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

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

  1. Ian Keldon

    Ian Keldon Fleet Captain

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    While unobtanium's exact nature and role is never defined within the film itself, it's observed properties seem to indicate that it is either superconductive (meaning that the mechanism by which it "floats" would be magnetic in nature), or anti-gravitic in nature.

    Before you start hollering about "anti-gravity=fantasy" I would remind you that we now know of and are starting to understand the nature of how mass and gravity is "attached" to matter, via the Higgs boson.

    Therefore in a scientific context, anti-gravity could be explained as a variance in the way that Higgs bosons attach to the unobtanium, altering their mass and hence the effect of gravity on them. Either they attach in a way that is oppositional to that of boson attachment in normal matter, or possibly that unobtanium's bosons are "negative" bosons or "anti-bosons".

    And before you bring up M/AM and "boom", since bosons do not appear to have any actual mass themselves (as I understand the reading), no mass=no energy release. An "anti-boson" would simply cancel out a boson, rendering the unobtanium either mass-less or at a negative mass (assuming a surplus of anti-bosons.


    So, again, cause and effect completely within the bounds of conventional science or a reasonable extrapolation thereof, which is the very definition of science fiction as opposed to mysticism-based fantasy.
     
  2. Ian Keldon

    Ian Keldon Fleet Captain

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    ALL stories have to have narrative terms that are relatable to the reader. Science fiction uses fact and extrapolation of fact as it's narrative term. Fantasy invokes "magic".

    While functionally they may serve similar purpose, it is an abuse of the term "the same", IMO to use it to equate the two genres.

    I would submit that it is a natural not "mysitcal" equillibrium, just as the human body operates in a natural equillibrium of it's own. In this case, functionally, the human presence would be akin to an invasive virus or dangerous bacterium. When said virus/bacterium became an active threat to the equilibrium of the planet, the planet's natural response was to rally it's "anti-bodies" (the Na'vi and fauna) to fight the threat (a concept that was also at least contemplated in the Trek episode "The Immunity Syndrome").

    I think the real issue and thing to watch for in the Avatar sequel will be to see just how robust the Pandoran equillibrium is. Will things return to the status quo absent the human presence, or will Pandora have to "evolve" to meet the challenge of changed circumstances?
     
  3. Deckerd

    Deckerd Fleet Arse Premium Member

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    Since the only way you can get a boson is to smash protons together at the speed of light and then it lasts for a nanosecond, I think we're pretty much in the realms of fantasy here.
     
  4. iguana_tonante

    iguana_tonante Admiral Admiral

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    I incur in the risk of getting another accusation of being a troll, but I'll say that those more likely to defend the "science" in science-fiction as actually plausible or realistic are those who, while somehow familiar with the lexicon of science, lacks an understanding of its working and principles.

    In fact, the more they write about it, the more implausible and unrealistic it sounds.

    (Science writers intent on selling a book about the science of science-fiction excluded. ;) )
     
  5. Nerys Myk

    Nerys Myk Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    These conversations always make me think of this:

    [​IMG]
     
  6. Ubik

    Ubik Commodore Commodore

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    Um...I don't know if this has already been suggested earlier in this thread, but it is not the plausibility or even the possibility of the imaginary science or technology in the work of science fiction that differentiates it from most fantasy. What makes it science fiction rather than fantasy is whether, inside the fictional world, those fictional characters consider it a form of science.

    Science and magic are NOT the same thing. Even implausible or impossible science is not the same thing as magic. For example, magic, to function, often relies on the personal skill, power, concentration, etc, of the user. Scientific experiments, however, once understood, and with a good, clear instruction manual, can be reproduced, more or less, by any shmoe off the street. Science is provable and repeatable, given all the same variables. It is knowledge that can be passed down and used by anyone who desires to. But no matter how much Frodo memorizes the right words, and states them in the right tone, he'll never be able to scream, "THOU SHALT NOT PASS!" and make crazy shit happen. Only Gandalf can do that. It's not repeatable. That's one of the reasons it's magic, and not science, and why LOTR is fantasy and not science fiction.

