Sci-fi or fantasy, or sci fan?

Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Bierschneeman, Apr 13, 2017.

  1. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune

    Well, Jo gave a few definitions of Space Opera, and I could make my own but it doesn't work that way.
    As I have already said, it is a very grey area, as you can find within this genre metaphysically challenging books like Attanasio's Radix Series, mind blowing ones like Banks' Culture books or more traditional stories such as Star Wars.

    This is the definition you could find in the BSFBF:

    "Space Opera is one of those genres of science fiction that can mean many things and include many types of stories.

    The casual SF reader associates 'Space Opera' with big ships, big battles,and many characters are some of the key elements behind space opera. The Space Opera is one of the most popular science fiction sub genres because it's exciting as hell. There's usually lots and lots of conflict between humans, and often with aliens. There's large scale conflicts, bigger battles, and inimical forces that just may be plotting the destruction of humanity.

    And yes, this is one definition of Space Opera.

    But Space Opera is larger than this definition.

    Back in the early 1940s, romantic daytime dramas on American radio had acquired the name "soap opera" because so many of them were sponsored by soap companies. By the same principle, cowboy stories were starting to be known as "horse operas". So it no surprise when Wilson Tucker began calling science fiction stories, "space operas".

    At first, there was no clear idea what space opera referred to. It was only in the 1960s and 70s that the term began to be applied particularly to the extravagant and melodramatic space adventures typified by E.E. "Doc" Smith and Edmond Hamilton and their imitators. Once that was established, we began to get subversive takes on the form, either through comedy, as in Harry Harrison's Bill the Galactic Hero, or through reinventions of the form associated with the New Wave, such as M. John Harrison's The Centauri Device.

    Before too long, these reinventions gave rise to what became known as the New Space Opera. In the main, these weren't too different from the old space opera, they were wild adventures set in space, but they were usually written with a great deal more style and a greater political sensibility. The Culture novels by Iain M. Banks were not just typical of this, but were among the founding texts of the New Space Opera.

    I suppose it feels like when you step into a bookstore and stand in the middle of the General Fiction aisle. You know it isn't Noir, nor Fantasy, nor SF, nor Romantic etc. Nevertheless, you are in front of a HUGE section, which would offer pretty much anything fictional.
    I could tell you what Space Opera is not: It is not Hard Science, nor Soft Science, nor Cyberpunk, nor Terraforming, nor Dystopian, nor Post Apocalyptic, nor Time Travel, nor A.I, nor Post-human and I could go on...

    Only yesterday I bought The Years of the Rice by K S Robinson. This one falls into the Alternate History category, as it depicts the apocalyptic events during the Black Death in the Europe of SXIV. What if the plague killed 99 % of the population instead of the one third it actually annihilated ? As you can guess, this is not in any near future...
  2. Bierschneeman

    Bierschneeman Journeyed there and back again

    It has always seemed to me that this has always been an infuriating syndrome, that some professing to love sci-fi, don't but instead love fantasy set in space. Setting very little to do with genre to me. (As evident in my opinion that Aliens is in fact not scifi)

    Kane of old mars and John carter are in fact sword and sorcery fantasy genre. Despite the space setting.

    Flash Gordon is with SS or adventure. Neither outcome sci-fi.

    I also would put farscape and avatar out of the s cifi realm.

    I don't reject your reality that says star wars is a fantasy in space (if only you include dune as well) but suggest that the force is an intellectual pursuit rather than magical and it could be considered on the very fringe of sci-fi, beloved by s cifi lovers and the sci fan lovers of the space setting fantasies I just explained. You maybe only seeing s cifi in its core style. (Which sci fan lovers tend to dislike) .

    I add another, Is Firefly a western set in space, or scifi? How about outlaw star (heavily ripped off to make firefly) or cowboy bebop?.

    For that matter, steampunk? Where does that lie, surely sometimes it's historic fiction sci-fi mashup?
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2017
  3. Bierschneeman

    Bierschneeman Journeyed there and back again

    Yes this is mostly a genre discussion, focusing on the edge of two separate genres and the blurred and varied opinion of what goes where, which inevitably attempts to define both.

    There are no right answers, it's nearly wholly opinion, and at the end of the day we can shake hands. Perhaps someone's opinion might change. But that is not likely, nor the purpose of discussion.
  4. jo zebedee

    jo zebedee Journeyed there and back again

    Well, yes, just as fantasy (and any other genre) fans are eager to embrace anything fantastical as fantasy. Why can't sf have escapist books? Why should every book have a purpose or a higher reason for being? This is not the genre named Science-speculation, but science fiction. Which means fiction stories (albeit with some sort of futuristic or science speculation in it - which can include what if a fantasy-esque chosen one turned up in a space setting?) of all their ilk, from the serious and believeable to the silly and escapist.

