Is fantasy more popular than science fiction? If so why?

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by Gotham Central, Sep 23, 2012.

  1. Gotham Central

    Gotham Central Vice Admiral Admiral

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    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?
     
  2. Temis the Vorta

    Temis the Vorta Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  3. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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    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?
     
  4. Starbreaker

    Starbreaker Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  5. Maple Dog

    Maple Dog Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    About twilight,this popped back in my head.
    [yt]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8GGp_bpsng[/yt]
     
  6. Mars

    Mars Commander Red Shirt

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    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.
     
  7. stj

    stj Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    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.
     
  8. Ancient Mariner

    Ancient Mariner Vice Admiral Admiral

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    [​IMG]

    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.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2012
  9. Jimi_James

    Jimi_James Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    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.
     
  10. stj

    stj Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    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.
     
  11. Ancient Mariner

    Ancient Mariner Vice Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  12. iguana_tonante

    iguana_tonante Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  13. Ian Keldon

    Ian Keldon Fleet Captain

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    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...
     
  14. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  15. iguana_tonante

    iguana_tonante Admiral Admiral

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    Everything that isn't hard sciences should be classified as narrative. Maths, on the other hand, should be put into philosophy. :D
     
  16. Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

    Happy Xmas (War Is Over) Fleet Admiral Premium Member

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    Most of the stores I've worked and shopped in have placed Science Fiction and Fantasy together, usually under the heading "Science Fiction." To the General Public there might not be a difference. Big name authors will usually wind up where they made their "mark". No matter what Stephen King writes it wind up on the horror shelves. If Danielle Steele writes a SF novel is gonna wind up in Romance. :shrug: I'm sure there are stores out there who are more stringent and go strictly by content.
     
  17. Mars

    Mars Commander Red Shirt

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    I don't see why science fiction has to be any sort of "topia" whether utopia or dis utopia, the real world lies somewhere in between those two extremes and a realistic future world should lie their also. To give you an example, Star Wars is not a utopian setting, and its not a dis-utopian setting, it is a setting of conflict to be the backdrop of interesting stories. I think Star Trek is the same, though there are episodes where it is portrayed as a utopia. There are no perfect societies, besides perfect societies are boring, what interests the reader is conflict and its resolution, a utopia isn't very entertaining, as everyone gets what he wants without struggle, and the struggle is what makes the story interesting. The thing about disutopias is they try to make grim predictions about our future world, and I'd rather just read an interesting story set in an interesting universe, a universe where everything went to hell is a bit discouraging. The real world and a future world based upon it allows for many interesting conflicts without it necessitating that this world be "Hell".
     
  18. Mars

    Mars Commander Red Shirt

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    I often wonder for instance, whats so special about a creature drinking blood? mosquitoes and bats drink blood, and there are many sources of blood besides just people, that is the inconsistency of vampires. There is very little difference protein-wise between human blood and animal blood, the reason why there are vampires is that vampires for some reason not explained go after human blood, and it is that act of going after human blood that brings them into conflict with humans, but its much easier to drink animal blood. No one really cares if you raise a herd of cattle to drink their blood. To me vampires are just dumb if examined scientifically.
     
  19. Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

    Happy Xmas (War Is Over) Fleet Admiral Premium Member

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    Good thing they aren't based on science, then.
     
  20. stj

    stj Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    You're surreptitiously redefining "fantasy" as "not-realistic" instead of looking at what there actually is. SF is supposed to be realistic. Fantasy is not. Realism as a mode of literature rather presupposed that the world made sense (another Enlightenment idea) while fantasy doesn't, whereas SF does. Fantasy can be serious (not necessarily solemn, indeed the manifest nonsense is rather discordant with solemnity) but it is not pseudorealistic.

    Further, the SF=fantasy hypothesis fails the acid test from real live readers. Kage Baker, Catherine Asaro, Justina Robson and Sandra Macdonald write SF/romance hybrids. Fantasy/romance hybrids are written by authors as diverse as Charlaine Harris, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Laurel K. Hamilton and Diana Gabaldon. The readers can tell the difference, and they don't like SF. You may be trying to say the difference is stylistic, but in literature style is hugely imnportant. This is true even if you don't hold to English lit cliches about what's good style.

    PS So-called hard SF can be quite fascinating if you've ever taken an interest in the world around you. Not one hard SF novel is a textbook.