So what in the world is the difference between fantasy and sci-fi? Does anyone know the precise line of demarcation?
I don’t think so, honestly.
Because I don’t think there is one.
Don’t get me wrong: there is a difference between fantasy and sci-fi, but it isn’t really universally definable. Of course each person, each author, each publisher, each reader, each movie maker can define for themselves how they separate the two, but there is no concrete difference that goes across the board. At least not in my opinion.
There are generally some works that are obviously and entirely on one side or the other, but there also always those nuts that try to put them on the opposite side (like that guy who wrote a whole book explaining how Lord of the Rings was really sci-fi and not fantasy at all).
But what about those many many works that seem to fall in the middle? What about them? Well there are a few definitions that seem to help clear the waters, but of course, they contradict on a few cases.
“Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with the impact of imagined innovations in science or technology. It differs from fantasy in that, within the context of the story, its imaginary elements are largely possible within scientifically established or scientifically postulated laws of nature (though some elements in a story might still be pure imaginative speculation).” – Wikipedia definition of sci-fi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sci_fi)
“Fantasy is a genre that uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary element of plot, theme, and/or setting. Many works within the genre take place in fictional worlds where magic is common. Fantasy is generally distinguished from science fiction in that it does not provide a logical (or pseudo logical) explanation for the scientifically impossible events that occur…” – Wikipedia definition of fantasy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fantasy)
“Fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science fiction is the improbable made possible.” – Rod Serling, creator of The Twilight Zone
To summarize these definitions, let me put it this way: “Fantasy focuses on impossible events occurring in places outside of our universe, using magic (which I prefer to call ‘cobha‘). Science fiction focuses on theoretically possible events occurring in places inside our universe, using technologies not yet invented.”
Alright, so that seems to cover what everyone says the difference is, and it covers practically all the cases. But…
It is very easy to not only find, but create cases in which this differentiation falls to pieces.
Such as this one.
Jodça Balbroia, S.F.U. 35189, 8th Levelman
Immersive Report on the events of the 94th day of the 3104th year Nau-tSica
I hate paralysis. Especially artificially enforced paralysis. Especially when I wake up in it and have no idea where I am. As my consciousness slowly came awake, I wasn’t rid of the terrifying feeling of immobility.
Artificial immobilization always reminds me of the feeling of the threshold between the wakeworld and the dreamworld, and no amount of training can get rid of the feeling of utter helplessness that I feel in that state.
Thankfully I had been frozen with my eyes open, and I examined my surroundings minutely. Or as minutely as my peripheral vision allowed, since I couldn’t move my eyes.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to see. Above me was a blank white ceiling. Close to my right was an equally white wall, maybe a little over an arm’s length away. Close to my left was a different kind of wall – more like a floor.
Or was it actually a floor?
I examined my senses more closely than before, and quickly recognized the odd buzzing feeling that comes from an alteration of gravity by a Hethla surface. Yes, that must be the floor over there, and I was pinned to the wall like a fly to a card in a boy’s treasure box. Gedde-
No curses. Old ways die hard.
I turned myself to more useful tasks than spewing profanity at my problems, and activated my Oketsna 34 to begin scanning my surroundings for neural networks. I found several, but the one that interested me was the one controlling the Hethla surface I was stuck against. Of course it was protected, but it didn’t take a minute to split its defenses and release me.
I instantly shot sideways until I hit the floor with a hard thud. I laid there for a few seconds, letting my muscles snap out of their enforced disability. At last I was able to stand and flex my sore limbs. I looked about me and saw that I was in what was obviously intended to be a cell. At each end of the blank corridor a heavy, plain door stood blocking my exit.
Other than that, I had no idea where I was, and no idea of what I was to do other than get out. This could be a zero briefing mission for training purposes, or it could be a real attack by Nectors enacted against a rising Elf Levelman. In either case I needed some sort of weapon, and after a quick check of my person, I verified that I had nothing but my body and my mind. Not that I should discount those, not at all.
