Fantasy vs science fiction

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Gene Ward Smith

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Aug 11, 2005, 2:08:09 PM8/11/05
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What are people's thoughts on why fantasy has increased its market
share so markedly wrt science fiction? Here are some possibilities to
start out with:

(1) Sensawunda. Maybe magic gives better sensawunder than tech.

(2) Post-humans. People like reading about recognizably human
characters with superhuman abilities, but if they become truly
post-human, they become hard to relate to. But that's the direction
science fiction is moving in. The Golden Age and the Lucky Starr books
are set at the same time--7000 AD. But how different! In Lucky Starr, a
typical product of the golden age, space travel is highly developed but
humans are still human. In Golden Age, it may take you a long time to
get to Neptune, but it doesn't matter in a way because all kinds of
weird aliens are right there already where you are, calling themselves
human--more or less.

(3) Suspending disbelief. In fantasy, you simply require a
straightforward suspension of disbelief. In science fiction, you are
given some kind of quasi-scientific language to help the process along.
This can run into trouble at both ends. If, like a certain well-known
poster to this group, you don't actually know any science, the
quasi-scientific language will fail of its purpose. On the other hand
if you know too much, the chances are excellent that you won't buy what
is being presented either.

(4) Alien psychology. In fantasy, the aliens are usually nearly human,
which makes them easier to relate to. In Tolkien, the elves are
idealized humans and the orcs degraded humans, whereas hobbits and
dwarves are human variations just different enough to amuse without
running any risk we won't be able to identify with them. Science
fiction authors however get laughed at if they make an alien race this
nearly human, and so feel obligated to give their readers ones which
are more believeable, making them less easy to identify with.

(5) Eliminating tech. In fantasy, it's common to eliminate tech by
setting everything in a pseudo-medieval environment, which allows us to
get rid of things like guns which are just not helpful from a story
point of view. Then, we may replace whatever tech we choose at will
with a suitable magic equivalent.

(6) Flexibility. In fantasy, you can do whatever you like, which makes
it easier to plot. In science fiction, there are all these scientific
constraints, which increase the more science you know, ending up with
the dreaded Science is Killing Science Fiction problem.

Michael Alan Chary

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Aug 11, 2005, 2:13:29 PM8/11/05
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In article <1123783689....@g49g2000cwa.googlegroups.com>,

Gene Ward Smith <gws...@svpal.org> wrote:
>What are people's thoughts on why fantasy has increased its market
>share so markedly wrt science fiction? Here are some possibilities to

Part of it I think is that fantasy might just attract better writers.

I mean, I happen to like Clarke and Asimov and Hogan and Benford and Bear,
but compared to Bradbury and Gene Wolfe and Gaiman and the others, they
just look sort of wimpy. I'm not saying that Lawrence Watt-Evans is better
when he writes fanstasy than sf, but rather that when you look for new
stuff to read, you're more likely to find a better writer in fantasy.
--
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http://www.ethshar.com/thesprigganexperiment0.html
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James Nicoll

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Aug 11, 2005, 2:18:06 PM8/11/05
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In article <ddg4g9$qi6$1...@reader2.panix.com>,

Michael Alan Chary <mch...@panix.com> wrote:
>In article <1123783689....@g49g2000cwa.googlegroups.com>,
>Gene Ward Smith <gws...@svpal.org> wrote:
>>What are people's thoughts on why fantasy has increased its market
>>share so markedly wrt science fiction? Here are some possibilities to
>
>Part of it I think is that fantasy might just attract better writers.
>
>I mean, I happen to like Clarke and Asimov and Hogan and Benford and Bear,
>but compared to Bradbury and Gene Wolfe and Gaiman and the others, they
>just look sort of wimpy. I'm not saying that Lawrence Watt-Evans is better
>when he writes fanstasy than sf, but rather that when you look for new
>stuff to read, you're more likely to find a better writer in fantasy.

Wolfe writes SF.

The main reason you find more good writers in SF (leaving aside
MilSF and AH to avoid dragging the average down) is that you find more
writers in fantasy than SF. It's where the money is.

Even if you start off writing SF, agents will strongly suggest a
career move and publishers will package book as fantasy if they can, even
if, to pick a silly made up example, the books are no more fantasy than
LORD KALVAN OF OTHERWHEN.

--
http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/
http://www.livejournal.com/users/james_nicoll

Lawrence Watt-Evans

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Aug 11, 2005, 2:27:35 PM8/11/05
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On Thu, 11 Aug 2005 18:18:06 +0000 (UTC), jdni...@panix.com (James
Nicoll) wrote:

> The main reason you find more good writers in SF (leaving aside
>MilSF and AH to avoid dragging the average down) is that you find more
>writers in fantasy than SF. It's where the money is.

