Building a SciFi/Fantasy Library discussion

discussions > Lumping Science Fiction and Fantasy - why?

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message 1: by Bill (new)

Bill (kernos) | 117 comments A pet peeve of mine is the apparent industry of lumping Science Fiction and Fantasy into a single genre. Amazon and most other major booksellers do this.

Why? These genres are as different as Mystery and Romance.

When I want to talk find a new book, series, author, discussion... that is Science FIction, I don't want to wade through a lot of fantasy hits and vice versa.

Should we separate these discussions?


message 2: by David (new)

David (davidp57) Hi Bill,

I totally agree with you. SF and Fantasy are very different, even if they sometimes cross (some stories are quite "portable", when you replace technology by magic and aliens by elves, but these are usually quite bad stories - flexible enough unfortunately means not creative enough) - IMHO, of course.


message 3: by Werner (new)

Werner On the other hand, despite their basic difference (naturally-explainable premises vs. magical ones), the two genres are both speculative, "what-if?" kinds of fiction that share a willingness to step outside the everyday bounds of descriptive fiction. A lot of readers (like me), who are drawn to that quality, like both genres for the same reason, and enjoy being in a group that unites both interests. (And, of course, some individual discussion threads may focus on one or the other.) There are probably Goodreads groups that focus specifically on each of the two genres, and meet the needs of readers who want a specific focus; but speaking for myself, I see the inclusiveness of this group as a positive rather than a negative.

message 4: by Marc (new)

Marc (authorguy) | 121 comments Werner wrote: "There are probably Goodreads groups that focus specifically on each of the two genres, and meet the needs of readers who want a specific focus; but speaking for myself, I see the inclusiveness of this group as a positive rather than a negative."

There is a fantasy-only group. I accidentally posted some sf titles to its reading list and they got shouted down.

message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

I usually don't follow threads here anymore, but I thought I'd respond to this one.

I created the group as a joint venture because I think the two genres are closely related. Yes, ok, they're different because aliens/tech vs. elves or whatever, but one of the main points is this:

Both of these types of books appeal to many of the same people.

Both genres need a little help in today's publishing world, so why segment them? I'm not even speaking of Goodreads, but the labeling in general.

Additionally, I happen to like both and was looking for a way to talk about books or get suggestions from people like me...

Keep in mind that I'm a "way back" member, before recommendations or 90% of what's on Goodreads these days.


message 6: by Robin (new)

Robin (robinsullivan) | 5 comments Actually this bugs me a great deal. With a few exceptions I'm not that much into sci-fi but LOVE fantasy. I really want these seperated at the bookstore.

-- Wife of GR author Michael J. Sullivan: The Crown Conspiracy (10/08) | Avempartha (04/09)

message 7: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) I used to try hard to separate out genres but ran into too many books that I couldn't pin down. Lots of writers blur the line between SF & Magical Fantasy or write on both sides of the fence. I distinguish the latter because Fantasy has so many subsets; Romance, Adventure, Sword & Sorcery, Historical/Alternate World and, IMO, SF.

I think the line is getting blurred more as the years go by, too. People are better educated in the sciences & logic. The old magic that just works for no reason isn't used as much. Now a lot of authors are explaining it in terms of science or making a real effort to define laws & rules for it, giving it an almost scientific flavor.

I quit separating out SF from Fantasy years ago in my book collection. Fiction is generally separated from non-fiction only. Iffy stuff, like historical fiction (Jakes Bicentennial Series or Harold Lamb's stuff), philosophy, religion & mythology get separate shelves.

message 8: by Bill (new)

Bill (kernos) | 117 comments I have very little trouble separating SF and Fantasy and think few are blurred. Perhaps some examples would help us understand each other better. One that comes to mind is Star Wars (expanded universe). For me it is pure SF, though I know some who consider The Force to make it fantasy. I do not.


message 9: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn (seeford) Cross-post from a similar discussion on another group:
I guess I'm in the minority here - since I read both SF and Fantasy, I'm fine with the two genres being close to each other on the shelves. It's like a treasure hunt. = )

I think a practical reason why stores do keep them all together is because there is such a huge amount of crossover between the genres. Both in the authors who write on both sides of the line and in the books/series that are hard to classify as either/or for those of us who love the genres, much less for some bookstore employee who may not even touch the stuff in their own reading.