I bowed my head and began to probe carefully into the networks around me. I didn’t want anyone watching to know of my escape. Well, the beginnings of my escape. The security was strong, but I was already getting headway on hacking the signature IDs of the doors when I heard footsteps in the hall.
I immediately flung myself into the air, snapping out a command to the Hethla surface. It altered the orientation of the gravity and I laid myself down against it just in time. As the door opened I composed myself to look as comatose as I could.
The Nector took forever to come into my view.
As soon as his dark glasses were visible I shifted my signature to the opposite Hethla surface. I brought my feet up in a devastating kick as I flew across the corridor, smashing my heels against his jaw and colliding his head against the wall.
I disengaged and we both fell in a heap to the floor. I quickly rose and stepped back, and he followed right along with me. Nector are anything if not persistent. His glasses lay on the floor, and his black eyes stared at me with an intense hatred, he pulled his gun and rammed it into my chest.
I swiftly taught him that you don’t do that if you want to kill someone. I struck the gun aside and in the same motion came back to ram my elbow into his face. He jolted back just enough for me to deliver another kick to his middle and then to his throat. He fell to the floor and I stepped back in a defensive posture, watching his gun.
But he didn’t rise. His eyes gazed vacantly at nothingness. I nodded in satisfaction and bent to examine him.
I sent a quick All Clear signal from his rapidly fading, very primitive, extended computation system, and readied a vmware segment in my brain to transfer the contents of the Nector’s X into it. I don’t like doing that in general cases, since people can have any number of disgusting things stored away in there, but this was an emergency, and I needed his signature ID to get beyond these doors with any amount of haste.
Then I began exchanging garments with him. I wished I could face morph to match him, but I wasn’t leveled up enough for that. I would have to do without, and avoid being seen, if possible.
When I finished I quickly locked him into the immobilization protocol I had been in just minutes before, and picked up his glasses. Marvelously, they weren’t broken. Very good for me, too, as they would hide my brilliantly blue eyes well. Elves look better in dark glasses, especially in Nector territory.
Then I indexed my newly acquired weaponry. A Szechtzy 561, and an extra clip weren’t much, but far, far better than nothing. The Szechtzy had extraneous features, like a safety, but I could use it, and it carried 11 rounds: only four less than my limited issue Talso. I missed it, but I had been trained to not rely on any weapon but myself: I was the weapon. These were only accessories.
The 8 rounds in the extra clip gave me 19 shots to freedom. Quite a bit, but I would have to watch each shot as carefully as a girl preparing for the Numath dances watches her meals.
I looked back at him, sorrowfully. At least I now knew that this was a serious situation. He had obviously been sent to execute me. That meant there were zero negotiations. I had to get out alive, and I would likely have to kill many more Nectors before I succeeded.
I exited with no trouble, and began to follow the floor plan he had handily installed in his head. As I went I began examining his X and trying to pry into the local network.
Suddenly I stopped.
There was a whole other system in there, on top of the first one, and in it was a security mechanism – tripped.
I groaned. They were on to me, and probably also knew exactly where I was. In all probability I was walking into a trap.
But they weren’t going to take this Elf. No. Not while I had any sense left.
I immediately disabled all tracking and notification mechanisms in that dratted Nector’s sector, including all his stupid social networking apps. I also sent a tracking probe along some of his lines to what I guessed was headquarters to see if I could hack into their internal system and give me an edge on their own troops. It would take a while though.
I drew the Szechtzy and kicked in a door to the side of the corridor. There was no reason to try to pretend to be anyone anymore, at least not at this time. The signature ID was already compromised.
I entered, gun first, and began swiftly penetrating into the interior of the fortress. I knew that if I stayed in the small passages I would soon get lost and cornered, but I needed to get off their radar for a bit.
After several turns I chose a largish door and did a subtle hack through it so that their tracers would have to spend days trying to find out which door I went through, and by then I should be far away. Hopefully.
