The title of this piece is 100% true. Although many fans of science fiction would like to believe that fantasy doesn’t enter into their genre, it’s actually quite reliant upon it. Just like historical writing, non-fiction or fiction, requires interpolation of known facts, science fiction requires the writer to predict the future through his imagination.
A background in science is probably the best thing you can do for your writing career if you mean to follow through on science fiction. So many of the premises are fed through the genre and require the special attention of a keen eye trained in sciences to make it effective. I was on a STEM track up to my third year in undergraduate studies, and I admit that my knowledge on a lot of theories are limited. That is a blessing in some ways and a hindrance in others. I know just enough to be dangerous, so to say. I absolutely adored lab time and miss all that a great deal, but I wouldn’t want to give up the track I followed, because it too has fed my well.
I believe strongly that a liberal education can open the mind to view things from perspectives previously taken for granted. My mind has become quite agile at reading people through their actions and their texts. Likewise, I see the crossings of texts from text to text. Alice in Wonderland crops up a lot in science fiction, as Tolkien comes up in most high fantasy. You’ll find themes from religious texts like the Bible, Talmud and Koran, as well as the book of the dead and Tibetan writings.
The spiritual is a great point at which science fiction crosses into fantasy without actually crossing over. If we were to explain the paranormal, we’d use scientific theory to do so. To me, paranormal is simply that which we don’t yet understand or have theories about. One day we will have defined these phenomena and I’d love to know what that will look like! In order to write about those premises, I have to imagine them framed by known science. Did you know that Nikola Tesla was embarking on these studies before he was utterly impoverished? Whether these were the ramblings of a troubled and broken spirit, or a breakthrough, they’re fascinating to read about.
Essentially, Science Fiction is techno/space fantasy. Fans of the genre will probably be pretty upset with me for saying it so plainly, but as a writer who used devices of both genres to weave The Trailokya universe, my intertexts have lead me to this supposition. In order to make sense of the world I was writing, I not only employed my imagination, but the science I have learned regarding our known universe. You’ll find free energy, nanotech, transdimensional travel, space travel, ultraterrestrials, extraterrestrials and so much more. Just as this fantasy required the friendship of science, the reverse is true.
If you look at Star Wars or Star Trek, the stories told in the series leaned heavily on made up things. For instance, my favorites: The Andorians. (Shush. They’ve got antennae, are blue and cranky. Of course I love them!) There is absolutely no existing evidence of such a being anywhere. Gene pretty much pulled them out of his own fantasy about space people. Andorians are as fantasy as elves (maybe I should have used Vulcans in that analogy, because of the ears).
Similarly, warp drive is fantasy. So were Submarines back in Jules Verne’s day. Science fiction needs fantasy to reach beyond our now and propose new horizons. If Verne hadn’t proposed submarines, would we have developed these amazing machines? He certainly helped spur technology on. The Star Trek series is also responsible for upping the ante. How do you like those cell phones you’re using? Every kid back in the day wanted a Dick Tracey wrist watch…thanks Apple for finally getting on that. Fantasy feeds innovation.
Tracey Madeley says
Brilliant article, well put. The line between science fiction and fantasy is a blurred one, perhaps because we are trying to imagine what will be possible in the future. If you like blue, what about Avatar?
Captain Maiel says
Not a super fan of Avatar. It had some interesting premises, such as inhabiting another body with your consciousness. I think we’re at a point where we are looking for that sort of technology, to trump death and that finality. One day, I believe we will transcend body, because that is a huge focus today.
Thanks for reading!
Jesse Flex says
I definitely enjoyed, and agree, with your overall premise that science fiction and fantasy are part and parcel. Likewise, fiction often feeds innovation. That doesn’t necessarily mean authors come up with all the best ideas, sometimes they just breath life into them. For instance, submersibles have been around since the 16th century–well before Jules Verne was alive. Perhaps there is much more synthesis between innovation, fiction, and reality than we often think or know.