Even the wikipedia definition of fantasy ( ) mentions this crossover (and attributes it to a whole other genre 'speculative fiction').

A perfect example of this is the Pern series by Anne McCaffrey. I was truly surprised to meet many on GR who believe that the series is fantasy.

From the wiki article on Science Fiction :
"Fantasy is closely associated with science fiction, and many writers have worked in both genres, while writers such as Anne McCaffrey and Marion Zimmer Bradley have written works that appear to blur the boundary between the two related genres.[62:] The authors' professional organization is called the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).[63:] SF conventions routinely have programming on fantasy topics,[64:][65:][66:] and fantasy authors such as J. K. Rowling have won the highest honor within the science fiction field, the Hugo Award.[67:]"

message 10: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) Kernos wrote: "I have very little trouble separating SF and Fantasy and think few are blurred. Perhaps some examples would help us understand each other better. One that comes to mind is Star Wars (expanded unive..."

Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light or Creatures of Light and Darkness are a couple of examples where I find the lines pretty blurred. I've never been certain whether Samuel R. Delany's The Einstein Intersection was fantasy or SF either. Even Mickey Spillane has an antigravity device in one of his books, The Erection Set. Fiction fits them all pretty well.

message 11: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) I glanced through my books tonight & came up with a list of some that I had trouble classifying as SF, Fantasy or other. What do you think?
(I'm on a modem, so I won't link the books, sorry.)

Robert Adams - Horse Clan books
Piers Anthony - Split Infinity series
David Bischoff - Night World
Octavia Butler - Mind of My Mind
Orson Scott Card - Treason
Samuel R. Delany - The Einstein Intersection
Kaye & Goodwin - The Masters of Solitude
EE Knight - Vampire Earth series
Lanier - Hiero's Journey
Ann McCaffery - Restoree
William F. Nolan - Space for Hire
Fred Saberhagen - Empire of the East
Christopher Stasheff - A Warlock In Spite of Himself
Weiss & Hickman - The Guardian Trilogy
Zelazny - 'Lord of Light', 'This Immortal', 'Creatures of Light & Darkness', 'Eye of Cat', 'Bridge of Ashes', 'Jack of Shadows', 'Road Marks', 'Isle of the Dead' & 'The Furies' (last is a short story).

"The Erection Set" by Spillane is clearly a mystery thriller with a small SF element & Spillane never wrote an SF book, so I'd have no problem not calling it SF. A small element doesn't make it so.

However, if someone like John D. MacDonald, who is probably best known for his Travis McGee series, but also wrote straight SF in "The Ballroom of the Skies" had a larger SF element in a mystery thriller, I might be stymied as I am by "The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything" (also a movie).

I'd really like to see what everyone else thinks about this. I gave up years ago, but it's always kind of bugged me. (I'm a little OCD about my books.)

message 12: by Ron (new)

Ron Your discussion explains why SF and fantasy is lumped together: because so many of us define them so differently. There's not just overlap, there's out right confusion.

For example, Kernos offered the expanded Star Wars universe as an example of non-fantasy SF. To me, SW reeks of fantasy. Or take MacCaffery's Pern books. For decades we thought her dragons were fire-breathing, flying, mind-reading, dimension-jumping aliens (fantasy, to me), only to discover they're the product of genetic engineering.

Pity the poor bookseller who doesn't know the difference between an alien and an elf, or magic and the Force.

And, yes, I have trouble distinguishing romances from adventures these days. Used to differentiate by the most prominent cover person: if female (easy if provocatively clothed) it was a romance, if male (especially if armed) it was adventure. Now it's not so simple.

message 13: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn (seeford) Ron wrote: "Your discussion explains why SF and fantasy is lumped together: because so many of us define them so differently. There's not just overlap, there's out right confusion."

Yup, I think you've nicely summarized it there Ron! = )

message 14: by Bill (new)

Bill (kernos) | 117 comments Yes Pern started off as pure epic Fantasy and then developed some SF features. I still categorize all the many Pern books as Fantasy.

