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Koreku
2007-07-24, 12:53 AM
Hello, everyone. I don't post much and this is the first thread I've started, I don't even have my own avatar yet (I'm getting to that), but I just realized that this topic was not on these forums yet, and I wanted to see what all your oppinions were about it.

Is it usually a good idea to mix sci-fi and fantasy, or is it better to pick one because of the distinct feel that gets taken away when the other is added (specifically when sci-fi is added to fantasy)?

This thread actually serves another purpose; it turns out that I specifically need some advice related to this topic. I am currently writing a fantasy series that I originally intended to have the same feel as Lord of The Rings; you know, epic, medieval, realistic, etc. But now I face an issue.

I have this race all thought up called the Axel Gnomes... but they are a technological race, unlike the entirety of the rest of my world. In fact, the best thing i could say to compare them to would be gnomes in World of Warcraft, which seem to fit into that fantasy environment fine, but I'm not sure what it would do to mine. At one point in the lore, the Axel Gnomes, trying to create a portal between worlds, accidentally blew up half of the continent of Vverevar. It turns out that Vverevar had actually been teleported to another world and ocean had taken it's place, but no one could tell the difference.

Either way, the elves on the other side were pretty pissed off about this, because many of their forests stretched to the now-destroyed half of the continent. They massed armies and advanced on the gnome cities, until the gnomes, in a desperate attempt to surrender, pleaded that they could re-build the continent. The elves were confused, but reluctantly agreed, trying to decide what they could actually do. It turns out the gnomes had perfected the portal, and traveled to many worlds to gather the land, bring it back, and piece it together with alloys and titanium. After a hundred and thirty years, the landmass was completed, but the gnomes, realizing how much time they had spent on this new continent, refused to give it to the elves and kept it for their own. This resulted in a large scale war between the elves and gnomes, the lore for which i have all figured out with many twists and strategic... stuff.

Sorry about rambling there, it was just to give you guys an idea on the Axel Gnomes. So if anyone thinks either way about whether I should include this race or if it would ruin this type of fantasy, please feel free to tell me why.

Hell Puppi
2007-07-24, 01:01 AM
Well, if it's done well, it's awesome.
The books I've been trying to write for the past upteen-billion (read: I either put them off or re-write them) are a mix of sci-fi and fantasy.

Unicorns in space? Dear god, no.

Amotis
2007-07-24, 01:02 AM
Unicorns in space? Dear god, no.

Have you been peaking in my diary? :smallfrown:

Hell Puppi
2007-07-24, 01:05 AM
Have you been peaking in my diary? :smallfrown:

Nooo.....


O_o


o_o



Okay maybe a little...

SweetLikeLemons
2007-07-24, 01:08 AM
I agree, if it is done well, it can be really interesting. Disbelief can be suspended for all kinds of incredible things as long as the world you create is engaging and consistent. The thing that really makes me mad is when an author creates a great fantasy world, and then ruins it by revealing some sci-fi deus ex machina. Please, please don't reveal any forgotten starships left behind by super-advanced colonists millenia before. That's all I ask.

The Orange Zergling
2007-07-24, 02:44 AM
If you can pull it off right, then by all means, it will work.

I've tried mixing Zerg with common medieval fantasy, magic, swords, etc. It didn't mesh well.

Castaras
2007-07-24, 02:48 AM
It all depends.

Sometimes it can be done well. Other times(and most of the time, in my experience), it doesn't work at all.

I personally don't really like the fantasy turning into sc-fi stuff, but that's just me.

Winterwind
2007-07-24, 03:38 AM
It's all a matter of presentation. I'd like to cite Arthur C. Clarke on this:


Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Since a story is always told from somebody's point of view - even if that is a third-person narrator - you could just adjust the descriptions in a way that sound non-technical, but make the reader understand what is really going on. Avoid words like "mechanical", "technology", never name a machine for what it is, and you're fine.

For example, you could write about a golem, upon which a gnome rides. It moves with tremendous speed, and it rushes forward with a constant roar, which doesn't seem to come so much from it's mouth as from its belly - in fact, it doesn't have a mouth, it resembles most closely a headless horse - that's the best comparison possible, anyway. Instead of legs, it has two circular disks of shimmering steel, inscribed with runes. Behind it, it leaves a trail of black smoke.
And you have yourself a motorbike.