I eased it open slowly, covering each inch of exposed space beyond as I did so.
It opened into a large office complex, divided vertically by an open space. The roof was covered with cubicles just like the floor, each divided into its own separate Hethla sector.
Each cubicle contained a Nector soldier.
I leaped back and pulled the door to, but it was too late.
The doors shot open irresistibly and I shot into the room, tumbling through the air to the far wall. They had used the guard’s signature to bind me to the opposite wall, over 50 feet away. I quickly terminated the signature and locked onto the floor, tucking into a desperate roll that brought me, alive but breathless and bruised, to safety.
For less than a second. I didn’t wait to nurse my wounds, obviously. The bullets were already singing about my head as I dived to concealment under a long table.
I scurried along for a few feet, moving away from my place of initial entrance, and tried to quiet my breathing. I needed time. A bullet smacked into the metal by my head and glanced away from me. I thanked God for his protection and shifted my gravity to below my feet.
I slid a few yards and then I switched back again. I only had a few more seconds before those bullets found my new location.
I probed into the network to see my options and made a decision. The bullets were coming closer, striking through the table above me like paper, and I heard footsteps running.
All the computers in the room exploded in a blast of sparks and flame. I wish I could have seen it. As it was the Nectors stopped momentarily. I hoped some of them had been wounded, but I couldn’t be sure.
Then I got it. At last I had the sector control I needed, and I instantly exploded into action.
I disengaged the lower sector from its Hethla surface. The entire complex plummeted away from me to the ceiling, burying most of the soldiers in the wreckage.
I leaped to my feet and sprinted for the doors, while I switched both sectors again to the wall opposite me. I fired into the disaster over my shoulder as I ran for my life. The best cover is behind a moving bullet.
But several soldiers were already disengaging themselves from the mess and taking control of their gravity. Bullets zipped by me, but I took out two before I got to the doors. It was only a matter of time before they got my signature, and then I would be at their mercy. I had no time to hack the locks.
I shot the electrical cords that powered the bolts and triggered the mechanical catch manually. And got a bullet in the shoulder as I reached for the handle.
I dropped to my knees in pain. I gritted my teeth and tucked my gun into my belt, grabbing the door with my good hand.
Then I engaged the opposite wall’s Hethla surface.
We all shot backwards, and the door flung open, with me hanging onto it with one arm. I reengaged myself and fell into the corridor. I stumbled to my feet and began to run, even while clutching my fast bleeding shoulder. Elves heal, but not that fast, and I needed time to focus on it.
Time. Always time.
Gunshots echoed behind me. They were coming.
I switched to the wall next to me and ran on it at an angle until I reached the roof. I continued to run down the corridor in a spiral, desperately evading their fire that I could not return.
I only had 2 rounds left.
And my loss of blood with the spinning was making me dizzy. I could not focus, and a door was ahead.
Bullets drove into it as I neared the steel barring my way to freedom. If I could remember the floor plan right, this was the way out. But how could I open the door?
That was answered for me as I came at it, upside down, panting, and reeling.
And on the other side stood my Report Officer, standing stolidly looking at me with his rifle in his hands.
“Get out of the way, Balbroia.”
I complied as quickly as I was able, collapsing to the ground and moving behind him while he opened fire. I was outside. Another Levelman was here. I was safe. That was all I knew.
And I had time to black out.
Alright, so there you have it. Not much of a story, if you ask me, but it had these features:
- Separate world and universe (with language, culture and races)
- Alternate cobha (hence the ability to shift gravity with technology), also known as ‘magic’
- Advanced technologies not yet invented yet within possibility (practical mental communication with computers)
So if you ask me, it was more fantasy than sci-fi. But its feel was decidedly more sci-fi than fantasy.
So what do you think? Was it fantasy, or was it sci-fi?
With joy and peace in Christ,
Jay Lauser aka Sir Emeth Mimetes
P.S. And yes, I did write this article just so I could write and post that story here. 🙂