How many of us used databases to keep track of our books? Of those that do, do you have a SFF category or have separate SF and Fan. categories (ignoring subcategories for now)?


message 15: by Ron (new)

Ron I have both categories, but suspect that more than three quarters of the books in either are in both.

message 16: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) Ron, I think you got it. I agree that Star Wars reeks of fantasy, but it usually is classified as SF. They're about the same as the Guardian Trilogy by Weiss & Hickman, I think.

message 17: by Werner (new)

Werner I have separate fantasy and science fiction shelves for my "read" books here on Goodreads (they're both big shelves!) and I wouldn't object to having them separated on this group's "read" shelf, either, if anybody wanted to take time to do that. Usually I don't have trouble distinguishing between them, according to my own definitions --there might be are a few that have elements of both, but if it employs magic at all, I put it in the fantasy category. But since I like both genres, I don't have any problem at all with being in a group that focuses on both!

message 18: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) What's magic?

message 19: by Bill (new)

Bill (kernos) | 117 comments Magic is like pornography, hard to define, but I know it when I see it (or read it)


message 20: by Ron (new)

Ron Excellent question.

Not only in light of Arthur C. Clark's "law" about any sufficiently advanced technology looking like magic, but because much of the "science" in modern SF amounts to magic. Fast-than-light travel, that staple of SF, is not even theoretically possible given current theories of physics.

Yes, I understand that we don't know all there is to know, but every scheme of faster-than-light travel I've ever read "assumes" it possible. The few who attempt to explain it use verbal prestidigitation worthy of a Copperfield.

And, frankly, most "aliens" are elves and fairies rewritten to appeal to modern sensitivities. "Werewolves" appear in Scalzi'a "Old Man's War" series, though he has the decency to acknowledge that they only look like werewolves.

Magic, indeed, defines fantasy, and is the reason most supposed SF is fantasy. H. G. Wells at least could have hoped that the technology of his day would shortly achieve the wonders he posited. We, on the other hand, can be sure that almost every facet of "Star Trek", for example, has no scientific basis (Gene Roddenberry's defenders notwithstanding) then or now.

message 21: by Jim (last edited Feb 05, 2009 11:46AM) (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) Kernos, I think you're on the right track. Porn is a good example. Can you explain the SF/Fantasy to me through examples?

Ron, I hadn't even though of FTL drives in that context, but you're right.

I was thinking of psi powers versus magic. In a similar topic in another group, someone said anything with psi powers in it was fantasy. I don't agree. I think it's more in how it is handled.

To me, magic is unknowable & often derived from a higher power, usually like the demon dandruff that powers Xanth in Piers Anthony's series. Yet when it's handled like 'The Force' in Star Wars & set with an SF background, many don't see it as fantasy. Personally, I see it more as SF with a fantastic religion/philosophy mixed in.

Christopher Stasheff's The Warlock in Spite of Himself has 'magic' that is psi powers & a plant life that is very sensitive to those powers. Looks like magic to Rod & the setting is medieval. We know from the start that Rod lands in a spaceship with a robot horse & we're reminded fairly often that he's from a different planet & believes in science, but we have witches & 'little people' running around. I think it's is firmly on the line between the two genres.

message 22: by Stuart (new)

Stuart (stuartellis) | 2 comments I'm not an expert, but as I understand it, the terms SF and fantasy and the whole idea of clearly defined genres actually came fairly late. I have read quite a lot of HP Lovecraft, who is thought of a horror writer today, but he described the stories that he and his friends wrote as "weird fiction", and uses both SF and fantasy elements equally.

The authors and the audiences certainly overlap even today. At best the lines are fuzzy - as Ron says, in the end we may be just talking about different trappings on the same thing.

message 23: by Valerie (last edited Feb 06, 2009 03:41AM) (new)

Valerie (veegood) | 7 comments I admit I have only had a quick glance through this thread and not read all of the posts in detail, but my favourite explanation of the difference between SF and fantasy came from Douglas Adams, who wrote Hitch hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I am quoting from memory here, so forgive me if I get it a little wrong, but in an introduction to one of his books Douglas Adams wrote that SF will take several paragraphs to explain to you how the watch works, while fantasy will simply tell you the time and move on.

message 24: by Bill (new)

Bill (kernos) | 117 comments Just reading Ron's post. FTL is often brought up as impossible and thus not SF, but I disagree. Saying FTL is impossible is based on a flock of assumptions and hubris that our generations know The Truth. All it would take is a major paradigm shift to suddenly make it possible, so I do not consider it 'magic'. Also, without FTL, SF would be limited and become much less broad, at least the kind I enjoy.