EDIT: For clarification: What I mean is you could allow science and technology to exist in your world, and still maintain full fantasy atmosphere by consistently describing said technology in the way the inhabitants of your fantasy world would perceive said technology, which would be as magic. This would require, of course, that non of these gnomes would be a major protagonist (or at least not a gnome skilled in the technological ways of his/her people, which could be easily done if, for example, most gnomes considered technology to be magic as well and only Inner Circle elite gnomes understood it for what it truly is).

Concerning whether one should mix sci-fi and fantasy in general, I'd say: of course, if that's the story one wants to tell! There are no rules for imagination what works and what doesn't! If all dragons had to be like Tolkien's, LeGuin's Earthsea could not exist!

Vampiric
2007-07-24, 04:26 AM
The thing that really makes me mad is when an author creates a great fantasy world, and then ruins it by revealing some sci-fi deus ex machina. Please, please don't reveal any forgotten starships left behind by super-advanced colonists millenia before. That's all I ask.

You haven't read the many PERN series by Anne Mccaffrey, have you...?:smallconfused: They are really good, but, unfortunately, they do have that twist....

Tom_Violence
2007-07-24, 05:37 AM
So, the answer is 'maybe'?

AslanCross
2007-07-24, 05:56 AM
It can certainly go both ways. It's been done a lot in anime already: Vision of Escaflowne, and to a lesser extent Magic Knight Rayearth. There's also an old SNES game: Super Robot Wars Gaiden: The Lord of Elemental. The Lord of Elemental had magical mecha in a world inside the planet Earth, along with not-so-magical stuff.

The protagonist's mech is Cybuster (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cybuster). Pretty cool stuff.

Then there's a whole bunch of Final Fantasy games, though some are arguably more fantasy-centric.

I don't find anything really wrong with combining the two--magic could be seen as a science anyway. Of course, doing it in an original way is quite difficult.

Indon
2007-07-24, 07:49 AM
I'll throw in my hat by paraphrasing an article by, I think Asimov, regarding the difference between magic and science-fiction:

Say you have this techno-race in your fantasy universe. Heck, say there is no magic, it's all technology.

If you treat technology like you would magic, it's still fantasy. So this technology is fickle, hard-to-understand, and never explained outside of esoteric technobabble.

Now let's flip things. You have a universe with magic and mysticism, wind, fire, all that kind of thing.

If you explain this magic, giving it rules and boundaries and treating it like, essentially, technology, you're writing science fiction. You toss in enough magical diagrams, you may even be writing 'hard' science fiction.

It doesn't matter what you have in your story. It matters only how you present it.

Talya
2007-07-24, 08:07 AM
You haven't read the many PERN series by Anne Mccaffrey, have you...?:smallconfused: They are really good, but, unfortunately, they do have that twist....

Pern starts off as sci-fi. The fact that it's low-tech doesn't make it any less sci-fi. From the very beginning you know that they are colonists from a distant star, many thousands of years later, and have lost their technology. Pern is not fantasy, at any point. You know from the very first book that the dragons are genetically engineered, that there's no magic.

Delaney Gale
2007-07-24, 08:36 AM
Unicorns in space? Dear god, no.

The Acorna series by Anne McCaffrey? :smallwink:

Yeah, sci-fi/fantasy mix is Anne's trademark. Pern? OMG THERE ARE DRAGONS! But in the fourth or fifth book it turns out that Pern was intended to be a pastoral retreat colony for war veterans and gypsies and the dragons were genetically engineered from mini-dragons that were native to the planet when they got there. The Rowan? TK in space. Acorna? Unicorns in space.

Delaney Gale
2007-07-24, 08:38 AM
Pern starts off as sci-fi. The fact that it's low-tech doesn't make it any less sci-fi. From the very beginning you know that they are colonists from a distant star, many thousands of years later, and have lost their technology. Pern is not fantasy, at any point. You know from the very first book that the dragons are genetically engineered, that there's no magic.

Eh, I don't think that she makes it all that obvious until All The Weyrs of Pern. Dragonflight was really too rough around the edges to do anything other than introduce the low-tech setting with dragons.

Talya
2007-07-24, 08:41 AM
Eh, I don't think that she makes it all that obvious until All The Weyrs of Pern. Dragonflight was really too rough around the edges to do anything other than introduce the low-tech setting with dragons.

Funny. I knew it from the start. (And I started reading it back in the early 80's). A book or two later and it's clearly described in the prologue. The one below is copied from an exerpt from Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern in 1983. It was used previously as well.


