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OK I want help with this from my F’list

I know I ask this question quite often (at least I do in real life I don’t know if I’ve ever asked here before)

How do you define the following:


Science Fiction


I think of my self as being a fan of “modern mythic fantasy” in fact that is how I would classify what I write. I like thinking about, seeing, reading and writing about the areas that magic (or the supernatural) rub up against the ‘real world’. I think that is interesting maybe I’m weird…

I guess I should put up my definitions. I would normally just use the term ‘speculative fiction’ I stay away from these categories if at all possible

Fantasy includes magic – if it has magic in it it’s a fantasy (by this definition Star Wars is fantasy – I have a VERY long answer to that but the short answer is that Star Wars is Epic Mythic Fantasy and very dependant on the work of Joseph Cambell )

Science Fiction – the heart of science fiction is science. Both the writer and the reader need to have a good base in the science in question. I find Sci fi difficult to read – mostly because most of what I end up picking up isn’t very well written. Corwaner Smith was always my fav sci fi – but I have a degree in biotechnology and so most of the scifi I enjoy is biologically based.

Horror – I have no flipping idea here. To me most horror is in reality fantasy written in a style to creep the reader (viewer) out. To me Horror is a style, not a category of it’s own. When I look at a movie that is released as ‘horror’ I generally see re-tellings of the folk stories that we have put away over the years. The stories of transformation and being lost in the woods that we don’t tell our children any more. When we loose the stories they have to be retold.

I don’t know – maybe I’m missing the point here. Maybe I’m totally off base (I normally am I believe). Anyway I’d love to know what everyone else thinks.


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 14th, 2006 01:19 am (UTC)
Totally with you on your definitions of fantasy and sci-fi (which I find difficult to read as well, darn it!).

As far as horror goes, it's a lot more subjective, I think. Different things frighten different people. Sometimes horror can be entirely realistic with no fantasy elements (stories about human brutality like serial killers, stalkers, etc. and things like that), and other times it's extremely rooted in fantasy, science fiction, etc. I consider it a genre of its own, but it's a genre that's a bit of a mishmash of other genres, really. It's a bit like the mutt of the literary and film world, heh.

As for your professed affinity for things in which normal life and supernatural/mythic elements collide, if liking that makes you a bit weird, then we can be a pair of odd folk together, because I adore that as well. I think that's why I love Neil Gaiman's writing so much, because he can beautifully blend the two together. Whether it be cautionary folklore like in "The White Road", classic Arthurian elements in "Chivalry", or flat-out mythological figures in "American Gods", he always finds some way to blur the line.

Anyways, there's my two cents...though it ended up a bit more like two dollars, heh.
Mar. 14th, 2006 01:29 am (UTC)
It seems to me (not that I'm an expert on it by far) that most slasher (non fantisy) horror seems draw dirctly from folk stories as well (think Hansel and Grettle, or even parts of Cinderella - her sisters cut off their toes!)

If I was gonna try a Neil Gaiman novle - what should I start with? I've read sevral of his short stories, but a friend said I should try his longer peices. What woudl you sugest?
Mar. 14th, 2006 01:44 am (UTC)
A very good point, there. Thinking back to horror films and stories I've read in the past, many are drawn from sort of folk roots. Hm...something to think about, heh.

As for Gaiman...hm. Well, if you like his short stories and story poems than I'd definitely suggest his entire Smoke & Mirrors anthology, if you haven't already read it. "The White Road" is in there, as is "Chivalry", along with all sorts of assorted goodies, lol.

As for his novels, I've currently only had a chance to read American Gods and Neverwhere, both of which are fantastic. American Gods has a lot of mythological elements, and I'd have to say it's my favorite of the two. As soon as I can snag his other novels, Stardust and his latest one, Anansi Boys I can give you a bit more variety in my rec, hehe. He also collaberated on a book called Good Omens with Terry Pratchett, who I noticed you have listed in your interests, so perhaps you'd like that one as well. Hope that was of a bit of help, at least!
Mar. 14th, 2006 01:47 am (UTC)
I've read smoke and mirrors, people have siad I should try American Gods or Anansi Boys - I have Good Omens but haven't read it yet.
Mar. 14th, 2006 01:53 am (UTC)
Yeah, I'd definitely recommend American Gods. Anansi Boys I'm waiting on to be released in paperback (what can I say, I'm a bit of a cheapskate), so I can't be much help there.
Mar. 14th, 2006 12:09 pm (UTC)
LOL I am too
Mar. 14th, 2006 02:37 am (UTC)
Fantasy: i agree with the magic. and there's also swords and mythical beasts, like dragons, unicorns... and different races, elves and dwarves are common. (hobbits, kender, gnomes, and trolls could be other races in fantasy novels). things are done (in our mind) as they were in the Middle Ages, horses are used, things are more simple.

