“Oh, I don’t read that stuff. I prefer dramas and fiction with real characters, not wizards and warlocks.”
Thankfully, she was set straight on this point, but it does raise this question. Why exactly is there this confusion between fantasy and science fiction?
To someone who writes and reads sci-fi, the genres do not really seem all that similar, although I do understand that both genres are speculative fiction, and are almost treated like ‘His n’ Hers’ versions of one another by some publishers. They are usually shelved together in bookshops.
I don’t think I would ever write a fantasy novel (famous last words), because, to be brutally honest, I find the world creation really rather too fluid. This is obviously a very personal opinion, and I can hear the howls of annoyance from fantasy authors as I type this. However, as a designer, I feel that having some rules to work around (those of science) actually makes a stronger product. They are the armature of my creativity. If impossibilities can be got around by introducing a new power or some magic, well, that seems a tiny bit like cheating to me.
Also, there seems to be a cannon of ready-made character types which lead to the misconception I mentioned earlier about ‘wizards and warlocks.’
I’m not generally all that keen on rigid genre definitions – there are so many good books which don’t neatly fit into the shape of one genre or another. However, somehow the perception of the content of fantasy novels seems to have crept over to define science fiction as well. I’m not really sure how this has happened, but I’m just a bit worried that this misconception will be turning away potential readers, like the person I mentioned above. Likewise, I’ve heard it expressed that other people wouldn’t read SF /F because they don’t like robots and spaceship stories (which is such a narrow definition of science fiction it makes me grit my teeth).
How can we make the distinguishing features of both science-fiction and fantasy clearer to the general public? I have no idea, but I’m open to suggestions anyone might have. Perhaps by continuing to produce good work, and by continuing to talk about it.