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Go Back   The Trek BBS > Entertainment & Interests > Science Fiction & Fantasy

Science Fiction & Fantasy Farscape, Babylon 5, Star Wars, Firefly, vampires, genre books and film.

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Old September 23 2012, 05:19 PM   #1
Gotham Central
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Is fantasy more popular than science fiction? If so why?

Looking at popular fiction of late, one cannot help but notice that Fantasy based stories seem to have larger audiences than science fiction. Why do you think that is?

One thing that I have noticed is that of the two genres fantasy does seem to draw a larger female audience. Thus is its popularity based more on the fact that it is easier to draw both men and women to fantasy tales where as, in general, science fiction has a harder time drawing in a female audience?

Star Wars is probably the most popular "science fiction" franchise out there (just ahead of Star Trek) and yet it is basically a traditional fantasy tale with some scifi elements.

Why does science fiction seem to struggle to capture the popular imagination yet fantasy thrives?
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Old September 23 2012, 06:53 PM   #2
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Re: Is fantasy more popular than science fiction? If so why?

I've noticed the gender split between fantasy and sci fi, too, but there's also a gender split by media. Movies and video games tend to be made for young males, TV skews more female (especially broadcast) and as for novels, no idea, maybe women read more novels than men.

So if sci fi dominates movies and video games while fantasy dominates TV and novels, that might add up to the same total hours of media consumption for both males and females, meaning everyone is getting what they want in the free time they have, it's just being split differently.

And both sci fi and fantasy are popular, just in different proportions by gender and media type. Hard to even tell if one is more popular than the other, overall.
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Old September 23 2012, 09:13 PM   #3
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Re: Is fantasy more popular than science fiction? If so why?

Yeah, I've noticed this too. I wonder if perhaps there is something about the concepts of fantasy that people find easier to accept than Sci-Fi. Perhaps some people get scared off by some of the more sciencey stuff that true Sci-Fi tends to get into?
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Old September 23 2012, 09:43 PM   #4
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Re: Is fantasy more popular than science fiction? If so why?

I find that more women and more young adults tend to be drawn towards fantasy. Twilight is the obvious thing here. There's the idea that it could be happening, even though it seems outlandish. I think a lot of people are turned off by spaceships and aliens with bumpy foreheads for some reason.
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Old September 23 2012, 10:01 PM   #5
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Re: Is fantasy more popular than science fiction? If so why?

Starbreaker wrote: View Post
I find that more women and more young adults tend to be drawn towards fantasy. Twilight is the obvious thing here. There's the idea that it could be happening, even though it seems outlandish. I think a lot of people are turned off by spaceships and aliens with bumpy foreheads for some reason.
About twilight,this popped back in my head.
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Old September 23 2012, 11:07 PM   #6
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Re: Is fantasy more popular than science fiction? If so why?

You don't have to do as much research to do a fantasy. Tolkenesque fantasies tend to be set in a pseudo-medeaval world with monsters and magic added. There is the standard fantasy which is much agreed upon and which has a wide audience. There are however many different types of science fiction, many different levels of scientific realism so the audience for science fiction is much more greatly segregated than that for standard fantasy as one swinging a sword in one setting looks pretty much like someone swinging a sword in another.

Also there are parallels between the Star Trek setting and a Tolkenesque Standard fantasy setting. For example what if the Lord of the Rings were set in a Star Trekish science fiction setting. Already Star Trek has races of elves called Vulcans and Romulans, they are both long lived like Elves.
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Old September 23 2012, 11:22 PM   #7
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Re: Is fantasy more popular than science fiction? If so why?

Essentially, the seeming defeat of Communism was also the seeming defeat of Enlightenment itself. Senseless worlds in fantasy express the inability to comprehend the real world. Plus, in fantasy it is much easier to write retreat into daydreams. What SF does keep its popularity is largely versions of superheroes and military SF, both of which are very much at the daydreaming pole. Fantasy isn't actually required to be mindless masturbation of various types, but the fantasy that isn't is neither common nor popular.
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Old September 23 2012, 11:40 PM   #8
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Re: Is fantasy more popular than science fiction? If so why?

stj wrote: View Post
Essentially, the seeming defeat of Communism was also the seeming defeat of Enlightenment itself.