    So, for me, the genre isn't misnamed - it's just that lots of people seem to see the fiction element as secondary to the science, as if every story must have the science at its core. I don't ask that every romance story I read has a beliveable romance, or that it shines a mirror on the world for me. Or that every fantasy book must stay purely in the world of magic and never cross into an everday world. That's why genres have subgenres, just like science fiction does. Which means, for those who want their sf to be based on science factors and present new and challenging ideas there are sub genres for that - like hard sf, cli-fi. And for those who want escapism and a space setting there are sub genres for that (often Space Opera.)

    So, just like any big genre there is room for all types of story. Including a Space Opera with a fantastical setting and feel. It's not hard sf, for sure, but it doesn't mean it's not fitting in the sf genre either.

    In terms of defining SO it is a broad genre in its definition - because it embraces a huge range of stories. If a tighter genre definition is needed, sub genres might have to be looked at (so, military Space Opera, for instance, or, indeed, Space Fantasy)
  5. Peat

    Peat Journeyed there and back again

    Where as I'm going by the definition of "What its already defined as" because, given that genres only exist as meaningful definitions when people roughly agree what they mean, the already agreed upon definition logically is a correct one. Maybe not the only correct one, but certainly a correct one.

    I would also argue that any attempt to define that pays no attention to commonly held beliefs on genre is probably inherently flawed.

    The first hit for Space Opera if googling is "set in Outer Space, typically of a melodramatic and simplistic nature". Go to wiki and you get "Space opera is a subgenre of science fiction that emphasizes space warfare, melodramatic adventure, interplanetary battles, as well as chivalric romance, and often risk-taking. Set mainly or entirely in outer space, it usually involves conflict between opponents possessing advanced abilities, futuristic weapons, and other sophisticated technology. "

    TVTropes gets us "Space Opera refers to works set in a spacefaring civilization, usually, though not always, set in the future, specifically the far future. Technology is ubiquitous and secondary to the story. Space opera has an epic character to it: the universe is big, there are usually many sprawling civilizations and empires, there are political conflicts and intrigue" and SF-encyclopedia "the pattern was extended into sf terminology by Wilson Tucker in 1941, who proposed "space opera" as the appropriate term for the "hacky, grinding, stinking, outworn, spaceship yarn". It soon came to be applied instead to colourful action-adventure stories of interplanetary or interstellar conflict."

    So, covers everything in space isn't too far off (as long as its dramatic adventure). I don't know whether the bits I've given makes it more useful, but the description can't be useless in general because its still in use - 20k + books listed under it on Amazon.

    What isn't included (in these albeit short snippets) is anything about whether magic/psionics makes something Space Opera or definitively not. I would argue that suggests that the presence of the supernatural doesn't really matter one way or the other to whether something is a Space Opera, which surely removes any objection to Star Wars being one.

    So what do you call the adventure stories set in space using technological advances and aliens, androids and what not? What do you call the fantasy stories that draw deeply upon the fantastic to look human culture i.e. the use of elves/dwarves etc.etc. to visit racism, or The Dark Materials vs Narnia on religion, or Vampirism as addiction and so on? Surely the mythic archetypes deep in our culture as just as good a tool for discussing humanity and society as aliens, androids and clones? What about historical fantasy that takes very little from the mythic side of the genre, like Katherine Kurtz and GGK? Or grimdark stuff that very deliberately turns its back on good and evil, and sometimes even restoration? Or fantasies in which the hero's hubris dooms them to failure?

    Also - since sci-fi and fantasy exist as genres outside storytelling - do these definitions still stand up when we get to gaming?

    I think its an interesting split, but it seems too narrow to fit with the genres we've got and the perceptions people have got about them.

    I would agree that its easier for stories that focus on old stories have an easier time in the mainstream, although I'd point out a lot of the biggest successes are those telling stories in a way a lot of people have temporarily forgotten about. I am not sure that stories focusing on setting to talk about humanity thrive on being new and original because ultimately, no matter what tech you use, you're still talking about humanity in terms we recognise today. And I don't think that relies on being new and original.

    I think that yes, the fact Star Wars draws deeply on mythic/folkloric archetypes helped boost its popularity a lot. (Were fantasy archetypes even a thing back in 1977?). I think a lot of the big Sci-Fis since have followed suit to no small extent. I think you're over complicating here a little though and what keeps Sci-Fi that's mainly setting based from entering the mainstream regularly is stories that neglect their story are rarely that popular. The best stories are those with a story and something to say about humanity.

