Science Fantasy?

A while ago my book club was deciding what the next sci-fi read was going to be, and we decided to use an online random number generator to choose from our list of book suggestions (that were numbered from 1 to 46).

It turns out the randomly selected number was 9, which corresponded to “A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe” by Alex White. A member who has read it before mentioned that it was Science Fantasy. So we pondered: “Should it be classified as a science fiction or fantasy read”? This dilemma sparked conversations, particularly because we like to alternate our monthly picks between sci-fi and fantasy.

The definition of Science Fantasy, as complied by Wikipedia is:

Science fantasy is a hybrid genre within speculative fiction that simultaneously draws upon or combines tropes and elements from both science fiction and fantasy.

Pretty broad, huh?

So some might say that Star Wars is Science Fantasy, while others will think that Star Trek can also be Science Fantasy, and not good old hard Sci-Fi.

I wasn’t familiar with this sub-genre, but the description reminded me a little bit of the 80’s movie called Krull” from 1983. There are swords and lasers. And magic, or magical things happening. It’s an interesting mixture of medieval and space themes, because there are also aliens!

And then I reminded myself that I have read a Science Fantasy book before: the classic “Dragonflight (Dragonriders of Pern #1) by Anne McCaffrey, first published in 1967. This one has dragons, and magic and space travel. I only read the first book, but it is at least a trilogy.

Looking at all the books I’ve read, I can probably spot only 2 or 3 books that are clearly Science Fantasy. And from the reviews I wrote back then, I’m not a super fan of this sub-genre. But I remember when I was a kid I loved that movie Krull, and I also loved its soundtrack (which I still might have in MP3 format somewhere).

So, do I like Science Fantasy or not?

I guess for me it depends on the tone. I’d prefer a fantasy book, set in a medieval-ish inspired world that has some advanced technology in it, rather than a full-on sci-fi book with spaceships and some magic. The book I mentioned above (“A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe”) is in the latter category and the magic in it disturbed my suspension of disbelief. I had to disregard the magic elements to enjoy the story (which was fun, by the way!).

In our book club discussion, we discovered the complexity in categorizing works that draw from both futuristic technology and mystical elements. There was no final consensus. And the guy who only reads sci-fi, for instance, hated this sub-genre. It’s not for everybody.

Science Fantasy is a thing. It’s one of those interesting genre mashups and I think it’s hard to do it well (based on my personal preference). It’s that unique intersection between science fiction and fantasy, where the boundaries blur and possibilities are limitless.

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.