Nemo Me Impune Lacessit

Saturday, 18 August 2012

SF vs. Fantasy (and Horror, too!)

Filed under: Media, Philosophy, Principles, Reading, Viewing — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — mikewb1971 @ 2:33 AM (02:33)

Current mood: cynical

Recently I read Tomorrow, the Stars, which was edited by Robert A. Heinlein (at least in part – in the preface, he says that Truman Tailey. Judith Merrill, Frederick Pohl and Walter Bradbury helped out there). In that preface, Heinlein mentions a significant difference between science fiction and fantasy

From page 8 of the Berkeley Medallion Edition (15th printing – June, 1967)

“Science fiction is sometimes miscalled ‘escape literature,’ a mistake arising from a profound misconception of its nature and caused by identifying it with fantasy. Science fiction and fantasy are as different as Karl Marx and Groucho Marx. Fantasy is constructed by either denying the real world in toto or at least making a prime basis of the story one or more admittedly false premise – fairies, talking mules, trips through a looking glass, vampires, seacoast Bohemia, Mickey Mouse.”

In the next few sentences of that same paragraph, Heinlein sets out what distinguishes science fiction from fantasy (and horror, as well). Again, from page 8

“But science fiction, no matter how fantastic its content may seem, always accepts all of the real world and the entire body of human knowledge as the framework for the fictional speculation.”

Back in 2003, I was hanging out at Bubonicon 35 with L. Neil Smith, who summed it up very well

In science fiction, the universe is knowable and people can figure it out.

Thus my conclusion that the books in the genre of sword-and-sorcery fantasy belong together with the horror books, if anywhere, rather than with the science-fiction books.

In my view, fantasy and horror stories are more mature versions of fairy tales and campfire ghost stories.

And why do I often feel as though I’m the only one that sees most of the cast of the typical horror movie as complete idiots, simply begging to be slaughtered at whim by the monster or slasher or demon?


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