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Science Fantasy Science Fiction

What is Science Fantasy?

Science Fiction has long tried to separate itself Fantasy with a division between magic and science. However, Science Fantasy is a hybrid sub-genre that embraces both genres and creates a magical futuristic world. Science Fantasy was first popular in the 1930s and 1940s and incorporated a definite soft science; this type of Science Fantasy altered or ignored scientific laws or theories in favour of the story. But, Science Fantasy can exist in other forms as well. For example, science can be so well developed that it begins to simulate magic, or characters who possess psychic abilities that resemble magic, or simply that magic and science both exist and work.

There is a tremendous amount of variability in the Science Fantasy sub-genre precisely because the mix of magic and science permits much freedom for writers to create truly imaginative worlds, characters, and plots.

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Other Features of Science Fantasy Science Fiction

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  • Level of Real Science

    Low.These stories blend magic and science or abandon scientific theory all together. There is sometimes an explanation of how dragons exist in the world, but the science is rarely the focus. A story may setup science and magic in opposition to one another or working together, which has a great effect on the storyline. Science Fantasy is more focused on story than explaining technology or abilities.

  • Level of Grand Ideas/Social Implications

    Variable. Science Fantasy is not a sub-genre focused on social commentary or exploring ideas, but that does not mean that it is unable to. Writers may choose to explore ideas in a fantasy world or they may choose to explore their imaginations in story form.

  • Level of Characterization

    Variable. There is an opportunity for writers to develop well rounded characters, but because there is limitless potential in this sub-genre, writers may use stock characters and instead focus on the fantastical elements of the world.

  • Level of Plot Complexity

    Variable. Science Fantasy worlds tend to be complex so plots taking place in these worlds may be similarly complex, or plots can take a backseat to world building.

  • Level of Violence

    Variable. Again, because writers of Science Fantasy stories have great freedom the story possibilities are endless and violence may or may not be a part of that story.

Related Science Fiction subgenres

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    Science Fantasy grew out of the Speculative Fiction sub-genre, a genre where postulating a future world or a world very different from ours is the goal. Science Fantasy is an open sub-genre, writers are free to explore the themes and include the characteristics of most other sub-genres. One of the main criteria of course is the inclusion of some sort of magic or power that's outside of "science.

  • Some of the grand spaceship vs spaceship battles, warrior princes, princesses in distress, space empire vs. empire that take place in Science Fantasies (think Star Wars) are sometimes staples of Space Opera and Space Westerns.

  • The Sword and Planet subgenre is highly related to Science Fantasy with the rules of science not very well defined or not at all or magic sometimes existing along with technology.

  • Dying Earth. There are a number of books in this genre that are considered Science Fantasy. The rules of the world in Dying Earth fiction are so far removed from today's world that they can be a merge of fantasy and science fiction.

Science Fantasy isn't for you if...

You like hard science. If the possibility of time travel and spell casting occurring in the same scene is upsetting to you, Science Fantasy is not for you.

Popular Science Fantasy Books
  • 1 A Game of Universe


    By Eric S. Nylund. An assassin can cast spells and travel through space.

  • 2 The Family Tree


    By Sheri S. Tepper. A story that includes time travel, genetic engineering, and wizards.

  • 3 Dragonrider


    By Anne McCaffrey. A series where an alien reptile species has been genetically engineered to be dragons who breathe fire and communicate telepathically.

  • 4 Darkover


    By Marion Zimmer Bradley. A planet where industry is based on the psychic powers of its inhabitants.

  • 5 Barsoom


    By Edgar Rice Burroghs. A series of novels that take place on Mars, but the stories alter or ignore known scientific laws and theories in favour of the story.

  • 6 Lord Darcy


    By Randall Garrett. An alternate history novel where magic is a scientific discipline and has had an interesting impact on the advancement of science and technology.

  • 7 The Book of the New Sun


    By Gene Wolfe A award winning series of four novels that follows the journey of a torturer through a Dying Earth storyline. An interesting mix of sword and sorcery fantasy with ray-guns and aliens.

  • 8 Coldfire Trilogy


    By Celia S. Friedman. Influenced by Isaac Asimov, the magical force in these novels is derived from natural forces and governed by consistent rules, a force that humans must learn to control.

  • 9 A Wrinkle in Time


    By Madeleine L'Engle. An award winning novel with a history of controversy over witches and crystal balls. This is a young adult novel—the first in a four part series—where science and fantasy coexist to create a story worthy of study.

  • 10 Lord of Light


    By Roger Zelazny. Humans have colonized another planet where immortalizing technology exsists. This novel combines many elements: Buddhism, Indian myth, Greek myth, and advanced technology that is indistinguishable from magic.