RE: Aliens being variations on a theme of elves and faires. In a few cases perhaps. But, elves, fairies, were-beings etc are based on Western mythology, in Tolkien's case (from which most fantasy has derived), Anglo-Saxon. Dragons's are an ancient concept and so on. I find little of mythology in most aliens I am familiar with in 'real' SF. EG, the aliens in Cherryh's Foreigner series, Podkayne of Mars, The Chanur, sentient AI's and on and on.

RE: The Force in SW. I understand why some think of it as magic. Lukas even had it referred to as a religion a few times. But, there are known, and I would postulate unknown forces in nature. Humans have learned to manipulate many of these technologically. In a galaxy, far, far away it seems quite possible more advanced beings with midichlorians could learn to manipulate a force unknown to 21st century humans on earth.

message 25: by Marc (new)

Marc (authorguy) | 121 comments Kernos wrote: "All it would take is a major paradigm shift to suddenly make it possible, so I do not consider it 'magic'. "

Major paradigm shifts are the very essence of magic. The stories are written now, and according to physics now FTL is impossible, therefore etc. If in the future a major paradigm shift occurs and FTL becomes possible, then those stories will be science fiction.

I once read a philosophical essay on the subject of unicorns, claiming that since they were fictional, there was no way to determine if a newly-discovered real creature was a unicorn or not. Not that that would stop anyone who discovered a horse-shaped creature with a horn from calling it a unicorn. And Tolkien is far from being the basis of fantasy. A lot of fantasy writers, like me, make it our business to not do what has been done before.

message 26: by Bill (new)

Bill (kernos) | 117 comments I disagree Marc. Paradigm shifts are fundamental to the Scientific method and have little or nothing to do with the concept of magic in my reality. GUT theories are legion, in some FTL is possible, in some it is relative, in some imossible and all this within the preset physics paradigm. What will happen in in a 100 years or 3 is anyone's guess. Which is what SF is about - speculating about the future, creating ones own paradigm shifts.

Tolkien is by most accounts the father of modern Fantasy, not the basis of all Fantasy. I try to avoid Tolkien clones and am always looking for new authors. Lately I am much more interested in historic and mythologic fantasy.


message 27: by Liz (new)

Liz (vorlizzie) | 2 comments Kernos, I see your point, but then how do you characterize stories that explain magic using pseudoscientific terms? Ursula K. Le Guin's ansible feels like SF, while telepathy shows up in both SF and Fantasy. The difference between teleportation and "apparition" is a genre, but not much else. If humanity were able to figure out how to do such a thing using technology, it would feel like a science fiction novel, but if we said it was an innate talent that all humans had and just needed to learn to use, would we be in Urban fantasy? I'm just curious, since your ideas seem interesting and have led me to my own speculations on the subject.

For me, at least, Science Fiction or Fantasy is a question of plausibility. If something is plausible, it tends to sort itself in Science fiction. Granted, just because it is plausible does not make it possible. So Science Fiction can throw things around that are completely impossible and yet read as plausible. Fantasy is the opposite. Despite the fact that these things might be possible, they seem far more implausible. It's possible, albeit unlikely, that Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere exists under the sewers of London, but it just doesn't sound plausible.

message 28: by Mekerei (new)

Mekerei | 8 comments Like Carolyn I also read both SF and Fantasy. I love that's "It's like a treasure hunt on the shelves at a booksellers" - as long as the story is well writtern and the story grabs me I don't really care what genre it is.

Some booksellers don't distingush between SF and Fantasy - they don't read the books and only go by what's written on the back. For them it's practical to keep them together.

The Time Traveler's Wife is a great example of a book straddling several genre. To me this is a love story, with a Sci Fi twist. I would classify it more a "Romance" than Sci Fi, but a friend feels it is fantasy, as she doesn't believe that a "rare genetic disorder" that allows one to time travel is "believable" (how she distinguishs between Sci Fi and Fantasy).

The crossovers that Jim has trouble classifying, Sci Fi or Fantasy - "You Say Potato, I Say Potahtow, You say Tomato, I Say Tomahtow"

message 29: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) From all the comments here, if book sellers tried to separate out books into different genres more than they do, I'd have lots more racks to look through.

The first book I read by McCaffery was "Restoree". It was more of a romance than an SF book. That's not a line I see straddled much. I see the fantasy/romance line crossed a lot with the vampire books lately - Paranormal Romances.

I was out of room in the main shelves in my bedroom (they cover the entire wall, floor to ceiling) so I pulled a box of video tapes from a small bookshelf & put all the vampire books on it, except Hamilton's Anita Blake, Saberhagen's Vlad Tepes & EE Knight's Vampire Earth. Most of them are paranormal romances, save for P.N. Elrod's series.

I hadn't realized how many we had until I did this. I've gotten rid of some I didn't like, too. Erin has all the Jaz Parks ones at school - I don't know why, she doesn't have time to read them. Anyway, it's kind of cool to have so much to read.

message 30: by Werner (new)

Werner For me, the distinction is that, for whatever phenomena it treats, science fiction posits explanations derived from the natural realm, whereas fantasy is open to explanations from outside the natural. (Of course, that's not an iron-clad distinction; Renaissance intellectuals, for instance, often thought of electricity and magnetism as examples of what they called "natural magic," as opposed to the satanic variety.) That's not quite the same as the distinction between plausibility and implausibility --though in many people's minds, the two distinctions are related.

message 31: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn (seeford) Werner wrote: "For me, the distinction is that, for whatever phenomena it treats, science fiction posits explanations derived from the natural realm, whereas fantasy is open to explanations from outside the natural..."

If I'm understanding your comment correctly, I am in agreement. I think that the genre classifications aren't specific to what I personally find 'believable'. (That is a whole other level of hubris.) After all, I don't know *everything* (but don't tell my husband that! = )

I think some are confusing the concept of something being 'fantastical' with Fantasy the genre. Pretty much all of scifi, fantasy, and magical realism are 'fantastical' - that's probably why we as a group enjoy them. Science fiction postulates some sort of scientific, or 'natural' as Werner calls it, reason for something (telepathy as a genetic mutation, for example), and even if is something you personally don't believe could ever happen, it doesn't make that belief true, or affect it's classification as scifi.

The concept of re-categorizing things from 'fantasy' to science fiction because suddenly something is created or discovered which makes it plausible is pretty silly. The whole idea of a 'paradigm shift' is that we aren't seeing it coming and it changes the way we look at everything, right? Doesn't sound remotely 'magical' to me.

Were all the Jules Verne classics about going to the moon and exploring the ocean's depths Fantasy which suddenly 'became' SciFi? Every early story featuring any sort of personal computer? robot? clone? cell phone/communicator/walkie talkie? spaceships? space travel? At the point many of these early stories were written the basic scientific concepts to enable any of these things were not even conceived. (They were "Inconceivable!"-TPB = )

I read an article once (will look to see if I saved it somewhere) that looked at current science and traced it back to where the concepts for such things were first mentioned in scifi stories. Several inventors/scientists were quoted as saying they got the idea to do whatever their thing was from reading about the concept of it in a story. This includes everything from medical advances to the internet all the way to space travel.

That would be an interesting book, wouldn't it? "Is science following science fiction?" = )

Anyways, to me the biggest distinction between scifi and fantasy is how the author describes things. If telepathy and other mental powers are skills resulting from purposeful genetic interbreeding and then detailed training to use safely, we're talking science fiction. If the same concept is called MindSpeaking and explained as a magical innate skill, or something acquired due to a magical object (wand, jewel, Companion, what-have-you), then the author is writing a fantasy. Same skill, but one is used in a fantasy, the other in a scifi manner.

message 32: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) Carolyn wrote: "That would be an interesting book, wouldn't it? "Is science following science fiction?" = ) .."

There's a web site that lists what inventions Heinlein predated with his stories.
If you go to the home page of this web site, you can search through other inventions & authors. It's pretty cool.

message 33: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn (seeford) Cool, thanks for the link Jim!

message 34: by Addy (new)

Addy | 4 comments Kernos wrote: "Yes Pern started off as pure epic Fantasy and then developed some SF features. I still categorize all the many Pern books as Fantasy.

Addy: I wrote a paper on the Pern series once and wrote Ann Mcaffery and she corrected me when I referred to them as a fantasy series, she considers them sci-fi. Perhaps classification should come from the author, after all they know best what their creation was intended to be.

message 35: by Bill (new)

Bill (kernos) | 117 comments Personally I do not think the intent of an artist is ever relevant to the meaning of a work of art, except perhaps to art historians.

My experience of a work is my experience. Knowing the intention of the artist can only diminish my experience by introducing ex cathedra, pre-conceived notions. And, often the artist is the least able to understand their own work, especially if it is great art.

For me then, despite Anne's intention to write a Sci-Fi series, I still find her books in the Fantasy category of my book database.


message 36: by Addy (new)

Addy | 4 comments Kernos wrote: "Personally I do not think the intent of an artist is ever relevant to the meaning of a work of art, except perhaps to art historians.

My experience of a work is my experience. Knowing the intenti..."


I agree with you to an extent, I would hate to have anything influencing my first experience with a work. However when it comes down to really analyzing a work (not that I analyze everything I read...but some do) do you not take into account the authors intent? The period in which the work was created?

Would you prefer that bookstores and libraries just alphabetize all books by author so that the reader isn't burdened by any classification outside their own?

On a side note: I totally agree with you about the Pern series. Sci-Fi? I think not. :~D

message 37: by Bill (new)

Bill (kernos) | 117 comments Oh, I agree if one is analyzing a work, the intent, culture, psyche etc is all of significance. This is what I meant when I mentioned "art historians", perhaps not the best term.

EG, I am a Beethoven freak and in my early years spent a lot of time analyzing his works, technically and in relation to other composers. His life and times, notes and notations and what others have written are all of significance. But, now I just listen for enjoyment and clarity. The best of his works will reflect my current moods and attitudes, rather than forcing one on me, like movie music tries to do. They allow for an interactive experience.

I would say the same is true of fiction - SFF or other.


message 38: by Addy (new)

Addy | 4 comments Kernos wrote: "Oh, I agree if one is analyzing a work, the intent, culture, psyche etc is all of significance. This is what I meant when I mentioned "art historians", perhaps not the best term.

EG, I am a Beeth..."

Love your Beethoven/movie music analogy, well said.

message 39: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn (seeford) Kernos wrote: "Personally I do not think the intent of an artist is ever relevant to the meaning of a work of art, except perhaps to art historians.

My experience of a work is my experience..."

Well, I do think the intent of the writer does matter, but that is another topic thread entirely.

Bill, your statement that *your* experience of a work is your own is of course entirely correct, but, to bring this thread full circle, that very focus demonstrates that booksellers have an impossible task trying to separate the SF from the Fantasy on their shelves.

After all, just the few people participating in this thread don't agree on whether some basic texts are SF or Fantasy, how could you expect all booksellers to agree with your [singular:] perception? Or Robin's or Mary's or Joe's or Bob's or whomever's?

As for me and my house, we classify all the Pern books as Science Fiction. = )

message 40: by Bill (new)

Bill (kernos) | 117 comments Hi Carolyn, you make a good point, especially for the giant book stores who are dealing with numerous genres and probably categorize books by orders from above and are high volume dealers. Smaller, speciality dealers are better at categorizing and even sub-categorizing.

I guesstimate over 90% of of books are easily categorized as SF or Fan.that 90+% of us would agree on. I have had this discussion elsewhere and the exceptions are generally emphasized: Pern and Star Wars are always mentioned. I dont expect nor really care if anyone agrees with me. I am just expressing my point of view.

The database I use downloads info from Amazon or other sites, based on ISBN numbers. I started this thread because of some of the ridiculous categories assigned. Harry Potter as "Children's books", eg., and many many as just "Literature and FIction". I can easily change categories and add subcategories, so it is not a big deal. I just wondered what others thought. How many use just one category called "Science Fiction and Fantasy"?

And, if I am browsing for a new SF book or series, I dislike fumbling thru fantasies, horrors, vamp romances &c.


message 41: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn (seeford) In my home library, I use just the category SF&F, I don't separate them out.

I understand what you mean. The big booksellers category name probably comes from the publishers, who are also trying to identify the market segment they are targeting.