PROLOGUE
Rukbat, in the Sagittarian Sector, was a golden G-type star. It had five planets, two asteroid belts, and a stray planet that it had attracted and held in recent millennia. When men first settled on Rukbat's third world and called it Pern, they had taken little notice of the strange planet swinging around its adopted primary in a wildly erratic orbit. For two generations, the colonists gave the bright Red Star little thought -- until the path of the wanderer brought it close to its stepsister at perihelion. When such aspects were harmonious and not distorted by conjunctions with other planets in the system, the indigenous life form of the wandering planet sought to bridge the space gap between its home and the more temperate and hospitable planet. At these times, silver Threads dropped through Pern's skies, destroying anything they touched. The initial losses the colonists suffered were staggering. As a result, during the subsequent struggle to survive and combat the menace, Pern's tenuous contact with the mother planet was broken.

To control the incursions of the dreadful Threads -- for the Pernese had cannibalized their transport ships early on and abandoned such technological sophistication as was irrelevant to the pastoral planet -- the more resourceful men embarked on a long-term plan. The first phase involved breeding a highly specialized variety of fire-lizard, a life form indigenous to their new world. Men and women with high empathy ratings and some innate telepathic ability were trained to use and preserve the unusual animals. The dragons -- named for the mythical Terran beast they resembled -- had two valuable characteristics: They could instantaneously travel from one place to another and, after chewing a phosphine-bearing rock, they could emit a flaming gas. Because the dragons could fly, they could intercept and char the Thread in midair before it reached the surface.

It took generations to develop to the fullest the potential of the dragons. The second phase of the proposed defense against the deadly incursions would take even longer. For Thread, a space-traveling mycorrhizoid spore, devoured with mindless voracity all organic matter and, once grounded, burrowed and proliferated with terrifying speed. So a symbiote of the same strain was developed to counter this parasite, and the resulting grub was introduced into the soil of the Southern Continent. It was planned that the dragons would be a visible protection, charring Thread while it was still skyborne and protecting the dwellings and the livestock of the colonists. The grub-symbiote would protect vegetation by devouring what Thread managed to evade the dragons' fire.

The originators of the two-stage defense did not allow for change or for hard geological fact. The Southern Continent, though seemingly more attractive than the harsher northern land, proved unstable, and the entire colony was eventually forced to seek refuge from the Threads on the continental shield rock of the north.

On the northern continent the original Fort, Fort Hold, constructed on the eastern face of the Great West Mountain Range, was soon outgrown by the colonists, and its capacious beasthold could not contain the growing numbers of dragons. Another settlement was started slightly to the north, where a great lake had formed near a cave-filled cliff. But Ruatha Hold, too, became overcrowded within a few generations.

Since the Red Star rose in the east, the people of Pern decided to establish a holding in the eastern mountains, provided a suitable cavesite could be found. Only solid rock and metal, both of which were in distressingly short supply on Pern, were impervious to the burning score of Thread.

The winged, tailed, fire-breathing dragons had by then been bred to a size that required more spacious accommodations than the cliffside holds could provide. The cave-pocked cones of extinct volcanoes, one high above the first Fort, the other in the Benden Mountains, proved to be adequate and required only a few improvements to be made habitable. However, such projects took the last of the fuel for the great stone-cutters, which had been programmed only for regular mining operations, not for wholesale cliff excavations. Subsequent holds and Weyrs had to be hand-hewn.

The dragons and their riders in their high places and the people in their cave holds went about their separate tasks, and each developed habits that became custom, which solidified into tradition as incontrovertible as law. And when a Fall of Thread was imminent -- when the Red Star was visible at dawn through the Star Stones erected on the rim of each Weyr -- the dragons and their riders mobilized to protect the people of Pern.

Then came an interval of two hundred Turns of the planet Pern around its primary -- when the Red Star was at the far end of its erratic orbit, a frozen, lonely captive. No Thread fell on Pern. The inhabitants erased the signs of Thread depredation and grew crops, planted orchards and thought of reforestation for the slopes denuded by Thread. They even managed to forget that they had once been in great danger of extinction. Then, when the wandering planet returned, the Threads fell again, bringing another fifty years of attack from the skies. Once again the Pernese thanked their ancestors, now many generations removed, for providing the dragons whose fiery breath seared the falling Thread midair.

Dragonkind, too, had prospered during that Interval and had settled in four other locations, following the master plan of interim defense.

