction differs from fantasy:

“… in that the former concerns things that might someday be possible or that at least embody the pretence of realism. Supernaturalism, usually absent in science fiction, is the distinctive characteristic of fantasy literature. A dictionary definition referring to fantasy literature is “fiction characterized by highly fanciful or supernatural elements.””

Ahem. I think this needs no additional comment. And supernaturalism? Okay, I have a couple of characters who are ‘psychic’, but this, again, is due to nature and genetics, rather than a mystical sense of ‘power’. In fact, the characters with the psychic gene are generally weaker in other genetic factors, such as sight and memory capacity, respectively, because the mutation, if dominant, takes the place of two DNA alleles as opposed to one.

I mean, empaths and telepaths do exist in this real world, even if their powers aren’t as dramatic as film has made appear. I struggled to deal with my empathy a lot in my teens, to the point that at any sort of verbal aggression, even not directed at me, I’d have to leave the room.

“Science fiction is largely based on writing rationally about alternative possible worlds or futures. It is similar to, but differs from fantasy in that, within the context of the story, its imaginary elements are largely possible within scientifically established or scientifically postulated laws of nature (though some elements in a story might still be pure imaginative speculation).”

Thank you, Wikipedia.

See my problem? Opinions?



Oh, and, by the way, my Pitcharama Pitch got selected for the next round! That’s – to go all teenagery on you for a moment – UBER exciting! So, I’m going to be working on that for the next few days.


4 thoughts on “Fantasy V. Sci-fi: My Classification Problem

  1. I am going through the exact same thing that you are, and I decided to go with “Fantasy” rather than “Science Fiction”. I really don’t like either–I consider my work “Speculative Fiction”.

    My work is probably closest to the “New Wave” science fiction of the 1960’s and 1970’s, but what I am seeing in the best sellers in the Science Fiction genre today is an emphasis on space ships and galactic empires–a lot of Star Wars/Star Trek inspired world.

    Fantasy, particularly Urban Fantasy, seems to me to be more of an open field. Granted, I made a deliberate effort to avoid the typical Fantasy tropes of vampires and werewolves and such, but I think that someone who reads and appreciates Jim Butcher’s “Dresden Files” series, for example, is a better audience for my work than someone who is a fan of Star Wars fiction.

    It’s a tough question, no doubt about it.

    1. That’s a good point. It would be good if Speculative Fiction stoods on its own without the necessity of sub-genres.

      Oh? I don’t know much about the New Wave science fic. I’ll have to look that up some time. I think a lot of the best sellers are spaceships and the like because that’s what readers nowadays expect from sci-fi. Hmm, I don’t know. I count Doctor Who as sci-fi, but, as a lot of it is grounded on Earth and humanity, it doesn’t feel so space-heavy.

      Yeah. Urban Fantasy I like as a genre because it encorporates the realistic world but adds in a mystical element. On the other hand, that’s why the divisions of genre maybe blurred by such great overlap. I’ll blame Twilight just because I can 😛

      Thanks for the comment. I agree: it’s tough to decide.

  2. Congratulations on your pitch! That’s great! As for genres, I find the classifications to be largely arbitrary and useless. It seems like authors/publishers often pick the genre they think will sell as opposed to the category that best fits the themes of the novel. As a reader, it would annoy me to find a “chick lit” novel that has been marketed as sci fi, but it doesn’t matter much to me whether a novel is sci fi, speculative fiction, or fantasy. I can see why those differences would bother the author, though.

    1. It sounds like a lot of authors would agree with you on that point. One post I read a few days ago said that some modern publishers tend to choose genres arbitrarily now. Obviously, it depends on the novel. Some may have themes that are mismatched from their ‘features’. I don’t know if that happens much, but I can understand how it might be difficult to classify that.
      Thanks for the comment. Classfication of novels is quite a confusing business.

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