Welcome to our All About Sub-Genre Series in which we discuss the ins and outs of various corners of the broader fantasy market.
Today author/editor Arielle Bailey stops by to bring us into the broad world of Science Fantasy.
Many and varied are the genres in which I love to read and write, but there are only a few that carry the title of Favorite for me. Science Fantasy is one of those few.
What IS it?
Picture a female technological engineer with magenta hair, dressed in a sleek, dark blue, futuristically-styled uniform, walking down the aisle next to a prince with long, blond hair like Thor, wearing a uniform and sash that you've seen on a dozen Prince Charmings, and carrying a sword. Now picture them deciding to settle a new planet with the best of both of their worlds, to give their children the ideal home.
Dramatic, perhaps, but that’s essentially Science Fantasy.
In Science Fiction, the story world you’re portraying has to be explainable according to the laws of science as we know them, or as we can reasonably project they will change in the future, based on what we do know now.
In Fantasy, the sky is the limit and one can do anything they want without needing it to conform to our known natural laws.
Well, what happens when you want to write a story grounded in science but you want to change some natural laws or make up new ones? Or when you want to take traditional Fantasy archetypal characters and put them into a Science Fiction world? Or traditional Sci-fi archetypes and put them into a Fantasy setting?
THAT is why we have Science Fantasy, in which the (well-written) novels are a delightfully perfect blend of science and magic.
Why should I write it?
Chiefly, because you want to, or because the story you’re writing is best told in that genre.
There is no rule for how much of each half to include in good science fantasy. Some of it is based in a fantasy world with scientific elements, some has a scientific base with fantasy elements added, still others blend the two types in a 40/60 or 50/50 ratio.
The key is balancing your chosen percentages well enough that it feels cohesive and neither the magic nor the science (or any other element) feels like an afterthought.
A few notes:
On abbreviations: I have most commonly seen Science Fantasy abbreviated Sci-fy, in imitation of the abbreviation Sci-fi for Science Fiction. Technically, Science Fantasy should be shortened sci-fa or sci-fan to follow the technical convention of abbreviating with the first few letters. Whichever abbreviation you choose to use– if you choose to use any– know that Sci-fy is the most common.
On Publishers: Many traditional publishing companies don’t consider science fantasy an official genre, and therefore sort a book into either sci-fi or fantasy. This means that you might encounter books which are technically science fantasy but have been published either as science fiction or fantasy.
Examples of Science Fantasy in current media?
The John Carter of Mars series (which is usually further classified into Planetary Romance or Sword and Planet), Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover, and Roger Zelazny’s Roadmarks.
Also, STAR WARS. This saga is a shining example of science fantasy; so much so, that I’m going to give you a mini-breakdown of how it exemplifies the genre.
Chosen One: Luke Skywalker, Anakin Skywalker (an argument can be made for this not being solely a fantasy archetype, but it occurs most often in fantasy)
Dark Lord: Palpatine/the Emperor
Knights who fight for right and justice and truth: The Jedi
Two sides of a magical/supernatural Force power available to certain people born with the ability to handle it: Light Side vs. Dark Side of the Force, users being Jedi vs. Sith
Science Fiction elements:
Space and the means of traveling in it
Multiple planetary worlds
Starships that work scientifically/on basic engineering principles.
Droids AKA robots
Even the planets alternate between fantasy and futuristic atmospheres; Kamino feels very science fiction-y, whereas Naboo strongly reminds one of futuristic fantasy.
The blend of science fiction and fantasy can be summed up best in a single item: lightsabers. Swords are a staple of fantasy, but Star Wars made these swords scientific. One must use an energy crystal to power them, and they are built by each individual to their own specifications. But, in the true tradition of fantasy, one goes on a quest for their crystal and knows it when it (basically) calls out to them.
In many ways, it’s the Holy Grail of Science Fantasy, being a perfect blend of Science Fiction and Fantasy woven into an epic story that continues to enthrall people of all ages.
If you are a writer who is having a hard time writing Science Fiction without adding fantasy elements, or Fantasy without adding Sci-fi elements… why confine yourself to either genre? Join the side that trumps both the Light and Dark Sides and become more powerful than you can imagine… dun dun DUUUUN.
If you’re a reader who loves both Science Fiction and Fantasy, check out these Science Fantasy books by FoF authors.
Reading since age four, Arielle Bailey is on a lifelong quest for excellent fiction. From her valley in the Rocky Mountains, she recommends stacks of books to anyone wanting new reading material, critiques books published and unpublished, gives advice on creative writing, edits books for clients, and pounds out long novels set in genres as diverse as political thriller to historical fantasy.
Connect with Arielle Bailey
You can find her creative writing advice: https://intuitivewritingguide.wordpress.com/
Hire her for affordable editing and critiquing: https://abaileyediting.wordpress.com/
Find out what she’s writing, thinking, and reading : http://thesplendorfalls.blogspot.com/
Or follow her eclectic collection of Pinterest boards: https://www.pinterest.com/melodymuffin/
Check out these Science Fantasy Titles from The Fellowship of Fantasy
A blog about all things fantasy from the elements we all love to how to write it. Posts are from our very own Fellowship of Fantasy authors.