Recollections of Earth receded further from Pernese memories with each generation until knowledge of Mankind's origins degenerated into a myth. The significance of the southern hemisphere -- and the Instructions formulated by the colonial defenders of dragon and grub -- became garbled and lost in the more immediate struggle to survive.

By the Sixth Pass of the Red Star, a complicated sociopolitical-economic structure had been developed to deal with the recurrent evil. The six Weyrs, as the old volcanic habitations of the dragonfolk were called, pledged themselves to protect Pern, each Weyr having a geographical section of the Northern Continent literally under its wing. The rest of the population agreed to tithe support to the Weyrs since the dragonmen did not have arable land in their volcanic homes, could not afford to take time away from nurturing their dragons to learn other trades during peacetime, and could not take time away from protecting the planet during Passes.

Settlements, called holds, developed wherever natural caves were found -- some, of course, more extensive or strategically placed than others. It took a strong man to exercise control over terrified people during Thread attacks; it took wise administration to conserve victuals when nothing could be safely grown, and it took extraordinary measures to control population and keep it productive and healthy until such time as the menace passed...

Copyright 1983 by Anne McCaffrey

dehro
2007-07-24, 08:46 AM
axel gnomes....led by a bard with an electric lute...that goes by the name of Axel rose...


ok...I have to cut down the chocolate supplies...

In my opinion the mix is...well.. a mix..I don't really like it. I also never liked the darkover saga, by marion zimmer bradley...(also the underlying tecnological nature of the artifacts in the avalon serie is quite "polluting" the saga, I think)

in Italy we would say it is meat nor fish...
I can understand a star trekkian style of people who get shipwrecked with their spaceship on a world where magic exists, but that's about it (and even then I notice that the analytic mind of the author tends to "explain" the nature of magic, spoiling part of the mistery)

no, I've started by reading historical adventures (Dumas, verne, Conan Doyle, Poe, and then LOTR and epic fantasy... )...mixing the "epic/sword/magic/historic" with computers, ancient highly evolved races, tecnological artifacts or steampower is simply not my taste
fantasy is fantasy, and SF is SF... Asimov rules...(I agree that "Dune" and "star wars" have many fantastic elements, but it's still SF

Jayabalard
2007-07-24, 08:51 AM
The Spellsinger series by Allen Dean Foster also has some Sci-fi mixed into the fantasy.

At least a couple of Barbara Hambly's series do as well: Darwath and the Windrose chronicles

Star wars is a cross between fantasy and sci-fi

Robert Heinlein's Glory Road appears to be fantasy in places rather than sci-fi. Orphans of the sky is sci-fi where the characters are so regressed that they don't know it.

As mentioned, the Pern books are sci-fi that masquerade a bit as fantasy (though they are obviously sci-fi from early on).

Piers Anthony's Split Infinity books

Ranis
2007-07-24, 09:06 AM
Sci-fi is fantasy.

Surfer99
2007-07-24, 09:08 AM
Generally i am all for mixing it up anyway you like, it is just unless the Gnomes have some way of holding all the elves-whoever is in your world away it is unlikely that noone would have "sold-spied-stolen" some of the information-technologi, in a world ruled by magic knowledge is power and some people go very far to get power, same in a world ruled by technology so there need to be a very solid reason for it to be only the Gnomes who have obtained this knownledge, that is where i see most "sci-fi-fantasy" stories fail is that is so unlikely that no one would investigate "ruins" or old artifacts heck we as humans do it everyday at the moment :)

If you can manage to do give a good reason then no problem at all, basicly its the same as have been said before, presentation is all.

Delaney Gale
2007-07-24, 10:08 AM
Funny. I knew it from the start. (And I started reading it back in the early 80's). A book or two later and it's clearly described in the prologue. The one below is copied from an exerpt from Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern in 1983. It was used previously as well.

Hmm. If I remember correctly, the first trilogy (Dragonflight, Dragonquest, and The White Dragon) alluded if anything. Moreta, although it happened well before the first trilogy, was written/published after. Then again, my copies are packed away in my school stuff, so I can't verify it. Also, it probably helped that I read Dragonflight when I was 9 or 10, so I'll allow myself the suspension of disbelief.

valadil
2007-07-24, 11:02 AM
In general the difference between sci-fi and fantasy is that both have some sort of special power that doesn't exist in the real world and fantasy explains it as magic while sci-fi does some techno babble and hand waving to explain it as science. The special power is dangerous as anything so loosely defined often ends up becoming deus ex machina. What cheapens sci fi and fantasy is when new gadgets/spells are invented at a whim to dig your way out of a plot hole. I think it as Aasimov that said that good scifi involves throwing exactly one new premise at the reader and sticking to it.

