Demon Hunting and Tenth Dimensional Physics: Subgenre Saturday: Science Fantasy

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Subgenre Saturday: Science Fantasy

It’s Saturday once again, which means a new subgenre for us to look at. Last week, I went into one of my favorite underappreciated (and unfortunately underpopulated) subgenres: new weird fiction. Now, I was planning something else for this week. Something a little more strictly sci-fi, like dystopian fiction or space opera. But last week really got my juices flowing, and I got inspired by my own little bit at the end, going off into a cousin of new weird. If new weird is the kid who likes to break the rules, then science fantasy is the kid who sits in back and dresses funky, but still pulls a 4.0. Or some metaphor that makes much more sense.

Science fantasy is essentially just what it sounds like: a combination of science fiction and fantasy elements, styles, and tropes. Things like McCaffrey’s Pern books (Dragons and telepathy and supercomputers?), Colfer’s Artemis Fowl (Yeah, leprechauns and elves… but also high tech computer things and mathematics.), and even The Giver (A genetically perfect society set somewhere after a great conflict, the world turned flat and perfected, and also the inexplicable ability to transfer memory through physical contact.).

On the film front, you don’t need to look any deeper than Star Wars (George Lucas even said the movies were space fantasy.). Set in another galaxy with FTL travel and aliens and lasers, but also more classic fantasy tropes than you can count. The chosen one, the wise old mentor who dies, the questing party, the princess, the evil overlord with a mysterious connection to our hero. Plus, no matter what anyone says, the Force is magic. Magic magic magic.

Unlike some of the other subgenres I’ve looked at recently, there are plenty of works that are absolutely science fantasy, all across different media. I touched on Gunnerkrigg Court last week, which is too blatant to ignore (Seriously. Go check it out.). Most of the Final Fantasy franchise of video games falls into this subgenre, and I would posit that you’re more likely to see science fantasy in video games than almost anywhere else. You also see it in cartoons (Gargoyles, The Legend of Korra), live action TV (Power Rangers comes to mind. All of them.), and anime and manga (Yu-Gi-Oh!, Dragon Ball Z).

What are some of the big ones I missed (I’m sure I missed something blatantly obvious.)? Let me know in the comments below, and subscribe to stay caught up on Subgenre Saturdays.


1 comment :

Patrick Stahl said...

Brandon Sanderson's recent novella Perfect State could probably be considered science fantasy. It's sort of sci-fi masquerading as fantasy masquerading as sci-fi, so science fantasy cuts straight through the mud.