Tuesday, 15 May 2007

SciFi v Fantasy

One of my favourite nerdy podcasts recently gave some nice definitions for Science Fiction and Fantasy:

• Science Fiction concerns the human consequences of science and technology.

• Fantasy concerns the creation of alternate universes separate from our own.

The point was that the dipshits getting dressed up for conventions are Fantasy fans trying to immerse themselves in their alternate worlds.

I quite like these definitions; mainly because they put Star Wars, for all its abuse of SciFi tropes, clearly in the realm of Fantasy.

Most literary SciFi and Fantasy from the mid-20th century would fit snugly into one or other of these categories, but your modern genre piece can be a little harder to define. Star Trek sits somewhere in between, being an alternate universe filled with the consequences of scientific and technological development. Same with Stargate. And Battlestar Galactica.

Based on these definitions, I think the purest modern SciFi is Firefly. It's the only one set squarely in our universe, in our potential future, arising from our technological advances. And there aren't any aliens with crinkly foreheads.

But apparently the number of browncoats seen at recent conventions really blows the "Fantasy fans are the kooks" argument out of the water.


Shannon said...


Matt said...

Browncoats are Firefly fanboys. They get dressed up in brown coats, you see.

Spoon said...

I dunno. Bagactica, for all its faults, doesn't have much in the way of wrinkly foreheads and alternate universe ideas, beyond its basic premise. The plots themselves are all about "the human consequences of science and technology". It's what the cylons are.
The characters are human, and the enemy is a result of human technology (The cylons are no more fantastical that the ship Serenity or the Reavers).
The only fantastical element is the idea that these people actually exist, and that Earth was colonised by them.
The definition seems a little too neat (and it does seem a perfect way for one nerd to distinguish himself from what he sees as the more embarrassing nerd).
You can call Firefly sci-fi (and it certainly is), but if they ever met up with an alien it would suddenly become fantasy? (OK obviously, even if the series were still continuing, it would be hard to imagine that that would happen)
Likewise if Bagactica was simply set in our future, there was no search for the mysterious planet "Earth", no colonies, no Kobol, just people struggling with the cylons, you would call that pure Sci-Fi? Because when it comes down to it the whole searching for earth thing is a very very minor part of the plot. minuscule. You could watch all of season 3 (except perhaps the last 6 episodes which I still haven't watched) and not realise that that was what was happening.

If, let's say, we discover life on another planet, does that mean that Star Trek, Stargate and Bagactica (by your definition) would suddenly switch from being Fantasy to Sci-Fi?

I think perhaps my point is that when you're talking about a serial or series, this definition needs to be expanded a little to apply to the main driving force of the series. Star Trek would be nothing without the aliens. The ships and the technology is flobotnom that allows them to meet up with aliens.
Bagactica on the other hand, is not about the alternate universe. Take that away and you would have exactly the same show. It's about the humans fighting with the cylons, their creation. It's about the human consequences of science and technology.

(One day soon I'll try and post a positive comment on your blog, honest. And maybe also keep it short. I like Shannon's style: succinct and yet remarkably eloquent. Perhaps this is my Clayton's blogging experience. "Oh no, I don't blog. I would never blog. (I just regularly post blog length responses on other people's blogs)".
And look at me, defending Bagactica... I must be up for an argument.)

Budge said...

My suspicion too is that the browncoats, such as they are, are members of the whedonverse, which by your somewhat problematic definitions, is firmly rooted in the fantasy genre. While i don't think that firefly takes place in the same universe as buffy, i do think that the inner 'verse the fans inhabit contains both.

And I say it's a problematic definition, simply because my brother, in reading this would smile, go "NEEEEeeeeerrrrrrrddddd", and then giggle until he was red in the face.

Then he'd go and watch some firefly.

Matt said...

I agree it's a problematic definition.

As Robb pointed out, its main use is to allow one set of nerds to mock another set of nerds. (This was actually pointed out to the guy that made the original comment with words: "So the SciFi _you_ don't like is Fantasy".

I also take your point about Bagactica. I was thinking about the metaphysical aspects of the show (the religion, the prophecies etc) but it's entirely likely that even they will be given a scientific/technological explanation in the next season.

Ty said...

I like internet

Shannon said...

Oh my freaking God it is like a nerd bomb has exploded here.

Spoon said...

Sorry Shannon, but a blog comment is entirely the wrong forum to claim that "youse guys are all such nerds".
While I wouldn't normally call you a nerd, you are posting... on a blog. It a case of the pot throwing a stone at a glass house, if you ask me.