December 17, 2017, 03:33:07 PM

Author Topic: SFF? What does Science-Fiction have to do with Fantasy?  (Read 965 times)

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: SFF? What does Science-Fiction have to do with Fantasy?
« Reply #15 on: October 13, 2017, 02:23:36 AM »
For my part, when I compare the two, beyond the skin-deep conventions of robots vs elves (both immortals with deep memories), technology vs magic (McGuffins and Deus ex Machina alike), there are is a general trend in the way stories in the two genres are most often approached, IF (big if) one applies Tolkien's approach to defining a Faery Story.

SF tends to involve stories where the fantastic (often technology) is thrust into or posited within the recognizable world/the recognizable world is thrust through technology (usually by jumping far, far in the future or a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away).
Fantasy, on the other hand, tends to involve stories where the real is thrust into or posited within a fantastic world. We might have fantastic things in the world, but we're usually looking at real world problems in orc-suits, whereas in I Robot we're looking at problems we don't actually have depicted in a world that we do have.

There are of course in these genres huge numbers of outliers, reversals that cut against the trends, and many, many variations, so I do not propose this to be a universal law of irrefutable Truth. It doesn't even apply to SF and Fantasy settings. Blade Runner and Star Wars are essentially fantasy stories in Science Fiction settings, and go against type. I Robot, Star Trek, Dune, which all share some fantasy concepts and conventions, do not go against type, and remain SF stories, despite their fantastic elements.
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Offline Nora

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Re: SFF? What does Science-Fiction have to do with Fantasy?
« Reply #16 on: October 13, 2017, 01:13:33 PM »
Would be interested to know how bookshops decide and if for example Waterstones have set rules or guidance for specific genre shelving. Please can our resident shelving experts help? Calling @Nestat and @Nora.

Everything is shelved together in sff. Different shops may have different rules, but it's mostly an issue of what classifies as general fiction and what doesn't. Some authors specifically want to be taken "seriously" and refuse to be put in sff, but ultimately we're not the ones choosing what a book shelves like. When they come in the shop, people dispatch them to the correct floor (with mistakes sometimes) and then the floor staff will go to the correct section and shelf the book. If they're unsure of what it is, they can scan it. The book will appear with a whole family line of genres, and that'll help decide where it should live in the shop.
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Offline WilliamRay

Re: SFF? What does Science-Fiction have to do with Fantasy?
« Reply #17 on: October 15, 2017, 05:40:12 PM »
Where are those genre-straddling books "shelved" digitally, though? Or... wait, is it even an issue? Are books on Amazon still "shelved" under one tag? Or can they have multiple tags? (I don't spend any time on Amazon. :D)

Amazon books are digitally shelved under up to two tags.  The tags, however, can be very granular.  You can shelve something under 'fantasy: general', but there are numerous vaguely defined subsets, like 'heroic', 'epic', 'urban' and on and on.  Sci-fi is similarly sub-divided (with 'steampunk' strangely a subset of sci-fi, rather than fantasy).

Personally, I think sci-fi should be a subset of fantasy to begin with, but both are really setting descriptions, whereas most of the other categories are by story type... romance, mystery, military, historical, etc.  Westerns stands out as another that is defined by setting, but if you have a sci-fi western (Aliens vs. Cowboys) or a fantasy western (Six-Gun Snow White) then you end up needing two categories off the bat.  A steampunk, noir-detective mystery with classic fantasy elements is required to sacrifice one of those three categories for its digital shelving (which I know, because I just wrote one).

So in short, yes, Amazon allows shelving in multiple categories, but those are arbitrarily limited to two categories.  To some degree, I feel like limited categorization isn't a terrible idea - there are certainly writers who would classify their work as falling into all categories regardless of the book's actual content, but I do feel like two is somewhat constraining at times, particularly when a number of the sub-categories are ill-defined and often barely different from each other.  I wish there was more of a word-cloud sort of approach, where a writer could say, "My book is mostly this one, but a little bit of these others as well".  That might better help Amazon cross-pollinate sales with listings of similar titles.

Offline Nora

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Re: SFF? What does Science-Fiction have to do with Fantasy?
« Reply #18 on: October 15, 2017, 06:53:08 PM »
I doubt what an author has to say has much defining power anyway, since the majority don't even get to chose their art cover. Publishers advertise the books as they see fit, and what makes the most sells is the fitest, and I guess that's what makes speculative fiction such a bother to keep together.
That's how you end up with McCarthy's The Road and Michel Faber's Book of Strange New Things in the general fiction area even though they're blatant speculative fiction.
"She will need coffee soon, or molecular degeneration will set in. Her French phrasing will take over even more strongly, and soon she will dissolve into a puddle of alienation and Kierkegaardian despair."  ~ Jmack

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Offline Ray McCarthy

Re: SFF? What does Science-Fiction have to do with Fantasy?
« Reply #19 on: October 23, 2017, 03:35:30 PM »
It's not simple. Some SF is really just fantasy but with space, future or "magical science" elements.
There is a gradation. Both SF and F are also in a sense artificially created publisher genres. The History of SF starts by trying to define what is SF and he admits it's unsatisfactory.

Some put Comic Book superheroes as SF and others Fantasy.
Is Pern series SF or Fantasy?  The first few books are maybe best and very like SF.
Dune is regarded usually as SF, but really is more like Fantasy.

Then there is "modern" SF with "resurrection" Transhumanism, AI and Nano, all of which can be argued to be nothing to do with Science Fiction, but Science Fantasy or Magic by another name.

Or SF with Psi powers.

Some think 20,000 leagues under the sea is SF, but diving suits, submarines, electric motors and batteries were well established technology. Jules Verne was inspired by seeing a scale model of a French military submarine. In its context it's more Fantasy Adventure, like a Victorian version of Clive Cussler. Of course Jules Verne wrote SF as well as Fantasy.

It's a spectrum with believable hard SF at one end and High Fantasy inspired by (or in the style of) ancient myth & legend. Fairy Tales are somewhere in the spectrum and only became something for children in the Victorian Era.

Publishers and Advertisers want to pigeon hole novels to make them easier to market to people that want more of the same.

I feel a sense of Deja Vu writing this. Did I say it all before?