I consider the Harry Potter books to be YA books, and there doesn't seem to be any subcategories under that header.

If you're browsing for a new SF book or series, I recommend any or all of the following sites (rather than the seller's dbs)for fun browsing: <--this one's whole purpose is to help readers find new scifi & fantasy authors - they also classify books into series and themes. <-- lots of book reviews <--this one lists books too, but I like it best for exploring author's homepages (some of them have short stories posted on their sites) <-- full of SciFi library recommendations (espcially good for classics)

Epic Dystopias - The Big List - a blog by a fellow GoodReader, who has listed out a ton of dystopia-themed books

There is also the ever-useful Fantastic Fiction site:

Happy Browsing!

message 42: by Jeanna (new)

Jeanna | 2 comments I've just come in on this post, so sorry if this is old news. But I kind of like what one of my local bookstores does--including sci fi and fantasy as "speculative fiction." It seems nice and encompassing to me.

message 43: by Julie (new)

Julie S. I think that they could be divided, but as several have mentioned, there would practical issues. Some do blur the lines. In my opinion, the early Pendragon books feel like fantasy (maybe urban fantasy?) while the later ones feel more like science fiction. So for practical reasons, it is sometimes easier simply to combine the two.

message 44: by Jonathan (last edited Jun 11, 2010 06:54PM) (new)

Jonathan (jnicol) I read both, and don't mind them being lumped together.

I listened to the Ender's Game audio book recently, and Orson Scott Card characterised the difference between the two: the cover art of Science Fiction books feature rivets, and Fantasy books feature trees. I took him to mean that the two genres have much in common, and that any differences are often superficial.

Both genres are "speculative fiction" (as Werner and Jeanna mentioned), and I think there is a lot of crossover in their readership. For instance, I think an SF fan is more likely to read Fantasy (and vice versa) than a fan of detective novels is to read either SF *or* Fantasy.

message 45: by Nate (new)

Nate | 5 comments I think these should definently be together. As somepeople said earlier too many books blur the line. Anne Mcaffrey's Dragon Riders of Pern, Terry Brooks's Genesis of Shannara, and Piers Anthonys Xanth are all examples.

message 46: by Lori S. (new)

Lori S. (fuzzipueo) For myself, while I will lump the two categories together on the same shelf (for spacial reasons - another reason they end up on the same shelves at bookstores), I do separate them out in my lists.

I find there are distinct flavors between the two genres, when I'm in the mood for science fiction, a fantasy won't do and vice-verse. Star Wars falls somewhere in the middle of the two continuums, while Pern falls firmly into the sf category (but I will admit the first time I read one of the books I thought it was fantasy - it certainly reads like one!). But there are elements which appear even in the early books which discount their being fantasy.

I think this is why there is a sub-category to cover the books which are science fiction, but have what could very easily be fantasy elements: space opera - in which ftl (including warp drive/hyperspace)/psy abilities (the Force)/bigger than life characters/ansibles/what-have-you appear.

message 47: by Gaijinmama (new)

Gaijinmama | 1 comments Waving at you all from Tokyo!
I'm a lurker but felt like throwing in my two yen (worth a bit more than two cents at current exchange rates).
In my experience many people like both genres, and many authors write in both genres, so it's nice to have a group that discusses the entire spectrum of speculative fiction. If one is looking for a particular type of book to read, usually you can tell from a quick glance at the cover whether it's fantasy or SF, so I don't really see the need to separate them.
That said, some of the older paperbacks in my collection, from the late 80's and before, actually say on the cover something like:
"A Gripping New Fantasy by the Award Winning Blah Blah" and the book is clearly S.F. For goodness' sake there's a spaceship on the cover!(rolls eyes)

message 48: by Bella (new)

Bella | 2 comments i live scifi and fantasy, but they obliosly should not be put togeather

message 49: by Amanda (last edited Dec 01, 2010 08:04AM) (new)

Amanda Carolyn wrote: "I consider the Harry Potter books to be YA books, and there doesn't seem to be any subcategories under that header..."

I dislike the YA book 'genre'...Young Adult isn't a unifying style or theme, it's a target audience! I don't see how Harry Potter could be anything but Fantasy.

message 50: by Lori S. (new)

Lori S. (fuzzipueo) I agree. Harry Potter is definitely fantasy.

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