    But I don't think drawing on mythic/folklore stuff should render something non-Sci-Fi. Anything else apart, I don't think its impossible for something to both fit what you've described as science-fiction and draw from that.

    Tbh, much as I'm enjoying this, I think trying to ascribe complex conventions to genres this broad is like trying to catch a rainbow. Are The Children of Hurin, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, The Dresden Files, The Lions of Al-Rassan and Mythago Wood all fantasy? By common conception, yes. Do I think you'll struggle to find much common ground between them? I think so. And as time goes on, more people will push the boundaries further.

    To go back to Sci-Fi... I'd propose a definition of "Set in an advanced future where technology has changed how people live". Star Wars features space ships that could blow up worlds as a very key part of the story and I fail to see how that isn't Sci-Fi. That the movies do not delve deeper into the impact of this and other potential changes does not, imo, invalidate them as Sci-Fi. Nor does the fact it draws deeply from other genres and is an adventure story. Although you might argue that its still more Fantasy than Sci-Fi and maybe have a point.

    And if we wish to change the meaning of Sci-Fi so that Star Wars and other similar stories don't fall into it... then I think you need a new overarching genre anyway. Might as well keep Sci-Fi as the name of the overarching genre. Its still accurate enough and its the one people know.

    Oh and to go real back to the root of this and 40k... very Sci-Fi. Technology has made universal war possible and universal war has led to a far right wet dream. The uneven preservation of it has led humanity having the ability to mutate its finest into sterile killing machines but you've got people lighting incense to aid the restart of their machine. I think its arguably a very good example of how to combine Sci-Fi and Mythic/Folklore stuff.

    ... there was something else I was gonna say but I've been typing too long and playoff hockey is on.


    I think broad inclusive definitions are best for things like Sci-Fi and Fantasy, not least because that's what's in use
    I think broad inclusive definitions include Star Wars in Sci-Fi and certainly don't exclude magic/psionics in Sci-Fi
  6. Tanniel

    Tanniel Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune

    Why doesn't it work that way? Think about the stories you have read that you would classify as Space Opera, determine some patterns or common characteristics. Make a definition and see where that takes you. You mentioned a list of examples of what is it not - wouldn't you rather try and determine what it is, and why that appeals to you as a reader?

    That's part of the problem here, in my opinion; it seems very ambiguous and ambivalent what it has already been defined as. Your own quotes call it "simplistic and melodramatic", but later on mentions "political conflict and intrigue". I don't see how you can base any analysis or discussion on a definition that sprawls in every direction and even contradicts itself.

    Campbell's The Hero With a Thousand Faces was published in 1949 and served as a key inspiration for George Lucas - another argument in favour of Star Wars being fantasy, incidentally, that the blueprint of its story comes from mythological patterns. Besides that, archetypes have always been around even if they were not formulated yet (though as said, they certainly were in 1977). That's basically what makes them archetypes, that they are recognisable regardless of the story they are in.

    This is interesting to consider, since as said, I think these sci-fi stories are less popular because they do exactly what they should do as sci-fi stories. So we agree that they are rarely popular, but your explanation is because they are flawed, mine is due to the nature of their genre. I would be curious to think of as many examples as possible of sci-fi stories and see which explanation seems to hold up best.

    See that's the thing, right? Because I have made a statement, this opens a flood of questions. If it uses the fantastical element to discuss racism, should we classify it as social commentary rather and compare it to Uncle Tom's Cabin? His Dark Materials vs. Narnia, is the aim to tell a story or to preach (non-)religion; what takes precedence, and if it is the latter, are we still comfortable calling it fantasy or is it propaganda rather? If grimdark is a subversion of fantasy, how exactly does it subvert it? It can only do so by first having defined what fantasy is, e.g. that fantasy are heroic stories that end in restoration - thus grimdark does the opposite. Some kind of genre pattern beyond "contains magic or fantastical elements" must exist if grimdark is to subvert it.

    It is certainly too narrow for current genre use and popular perception, but that's in some ways my point. Current genre use and popular perception is boring if you want to have a deeper discussion about literature. Just look above at all the questions you began to consider because you investigated and challenged my definition. I'm not arguing that we convince Amazon to change its genre tags. Just suggesting what I think is crucial to have a compelling discussion in this particular thread - that we propose our own understanding of what makes a genre what it is. Collectively, we have read a lot more novels than any one of us alone and can thus contribute with arguments in favour or against - just look at all the examples you gave me above to consider.

    However, it seems I am alone in this view point and may have hijacked this thread from its original purpose. Maybe another thread would be more suited for what I propose.
  7. Sneaky Burrito

    Sneaky Burrito Crazy Cat Lady Staff Member

    Speaking about this, there is a whole documentary series. It is kind of old. Let's see if I can find a link:

    Not sure if you can watch the full episodes online (I'm at work and can't check) but it is also available on DVD.
  8. Peat

    Peat Journeyed there and back again

    Bierschneerman started the thread, he started it to look at genre ambiguities, I'd say you're very much in the right thread.