Science Fiction: yep, need the science part. in my mind, straight-up scifi would be on another planet or on a space station, in the future, where the world seems to have some sorts of technology base.

Horror: to quote my favourite horror writer, H.P. Lovecraft: "The true weird tale has something more than secret murder, bloody bones, or a sheeted form clanking chains according to rule. A certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces must be present; and there must be a hint, expressed with a seriousness and portentousness becoming its subject, of that most terrible conception of the human brain -- a malign and particular suspension or defeat of those fixed laws of Nature which are our only safeguard against the assaults of chaos ... of unplumbed space." (from Supernatural Horror in Literature).

Also, in the worlds of Dean Koontz and Stephen King, and to some extent Ken Follett, what makes it horror (taken from the word "horrible"?) is that their worlds are so like this one, but something is different, a law of nature has been changed to allow these horrific yet awesome creatures, or beings to exist... and i agree with you that it is a style of writing, stories like Urban Legends designed to teach a lesson by scaring the crap out of you. there is a sub-genre of the horror movie -- the slasher flick, in which one or two people are left alive... there is no basis for this, other than it's fun to see how many different ways a lunatic can kill people! LOL.

(does this answer your questions?)
Mar. 14th, 2006 12:21 pm (UTC)

I'm not sure I would agree with Fantisy haveing to be mideavle - much fantisy (at this point) is Modern - the first example I can think of is Harry Potter (but I have better examples - but less popular)

And I still say the slasher flic his it's roots in the english folk storeis (blue beard, the White Road, the Oxford scholer) or maybe I shoudl say 'people have been writing slasher fic in English for 800 years?'

I'm interested to know where I fall as a writer. Or I should say where other people think I fall. I woudl say by your defintions I woudl fall firmly in horror - I have fantastic beasts and all, it's moddern, but I don't write to frighten...

Mar. 15th, 2006 03:01 am (UTC)
well, i guess alot of the fantasy i've read (minus Harry Potter) seems to have a "Medieval feel" to it. dunno, it was a thought.

if you don't write to frighten, then it's not horror. fantastic beasts would make it fantasy, IMO.
Mar. 15th, 2006 11:57 am (UTC)
I get a lot of "it has werewolves it's horror" I don't write to frighten, because it is very difficult to frigthen me (the last movie that frightened me was Silance of the Lambs when I saw it in the theiter - comes to that the only flinch I've had from Supernatural was that shadow beast rakeing Sam across the face - and that wasn't frightend it was more like 'i don't want to see you hurt him' a silly emotional responce)
Mar. 15th, 2006 12:30 am (UTC)
gee I seem to have woken up as a B*&^h today... LOL
Mar. 15th, 2006 03:00 am (UTC)
it's ok :)
Mar. 15th, 2006 11:53 am (UTC)
I strat days that way soemtimes...LOL
Mar. 14th, 2006 01:57 pm (UTC)
I mostly agree with your definitions, though, I would add a few bits, as well.

In my mind, Fantasy includes special abilities of an organic nature, rather than those based on technology. These abilities include magic, telekenesis, telepathy, empathy, etc. Quintessential Fantasy novels include the Deryni series by Katherine Kurtz, the Avalon series by Marion Zimmer Bradley, and the Pern series by Anne McCaffrey.

Science Fiction is firmly based on technology, though it may well appear magical at times. Remember what Arthur C. Clarke said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Definitive Sci-Fi authors include Heinlein, Asimov, Anne McCaffrey's Crystal Line series, and Arthur C. Clarke (of course!).

There are two other categories that I use to fill the spaces around both Fantasy and Sci-Fi. One is Magical Realism and the other is Science Fantasy.

Science Fantasy at first blush seems like it ought to be Sci-Fi. It's in space, people are using lasers and flying in space ships, etc. but, technology is used as a tool, it's not really explained. There may well be some of the more magical aspects of Fantasy stuffed in as well. Star Wars and the Darkover series by Marion Zimmer Bradley are example of Science Fantasy.

Magical realism (see Wikipedia for a detailed explanation) is where magical just fits into everyday, modern life. The way magic is treated in Harry Potter as well as Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series, makes me want to classify both of them as magical realism. They have aspects of Fantasy (and Horror) but really take place in the here and now, not some time in the future, the past, or some other reality all together.

Can't talk about Horror, as I don't like it, (too scary/gorey) and don't read it.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )