Science Fiction vs Science Fantasy

There’s a difference between these two genres, and it’s a difference that I learn more every day. I called myself a science fiction writer, but I’m really the latter.


They share a similarity, in that their original genesis is a basis in scientific concepts — but that’s where they diverge. Good stories are the ones in which the characters are ultimately more important, but in science fiction the science has a basis in aspects that can be explained — at least extrapolated.


Science fiction can be further divided into hard and soft varieties, but that’s a separate article for the point of this piece.


Where science fantasy differs is that there is no rational explanation of things. This is why Roger Zelazny’s Amber series and Robert Heinlein’s novels are really in different categories.

Midshipman Heinlein, from the 1929 U.S. Naval ...

Midshipman Heinlein, from the 1929 U.S. Naval Academy yearbook (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


As I said my current stories are science fantasy; I deal with ghosts. There’s no scientific rationale for their existence — but that isn’t a reason for me not to write this story.


Ironically, I had no interest in the sciences in high school (except for astronomy) — but my writing interest is science fiction, for both reading and writing. I guess my interest in astronomy helps for the writing…


So my current Work in Progress (WIP) is really science fantasy, not science fiction.

What is Steampunk?

There has been a large wave of fandom for this in the past few years. There’s even an anthology of comics (I tried for it; unfortunately I was early in my learning of the Scrivener app and, as a result, I blew it). With all of the popularity I will still try to explain it.

First, here’s the definition on Wikipedia.

The book seen as having launched the genre is The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling (fathers of Cyberpunk). It has some slight similarities).

Bruce Sterling, original background edited wit...

Bruce Sterling, original background edited with simple brush strokes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve also heard (before the Wikipedia article) it compared to the

Portrait of author William Gibson taken on his...

Portrait of author William Gibson taken on his 60th birthday; March 17, 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

works of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. Verne I can see, though not Wells. Well, for The Time Machine, yes… but not for 1984 or even Animal Farm…

What makes The Time Machine Steampunk is the technology: it’s windup, dials and clockwork devices, not electronics or computerized equipment. It draws some similarities to Cyberpunk in that man and machine are often merged, the difference being that the technology isn’t of the same kind. The former, not the latter.

Although in general fans didn’t like the film remake of The Wild, Wild West much, the film was very much Steampunk-style with all of the windup technology. There wasn’t electricity in that time period.

In essence, Steampunk is science fantasy, not science fiction. I’ll explain the difference in another post.

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