    You can present political conflict and intrigue in a simplistic and melodramatic manner. Arguably that's what you've got in the original Star Wars (all that effort needed to build an alliance and get the Death Star plans boiled down to a plucky rescue and a guy getting frozen by his old friend). There's certainly lots of Epic Fantasies that have political conflicts that are presented in this manner (Feist's Magician for one). Hell, you could argue there's been political sitcoms have that done this.

    Which is why I think there is valuable discussion to be had out of dealing with these sprawling and badly defined genres as is. Can you make the definitions marry together? Can you look at the actual books and spot commonalities? Or start breaking them into more manageable subgenres?

    Thing is, I can't with Space Opera because I don't know it well enough. But I think the general principle is sound. And the various definitions of Space Opera, I think they work together if you think they're action-dramas set in space.

    The Hero With a Thousand Faces gives mythic archetypes, not fantasy archetypes. I think there's an important dividing line that needs remembering and that fantasy has taken the archetypes and changed them. My question is whether fantasy and its archetypes were well established enough back then for Star Wars to be construed that way. Take for example the orphaned farm boy - that's considered a big fantasy archetype, right? But what fantasy works prior to Star Wars feature it? I genuinely can't think of any (and being really pedantic the mythic archetype is usually raised by herdsmen, not farmers).

    And drawing from the same sources doesn't necessarily indicate you're in the same genre. Its a big hint but there would need to be more evidence.

    Also, was the work of Campbell well known enough in 1977 that the general moviegoers would know they're being treated to something heavily inspired by him? How many movies came out in the five years preceding drawing heavily off of the mythic archetypes? Looking at IMDb's top grossing movies for the 70s - hey, they're calling Star Wars a fantasy-adventure - Star Wars is the only thing that can be construed a fantasy and there's a handful of other Sci-Fis. *clicks on Star Wars* Ah, tagged Sci-Fi as well as Fantasy there.

    Anyway, I don't know the answer to this one for sure, but I do think its reasonable to cast doubt on the idea that Star Wars was popular because it presented the crowds with well-worn fantasy archetypes.

    Again, why do things have to be one thing only? Why can't the use of the fantastical to discuss racism be Fantasy, Social Commentary, and quite possibly Satire to boot? And so on.

    Also, you've called grimdark a subversion, not me. Personally, I think grimdark represents a strand of nihilistic cynicism that's been around as long as there's been a genre; at heart, its simply its own thing. You could argue that modern grimdark is born as a subversion of the perceived virtues set out by 80s Epic Fantasy and you'd be onto something, particularly with The First Law (which is a definite subversion), but what is GRR Martin (a common pick for father of grimdark) trying to subvert? From what I've read, the only expectations he was kicking against was the idea that he should submit ideas that were easily filmed (i.e. only a few locations), not that I'm an expert on Martin's background and influences. Was he trying to subvert fantasy, or just telling the story he wanted to tell? Ditto Lawrence, ditto Abercrombie post-First Law... hell, does First Law end up as a subversion if it wasn't him taking a cheesy fantasy story he'd already written and Martin-ifying it?

    But I am only investigating and challenging your points in defence of current genre use and popular perception. As such, I do not believe they are boring or inimical to a deeper discussion about literature. On the contrary, I find them necessary. They are the obvious starting point and the inconsistencies provide a huge number of channels of enquiry. Personally I think they work as a good goal of return too. I appreciate it might seem like an obstinate point of view but I stick to the belief that genre definitions must look like what people believe them to be. Why not try and change that though? I personally am trying to promote the view that Tolkienesque is a shaky descriptor and that a lot of fantasy should be described as Gygaxian. I also believe Fantasy's evolution means we need a subgenre of Trad Fantasy for all the medievalisque Swords & Wizards stuff and I'll be promoting that too. Just need my soapbox first.

    Ultimately I favour broad genres and top-tier subgenres (i.e. Fantasy and Epic, Urban etc.etc.) and a lot more specificity when it comes to smaller subgenres. I believe that the former are currently commonly more defined by setting and aesthetic than anything else, and that this works for me. The more specific you get, the more you talk about what sort of story it is rather than what it features. Although even then I'm wondering whether its wise to tie Story Type to Genre. Snyder explicitly divorces the two in Save the Cat and that made sense to me. Certainly there needs to be some sort of distinction between "Story Elements in common" and "Aesthetics in common" because, while the case for Star Wars sharing most of its Story Elements with Trad Fantasy is strong, it clearly has very different aesthetics.