Exactly.


--
Read the new Ethshar novel online! http://www.ethshar.com/thesprigganexperiment0.html

James Nicoll

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Aug 11, 2005, 2:25:47 PM8/11/05
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In article <u36nf1hi0dovdd3f1...@news.rcn.com>,

Lawrence Watt-Evans <l...@sff.net> wrote:
>On Thu, 11 Aug 2005 18:18:06 +0000 (UTC), jdni...@panix.com (James
>Nicoll) wrote:
>
>> The main reason you find more good writers in SF (leaving aside
>>MilSF and AH to avoid dragging the average down) is that you find more
>>writers in fantasy than SF. It's where the money is.
>
>Exactly.

And that's why SF <-> Mystery runs a lot stronger towards
the right side of the equation.

No 33 Secretary

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Aug 11, 2005, 2:36:06 PM8/11/05
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"Gene Ward Smith" <gws...@svpal.org> wrote in
news:1123783689....@g49g2000cwa.googlegroups.com:

(7) It's easier for bad writers to write passably, so is more accepted by
less discriminating fans.

--
Terry Austin
www.hyperbooks.com
Campaign Cartographer now available

Michael Alan Chary

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Aug 11, 2005, 2:40:46 PM8/11/05
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In article <ddg4ot$e15$1...@reader2.panix.com>,

James Nicoll <jdni...@panix.com> wrote:
>In article <ddg4g9$qi6$1...@reader2.panix.com>,
>Michael Alan Chary <mch...@panix.com> wrote:
>>In article <1123783689....@g49g2000cwa.googlegroups.com>,
>>Gene Ward Smith <gws...@svpal.org> wrote:
>>>What are people's thoughts on why fantasy has increased its market
>>>share so markedly wrt science fiction? Here are some possibilities to
>>
>>Part of it I think is that fantasy might just attract better writers.
>>
>>I mean, I happen to like Clarke and Asimov and Hogan and Benford and Bear,
>>but compared to Bradbury and Gene Wolfe and Gaiman and the others, they
>>just look sort of wimpy. I'm not saying that Lawrence Watt-Evans is better
>>when he writes fanstasy than sf, but rather that when you look for new
>>stuff to read, you're more likely to find a better writer in fantasy.
>
> Wolfe writes SF.

I agree with you, but then so does Anne McCaffrey and so did Roger Zelazny
and Ursula Leguin.

>
> The main reason you find more good writers in SF (leaving aside
>MilSF and AH to avoid dragging the average down) is that you find more
>writers in fantasy than SF. It's where the money is.
>
> Even if you start off writing SF, agents will strongly suggest a
>career move and publishers will package book as fantasy if they can, even
>if, to pick a silly made up example, the books are no more fantasy than
>LORD KALVAN OF OTHERWHEN.

Youthink it's effect rather than cause, then?

John Desmarais

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Aug 11, 2005, 2:42:16 PM8/11/05
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I've always blamed it on laziness. Fantasy is easier to write and
easier to read. Both the writer and the reader have a large library of
tropes and cliches to fall back on - the writer therefore needs to
explain less and the reader has less explanation that needs to be
understood. (It's magic, he's and elf, the gods will it, etc, etc...)

The best science fiction is built on a foundation of plausible science
- even if it's not possible, it possible to imagine that it could be.
This demands more from both the writer and the reader (the author must
have enough of a science background to make up something plausible and
the reader much be able to understand what the writer has created).

JD

Steve

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Aug 11, 2005, 2:57:18 PM8/11/05
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On 11 Aug 2005 11:08:09 -0700, "Gene Ward Smith" <gws...@svpal.org>
wrotD:

>What are people's thoughts on why fantasy has increased its market
>share so markedly wrt science fiction? Here are some possibilities to
>start out with:
>
>(1) Sensawunda. Maybe magic gives better sensawunder than tech.

Well, maybe it's because editors have been buying too many important
books and not enough entertaining books. Entertainment is important to
a lot of readers. Fantasy may be more entertaining...

>(2) Post-humans. People like reading about recognizably human
>characters with superhuman abilities, but if they become truly
>post-human, they become hard to relate to. But that's the direction
>science fiction is moving in.

Ummm --some science fiction is moving that way. And after all, Simak
was "moving that way" decades ago. As was Cordwainer Smith. Watch for
a rebound.

