Sci-Fi vs. Fantasy

I'm a sci-fi geek. If you want to be lewd about it, space ships and giant mechs make me wet. Strange thing is... so do swords and hot elven chicks. Someone once said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." I'd like to one up them, "Any sufficiently well explained magic is indistinguishable from technology."

During "The Prestige" they explain how a magician can make a bird disappear from a cage. Now at this point, has it become a technological feat, or is it still magic? What about concentrating cosmic forces into fireballs? Is there any functional difference between shooting laser beams out of a rifle and shooting them out of your palms?

The vast majority of stories that make it big in any real sense are the actually very, very old and formulaic. Certain things excite people, certain characters especially. Tell me if you've heard this before, "backwoods farm boy discovers great destiny/power too late to avert tragedy on the home front, vows to avenge tragedy on evil organization, surrounds themselves in a cast of quirky characters, a sage, a thief, a strongman, and a woman of courage and conviction." Yeah I was thinking of The first few wheel of time books too.

Point is your setting should not define the shape and flow of your story, that would be the writers job. Whenever one particular genre comes to the fore, it's just because someone in that genre hit the perfect storm of writing, publicity and timing. Considering how fickle and fleeting those tend to be, there isn't reason to be intimidated by it.


  1. "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

    Arthur C Clarke, I believe. ;)

    Interestingly enough I'm reading an introduction to Jung right now, and am just reaching the archetype stage. Your example didn't make me think of the Wheel of Time, but that's mainly because I'm one of the few people who thought that was crap. I read the first 4 or 5 books and don't lynch me, but they were all the same! Why read the same book 12 times when you can read some *good* fantasy instead?

    There's nothing wrong with using archetypes in writing -- in fact, arguably, we can't get away from it one way or another. If all the possible stories have already been told, it's not the story that matters so much as how you tell it. Same goes for genre.

  2. Thanks for pointing out that it was Clarke.

    Actually, I was thinking Star Wars when I wrote it. I used Wheel of time because I figured people would think of Star Wars. I suppose I should be more explicit, or perhaps find something more obscure.

  3. More obsure like Chris Poulini's(sp?) Eragon series? I think that's a match for your list as well. Many are. Hmmm, how bout Dune, young kid, great power, Wiped out home front...check.

    Of course the reverse may sometimes be said about sci-fi. Did it not have knights in it, does it not have Krayt Dragon's that are huge ungodly lizard beasts. Or how bout those sandpeople, remind me a lot of ogre's or trolls the way they walk and act like a human but aren't human. The strong powerful (barbarian) wookiee, the dashing thief/rogue/smuggler. The princess that must be saved. The huge battle against almost unwinnable odds like the Death Star sounds like a castle siege to me.

    Personally, I think both can be used interchangeably many times depending on the point of view. Even looking at the Force as a sort of magic, if you will.