Building a SciFi/Fantasy Library discussion

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message 1: by Allison (new)

Allison | 15 comments So, are we talking about books like Sharon Shinn's Archangel series? (a Fantasy setting complete with angels and oracles and song that brings weather patterns and medicines, all of which is explained later as genetic mutations of humans who colonized the planet centuries before)

Or, perhaps Ilona Andrews' Magic Bites? (a modern day Fantasy with magic and vampires and were-creatures, which are explained in medical terms similar to "virus" and whose exact types of magic can be quantified by a scanner similar to a DNA test)

With books like these, it's easy to see where the line between Sci-Fi and Fantasy would get blurry!


J-Lynn Van Pelt | 19 comments Even after reading the Wikipedia page I am still unclear as to the exact meaning of Science fantasy.

But, Allison's post reminded me of two books similar to the ones she suggests. Skellig (angel or mutant?) by David Almond and Peeps (vampirism explained by a scientific virus) by Scott Westerfield

message 3: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey | 25 comments maybe The Iron Dragon's Daughter which is a fantasy complete with dragons, elves, dwarfs set however in an industrialized city

message 4: by Rindis (new)

Rindis | 80 comments I use the term "space fantasy" in my shelves specifically to define those books that have a 'fantasy-ish' setting comprised of a SF lost colony that has reverted to a medieval setting (i.e., Pern; it's such a common theme!).

A couple thoughts: Gate of Ivrel by C. J. Cherryh: Has all the trappings of sword-and-sorcery novel, but it technically happens in her Union-Alliance universe. Lord of Light by Rodger Zelazny: The Hindu pantheon-recreated by space colonists with high technology.

And plenty more, but they're all escaping me at the moment.

message 5: by Amita (new)

Amita (nurdgurl) | 2 comments I think Rachel Caine's Weather Wardens series would fall under this category. It follows a modern-day heroine who can control the weather, and it uses normal meteorological terms, but the series also includes magic and genies.

message 6: by Dan (new)

Dan (dannytheinfidel) | 32 comments Katharine Kerr - Snare
Not really in a Medieval setting, but about a lost a colonie and the colonist and crew gone native.

Mary Gently - Golden Witchbreed
More like the adventures travel writings of an explorer, like someone would have written about China or the Amazons 150 years ago, set on the post technological world Orthe.

Christoffer Stasheff - The warlock in spite of him self. (Several other books following with the same characters)
About the adventures of Sir Rodney and his FFC robot on the planet Gramarye. Contains witches, magic and other Fantasy stuff. As always Stasheff write in a humorous way.

message 7: by S.A. (new)

S.A. (suerule) | 41 comments I'm not sure it's worth spending a lot of time worrying about what "science fantasy" really means. It's really just short-hand for stories that take a leap of imagination and invent the world as well as the characters. The best are the ones which tweak the rules of our world slightly and stick to their own rules (Terry Pratchett actually does this very well, that's why his books are so clever as well as so amusing!)

I wouldn't argue with any of the recommendations already put forward.

Ursula Le Guinn's Earthsea is of course a classic; Harpist in the Wind (author escapes me!) was pretty good, and Stephen Donaldson's Thomas Covenant trilogy - good, if morbid.

And of course - if you like fantasy with historical and political edge, I would recommend (but then I would, cos I wrote it) The Shaihen Heritage series. Only Book I, Cloak of Magic available at the moment, but the second one's on its way....

Check out the reviews on amazon, and give it a go.

message 8: by Rindis (last edited Feb 08, 2008 02:18PM) (new)

Rindis | 80 comments Amita, by your description, I'd call it 'contempory fantasy' (yeah, I like to categorize ^_^).

Though it does bring up the genre of stories where the hero is from our world and brings scientific knowledge and reasoning with him to a fantasy world. I certainly recommend Pratt & deCamp's Harold Shea stories (The Complete Compleat Enchanter) and Gordon R. Dickson's Dragon and the George in this theme.

message 9: by Rosemary (new)

Rosemary | 7 comments Somewhere once, somebody (probably Greg Bear) said science fiction is mostly probable and can be explained by the physics of our reality, with maybe only one really impossible element in the story.

Fantasy on the other hand works on its own terms. Magic just does what magic does as the author defines it.

Science fantasy seems like a good label for those books with the great science fiction themes (rockets, ray guns, aliens) but gives the author more leeway to play with those fantasy elements (magic, barbarian princesses) without worrying quite as much about the physics as the "hard-core" science fiction.

For me, the granddaddy of this style is Edgar Rice Burroughs' Princess of Mars. S.M. Stirling's new books like The Sky People are a definite and appealing homage to this style.

Sheri Tepper's True Game series (and related books) would be another fantasy with a great underlying "science fiction" explanation that doesn't appear until late in the story.

message 10: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (sandikal) "The Practice Effect" by David Brin is and early example of science fantasy.

