Simon Fraser abaddon at nextcentury.com.au
Fri Sep 1 04:51:57 EDT 2000

Just off the top of my head, as a smartass example that crosses the lines of SF
and fantasy. Icarus and Dadelus?


Melissa Proffitt wrote:

> The whole issue of splitting SF and fantasy is fascinating to me, and for
> some reason I've been hearing about it from several different sources
> lately.  The one that matters was a post on the Reading for the Future list
> by a person who was griping about "magic as technology", who wrote (among
> other things) that he wanted fantasy to make him suspend his disbelief, that
> it shouldn't fall back on the physical laws as we know them.  He
> specifically mentioned conservation of mass for shapeshifters, which is what
> made me stop because I knew I'd read something recently that did this but
> couldn't remember the title....anyway.
> I don't have a neat definition of SF or fantasy either.  Ven's comments on
> "world" versus "planet" seem intuitively right, because so often in fantasy
> the inhabitants have no sense of anything beyond their own world, or even
> that they live on a planet at all.  But I suspect that some of the
> difficulty with such definitions happens because you can have a discussion
> about what writers *have* done in the past that may not be relevant to what
> writers *could* do in the future.  Trying to define fantasy by existing
> works isn't proscriptive at all, or shouldn't be.  And probably the most
> groundbreaking work in speculative fiction will be done by people who say
> "but why can't fantasy exist on a planet in a universe?"  I imagine Charles
> de Lint's brand of urban fantasy came about in this way, and Brust's Taltos
> novels (let's hear it for _Issola_, due out next April!)
> But the fact that we can still recognize, if only by instinct, that
> something is fantasy suggests to me that there is *some* underlying
> principle that defines it.  I suspect it has to do with the nature of the
> otherworldliness in a book.  As a reader, I don't much care if I can
> specifically define science fiction or fantasy, but as a writer I think it
> matters very much.  There is a difference between science fiction and
> fantasy (this is for you, Simon, and I love your reading of _Time City_!)
> that is separate from the idea of internal consistency in adherence to its
> laws.  A friend of mine who actually did his master's thesis on Tolkien, and
> is way more informed on the subject than I am (at least in the sense of
> knowing the vocabulary), gave me his take on it a while ago:  that which is
> fantasy delves into the specifically mythical or archetypal, while SF uses a
> more "scientific" approach.  Both are answering the question "what if?" but
> with different metaphors and images.  And before you say "but doesn't that
> mean they are the same thing in different clothes?" let me add that it
> *makes a difference* which language you choose for the story you're telling.
> I am trying to think of an example of the same story told from both
> traditions, but it's late and the baby is fussing.  Fairy tale would be a
> good one, as that's a popular genre these days, but I can't think of any
> modern retellings that I wouldn't classify as fantastical.
> But it's too late for me to think properly; I will have to wait for all of
> you to point out the holes in this argument before I can figure out what I
> really think.  :)
> Melissa Proffitt
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