I don’t care whether people think one genre is superior to the other.
What I care about is that they are separate genres, in my mind, completely dissimilar to one another.
I am aggravated when I go to bookplace, and find vampires, witches and werewolves in amongst robots and nanotechnology.
It’s irritating to have to wade through all this blather in order to get to what I want.
Just what the heck is SO relentless about this witless Vampire craze anyway? Please end soon!
I’d say they’re shelved together because many writers write in both genres, and because the dividing line between the two is rather indistinct. I wouldn’t want yer average B&N employee deciding whether to shelve a book I might be looking for as one or the other, especially when it comes to authors like China, who make the line mean less and less.
Actually, in my opinion, Science Fiction is really a subgenre of Fantasy. They really aren’t all that dissimilar. They serve the same basic need in readers, but with a different sort of aesthetic.
I have always thought that fantasy and western are strongly linked, but science fiction stands alone.
The core emotion for science fiction is wonder or amazement, and the core question is “what if”.
The core emotion for fantasy and western is Justice, and the core question is “can good overcome evil “.
Horror is a subgenre of fantasy; it is the subset where supernatural forces can overwhelm good.
I disagree with what you call the core emotion and question of fantasy.
I rather think that the point of reading both fantasy and science fiction is to bring that which we can only dream about to life. Because the future is as untouchable to us as the stuff of myth and legend is.
The difference, I would say, is that the future gets here fast, while magic still doesn’t exist and probably never will except in Clarke’s ‘sufficiently advanced technology’ sense. That’s not imply that we won’t be flying around on dragons a hundred years from now, but, if we are, it will be due to science, not magic.
Of course that’s only really applicable to the harder end of SF, as much of the rest really is just fantasy where the fireballs come in cans.
I’m disagreeing too. The core emotion of fantasy is sense of wonder. Tolkeinian quest-fantasy, now, that is framed as good against evil, but there are a zillion classics of the fantasy genre that skip that part and go straight for the sense of wonder.
I’m talking about Bridge of Birds and Lud-in-the-Mist and just about everything written by Dunsany, and, oh wow, let’s go for the BIG names: Alice in Wonderland, for instance. Lilith and Phantastes. And it’s unfair to whack strangers upside the head with Shakespeare, but some of his best are fantasies, remember. Those are old books, but Gaiman’s Sandman series is modern, and it sure isn’t good-versus-evil. And so forth. Mieville’s own work – Perdido Street Station, The Scar – is fantasy, and it works as fantasy because he writes about marvels and wonders.
Agreed, Brendan. Agreed Bridget. Agreed Sarah.
I tend to read particular authors and am happy to follow them across whatever genres they decide to pursue.
Stores which separate SF and fantasy (and perhaps even horror) often tend to get the shelving mixed up and put something in fantasy which should be SF or vice versa. I actually prefer it if they shelf SF, fantasy and horror all together, because it means that I have to search just one big shelf instead of two or three shelves.
But what I particularly dislike are attempts, sometimes prompted by the demands of certain (male) readers, to place urban fantasy and paranormal romance novels on separate shelves or shelve them under some other genre (I’ve found them under romance, erotica or crime fiction). Urban fantasy is fantasy. You may not like it or care to read it, just as I don’t like having to wade through umpteen volumes of Wheel of Time or Shannara or whatever Terry Goodkind’s series is called to find the books I want to read, but urban fantasy belongs on the fantasy (or fantasy and SF) shelves just as much as Wheel of Time.
Terry Goodkind is Shanara, IIRC. Robert Jordan is Wheel of Time, and George R Martin is… Song of Fire and Ice?
That’s all from memory and I am resolutely refusing to open another tab and check. Mock or admire my memory as it deserves.
I’m another one for “there is way too much cross-pollination between SF&F to put them in different sections.” Pern, right off the bat — spaceships and genetically-engineered dragons. Star Wars and Star Trek (Treknology FTW!). On the flip side, Lackey took staples of science fantasy — psionic powers — and dumped them into fantasy-land, with the Heralds and their Empaths, Teleports, Pyrokinetics, Telepaths, and ESPers all rubbing shoulders with Mages.
The genre conventions are often slightly different, but authors happily meander over to different genres and yank the tropes they like. (SF mysteries; fantasy mysteries; Coming Of Age (SF or F); Hero’s Journey; Dystopias; Utopias; Telepathic Bond Critters (hello, Andre Norton!)…)
The main thing that tends to be shared in SF&F and distinguishes a fantasy with a romance in it from a romance set in a fantasy world… is that in SF&F, the world is a “character,” and a SF&F fan will generally insist on a certain amount of worldbuilding and be dissatisfied with anything less. This is probably the difference between Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance, though they blur pretty well — how much wordcount is spent on the Romance vs. the Setting? (With a gray, blurry middle ground, of course.)
