Sci-Fi not Fantasy

I've never understood why booksellers group Science Fiction and Fantasy together, I just can't see the relationship. In fact, why do they split it out of ordinary fiction? According to Wikipedia, Science Fiction is defined as:

...a broad genre of fiction that often takes place in the future and usually involves speculations based on current science.

While Fantasy is defined as:

...a genre of art that uses magic and other supernatural forms as a primary element of plot, theme, or setting.

Both articles do note, however, that the genres are generally lumped into a broader category called Speculative Fiction, which means it generally includes science fiction, fantasy, horror fiction, supernatural fiction, alternate history, and magic realism.

For me, the definition of those two, and many of the other genres that make up speculative fiction, are so different I don't understand why they are split out. Likewise I find it odd as to why they are split are usually kept in a totally separate section of bookshops, why not with the rest of the novels? It always seems to me that Sci-Fi and Fantasy as considered lesser genres. Not all of the genres of Speculative Fiction are treated in this way, however. You'll find Robert Harris' novels in the ordinary fiction section, though they're typically described as historical fiction. Likewise, novels by Thomas Harris feature there too, but walk the line between Thriller and Horror.

So, booksellers of the world, lets get some things straight. Science Fiction and Fantasy are not the same thing, far from it (they're practically opposites) and neither genre should be singled out into a special section, include them with all your other fiction, they're just as good and just as worthy.


  1. vijay

    Hmmm... Actually, this debate could run off in any direction. Asimov was even against the sci-fi tag. He found it juvenile and preferred 'SF'.

    I guess bookstores find it easy to tag everything 'out there' together. And its not just them. :) Tagging is a widespread disease.

  2. Mir

    No, they are not opposites. They are different, but they are grouped as fiction that deals with the highly speculative--things that are not as they are or have been. Aliens and elves have that in common, as do colonies on other planets and colonies of rogue sorcerers. They present a different reality to our own.

    The professional writers of fantasy and science fiction have a joint association: SFWA. One of the better respected magazines of speculative fiction is...Fantasy and Science Fiction. Authors who write in one may write in the other (C.S. Lewis, Gene Wolfe, Harlan Ellison, Lois McMaster Bujold, etc). It deals, in both cases, with creations of new worlds--whether future, past , or never-been-or-will-be. Fans of both genres also hang together in conventions.

    It takes the same sort of ability in the reader to enjoy one as the other--the ability to strongly suspend disbelief and fall into the spell of the new created reality.

    One subgenre, science-fantasy, acknowledges the ability of science fiction and fantasy to blur so that it's hard to tell what the story is, one or the other.

    The genres aren't as divided as it would seem, though they are not the same.


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