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Science Fantasy

What is Science Fantasy?

As fantasy fiction becomes more focused on contemporary environments, as opposed to medieval and ancient worlds, technology plays an increasingly important role in the stories. This evolution brings more Science Fantasy into the fold, just in time to meet the audience bemoaning a slowing-down of Science Fiction.

Striking sparks between science and fantasy yields some very exciting work that appeal to a wide range of readers both young and old. Many of us find enough magic in science itself to hold our interest; add some fantasy elements to keep it light and entertaining (and resolve some of the frustrating limitations of a real-world discipline), and this could become a major sub-genre that hooks people young and keeps them avidly interested for a long time to come. It doesn't hurt that the form could be a force to correct some of the technology ignorance social critics have been bemoaning recently, if youngsters hooked on this genre expand their field to include science fiction..

The distinction between science fiction and science fantasy is a bit fuzzy, but it's helpful to think of it like this: science fiction has the obligation to explain according to known laws of physics and nature or acceptable extensions of them; science fantasy has no such obligation. A portable “cloaking device” in a science fiction story (not possible at this time, but theoretically possible given certain technological advances) may have its fantasy equivalent in a magic ring turned on the finger three times 'round. So the effect is the same—what's different is the atmosphere evoked: fantasy, not science.

This is not to say science/technology per se don't exist in this fiction—many times they are portrayed in conjunction with or opposition to the power of magic.


Science Fantasy Characteristics

  • Level of Magic

    Magic is prominent in this sub-genre, but it may be set up in conjunction with, or in opposition or juxtaposition to “real” science and technology. These joinings and divergences may create harmony or lead to havoc, depending on the storyline.

  • Level of Characterization

    Varies greatly depending on the story. There may be many or few characters, stock types or richly detailed.

  • Level of Plot Complexity

    Also a large variety here, with technology taking a minor or major role. Dedicated fantasy readers may find it difficult to deal with some stories that include a lot of science/technology.

  • Level of Violence

    The level of violence and sex is highly variable. The stories themselves can lead anywhere and embrace any theme found in the other sub-genres, their cohesiveness provided only by the melding of science and fantasy.

Related Fantasy Subgenres



Science Fantasy Isn’t For You If...

The definition of “Fantasy” excludes science and technology.

Popular Science Fantasy Books