Is "Perdido Street Station by China Mielville on your list? (I didn't look before posting the first things that came to my mind.)

message 11: by Marc (new)

Marc (authorguy) | 121 comments I'm surprised no one mentioned the Vorkosigan books by Lois McMaster Bujold, mostly sci-fi but with kingdoms and lordships and whatnot, and the tech is sometimes pure fantasy, like the artificial womb. Dave Duncan's Seventh Sword trilogy definitely belongs on the list.

I think of science fantasy as a story where the fantasy elements are considered to be science in the world of the story, even though it's complete magic from the context of the reader. Heinlein's Number of the Beast is another like that. The Artifact by W. Michael Gear could be considered one, although the artifact itself is mostly a God Box, and the real focus of the story is the people on the ship that's sent to recover it. I suppose most Star Trek novels, even the good ones, could be considered science fantasy as well.

message 12: by Tyler (new)

Tyler | 4 comments I think a good example for Science Fantasy is the Artemis Fowl books by Eoin Colfer. Magic + Technology is the "reality" of the fairy world. Both technology and magic bring their own cards to the game to influence the events in all 6 books.

message 13: by Rindis (new)

Rindis | 80 comments Marc, science fantasy is usually given to mean a setting where both science fiction and fantasy elements exist. Star Wars is an excellent example, with both the high-tech tropes of lasers, spacecraft, FTL-travel, and the mysticism of the Force (perhaps ignoring midiclorians...).

Bujold's books are on the 'softer' side of science fiction, perhaps even shading into SciFi, but by no means science fantasy. Also, I'd say the uterine replicators are less fantastic than the plasma lances and other weapon systems seen in the setting. The general requirements are relatively easy to understand (if an engineering nightmare).

Star Trek has a lot of bad science, but generally has no problems with a SciFi label.

message 14: by Kate (new)

Kate Science Fantasy - I like it! I'd say probably the Gap series by Stephen Donaldson would be sci-fantasy where I'd classify Thomas Covenant as pure fantasy....

message 15: by Rindis (new)

Rindis | 80 comments Thomas Covenant is decidedly pure Epic Fantasy. I haven't read the Gap series, so I can't really comment, though the basic blurbs give no hint of a 'fantasy' side of things.

message 16: by Nick (new)

Nick (ndoerrabbott) | 6 comments The Merchants' War series, by Charles Stross, would definitely fit in the 'Science Fantasy' shelf.

message 17: by Bill (new)

Bill (kernos) | 117 comments I tend to be a lumper, rather than a splitter, and can generally put most books/series into fantasy or SF. I like both so-called hard SF and space opera and don't care if our current understanding of the 'laws' of physics are broken as long as a book or series is internally consistent.

Some consider Star Wars and the amazing expanded universe to be pure epic fantasy. I do not. I consider it Science FIction. Nor would I ever consider Dune in any regard to be fantasy.

One or the more interesting worlds in this regard, is Pern. It starts out as pure epic fantasy, but ends up as Sci Fi after they discover their roots on the southern continent. I suppose the entire series taken as one could be considered Fan-SF. But, I put it into the Fantasy category as it feels like fantasy to me.

The only real subgenre I use for Fantasy, is 'historical fantasy' which is based in part on mythology and legend. I would include most of the Arthurian literature in the sub-genre. I would put much of the Celtic fantasy (eg., Juliet Marillier's works) in this category.


message 18: by Roberta (new)

Roberta (roberta_broussard_novelist) | 4 comments Piers Anthony's Proton/Phaze novels starting with Split Infinity each chapter alternates between fantasy and science ficiton. I've always considered Pern by Anne McCaffrey to be science fantasy but it is sold as SF. Also, I feel a bit of the same with Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover, but again it is considered SF. In both cases, the two world's are lost colonies from Earth, so they are technically science fiction but Pern has bio-engineered dragons and Darkover has "magic" users (really more like psi-powers) with a Dark Ages feel to it.

Glory Road by Robert A. Heinlein appears to fantasy until the very end and is often classified as either one.

message 19: by Liz (new)

Liz (vorlizzie) | 2 comments Also, Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern books seem to be fantasy, but she gets around to explaining that they're really sci-fi somewhere in the mid-end of the series in a manner similar to Sharon Shinn.

message 20: by Roberta (new)

Roberta (roberta_broussard_novelist) | 4 comments Yep, she does, and it is pretty clear that Pern is connected to some of the rest of her universe that has classic science fiction elements to it. But the series even with the SF origins in Dragonsdawn still reads like fantasy even though it is technically SF and sold as such.

message 21: by Carolyn (last edited Jan 16, 2009 10:25AM) (new)

Carolyn (seeford) Copied over from another thread:

As a lifelong avid McCaffrey reader I will say that the Pern series and about 95% of her other work are all Science Fiction. She does have some fantasy work (Black Horses For The King, An Exchange of Gifts, etc.), but that is in the tiny minority of the almost 200 books she's written.