    Warp drive may be as impossible as Gandalf's spells in our world, but inside the fictional world, that world conceives of warp drives as science. Anyone who studies warp drive long enough can work one. Warp engines work the same way, no matter who's controlling them, and given the same variables, they will always work the same way. So, it's impossible (or fictional, rather) science, rather than magic, or fantasy.

    This difference is not, to my mind, superficial or merely set-dressing. It suggests something very different about the way that fictional world works, and the relationship between those fictional characters and their fictional environment. DO they, in fact, live in a world that is potentially understandable and controllable by the masses, given the opportunity? Or do they live in a chaotic world of magic, in which only a certain elite few will ever have control, and, in any case, nothing is predictable, provable, or repeatable anyway? Those are very different fictional worlds, and it changes everything about the story, or at least the good ones.
     
  7. DarthTom

    DarthTom Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I was thinking about this topic generally and specifically related to the definition of sci-fi versus fantasy and for me one of the key elements of fantasy that differentiates sci-fi from fantasy is in fantasy is the belief or element of the supernatural whereas generally speaking in sci-fi the supernatural is disregarded or even mocked.

    For example: in Trek in TNG in the episode Who's Watching the Watchers Picard mocks the Mintankans belief in "The Picard," as a "God," and implies that a belief system in a deity is backward thinking.

    DS9 furthers this notion with the Profits. The 'advanced federation folks,' refer to the Profits as 'wormhole aliens,' and look down generally upon the Bajorins worshiping them as gods.

    The Q while it could be argued are more 'mystical,' are always presented IMO as simply a very advanced species. Their 'magic,' isn't magic at all but simply a product of advanced evolution.

    Therefore, Trek dismisses the mystical and supernatural generally as nonsense and attempts to explain things through the prism of science.

    Conversely, films like Avatar and more hard fantasy like Harry Potter embrace the notion of the supernatural. The characters don't tend to debunk the supernatural but latch hold of it. In Avatar's case, the goddess of the forest is eventually found to exist and is supernatural even by the visiting humans.


    Back to the original question - why is fantasy more popular than sci-fi generally?

    I believe that most people on this planet want to believe in the existence of a god. 90% of Americans in fact believe in the existence of God. Fantasy and the belief in the supernatural tends to support their belief system whereas sci-fi from their perspective seems less probable despite the fact that it's more based on scientific facts.

    You only need to go to the number of people who believe in intelligent design or outright creationism to come to the conclusion as to why people are more likely to embrace fantasy over science fiction.
     
  8. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    ^
    Honestly not sure how much I'd credit religion there. It definitely plays a role - with Narnia in particular - but it's also true that a lot of the fantasy currently quite popular has fairly godless underpinnings, and to which some religious figures have reacted very hostilely to (the controversy over Harry Potter).

    Ian Keldon - You can, if you choose, write the exact same story and then create two versions, one which is fantasy and one which is science fiction, simply by word choice.

    Observe:

    They're both terrible, incoherent stories, obviously, but you get the idea. I would have to change more than I did to turn them into romances or thrillers.

    There are also fantasy novels where magic is all of these things happen. In fact I've read one which focuses on a physicist teasing out the scientific properties of thaumaturgons, an elemental particle that is responsible for magic.

    It's obviously not universally true of magic, obviously, but a fantasy novel that treats acts of magic as provable and repeatable and consistent in the manner of science does not make it a science fiction novel.

    And on the other hand there are scientific novels where what is going on surpasses the comprehension of the characters. Solaris is mostly about the entire scientific process being confounded by the unpredictability of a single planet.
     
  9. DarthTom

    DarthTom Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Your examples are spot on on the differences between science fiction and fantasy - one has an element of the supernatural and one mostly does not.

    However, there is one good example of cross over. Star Wars while mostly viewed as science fiction has the element of fantasy in the force. The force being an inherited characteristic that gives them their powers.

    But isn't the same true in Harry Potter because the magicians have also a inherited triat that gives them the magic gift over the muggles.