To get back to your question, well, I don't think people should mix the two genres most of the time. If you're doing it just to see what happens, it's probably a bad idea. If you have a solid reason for it it can of course be very compelling. And of course throwing some flavor into a story is rarely a bad idea. A world with magic would probably develop some very different technologies than our world, so showing some of those would give the world flavor without taking away from the fantasy focus. I think that that's where your gnomes would fit in. Not really a mixture of sci fi and fantasy, but a little sci fi resting pleasantly in a fantasy world.

The Great Skenardo
2007-07-24, 12:13 PM
I think technology and magic can be mixed, up to a point. For a particularly good example of this, I'd point you toward's Sierra's Arcanum world, combining steampunk with fantasy to create a very interesting world.

Talya
2007-07-24, 12:54 PM
Hmm. If I remember correctly, the first trilogy (Dragonflight, Dragonquest, and The White Dragon) alluded if anything. Moreta, although it happened well before the first trilogy, was written/published after. Then again, my copies are packed away in my school stuff, so I can't verify it. Also, it probably helped that I read Dragonflight when I was 9 or 10, so I'll allow myself the suspension of disbelief.

Absolutely sure you're right about Dragonflight and Dragonquest. They certainly did slowly reveal that aspect of the setting, though. It wasn't deus ex machina, it was planned from the start. I can't be sure about White Dragon, however, despite being the third book in that trilogy, it was not the third book she wrote in that setting.

Dragonflight (1968)
Dragonquest (1970)
"The Smallest Dragonboy" (1973)
Dragonsong (1976)
Dragonsinger (1977)
The White Dragon (1978)
Dragondrums (1979)
Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern (1983)

Eitel
2007-07-24, 01:38 PM
While more fantasy than anything, Terry Pratchett's stuff has elements of both. I think its perfectly fine to mix so long as its not two extremes, such as a spaceship full of alien wizards attempting to cascade multiple dimensions in the ultimate game of Tetris. That stuff just doesn't work, but adding subtle elements of one into a full on world of another if fine. Sci-Fi is also a very broad term, it could simply be anything to do with space, which would have very little problems adapting in a fantasy book.

averagejoe
2007-07-24, 02:02 PM
It depends, partially on what you mean by sci-fi. There's sci fi in the sense that it explores the possibilities for humanity, on what we might accomplish, where we're going, and what may be. Then there's sci-fi that's just fantasy with spaceships and ray guns instead of dungeons and dragons. Technological/social speculation probably doesn't have a place in epic fantasy, but there isn't any reason you can't include elements that might seem sci-fi-ish. The distinction in this case is mostly artificial, anyways. For example, you know how the Death Star works? Magic. Yeah, yeah, they say it's a machine and all that, but such a thing isn't even possible, and it gives no explaination on why it might be possible, so it's magic.

SweetLikeLemons
2007-07-24, 02:05 PM
Absolutely sure you're right about Dragonflight and Dragonquest. They certainly did slowly reveal that aspect of the setting, though. It wasn't deus ex machina, it was planned from the start. I can't be sure about White Dragon, however, despite being the third book in that trilogy, it was not the third book she wrote in that setting.

Dragonflight (1968)
Dragonquest (1970)
"The Smallest Dragonboy" (1973)
Dragonsong (1976)
Dragonsinger (1977)
The White Dragon (1978)
Dragondrums (1979)
Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern (1983)

Well, I was about 12 or 13 when I read them, so it is possible I missed some of the more subtle clues. I just know little 13-year-old-me felt kind of betrayed when all the wonderful long-forgotten technology started showing up. Eventually I just lost all interest in the series.

Logic
2007-07-24, 03:48 PM
Star Wars did it pretty well, until Midichlorians were brought up...

Vespe Ratavo
2007-07-24, 04:24 PM
Star Wars did it pretty well, until Midichlorians were brought up...

"Uh yeah, you know how we said the Force was a mystical energy field that's created by life and binds the galaxy together?

Yeah, it's really because of germs."

:frown:

Closet_Skeleton
2007-07-24, 05:13 PM
I think its perfectly fine to mix so long as its not two extremes, such as a spaceship full of alien wizards attempting to cascade multiple dimensions in the ultimate game of Tetris.