>(4) Science


>fiction authors however get laughed at if they make an alien race this
>nearly human, and so feel obligated to give their readers ones which
>are more believeable, making them less easy to identify with.

Really? I wonder if you're pointing to a particular subgenre of SF and
declaring it to represent all of SF?

>(5) Eliminating tech.

>
>(6) Flexibility. In fantasy, you can do whatever you like,

I supsect 5 and 6 are the same thing. Not sure I agree with you --
sceince fictrion can be just as much wish-fullfillment as fantasy and
can be almost as devoid of tech, too. What's most important is being
consistent.

Steve

James Nicoll

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Aug 11, 2005, 3:19:07 PM8/11/05
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In article <ddg63e$qkd$1...@reader2.panix.com>,

Michael Alan Chary <mch...@panix.com> wrote:
>In article <ddg4ot$e15$1...@reader2.panix.com>,
>James Nicoll <jdni...@panix.com> wrote:
>>In article <ddg4g9$qi6$1...@reader2.panix.com>,
>>Michael Alan Chary <mch...@panix.com> wrote:
>>>In article <1123783689....@g49g2000cwa.googlegroups.com>,
>>>Gene Ward Smith <gws...@svpal.org> wrote:
>>>>What are people's thoughts on why fantasy has increased its market
>>>>share so markedly wrt science fiction? Here are some possibilities to
>>>
>>>Part of it I think is that fantasy might just attract better writers.
>>>
>>>I mean, I happen to like Clarke and Asimov and Hogan and Benford and Bear,
>>>but compared to Bradbury and Gene Wolfe and Gaiman and the others, they
>>>just look sort of wimpy. I'm not saying that Lawrence Watt-Evans is better
>>>when he writes fanstasy than sf, but rather that when you look for new
>>>stuff to read, you're more likely to find a better writer in fantasy.
>>
>> Wolfe writes SF.
>
>I agree with you, but then so does Anne McCaffrey and so did Roger Zelazny
>and Ursula Leguin.

I have no idea what you are trying to say.


>>
>> The main reason you find more good writers in SF (leaving aside
>>MilSF and AH to avoid dragging the average down) is that you find more
>>writers in fantasy than SF. It's where the money is.
>>
>> Even if you start off writing SF, agents will strongly suggest a
>>career move and publishers will package book as fantasy if they can, even
>>if, to pick a silly made up example, the books are no more fantasy than
>>LORD KALVAN OF OTHERWHEN.
>
>Youthink it's effect rather than cause, then?

Yes.

Damien Neil

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Aug 11, 2005, 3:14:08 PM8/11/05
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In article <1123783689....@g49g2000cwa.googlegroups.com>,
"Gene Ward Smith" <gws...@svpal.org> wrote:
> What are people's thoughts on why fantasy has increased its market
> share so markedly wrt science fiction? Here are some possibilities to
> start out with:

My personal guess is the old Science is Killing Science Fiction.

Most SF comes with an expiration date. The vast majority of SF from
fifty years ago is painfully dated today. It can be enjoyed, but only
with a firm understanding of historical context, etc, etc.
Unfortunately for SF, many of the core tropes of the genre haven't
substantially evolved since they began.

How many authors are still writing books with FTL travel and no
substantial advances in computer technology? Can you reasonably
describe these settings as being any more realistic than the average
fantasy novel? The difference is that the fantasy novel probably has
substantially more originality in it's world and "technology" than the
SF one.

There are authors who aren't writing SF with technology from the '60s
prop department, of course. It's my completely unsupported impression
that this is a relatively new phenomenon--that SF went through a period
where the development of science and technology left it behind, and is
only now starting to catch up.

Good fantasy, in contrast, is timeless. You don't need to worry about
"historical context" to enjoy Tolkien and Howard's stories are as
enjoyable today as they were the day they were published.

- Damien

Steve

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Aug 11, 2005, 3:31:36 PM8/11/05
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On Thu, 11 Aug 2005 18:18:06 +0000 (UTC), jdni...@panix.com (James
Nicoll) wrotD:

> and publishers will package book as fantasy if they can, even
>if, to pick a silly made up example, the books are no more fantasy than
>LORD KALVAN OF OTHERWHEN.

The cover concepts and ad concepts we've seen for Sword of Orion make
it look like a bit like fantasy. It isn't. The book has great space
fleets and gates between worlds and ... and cellphone analogs, and
aliens of odd description. Once you read the ad or the cover you can
tell it's SF.. but not by first glance.