It isn't a 'no technology' thing per se. I mean, Urban Fantasy can have plenty of technology in it (much of it is set modern-day, and people have computers and cell-phones, etc.) And the opposite, a setting/place with a total lack of technology doesn't necessarily make a book a fantasy. The same is true about the setting being low-tech/agrarian vs high-tech. An agrarian (or sea-faring or whatever) society isn't automatically fantasy.

To me, it's all about the author's take on it and how they present the elements of the story. For example, telepathy can be portrayed as a 'magical' ability or as a more scientific 'psionic' ability.

The Pern books are clearly scifi because the author puts a prologue in every book detailing the fact that the society is descended from a colony and that the dragons were genetically engineered to solve a problem the colonists encountered; which also explains how they reverted back to an agrarian and feudal society. Many readers see the word 'dragon' and immediately think it's fantasy, especially when you add in the psionic bond between dragons and their riders. If you have read the entire series, **SPOILER ALERT** you know they eventually find the original colony encampment and a pair of spaceships, and work to come up with a technological fix for their Thread problems.

The same is true of the Darkover series by Marion Zimmer Bradley (another prolific writer.) The majority of the books are set in subsistence-level low-tech agrarian societies in a feudal system.

However, just like with Pern, MZB clearly states in many prologues that the population is a 'lost colony', quite a few of the later books in the series deal with the difficulties of the society adjusting to being reunited with the high-tech future Earth. There is a strong element of psionic abilities, but she doesn't refer to them as 'magic', but instead as a genetic ability. Many stories are set in the era when the ruling families deliberately and selectively chose mates for their chidren based on the goal of interbreeding and strengthening those abilities. A very rough genetic engineering, but that's what it is. Since her stories chart the development of the society through many ages, in some cases the uneducated peasants think of these skills as 'magic', but the reader is aware that they are an ability, based on genetics, just like the red hair.

I'll also point out that in the Samaria series by Sharon Shinn (beginning with Archangel) that the author drops big nuggets of information throughout the series, which clearly indicate the science fiction nature of the stories. Yes, she uses terms like 'angel' and 'oracle', but considering children are implanted with a tech device - the tracker/light - at an early age, do you really see this as a fantasy book? It is apparent that the 'angels' are genetically engineered (I would not call them 'mutations'), that the 'singing' they need to do is another ability that they have been engineered with, along with the wings. After all, *they* don't really change the weather, they communicate with the ship in orbit, which is what actually changes the weather (or drops the medicines, etc.) A *big* difference.

Ultimately though, I don't think there is a reason to worry about classifying them as one or the other. More and more books are written that are cross-genre, blurring the line between the genres. There is a good reason why many libraries and bookstores have one big section for Science Fiction & Fantasy, rather than separate sections for every sub-genre. = )

message 22: by Roberta (new)

Roberta (roberta_broussard_novelist) | 4 comments With all three authors you mention McCaffrey, Bradley, and Shinn and their worlds--Pern, Darkover, and Samaria, you in my opinion have a merger of two styles science fiction and fantasy--all three have fantasy and science fiction tropes even if in all three cases they are classified as science fiction (both by their publishers and by the authors).

In the end, I think that someone who likes fantasy would like all three as they don't read like hard SF at all or space opera. All three worlds have epic tales, which lend themselves more to fantasy than SF. The classification isn't that important unless you're dealing with some of the more sexist men that think that women can only write fluffy bunny stories and nothing else.

message 23: by Peter (last edited Jul 28, 2010 05:15PM) (new)

Peter | 18 comments What about Ariel A Book of the Change and Elegy Beach by Steven R. Boyett? Seems like a perfect 'Science Fantasy' fit. It's got a post-apocalyptic setting (very sci-fi) but includes magic and magical creatures (fantasy) but also attempts a slight semi-science-y explanation of the magic that it has it's own set of rules (like laws of physics) only often completely counter to the laws of physics.

message 24: by Marc (new)

Marc (authorguy) | 121 comments Monk wrote: "I'm putting together a list of science fantasy books and book series. Any recommendations?

There's a pretty good explanation of the genre on Wikipedia.

I'll add the titles to the Science Fan..."

How aboutEmpire of the East?

message 25: by Rob (new)

Rob (weekendcommando) | 3 comments Hello all... Can I put in one for Peter F Hamilton's latest works, The Dreaming Void and The Temporal Void. Like his earlier stories, these are set firmly in the Hard Sci-fi / Space Opera category (there's another debate...) of his "Commonwealth" universe. But these books introduce the characters set inside the Void in a self contained (but linked) fantasy like story that runs alongside the main science based tale. The story of Edeard and his friends (in the Void) makes almost no reference to science or technology, even though you know that there is a link between the two universes (not a spoiler this!)...It reads as a good fantasy would and is a quite credible story in it's own right. It remains to be seen how the tails from the two universes resolve as the third book is not yet published (but will be soon....Can't wait!) But all in all I think he has made a good effort in linking fantasy with some cutting edge far-future science fiction...worth a read.

Hope this helps...TTFN

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