But I like 40k Eldar...

sapphail
2007-07-26, 07:38 AM
Theoretically, there's nothing wrong with the concept, if it's done well. Unfortunately most cross-breed efforts are usually dreadful. I guess it just makes it harder to suspend disbelief (for me anyway), especially if it isn't particularly well written.

The Vorpal Tribble
2007-07-26, 08:22 AM
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic...


Sci-fi is fantasy.
It depends on the sci-fi. The sci-fi I prefer to read is usually more the hard science kind where the stuff within is theoretically possible and often is already being worked on, we're just nowhere close to having it workable.

Jorkens
2007-07-26, 10:03 AM
It depends on the sci-fi. The sci-fi I prefer to read is usually more the hard science kind where the stuff within is theoretically possible and often is already being worked on, we're just nowhere close to having it workable.
Hmmm, I've never been convinced by the idea of 'hard' sci fi (although I'll admit that I've only had the idea explained to me rather than actually reading any) - you can make things more plausible, but you're still basically writing fantasy until you get to the point where the stuff you're writing about is actual established to be technologically possible, at which point if it was any good, it would already exist...

To the OP - I think you should write what you want to write and worry about genres later. If you can do
- story
- characterization
- atmosphere
- originality / freedom from cliche
- writing style
- verisimilitude / suspension of disbelief
to a decent level, then I don't personally mind if you're combining steampunk gnomes, Tolkeinish elves, cold war spies, space marines and 20's flappers. The only concern is that the more you mash different styles in, the greater the risk that the story and the characters will get lost in the details of the world, the style and the atmosphere will be inconsistant, the different elements will be off the shelf cliches rather than fully realized ideas and any inconsistancies in the world will be noticeable and spoil suspension of disbelief...

averagejoe
2007-07-26, 12:10 PM
Hmmm, I've never been convinced by the idea of 'hard' sci fi (although I'll admit that I've only had the idea explained to me rather than actually reading any) - you can make things more plausible, but you're still basically writing fantasy until you get to the point where the stuff you're writing about is actual established to be technologically possible, at which point if it was any good, it would already exist...

What about the sci fi that serves as inspiration for these things existing? There are a few cases where someone decides to make something because he read it in a sci fi book. Heck, there are more than a few astronauts who decided their career path because they read Arthur C. Clarke. It's more than an event-driven narrative with advanced technology as a backdrop; it's speculation on where humanity is going, and in many cases a glorification of science/knowledge/learning. Hard sci fi isn't merely about plausibility, it's exploration into what may be, whether it be technological or social. It isn't, for example, Star Wars with the technology toned down to reasonable levels. Often the whole purpose is to say, "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if..." Heck, there are many examples of hard sci fi where it, in part, serves to educate about principles in physics. There's an Arthur C. Clarke short story I read where, in order to do it, he had a friend at a university do pages upon pages of orbital calculations just to see how the spaceship would have interacted with the object orbiting Jupiter.

Talya
2007-07-26, 12:49 PM
you can make things more plausible, but you're still basically writing fantasy until you get to the point where the stuff you're writing about is actual established to be technologically possible, at which point if it was any good, it would already exist...



That's not true. There's lots of things possible that would be very good, that we do not have the economic infrastructure or political will to initiate. The "space elevator" is a great example.

Jorkens
2007-07-26, 01:05 PM
That's not true. There's lots of things possible that would be very good, that we do not have the economic infrastructure or political will to initiate. The "space elevator" is a great example.
Fair point, oversimplification, guilty as charged.

On the other hand, in my view if you're imagining a world in which we do have that political and economic infrastructure and do that sort of thing then you're still writing fantasy of a sort. I guess a lot of people would use the term 'speculative fiction' here. I kind of prefer to give fantasy as broad a scope as possible.

I guess there might come a dividing line - I'd consider some of JG Ballard's novels (Cocaine Nights or Super Cannes, for instance) to be science fiction because they're dealing with hypothetical versions of societies even if those societies more or less exist in today's world, but I'm not sure whether I'd call them fantasy. I probably would, but it's certainly on the limit of the term. Are James Bond and Philip Marlowe fantasy if they don't try to imitate the 'real world' of their respective professions? Very marginal...