Steve

Crystal Soldier -- A Locus Bestseller
Balance of Trade -- Best YA novel 2004
Local Custom audio book due June 27

Ethan Merritt

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Aug 11, 2005, 3:53:18 PM8/11/05
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Gene Ward Smith wrote:

> What are people's thoughts on why fantasy has increased its market
> share so markedly wrt science fiction?

There is no useful distinction to be made between "fantasy" and
"science fiction". It's a marketing label, no more.
If you take that label off the spine, you're left with a continuous
spectrum spanning styles that are loosely called fantasy, science
fiction, magic realism, horror, surrealism, and so on.

You, and many others, probably have a personal working definition
of "science fiction" that matches some particular aggregate style,
theme, and era within the much broader spectrum of SF (speculative
fiction). No problem there (until you find that your definition
doesn't match the next guy's), but it is a false dichotomy to say
that science-fiction SF is decreasing, while fantasy SF is increasing.
Rather, there is a shift in the popularity of themes and treatments.
Golden Age-style science fiction is not prevalent any more, but
then neither are the styles from the same period that you would
have labeled (I'm guessing) as non-science fiction fantasy.

> (1) Sensawunda. Maybe magic gives better sensawunder than tech.

If you think "science fiction" necessarily requires a focus on
tech, then your personal definition of the genre is even more
extreme than I was guessing.

> (3) Suspending disbelief. In fantasy, you simply require a
> straightforward suspension of disbelief. In science fiction, you are
> given some kind of quasi-scientific language to help the process
> along. This can run into trouble at both ends.

Exactly. If it requires too much quasi-anything, be it technobabble
or mystibabble, then the story is IMHO heading downhill fast.
The very best stories require suspension of disbelief only in the large
things, like overall setting, because if they get bogged down trying to
explain implausible trivialities then it is a distraction at best.
"As you know, Bob, because of the local confrabulatory field,
in this story people really do eat their sandwiches with the jelly
on the outside.".

> (5) Eliminating tech. In fantasy, it's common to eliminate tech by
> setting everything in a pseudo-medieval environment, which allows us
> to get rid of things like guns which are just not helpful from a story
> point of view. Then, we may replace whatever tech we choose at will
> with a suitable magic equivalent.

I'm not sure which side you're arguing here. I would instead say that
tech is largely irrelevant, unless you're assuming some definition of
"fantasy" that necessarily eliminates tech.

> (6) Flexibility. In fantasy, you can do whatever you like, which makes
> it easier to plot. In science fiction, there are all these scientific
> constraints, which increase the more science you know, ending up with
> the dreaded Science is Killing Science Fiction problem.

In a good story, the author wrenches reality no more than the story
itself requires. That's true on both ends of the fantasy<->science
fiction continuum.

--
None so blind as those who will not see

Pete Fenelon

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Aug 11, 2005, 3:59:10 PM8/11/05
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Gene Ward Smith <gws...@svpal.org> wrote:
> What are people's thoughts on why fantasy has increased its market
> share so markedly wrt science fiction? Here are some possibilities to
> start out with:
>
> (1) Sensawunda.
> (2) Post-humans.
> (3) Suspending disbelief.
> (4) Alien psychology.
> (5) Eliminating tech.
> (6) Flexibility.

7. No need to be logical or even pretend to be logical.
8. Market. EFP sells, therefore publishers buy more EFP.
9. Ridiculously low quality thresholds.

pete
--
pe...@fenelon.com "There's no room for enigmas in built-up areas"

Wayne Throop

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Aug 11, 2005, 3:59:40 PM8/11/05
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: Ethan Merritt <emer...@eskimo.com.invalid>
: There is no useful distinction to be made between "fantasy" and

: "science fiction". It's a marketing label, no more.

I find it useful. It describes a series of conventions
that you can expect to be at least vaguely followed.
And since people market books to people-who-like-that-kind-of-thing,
it is entire reasonable to expect that there's a correlation
between marketing categories and recognizable preference categories.

: No problem there (until you find that your definition doesn't match


: the next guy's), but it is a false dichotomy to say that
: science-fiction SF is decreasing, while fantasy SF is increasing.

I find I agree with enough people I discuss such things with to make
it worthwhile. And it is not a false dichtomy to say that, at the
very least, the proportion of "speculative fiction" with near to medium
future settings with relatively plausible technology traceable to todays,
is getting smaller. (Note that that's a subset of what I'd call
(and what lots of people seem to agree to call) science fiction.

: Rather, there is a shift in the popularity of themes and treatments.

See? You agree with me. The fact that you want not to label
this with the terms most other people use to label it... shrug.

:: (1) Sensawunda. Maybe magic gives better sensawunder than tech.