    So had Harry conjured himself up a Star Ship to hide from Lord Voldatmort would that have made Potter partially sci-fi?
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2012
  10. Temis the Vorta

    Temis the Vorta Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Why the heck not? TV and movies don't do hard sci fi that I've ever much noticed, so it's all just variations on hand-waving magic.

    But it's usually easy to tell the author's intent by the surface attributes. For instance, Lucas intended Star Wars to be sci fi and signalled that intent by having spaceships and robots in the story. He cold have told essentially the same story with dragons and elves, but he didn't do that, so I'm willing to accept his own self-label and agree that Star Wars is sci fi.
     
  11. Nerys Myk

    Nerys Myk Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I avoided the Pern novels for years because of the word "dragon". Then the girl I was dating explained it was actually Science Fiction. The dragons were alien creatures and the human colonists had reverted to a medieval level of society because of a natural disaster on their world.
     
  12. Skywalker

    Skywalker Admiral Admiral

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    Yeah, Pern is definitely science fiction. It's dressed up to look like fantasy, but it's really not. That's one of the things that really drew me to the series in the first place. I actually prefer fantasy over science fiction, but I love it when the two genres are blended together like they were in the Pern books.
     
  13. iguana_tonante

    iguana_tonante Admiral Admiral

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    A very interesting point of view. But it's rather easy to pick up counter-examples. The D&D magic system, for example, works exactly like science: every schmuck can learn magic with sufficient intelligence and study, and spells works exactly in the same way every time they are cast (tho it can be said it is more a consequence of game requirements than an actual narrative choice). On the other hand, the Force is Star Wars (or any other kind of psyonic power -- telepathy, telekinesis, etc), while arguably science-fiction, works exactly like your description of magic.

    In general, I don't think the distinction is between fantasy and science-fiction, but actually between aristocratic and democratic narratives (and this is one of the reason I prefer Star Trek over Star Wars: Starfleet officers might seem like naive do-gooders, but it's better than patronizing and self-important Jedi knights...)
     
  14. Ryan8bit

    Ryan8bit Commodore Commodore

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    Unless it's Wesley and the Traveler...
     
  15. DarthTom

    DarthTom Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Roddenberry's atheism crept into the Trek narrative - SF people time and again dismiss mysticism/religion/or even magic as naive or outright stupid.

    In the TNG episode The Devil's Due Ardra is debunked from being a god with magical powers to nothing more than a con artist. In Who's Watching the Watchers religious belief systems are outright called backward and stupid.

    And of course on DS9 the Profits are referred to as 'worm hole aliens,' by the SF folks.

    Wars as you say has far more elements of fantasy than Trek does as the force like with the wizards in Harry Potter inherit their special powers.
     
  16. iguana_tonante

    iguana_tonante Admiral Admiral

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    Will at any point your argument connect with what I said?
     
  17. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Getting into David Brin territory there. Although I don't disagree with you. As often as TNG can be a punching-bag even here, I still love that show for its attempts to seriously and optimistically portray high minded ethical approaches to difficult problems... while Star Wars is so much chosen one Joseph Campbellian adventure stories.

    I've never read the Pern novels, but didn't they start out as a fantasy premise and then later reveal their science fiction underpinnings or whatever? There's a fair bit of fiction that blurs the distinction between the two genres, and 'science fiction explanation for why things are happening as if this is basically fantasy' is one of the most common examples.

    I know that Ron D. Moore lamented that his Pern TV series fell through because if it had worked out the show would have been on the air around the time the first Lord of the Rings movie hit theatres, for what that's worth.
     
  18. Kelthaz

    Kelthaz Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I can't tell if you're joking or serious. I'm assuming it's a joke, but I can't tell for sure.
     
  19. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    I assume Zombie Cheerleader is completely serious. Why would he be joking? From my familiarity with the Pern books, his tale doesn't surprise me in the least.
     
  20. Kelthaz

    Kelthaz Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I mean the fact that he was repulsed by reading a book about dragons, but he's perfectly happy to read a book about SPACE dragons. You know, making fun of the elitist sci-fi types for looking down on fantasy for no real reason?
     

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