    Maybe its best to dismiss Genre altogether as a marketing tool that's been used for too many contradictory purposes and come up with an XYZ of Story Type, Aesthetic and Story Element - i.e. Quest/Whydunnit/Monster, Sci-Fi/Trad Fantasy/UF/CyberPunk/NormalIdealistic/NormalCynical, Personal Quest/Saving the Everything/Coming of Age/One Last Job etc.etc.
  9. Tanniel

    Tanniel Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune

    I am unsure about this. The very reason we call them "archetypes" is because they are basically immutable and always recognisable in our culture. That is why they always produce an effect in a story, regardless of anything else. I don't think fantasy changed archetypes from mythology, it merely adopted them. The archetype of the dragonslayer, for instance, is easily found in myths (e.g. Ragner Lodbrog and Sigurd Fafnersbane), and we find it at play in fantasy literature everywhere. The archetype of the old sage acting as mentor to the hero is in mythology (Odin and Merlin) and everywhere in fantasy. The reason they work so well in fantasy, the reason we still get a thrill when the hero confronts the dragon, is because this tale is in the DNA of our culture.

    When you say "orphaned farm boy", you're discussing a trope, not an archetype. You may very well be right that SW invented this trope. It's also possible that if we spend the next 1000 years telling stories about orphaned farm boys, it will become an archetype in our culture. But right now it is too limited to be considered an archetype, I would say. It is not ubiquitous the same way that e.g. the "ancient sword" archetype is, from the sword in the stone, Gram, and Excalibur to Aragorn taking up Narsil or Luke receiving his father's lightsaber.

    Can you give me examples of how a mythic archetype has been changed by fantasy?

    While I understand your scepticism, I don't get your argument here. General moviegoers shouldn't have to know anything about Campbell's work to enjoy the archetypes in SW. I mean, that's the whole point - we recognise and enjoy them in our stories without filter. If it were necessary to read an academic text first to understand them, they'd hardly be archetypes of our culture, it would be an avantgarde experiment instead. My point is that we know for a fact these mythic archetypes were in SW, because Lucas put them there - and their entire purpose hinges on the fact that everyone will recognise their purpose in the story. With my examples of Merlin and Obi-Wan (the mentor), Excalibur and the inherited lightsaber (the sword of legitimacy) in mind, I would say that these mythic archetypes overlap with fantasy archetypes.

    Furthermore, the lack of other fantasy movies preceding SW can easily be used to strengthen the argument that fantasy elements made SW popular, because it means that movie-goers hadn't been inundated already with lots of movies using those "well-worn" archetypes.

    Ah, you said it turns its back on good and evil; since 'classical' fantasy tends to be about the triumph of good over evil, I figured you meant something like a subversion. But it wasn't to put words in your mouth, so I guess that's just my interpretation of what grimdark is. Though I can recognise the nihilistic cynicism you speak of. When it comes to Martin, however, I feel there are some very clear subversive elements on his stories. If fantasy is about the hero's triumph (which I think 'classical' fantasy is very much about), then the death of that hero without accomplishing anything is a subversion of the reader's expectations. Or in other words, subverting the reader's expectation of the happy ending so typical of fairytales that there is a stock phrase for it, "and they lived happily everafter".

    Well, I am obviously sympathetic to that idea, but looking at this thread, people seem very resistant to anyone tinkering with genre definitions. Just so you know what you're heading into. On the other hand, people seem to rely exclusively on internet searches, so if you can get your definition to be the 1st ranked search, I guess that'll do it.
  10. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune

    Well, really interesting arguments!

    When I first set about reading SF, Space Opera confused me greatly. I went on asking forum members "is this SO" "are you sure..." " this book theme/structure/arc is nothing like this other... "
    The fact I'm trying to defend, in a way, SO as a SF subgenre, it doesn't mean I particularly enjoy its vagueness and lack of clear boundaries. I love some parts of SO while I find utterly uninteresting and disengaging others. SO is what it is and even if I could give you my own coherent and clear definition of the parts of SO I enjoy, it wouldn't apply because it wouldn't be shared by any. And definitions, by nature, must be favorably regarded by many.
    However, and so hopefully you understand where I'm coming from regarding SO, the best definition I can think of is the one I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, which relates to what Romance as a literary genre is. I have no doubt you already know its definition, but just to be certain:

    What is Romance?
    In the strictest academic terms, a romance is a narrative genre in literature that involves a mysterious, adventurous, or spiritual a story line where the focus is on a quest that involves bravery and strong values, not a love interest. However, modern definitions of romance also include stories that have a relationship issue as the main focus.