: If you think "science fiction" necessarily requires a focus on tech,
: then your personal definition of the genre is even more extreme than I
: was guessing.

And if you think there's not a strong correlation (specifically,
enough of a correlation to explain a sales shift), then you're
simply ignoring the facts.


Wayne Throop thr...@sheol.org http://sheol.org/throopw

Lawrence Watt-Evans

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Aug 11, 2005, 4:24:56 PM8/11/05
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On 11 Aug 2005 11:42:16 -0700, "John Desmarais"
<jddes...@gmail.com> wrote:

>I've always blamed it on laziness. Fantasy is easier to write and
>easier to read. Both the writer and the reader have a large library of
>tropes and cliches to fall back on - the writer therefore needs to
>explain less and the reader has less explanation that needs to be
>understood. (It's magic, he's and elf, the gods will it, etc, etc...)
>

>The best science fiction is built on a foundation of plausible science...

And right there you've shot your own argument in the foot.

It's just as easy to write bad SF as it is to write bad fantasy.

It _may_ be harder to write good SF than good fantasy -- a case can be
made, but I'm not entirely convinced -- but most writers of SF don't
worry about plausible science, any more than most fantasy writers can
tell a hauberk from a halberd.

No 33 Secretary

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Aug 11, 2005, 4:28:09 PM8/11/05
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Lawrence Watt-Evans <l...@sff.net> wrote in
news:nscnf11i3q5hjjmkn...@news.rcn.com:

I think it's easier for a bad writer to write passable - not good, but
passable - fantasy than passable SF. In addition, I think it's easier for
the typical reader - not such well educated, discriminating folk as we have
here, but the typical reader - to slog his way through passable fantasy,
because suspension of disbelief is easier when there's no claim of
scientific plausiblity.

And I think it being easier to read is more responsible than it being
easier to write.

Lawrence Watt-Evans

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Aug 11, 2005, 4:32:26 PM8/11/05
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On Thu, 11 Aug 2005 20:59:10 +0100, Pete Fenelon <pe...@fenelon.com>
wrote:

>Gene Ward Smith <gws...@svpal.org> wrote:
>> What are people's thoughts on why fantasy has increased its market
>> share so markedly wrt science fiction? Here are some possibilities to
>> start out with:
>>
>> (1) Sensawunda.
>> (2) Post-humans.
>> (3) Suspending disbelief.
>> (4) Alien psychology.
>> (5) Eliminating tech.
>> (6) Flexibility.
>
>7. No need to be logical or even pretend to be logical.

You clearly never read good fantasy.

>8. Market. EFP sells, therefore publishers buy more EFP.

But why does it sell?

>9. Ridiculously low quality thresholds.

Coming from a fan of the genre that gave us Lionel Fanthorpe, I find
this amusing.

Lawrence Watt-Evans

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Aug 11, 2005, 4:48:51 PM8/11/05
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On Thu, 11 Aug 2005 20:28:09 -0000, No 33 Secretary
<taustin...@hyperbooks.com> wrote:

>Lawrence Watt-Evans <l...@sff.net> wrote in
>news:nscnf11i3q5hjjmkn...@news.rcn.com:
>

>> It _may_ be harder to write good SF than good fantasy -- a case can be
>> made, but I'm not entirely convinced -- but most writers of SF don't
>> worry about plausible science, any more than most fantasy writers can
>> tell a hauberk from a halberd.
>>
>I think it's easier for a bad writer to write passable - not good, but
>passable - fantasy than passable SF.

That could be true. I'd really need to look at it in detail and give
it some thought before agreeing, but it could be.

> In addition, I think it's easier for
>the typical reader - not such well educated, discriminating folk as we have
>here, but the typical reader - to slog his way through passable fantasy,
>because suspension of disbelief is easier when there's no claim of
>scientific plausiblity.

There may be an unfortunate interaction of editor and reader here -- I
think SF editors may demand a greater pretense of plausibility than
readers need or want, and that prevents rip-roaring adventure SF that
might find an audience among the undiscriminating from getting
published in the first place.

Of course, it also weeds out tons of crap.

>And I think it being easier to read is more responsible than it being
>easier to write.

THAT part I agree with completely.

Tina Hall

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Aug 11, 2005, 5:41:00 PM8/11/05
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James Nicoll <jdni...@panix.com> wrote:
>> Gene Ward Smith <gws...@svpal.org> wrote:

(Just a general thought on the subject. Quotes mostly only left in
for some kind of context.)