ETA:
I think one issue with Sci-Fi is a fatigue with the whole World of Tomorrow™ concept. Considering we've had decades of reality dispel much of the speculation we had in the 20th century, that makes audiences much less willing to suspend disbelief for a Sci-Fi future. Fantasy just *is* and as long as the fantasy world is internally consistent, then audiences seem more willing to suspend disbelief.

I do think Sci-Fi is, essentially, harder to create because it's so closely tied to the limits and restraints of our knowledge. The more we advance, the more aware we are of our limitations. As such, FTL-based stories, galaxy-spanning story worlds, alien-contact tales, and idyllic/utopian futures are harder to accept as plausible. I think this is why, in part, why dystopian stories have taken hold. There's currently no limit to how far a society can fall given future technologies.
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Old September 23 2012, 11:49 PM   #9
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Re: Is fantasy more popular than science fiction? If so why?

I'm not sure this is true or even have any evidence to back it up, and I certainly mean no disrespect to anyone that may love fantasy, or even writes fantasy, but to me, fantasy just seems easier to justify. You don't have to explain why vampires or magic exists, the way you might have to explain how a technology exists or how humanity evolved to the point of space travel. I personal think it's much more easy to simply say, magic or supernatural creatures are here and common place.

I'm not a big fan of fantasy and perhaps that's part of the reason I feel this way, but I love True Blood and Game of Thrones, both of which are steeped in fantasy elements. And in those cases, I'm more ready to overlook things...or suspend my disbelief towards things I know don't exist aren't real because they take no explanation in order to create them and in both cases neither go into detail to explain how their fantasy elements came to be. It's simply a world where those things are real. And that's fine.

On the other hand though, science fictions is largely built on real world elements...it has to be by definition contain some or at least be built upon some sort of science where as fantasy is anything you want it to be. So because of this, fantasy becomes more easily accessible to the masses because it requires less work to get into it and consume. Vampires don't require the same level of critical thinking space exploration might warrant.

And I'm by no means trying to level a degree of intellectual superiority against one genre or the other, or the people that prefer one genre over another. As I said, this is merely my own opinion here and I don't really have anything concrete to back it up with other than my own interest in sci-fi and fantasy.

On the other hand, it could just be the current trend. Zombies are incredibly popular right now as well, but like most trends, it seems to have peaked or be near the peak.
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Old September 24 2012, 12:50 AM   #10
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Re: Is fantasy more popular than science fiction? If so why?

Samuel Walters wrote: View Post
stj wrote: View Post
Essentially, the seeming defeat of Communism was also the seeming defeat of Enlightenment itself.


ETA:
I think one issue with Sci-Fi is a fatigue with the whole World of Tomorrow™ concept. Considering we've had decades of reality dispel much of the speculation we had in the 20th century, that makes audiences much less willing to suspend disbelief for a Sci-Fi future. Fantasy just *is* and as long as the fantasy world is internally consistent, then audiences seem more willing to suspend disbelief.

I do think Sci-Fi is, essentially, harder to create because it's so closely tied to the limits and restraints of our knowledge. The more we advance, the more aware we are of our limitations. As such, FTL-based stories, galaxy-spanning story worlds, alien-contact tales, and idyllic/utopian futures are harder to accept as plausible. I think this is why, in part, why dystopian stories have taken hold. There's currently no limit to how far a society can fall given future technologies.
Fatigue with World of Tomorrow=Impossible to believe in Progress (i.e., tired of the Enlightenment)

Dystopian tales are rarely about the future, they are commentary on humanity now. They are generally misanthropic rather than pessimistic. Again, a visceral rejection of the Enlightenment's positive view of humanity.

