What Is Science Fantasy?

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Everyone knows about science fiction and fantasy, but what about science fantasy? This is another one of those hybrid genres within speculative fiction that don’t strictly follow science fiction or fantasy rules. However, this hybrid speculative genre utilizes various tropes and ideas that both science fiction and fantasy often use, meaning it’s super easy to be creative and come up with new story ideas. But how do you write in this genre? What aspects of science fiction and fantasy often come into play? Check out the article below to find out!

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On the surface, science fantasy appears to have multiple definitions. For example, this genre can be a combination of science fiction and fantasy. With both of these genres, a major writing task involves worldbuilding, either creating an entirely new world from scratch or at least a world based on our own with different attributes. Science fiction mostly focuses on worlds that adhere to the natural laws of science, physics, mathematics, and other “hard” sciences. Fantasy, on the other hand, often focuses on the fantastical, magical, or the supernatural. One links to reality, while the other does not. Science fantasy takes both the fantastical and the scientific and places them both in the same world. This is mostly done by:

Examining tropes from both science fiction and fantasy: Science fiction and fantasy both contain lots of tropes, like the Chosen One for fantasy or the antagonistic aliens for sci-fi. These tropes that are normally reserved for just one genre can all appear in a sci-fi fantasy story.

Creating new kinds of science: This genre also plays with the idea of fiction science and the fantastical aspect. Usually in sci-fi, the science stems from what we already know to be true. Unbreakable laws such as physics and mathematics come into play. But in this genre fictional science is popular. This science wouldn’t work when applied to reality (similar to soft science).

Basing the fantastical on the scientific: Additionally, while this genre might focus on fantasy elements, these elements often have a scientific reason for existing in the world. To explain a magic system in this genre, for example, would involve a logical and scientific explanation that theoretically makes sense. It may not work in the real world, but it does in yours.

Since this genre focuses on science fiction and fantasy, it requires examining tropes from both genres. Take a look at the typical characteristics of sci-fi and fantasy and ask yourself: how can I combine these elements in different ways to create a unique story? How can I put a new and exciting spin on these tropes?

Fantasy: dragons, magic, the Chosen One, kingdoms and monarchs, supernatural and mythical creatures

Science fiction: robots, aliens, time travel, advanced technology such as teleportation and nanotech, space travel

These are just some of the characteristics of these genres. If you want an even larger list, check out this link for sci-fi and this link for fantasy.

When you prepare a science fantasy story, you need to be mindful of what makes sci-fi sci-fi and what makes fantasy fantasy. However, you shouldn’t let those tropes drive the story. Additionally, make sure the major aspects of your story such as your setting and your characters enhance your sci-fi and fantasy elements. These characteristics shouldn’t just appear out of nowhere. Each new idea you introduce should be integral to the story in some way. Ask yourself: how does my setting use technology and magic in a believable way? How do my characters live in the world I created?

When you write science fantasy, basic techniques that are commonly practiced for both science fiction and fantasy should come into play. As always, you can be creative and push the boundaries of genre a little. There’s no hard and fast rule. And this is the reason why so many hybrid genres in speculative fiction exist! But if you want to start focusing on this genre, be sure to:

Focus on magic and science: Whether you want to create a magic system or focus on the hard sciences, this will be a huge part of your worldbuilding. Establish how you want your fictional science system to work, however you devise it, before you start writing. That way, the integral part of your science fantasy story is already established, and you can tweak it later if you need to. Also, make sure the fantasy and sci-fi aspects work together. Don’t make it into two different stories.

Determine what tropes to examine and subvert: Before you begin writing, you should research different tropes so you know what traps to fall into. Because a story that relies on tropes falls flat. However, you can still put them to good use. A good story subverts the tropes it’s been given in a believable and unique way. Putting a spin on science fiction and fantasy tropes in your story will help your work stay fresh and let it stand out from the rest. It will also aid you in creating a unique world when you take the typical speculative characteristics and try something different with them.

Create a world that works: Obviously, you want your worldbuilding to make sense. Each system you devise or the society you create should follow certain rules. Break those rules and you cause trouble. When combining science fiction and fantasy, make sure that the science and fantasy work together to create a believable world. Base your fictional science on something plausible, or make the supernatural logical in a believable way.

Ready to start writing? Feel free to tell me about any projects you have down below for some encouragement! Until next week, happy writing!

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