>>> What are people's thoughts on why fantasy has increased its
>>> market share so markedly wrt science fiction?

[...]

> Even if you start off writing SF, agents will strongly suggest a
> career move and publishers will package book as fantasy if they
> can, even if, to pick a silly made up example, the books are no
> more fantasy than LORD KALVAN OF OTHERWHEN.

What if the insistence on realistic science in Science Fiction is to
be blamed, because it bullies all the fantastic stuff to shuffle off
to Fantasy, to stand in the corner, ashamed, with a paperbag over
its head? Maybe mundane readers (unlike some posters here) don't
want technobabble, but galaxy-sized comets (<g>), giant trees as
spaceships, and flying cities.

Btw, the 'silly made up example' sounds like the title of a Fantasy
story, not Science Fiction. (If it's a mangling of a real title, I'm
curious what that is.)

--
Tina
No internet access.
### XP v3.40 RC3 ###

Gene Ward Smith

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Aug 11, 2005, 5:03:50 PM8/11/05
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Lawrence Watt-Evans wrote:

> There may be an unfortunate interaction of editor and reader here -- I
> think SF editors may demand a greater pretense of plausibility than
> readers need or want, and that prevents rip-roaring adventure SF that
> might find an audience among the undiscriminating from getting
> published in the first place.

So we get stuck with stultified but scientically accurate stories such
as Red Thunder or The Getaway Special? Do you, of yhour own knowledge,
know of editors who are demanding scientific plausibility?

No 33 Secretary

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Aug 11, 2005, 5:04:22 PM8/11/05
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Lawrence Watt-Evans <l...@sff.net> wrote in
news:f5enf1pt455o3dich...@news.rcn.com:

> On Thu, 11 Aug 2005 20:28:09 -0000, No 33 Secretary
> <taustin...@hyperbooks.com> wrote:
>
>>Lawrence Watt-Evans <l...@sff.net> wrote in
>>news:nscnf11i3q5hjjmkn...@news.rcn.com:
>>
>>> It _may_ be harder to write good SF than good fantasy -- a case can
>>> be made, but I'm not entirely convinced -- but most writers of SF
>>> don't worry about plausible science, any more than most fantasy
>>> writers can tell a hauberk from a halberd.
>>>
>>I think it's easier for a bad writer to write passable - not good, but
>>passable - fantasy than passable SF.
>
> That could be true. I'd really need to look at it in detail and give
> it some thought before agreeing, but it could be.

It certainly seems like it would be less work to simply make up how stuff
works, than to actually figure out how it's supposed to work to be
realistic.

Though I guess there's a trade off there, as SF can draw on real world
history for world building, where the fantasy writer has to make more of it
up.


>
>> In addition, I think it's easier for
>>the typical reader - not such well educated, discriminating folk as we
>>have here, but the typical reader - to slog his way through passable
>>fantasy, because suspension of disbelief is easier when there's no
>>claim of scientific plausiblity.
>
> There may be an unfortunate interaction of editor and reader here -- I
> think SF editors may demand a greater pretense of plausibility than
> readers need or want, and that prevents rip-roaring adventure SF that
> might find an audience among the undiscriminating from getting
> published in the first place.

There may be an historical cause there - in the past, the audience was,
perhaps, more discrimination (and much smaller). Recall the glory days of
letters to the editor at Analog, for example.


>
> Of course, it also weeds out tons of crap.

Which is scary, given how much crap gets published.


>
>>And I think it being easier to read is more responsible than it being
>>easier to write.
>
> THAT part I agree with completely.
>

Is it an evil portent, that you agree with _me_?

Richard R. Hershberger

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Aug 11, 2005, 5:21:50 PM8/11/05
to

I don't know whether I agree or disagree with your larger point, but
that library 'o tropes is what turned me off from fantasy fifteen or
twenty years ago. Fantasy in principle has no limitations, but we got
an endless string of generic watered-down Tolkien knockoffs. Better to
read the original another time. I have only recently returned to dip
my toe in that pool.

Richard R. Hershberger

Lawrence Watt-Evans

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Aug 11, 2005, 5:46:49 PM8/11/05
to
On 11 Aug 2005 14:03:50 -0700, "Gene Ward Smith" <gws...@svpal.org>
wrote:

>Lawrence Watt-Evans wrote:

Did I misspell "greater pretense," or omit "than readers need or
want"?

Most readers don't give a damn about plausibility; most editors do
seem to at least want a vague pretense. I know Judy-Lynn del Rey
wanted me to make it clearer that the "magic" in _The Cyborg and the
Sorcerers_ was psionics, and not really magic -- that was one of two
changes she asked for in the revision letter. (The other was a new
ending.)

David Dyer-Bennet

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Aug 11, 2005, 5:51:26 PM8/11/05
to
"John Desmarais" <jddes...@gmail.com> writes:

This is comparing the worst fantasy to the best science fiction,
though.

The *best* fantasy has to be wholely believable without the crutches
of science and such to fall back on, and wholely engaging without any
limitations beyond those the author chooses. It's like playing
without a net.

And the *worst* science fiction has a much bigger stock of cliche and
trope to fall back on, all of reality plus hundreds of years of bad
SF.
--
David Dyer-Bennet, <mailto:dd...@dd-b.net>, <http://www.dd-b.net/dd-b/>
RKBA: <http://noguns-nomoney.com/> <http://www.dd-b.net/carry/>
Pics: <http://dd-b.lighthunters.net/> <http://www.dd-b.net/dd-b/SnapshotAlbum/>
Dragaera/Steven Brust: <http://dragaera.info/> Much of which is still down

Lawrence Watt-Evans

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Aug 11, 2005, 5:56:28 PM8/11/05
to
On Thu, 11 Aug 2005 21:04:22 -0000, No 33 Secretary
<taustin...@hyperbooks.com> wrote:

>Lawrence Watt-Evans <l...@sff.net> wrote in
>news:f5enf1pt455o3dich...@news.rcn.com:
>
>> On Thu, 11 Aug 2005 20:28:09 -0000, No 33 Secretary
>> <taustin...@hyperbooks.com> wrote:
>>
>>>I think it's easier for a bad writer to write passable - not good, but
>>>passable - fantasy than passable SF.
>>
>> That could be true. I'd really need to look at it in detail and give
>> it some thought before agreeing, but it could be.
>
>It certainly seems like it would be less work to simply make up how stuff
>works, than to actually figure out how it's supposed to work to be
>realistic.

You get to make up the magic, yeah, but not all the other trappings.
Although you wouldn't know it from a lot of what gets published, the
superior fantasy writer does make an effort to get things like
horsemanship, archery, castle architecture, and armor design right,
which takes more research than just extrapolating current furniture
into the future.

>Though I guess there's a trade off there, as SF can draw on real world
>history for world building, where the fantasy writer has to make more of it
>up.

Real-world science also provides a ready-made vocabulary for
hand-waving. I think there _is_ a trade-off, I'm just unsure how much
of one.

>> There may be an unfortunate interaction of editor and reader here -- I
>> think SF editors may demand a greater pretense of plausibility than
>> readers need or want, and that prevents rip-roaring adventure SF that
>> might find an audience among the undiscriminating from getting
>> published in the first place.
>
>There may be an historical cause there - in the past, the audience was,
>perhaps, more discrimination (and much smaller). Recall the glory days of
>letters to the editor at Analog, for example.

Yeah, that's what I'm thinking -- lots of editors came up through
fandom and are haunted by Campbell's ghost. Most readers would be
just as happy with the heirs of Planet or Startling Stories.

>>>And I think it being easier to read is more responsible than it being
>>>easier to write.
>>
>> THAT part I agree with completely.
>>
>Is it an evil portent, that you agree with _me_?

I dunno; I admit it startled me a little. (For one thing, I'd had you
temporarily killfiled to save time in skimming the
Is-John-Ringo-destroying-SF thread, and hadn't realized the killfile
expired this morning.)

Generally speaking, though, publishing is much, much more
reader-driven than writer-driven.

Carl Dershem

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Aug 11, 2005, 6:00:06 PM8/11/05
to
Pete Fenelon <pe...@fenelon.com> wrote in news:emagdd...@fenelon.com:

> Gene Ward Smith <gws...@svpal.org> wrote:
>> What are people's thoughts on why fantasy has increased its market
>> share so markedly wrt science fiction? Here are some possibilities to
>> start out with:
>>
>> (1) Sensawunda.
>> (2) Post-humans.
>> (3) Suspending disbelief.
>> (4) Alien psychology.
>> (5) Eliminating tech.
>> (6) Flexibility.
>
> 7. No need to be logical or even pretend to be logical.
> 8. Market. EFP sells, therefore publishers buy more EFP.
> 9. Ridiculously low quality thresholds.

Apparently the only fantasy you read is the low quality stuff that fits
your preconceptions. There is as much high quality fantasy as there is
high quality SF (maybe more, as there are more people working in the
genre), and the same goes for the low quality stuff, and the 'extruded'
mindless drivel.

