Science Fiction and Fantasy. What is the Difference?

Applied Science and technology are central to the Science Fiction genre. Science Fiction is also called Speculative Fiction because it is written with the question in mind, “What if?” (Seed 2). Common settings are: Earth, near space, or the interior of the Earth, and narratives may emphasize historical or political events. Narratives may also be spiritual (Star Wars), and even didactic in some cases. Protagonists can be human or alien (Films: E.T. the Extraterrestrial and District 9.)

Science Fiction may be set in dystopian or utopian societies (Snowpiercer and The Hunger Games series.) Often, a narrative can begin with a utopian society that actually turns out to be dystopian for some of the characters involved (Films: Elysium, and After Earth.) Dystopian narratives can fall under the Post-Apocalyptic fiction genre (The Road), but there are differences still between Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic fiction (See Prairie State Library resources for further details.) Post-Apocalyptic fiction is usually set in a world after some catastrophic event.

On the other hand, Fantasy authors often construct worlds of their imagination (Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series.) Think dragons, fairies, and witches ( A Game of Thrones.) Fantasy can also include darker, more horrific characters such as orcs, vampires or werewolves (Interview with the Vampire and True Blood: The Sookie Stackhouse series.)

Both genres can include elements of the other, and rely heavily on the tension between the light and dark nature of existence.

Want to read from the Science Fiction or Fantasy genre? Want to use this as a research topic? Prairie State Library has the resources that you need!

Source: Seed, David. Science Fiction: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. Print.

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