    If you add the "Space" ingredient with all its paraphernalia and magical science (as SO does not infer from it) then you are really close to what Space Opera is with its huge connotation and scope.
    Is this a satisfactory definition? Most probably not although it helped me grasp what SO was when I first got into Science Fiction. I presume part of the reason this subgenre is so vastly popular is because it can accommodate almost everyone who is ready to read it.
    Am I tempting you to try it...? :greyalien:;)
  11. Tanniel

    Tanniel Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune

    See, I don't think that has to be true. If you lay out your definition and the arguments for it, people can judge for themselves whether it is worthwhile and not. And from a much stronger foundation than the vague notion of what is "popularly understood", because that always seems to be very vague and unfulfilling.

    Now this I find more interesting than what I have previously seen about space opera (though if you did mention this before, I am sorry for overlooking it). I glanced at provencal romance tradition when writing my thesis, because it bridges a gap between myth and modern fantasy literature, so it's a genre I know somewhat, and I enjoy speculating about what it would be like if thrust into space.

    I have already read some number of books that I think would be termed space opera, but you are tempting me to think more about what kind of genre it is.
  12. Peat

    Peat Journeyed there and back again

    Look at the dragon itself. If you look at western mythology and folklore, they're bad business. In fantasy, that's not the case, there's no shortage of fantasies with benevolent dragons (Pern, Dragonlance, Riftwar, Deverry Cycle).

    Look at wizards, witches and other mystics. Our concept of what they are doing has hugely expanded. Has our concept of their place in society changed? I think so. The wizardly mentor frequently comes from a society or order of fellow mystics that Merlin and Odin simply didn't exist as part of. We also have warrior mystics now, and I think that combination of archetypes to form a new one is not really one from myth. The archetype has evolved. Incidentally, would we think that Old Sages are the obvious mentor if Tolkien had been a scholar of Greece rather than the North, and had based his mentor on Athena rather than Odin/Merlin?

    Orphaned farm boy might not be an archetype but Orphan is (or at least so some tell me), but now they are part of more agrarian and settled societies. They seem a lot less likely to visit doom on their own societies too now though (Oedipus, Paris, Romulus, even Arthur kinda).

    You can also find some mythic Archetypes that haven't survived either. The sins of the warrior. A lot of the twin myths go unemulated. Shapeshifting and transvestism. I mean, to go back to the Old Sage archetype... Odin has undergone the effeminacy needed to learn Seidr, Tiresias spent seven years a woman, Gwydion fab Don spent time as a sow and Taliesin boasts of having been a sow too. There is very little of this in the fantasy Old Sage.

    Would you consider the Elf and the Dwarf fantasy archetypes? They've obviously changed a lot from the original mythology (I'm not sure I'd even call them mythic archetypes).

    That's off the top of my head. Its not dramatic change but there is a considerable level of evolution.

    They need to know the Archetypes from *somewhere*. I mean, I don't know what was popular in 1977, I don't know the cultural lodestones, but what stories are providing them with the basic form of the Hero's Journey and all the Archetypes so that when they see them on screen, they automatically get them? We take popular fiction with heavy mythic underpinnings for granted today. Has this always been the case? Genres come in and out of fashion after all.

    Where is good and evil in Conan?

    I don't entirely disagree with the idea that grimdark is subversive, just there's some caveats. Take Martin. Is he being subversive in dodging the hero's triumph, or has he simply played a gotcha before having the actual hero triumph? Has Martin turned his back on good and evil, or does he have the plucky honourable guys taking on the amoral smooth baddies prior to saving humanity from forces inimical to it?

    And if the hero triumphing is part of classic fantasy, then there is an obvious departure from myth there, as most of the time we're taken all the way to the hero's hubris-ridden disgrace and death. Fairytales might have happy endings, but a lot of the mythic heroes don't. Although isn't the hero winning part of most fiction? I mean, how many Mysteries have you read where the investigator doesn't reveal things to their own satisfaction?

    I have used the internet once or twice before now :p

    That said... don't mistake lack of receptiveness for your particular idea as being lack of receptiveness for the idea altogether, or people using the most popular definitions findable on Google as definitions to give other people with being the totality of what they think.
  13. Bierschneeman

    Bierschneeman Journeyed there and back again

    Not to intercede, I am having a blast just reading these long rebuttals.

    But I never thought that eastern dragons shouldn't be called dragons, they have no relations to each other historically, and only similar being giant flying reptiles. This also allows for a giant flying crocodile and quetzequatl also being called dragons, they are clearly not the same thing. It's just some guy visiting the area and applying his own word to the local populous. Now a days that's usually considered offensive.

    Just lazy people who don't want to learn words like long (Chinese dragon isn't a dragon is a long) or quetzequatl.

    You know there is an Australian vampire?. Not really, again lazy people who see semi sorta similar features and applying their word. Aborigines would have created the myth in isolation while the eastern European vampire hadn't existed yet.

    Tangent over. Continue please, I'll get my popcorn.
  14. Vasher

    Vasher Helped Logen count his fingers

    To be honest I don't make that much of a distinction between the two, because there is so much overlap. The best I can say is that generally if something primarily focuses on the relationship between people and technology and how technology can change us, and attempts to be somewhat believable and easy to map onto the real world, it's definitely scifi. Star Wars is scifi only in so much as it shows how interstellar travel could result in a totalitarian government on an unthinkable scale where entire planets are in the crossfire, which is the typical space opera thing. The rest is pure fantasy, and it's way more fantasy than scifi to me overall because the politics of the empire aren't the focus, it's not really trying to be a thought experiment on the deeper nuances of a galaxy-scale government, it's using that as shallow set dressing for a simple good vs. evil hero's journey myth. Rogue One is the first Star Wars movie that actually felt like a scifi movie to me. They pulled back the curtain a bit and added nuance. High ranking officers in the empire don't see themselves as evil, they see themselves as peacekeepers. Some people are only in the empire because they were taken from poverty stricken worlds and offered a better life. Some people are only working for them because they are forced. Some people were on board with the empire's ideology until a moral line is crossed and they defect, etc. It's trying to show humans how we really are, how we would be if this was the galaxy we lived in and the technology we had available.

    Another interesting example is Book of the New Sun. A lot of people refer to it as "science fantasy," and some straight up say it's science fiction. To me, it came across as straight fantasy. The technology is not believable nor an important part of the book. The whole thing is a religious allegory for crying out loud, it's fantasy. Setting it in the far future and having weird alien tech and whatnot doesn't suddenly make it scifi to me when symbolism and divine providence drive the plot instead of the interplay between advanced but believable and logical technology and realistic human behavior. Scifi doesn't have chosen ones and religious ascensions, but fantasy with scifi set dressing can.
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2017
  15. Peat

    Peat Journeyed there and back again

    But then people will confuse Chinese dragons with me... :p

    I dunno. On the one hand, you're right. On the other hand... if you want to describe a flying scaled monster with serpentine qualities to western people, at some point the term dragon is going to be the quickest way to get people to understand. Its just you need to keep talking afterwards.

    Besides, its not like I'd care if Chinese people call all flying scaled things Longs, or if Japanese people called all 8 foot tall humanoid monsters Oni, or so on... people using their own name for concepts shouldn't be an issue. What it lacks in accuracy it makes up for in simplicity. I appreciate history has made a bit of a mockery of that but still, the principle is sound.

    *goes to wiki* Huh, interesting. The Chinese seem them as rain deities apparently... while there's very much an Indo-European tradition of you kill the dragon to bring the rains. Same in Middle Eastern too insofarasi'mawarepleasedon'tquotemeonthat.

    Also, vampiric things from Australia? Tell me moar?
  16. Bierschneeman

    Bierschneeman Journeyed there and back again

    There are several western vampire movies citing this Monster as a vampire, "proving" in movie that vampires are ubiquitous, as well as nonfiction books and a few bad history channel documentaries

    A quick Google search and you'll find all sorts of articles about this creature as the Australian vampire. Some on vampire forums. Some on internets version of the informative not actually a doctor show (mental floss)
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2017
  17. Tanniel

    Tanniel Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune

    @Peat those are some good examples you come up with (regards to mythic archetypes changed), and I see your point.

    Elves seem to have changed drastically or just evolved into all sorts of representations. Dwarves, on the other hand, seems to be almost copy+paste from Norse mythology still (as Tolkien did it).

    Just from personal memory, I have read The Hobbit, LotR, Narnia, Three Hearts and Three Lions, and the Earthsea cycle, which all predate Star Wars. The first D&D game was published in 1974, and the advanced version in 1977. I checked and saw that Moorcock's stories about Elric also predate 1977 - the fact that you can write a story that subverts the typical fantasy elements is a sign that the genre has common characteristics and patterns. These are just examples I could think of without having even been born at that time and without considering short stories and magazines, overlap with superhero stories (Thor the comic book character made his debut in 1962) etc.

    IMDB maintains a list of movies based on or using the Hero's Journey, also, including The Wizard of Oz, Casablanca, Hamlet (Laurence Olivier), Jaws, and Rocky (the most famous movies on that list before 1977). I will admit, I haven't watched or analysed all these movies to verify this. I suspect also that all these movies don't check off every point on the list perfectly, but rather, they contain several of the story elements. E.g. though my knowledge is a bit shaky, Oz seems to easily fulfill most of these.

    I feel on very comfortable grounds saying that moviegoers in 1977 would have been familiar with what kind of story they were presented with in A New Hope. If all of the above does not change anyone's mind, I don't see what more I can say about it.

    Conan certainly falls outside the typical spectrum, and in fact, he will be my example of the "iconoclastic" hero in my blog series once it progresses that far.

    Well, I have made my experiences, I leave you to making yours.
  18. Peat

    Peat Journeyed there and back again

    Maybe my impression of dwarves in Norse mythology are wrong but from memory, they're mainly craftsmen, crafty and vindictive, and often sex pests. The straight talking axe wielding hero with a weakness for beer and mad honour codes as seen in Dragonlance, or Magician, or Discworld, or Trollslayer, or Deverry... that seems to be a different beast. It almost like they've taken Thor and turned him into an entire race of mini-Thors. Which is a form of copypasta from Norse mythology, I give you :p

    Just with bad Scottish accents.

    Which I don't think matches Tolkien's, where there's a very pronounced Jewish streak to his dwarves, particularly in the Hobbit. That's not really seen before or after.

    Hmm. Fair points.

    But how about the Old Sage archetype? Its not in Narnia or a Wizard of Earthsea much. The orphaned teenager isn't in Tolkien or Three Hearts and Three Lions, although I guess it is in WoE and Narnia.

    I guess that really the obvious source for a lot of those things is Shakespeare. Hamlet has the Old Sage and the Orphaned Hero and probably a bunch of other stuff.

    I think I would rest my point here as that, while Star Wars does feature a lot of common archetypes and they would have been obvious, I still don't think they were fantasy archetypes at that point. I think they become set fantasy archetypes afterwards, I think (could be wrong) that our expectations of the genre change a lot in the 80s with a run of big name fantasies in a very similar mould to each other. Elric may be a subversion, but he is a subversion of fantasy before it got 'codified' into the modern form people think of today.

    I'm also beginning to suspect that the Space Operas of Star Wars and Dune have a lot to do with that but it would be incredibly difficult to prove influence rather than parallel development.

    Does he though? I can't remember much concern with Good and Evil in Fahfrd and the Grey Mouser; there's little in Night's Master by Tanith Lee. Not something I associate with Gormenghast either or what I know of the Worm Ourobos. Moorcock's relationship with Good and Evil is quite complicated. Its more or less non-existent in Cook's The Black Company.

    My personal take is that there's always been some Fantasy that's tended towards the amoral and nihilistic; enough that the Battle between Good and Evil shouldn't be held as a defining part of fantasy. Although it clearly has been, or Grimdark wouldn't be seen as the big new subversive thing.

    I could be wrong though. I'm very good at being wrong and the history of the genre is something I haven't studied as much as I'd like.

    Besides, this argument has relatively little to do with the original topic :cigar:
  19. Tanniel

    Tanniel Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune

    Narnia has Professor Kirke, the wise, old man who shelters the children, and to whom they seek advice and counsel. WoE has Ogion, distinguished by his wisdom and Ged's first and most important teacher. While both are book series, those are examples from what I would consider the primary/most known book of either series. You could even argue that in the third book, Ged becomes the Old Sage in regards to Arren.

    While Frodo isn't an orphaned teenager, he is an orphan still, taken in by Bilbo after his parents drown. Aragorn is left fatherless at the age of 2, and his mother is dead long before the events of LotR, if I recall. Of course, it varies a lot how important these examples are to the story, but the examples are near ubiquitous nonetheless, I maintain.

    I am not familiar enough with this era of fantasy, I will admit, so you're probably right. In any case, I think I have run out of steam where this overall debate is concerned and have exhausted my arguments. One last remark though, entering my mind as I read your last couple of paragraphs. From a certain viewpoint, fantasy that trends towards the amoral and nihilistic could still fit into the theme of Good and Evil; they'd just be examples where the latter wins. =)
  20. Peat

    Peat Journeyed there and back again

    But they're both part of the story for such very short periods of time :p Although iirc Ged forms bonds with some of the teachers too. But yes, fair points.

    There's been an orphan and being an Orphan. If the whole "Who am I really?" thing doesn't form a substantial part of their story arc, then you're not an Orphan. Frodo and Aragorn know exactly who they are. They are factually orphans but they're not examples of the Orphan archetype. Plus, the Teenager bit is quite important because it is very much a bildungsroman trope, both in mythology/folklore and modern literature. No one's even written the story about how a 70 year old orphan suddenly takes up adventuring to find out who his parents were before he dies although... *scribbles down idea*

    Fair point :)

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