Jorkens
2007-07-26, 01:24 PM
What about the sci fi that serves as inspiration for these things existing? There are a few cases where someone decides to make something because he read it in a sci fi book. Heck, there are more than a few astronauts who decided their career path because they read Arthur C. Clarke.
But at the time that it's written, it's normally still fundamentally magic. By the way, I'm not saying I don't like the scientific detail, just saying that even if you come up with a plausible sounding explanation based on real physics or extrapolations of real technology you're still making some sort of leap of faith to believe that it'll all work.

It's more than an event-driven narrative with advanced technology as a backdrop; it's speculation on where humanity is going, and in many cases a glorification of science/knowledge/learning. Hard sci fi isn't merely about plausibility, it's exploration into what may be, whether it be technological or social. It isn't, for example, Star Wars with the technology toned down to reasonable levels. Often the whole purpose is to say, "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if..." Heck, there are many examples of hard sci fi where it, in part, serves to educate about principles in physics. There's an Arthur C. Clarke short story I read where, in order to do it, he had a friend at a university do pages upon pages of orbital calculations just to see how the spaceship would have interacted with the object orbiting Jupiter.
So does it refer to the social aspect too, then? I mean, most of the science fiction I find interesting has some implicit sense of social, political or philosophical enquiry rather than just 'hey, wouldn't it be cool if we all had spaceships and stuff.'

But as I read it, the post I was replying to was specifically referring to the science...

Leush
2007-07-26, 01:39 PM
It depends on the sci-fi. The sci-fi I prefer to read is usually more the hard science kind where the stuff within is theoretically possible and often is already being worked on, we're just nowhere close to having it workable.

What's theoretically impossible today, is perfectly plausible tomorrow, and a handy gadget the day after.

Having said that, I like that sort of sci-fi myself, although to be fair, I like just about everything- too weak willed to resist reading a book to the end.

In Koreku's case the two elements seem not to have too different polarity and so should be fine.

Telonius
2007-07-26, 03:30 PM
Eberron actually caught a lot of flak for this. "Robots? Bah, it'll never work." But it seems to have done a reasonably good job of it. There are some excellent series that combine fantasy and sci-fi quite well. Herbert's "Dune," Gene Wolfe's "Book of the New Sun," Storm Constantine's "Wraeththu" (not for the faint of heart or stomach). Star Wars is another obvious one. And even "Star Trek: Deep Space 9" has some arguably fantasy-like elements.

Swordguy
2007-07-26, 03:33 PM
Yes it's possible. Go look up Shadowrun. It's pure sci-fi + fantasy (ever see a Dragon with an assault cannon?), with a healthy dose of cyberpunk.

It can also be done badly. I refer you to Rifts...

Tobaselly
2007-07-26, 03:48 PM
That's not true. There's lots of things possible that would be very good, that we do not have the economic infrastructure or political will to initiate. The "space elevator" is a great example.

Not meaning to nit pick, but we don't currently have the technological capabilities to create a space elevator either.

averagejoe
2007-07-26, 03:49 PM
But at the time that it's written, it's normally still fundamentally magic. By the way, I'm not saying I don't like the scientific detail, just saying that even if you come up with a plausible sounding explanation based on real physics or extrapolations of real technology you're still making some sort of leap of faith to believe that it'll all work.

No, it isn't magic. Star Wars uses magic, and not just as far as the force is concerned. Sometimes it can be rather magical, I admit, but certainly not all of it. A lot of it requires less of a leap of a leap of faith than one might think. It often uses very simple ideas; using doves inside of space stations, for example, or portable music playing devices (and, yes, kids, that was sci fi once.) The fact that it takes a leap of faith doesn't make it magical, only potentially wrong. A scientist might imagine that all matter is made up of very small particles linked together; this takes a leap of faith, but imagining such a world isn't imagining magic. All science is based on such leaps of faith. People throw around the word "science" all the time, but very few really think on what it means. The use of complex words and theories doesn't necessarily make something hard sci fi. Generally speaking, it is magic when it says, "This is true, and I'm using it as a vehicle for my story." It isn't when it says, "Well, what if this was true," and the story forms from there.


So does it refer to the social aspect too, then? I mean, most of the science fiction I find interesting has some implicit sense of social, political or philosophical enquiry rather than just 'hey, wouldn't it be cool if we all had spaceships and stuff.'

The two are inseperable, when it comes to hard sci fi, that is. The goal is not just to explore the possible, but to explore the implications. Nearly all good sci fi inquires into the social, political, and/or philisophical implications of whatever it is they're talking about. The sci fi bit is just the idea; how it fits in with everything else is the story.