Increase in knowledge making future worlds less believable is irrelevant. People mostly prefer wish fulfilment and thinking about plausibility of speculation, much less reality, isn't wish fulfilment. Also, people do not, repeat, do not favor fantasies that are internally consistent.
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Old September 24 2012, 01:49 AM   #11
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Re: Is fantasy more popular than science fiction? If so why?

stj wrote: View Post
Fatigue with World of Tomorrow=Impossible to believe in Progress (i.e., tired of the Enlightenment)
No ... the fatigue has to do with pragmatism rather than irrational optimism. We've seen how humanity progresses from the 1930s to the 2010s. What we have now is NOTHING like what was imagined in the 20h century. It's not that people are tired of rationality - rather it's the adherence to reason and rationality (i.e. the ideals of the Enlightenment) that leads to fatigue over World of Tomorrow™ stories. At this point, we simply know better than to assume that technology will make everything better. We know that technology is a double-edged sword. We know that it has the potential to make our lives better, but that progress is not without cost or peril. That we must balance our progress with a responsibility to make sure we aren't overburdening either our society or our planet.

As such, Sci-Fi stories cannot simply be the escapist World of Tomorrow™ tales we saw in the 20th century. Fantasy can still be escapist. Which is a very popular draw for audience. And yet, Sci-Fi is still strongly represented in dystopian/post-apocalyptic tales, which present often deeply rational and reasonable perspectives on not just the benefits of technology, but also the perils and responsibilities of it.
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Old September 24 2012, 01:55 AM   #12
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Re: Is fantasy more popular than science fiction? If so why?

Science-fiction, save for a few hard SF novels which are too boring to even contemplate, is straight-up fantasy with just a slightly different cover.

Asking why fantasy is more popular than science-fiction is like asking why sports is more popular than football.
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Old September 24 2012, 02:10 AM   #13
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Re: Is fantasy more popular than science fiction? If so why?

Is it Fantasy that is popular as a genre, or is it specifically urban fantasy that is really popular?

The Forgotten Realms books, for example, used to sell like hotcakes. Now, not so much.

But stuff like The Hollows, Anita Blake, et al sells pretty well.

My buddy Ben (who is a published author) has had to confront a certain degree of this, even though what he writes is urban fantasy as well. That's because his protagonist is a teen male in a genre where the protagonists (and a good chunk of the readers) are adult women.

Now you want to talk misantrhopic...those guys are all over in the Zombie Apocalypse section...
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Old September 24 2012, 02:17 AM   #14
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Re: Is fantasy more popular than science fiction? If so why?

iguana_tonante wrote: View Post
Science-fiction, save for a few hard SF novels which are too boring to even contemplate, is straight-up fantasy with just a slightly different cover.

Asking why fantasy is more popular than science-fiction is like asking why sports is more popular than football.
I was going to post something similar. I completely agree, but with at least one caveat, stated below. Generally speaking, science fiction is a part of fantasy, just as fantasy is a part of fiction.

From a marketing perspective, though, bookstores in this country often have separate shelves for the two, SF over here and fantasy next to it over there. To the degree that that sort of thing is done, it might make sense to distinguish the two. Apparently, some people get their feathers ruffled when the books start to intermingle.

I also believe that fiction categories should be formulated descriptively as opposed to prescriptively. There is a corner case of works exemplified by Robin Cook's Coma that aren't routinely shelved with science fiction either (but which in my opinion are SF). Coma isn't even shelved with fantasy. It's routinely shelved as general fiction, suspense, or thriller. Now, why is that? Well, besides marketing, also probably because there's very little speculative science, although it all wraps together into an application of medical science which itself is speculative, fictitious, and culturally relevant, in a cautionary tale (which is why I think it's really science fiction). As to what the caveat is, it is that this sort of work seems to dispense with almost all the so-called fantasy elements, and bridge straight across from science fiction to general fiction.
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Old September 24 2012, 02:48 AM   #15
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Re: Is fantasy more popular than science fiction? If so why?

Everything that isn't hard sciences should be classified as narrative. Maths, on the other hand, should be put into philosophy.
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