Dr. James Gunn, who introduced China here, is the reason KU is a veritable hotbed of science fiction. He founded the Center for the Study of Science Fiction there, and some of the KU teaching staff are SF writers. He is himself a Grand Master of SF, an award granted by the Science Fiction writers of America. He’s kind of a living treasure.
That’s more interesting evidence of the impact that a single teacher can have.
Although he doesn’t do so any more, David Farland, who writes both fantasy and scifi, taught at BYU for a number of years. During that time, Stephenie Meyer, Brandon Sanderson and several other successful professionals in those genres came through the creative writing and English programs.
I can’t remember where I heard this quote from years ago, but I always loved it.
“Fantasy is the dreams of our past while science fiction is the dreams of our future.”
I think that’s part of the reason they tend to get lumped together. I don’t mind that. But I do mind all these crazy sub-genres. It makes me uncertain of how to categorize my work! It’s all so nitpicky now. Do we need this many subgenres? It’s giving me a complex. If I pick the wrong one and a reader feels it’s disingenuous, how will they feel about my work?
Too much to be neurotic about! I don’t need more!
I used to say that one of the things that made the United States different from most other countries was that our popular mythology was about the future, not the past.
I don’t say that anymore, but I still believe that that is the real distinction – not content, but inspiration.
Just pick SF (General) or Fantasy (General), and watch the tags as needed, I’d say, if you don’t go, “Oh, this is clearly X sub-genre.”
I read his The City & The City this year and – quite apart from being absolutely captivated by it, to the extent that I kept waking up in the middle of the night, needing to get on with it – I wouldn’t be able to say what genre it was: SF or Fantasy. Either, neither and it’s such an original and mind bending novel that I didn’t care. Best thing I read this year.
I also loved The City & The City. And it isn’t either SF or Fantasy — it’s Mystery. There’s a crime that needs to be solved: That’s the heart of the book. There are fantastical elements, I admit, but it’s mystery.
China wrote it as a mystery, as part of his goal to write a novel in every “genre” as it were. It’s shelved under SF & F because that’s what he’s known for. If it had been a first novel, it may have been marketed under mystery.
Yeah, genres don’t matter.
Until Mr. Mieville writes a pastoral about shepherds and shepherdesses making pretty compliments to each other while dressed in Dresden outfits, and is shocked that people don’t think pastorals count as fantasy or sf.
Genres don’t matter. Reader expectations do matter.
Of course, I don’t expect to enjoy reading anything fantasy or horror by Mieville, and his attempts at sf in my chosen science field made me laugh and roll my eyes, so his opinion is probably irrelevant except as a general comment on life.
I’d assume that the difference – and they are all relative anyway – is that Fantasy takes its inspiration from the past, while Science Fiction ruminates on possible futures …
Genres only matter to sellers. If one legged pirate porn became popular, sellers would create a genre for it and authors would write similar works to cash in, but I think as writers it’s our job to transcend genre and write an entertaining work that reflects the truths of life.
Genres matter to readers too. It’s how we find other authors that we might like. There’s an expectation that the books shelved in the genre meet the characteristics of the genre. Readers get irritated when books classified in the genre do not meet that expectation.
I’d say genres matter at least as much to readers as writers; obviously writers want to ensure their books are placed on the shelf where the readers who want to read them will be looking, but readers are more concerned that, say, they don’t have to wade through a mass of vampire romance novels to find actual horror stories.
Genre selection, often done by publishers, is simply an aid to the person doing the shelving in the store. The metadata around ebooks can contain three genre selections. MOST publishers pick one or two, seldom three. We use the genre selections to group ebooks in our store, and wish that Publishers and Self-Published Authors would use all three slots. It improves discover-ability of the ebook.
Smashwords and Amazon — unless they’ve changed recently — only allow 2 genre designations. I would imagine that if you’re not heavily promoting that you have 3, self-pubbed authors may not notice the difference. Publishers may have only prepped for 2, as well, if that many.
(As a self-pubbing author, your “cost to publish” at your site will have to compete with “free; takes 20% of net*/30%**”… Just so’s you know. The idea that one might have to pay just to appear in the catalog is very off-putting. I hope that’s just an infelicity of the FAQ phrasing.)
[* Smashwords; always nice to get over 80 cents for a 99c short story, if someone bought enough that the PayPal fees spread out over the purchase lightly! And 54c instead of 35c is also sweet. ** Amazon, in many markets. ]
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