But tarring any field (yes, even romance or westerns or testosterone-
poisoned action-adventure) with the same brush is guaranteed to be a
mistake.

cd
--
The difference between immorality and immortality is "T". I like Earl
Grey.

No 33 Secretary

unread,
Aug 11, 2005, 6:05:45 PM8/11/05
to
Lawrence Watt-Evans <l...@sff.net> wrote in
news:rqhnf1hjgmq1vdqul...@news.rcn.com:

> On Thu, 11 Aug 2005 21:04:22 -0000, No 33 Secretary
> <taustin...@hyperbooks.com> wrote:
>
>>Lawrence Watt-Evans <l...@sff.net> wrote in
>>news:f5enf1pt455o3dich...@news.rcn.com:
>>
>>> On Thu, 11 Aug 2005 20:28:09 -0000, No 33 Secretary
>>> <taustin...@hyperbooks.com> wrote:
>>>
>>>>I think it's easier for a bad writer to write passable - not good,
>>>>but passable - fantasy than passable SF.
>>>
>>> That could be true. I'd really need to look at it in detail and
>>> give it some thought before agreeing, but it could be.
>>
>>It certainly seems like it would be less work to simply make up how
>>stuff works, than to actually figure out how it's supposed to work to
>>be realistic.
>
> You get to make up the magic, yeah, but not all the other trappings.

Certainly, world building is a spectrum, not a series of discrete points.

> Although you wouldn't know it from a lot of what gets published, the
> superior fantasy writer does make an effort to get things like
> horsemanship, archery, castle architecture, and armor design right,
> which takes more research than just extrapolating current furniture
> into the future.

Look at how many . . . decades Tolkein spent world building. I would
venture to guess that _good_ fantasy world building is, indeed, more work
(though not necessarily *harder* work, just far more of it) than _good_
SF future world building. But there's a *lot* that can be fudged, and
glossed over in the text, by a lazy writer looking only to meet his
deadline. And I do think there's more than can be fudged in fantasy, and
that the reader is less likely to notice it. Or perhaps more likely to be
able to fill in the missing details in his imagination?


>
>>Though I guess there's a trade off there, as SF can draw on real world
>>history for world building, where the fantasy writer has to make more
>>of it up.
>
> Real-world science also provides a ready-made vocabulary for
> hand-waving. I think there _is_ a trade-off, I'm just unsure how much
> of one.

And you'd certainly know better than me, since my world building experience
is limited to gamemastering. (Which can be quite a challenge in and of
itself, if you let it be, but is quite different in purpose and scope, and
which can be ongoing in small pieces, where a book needs to be _done_ at
some point.)


>
>>> There may be an unfortunate interaction of editor and reader here --
>>> I think SF editors may demand a greater pretense of plausibility
>>> than readers need or want, and that prevents rip-roaring adventure
>>> SF that might find an audience among the undiscriminating from
>>> getting published in the first place.
>>
>>There may be an historical cause there - in the past, the audience
>>was, perhaps, more discrimination (and much smaller). Recall the glory
>>days of letters to the editor at Analog, for example.
>
> Yeah, that's what I'm thinking -- lots of editors came up through
> fandom and are haunted by Campbell's ghost.

What a terrifying thought.

> Most readers would be
> just as happy with the heirs of Planet or Startling Stories.

Many readers are just as happy with trashy romance novels that are almost
literally written by doing a global search and replace on proper names,
from the previous novel's manuscript.

But even among sf (in the rasw sense) readers, I suspect you are entirely
correct. I know I'm rather more interesting in well drawn characters doing
interesting things than technical details of how their Space Toilet(tm)
works.


>
>>>>And I think it being easier to read is more responsible than it
>>>>being easier to write.
>>>
>>> THAT part I agree with completely.
>>>
>>Is it an evil portent, that you agree with _me_?
>
> I dunno; I admit it startled me a little. (For one thing, I'd had you
> temporarily killfiled to save time in skimming the
> Is-John-Ringo-destroying-SF thread, and hadn't realized the killfile
> expired this morning.)

Ok, that's *definitely* an evil portent.


>
> Generally speaking, though, publishing is much, much more
> reader-driven than writer-driven.
>

I would quibble to the extent of saying that it's much more _buyer_ driven,
rather than reader driven. But there is certainly a large overlap betwen
the two.

No 33 Secretary

unread,
Aug 11, 2005, 6:07:44 PM8/11/05
to
Carl Dershem <der...@cox.net> wrote in
news:Xns96AF98A5B55...@68.6.19.6:

> Pete Fenelon <pe...@fenelon.com> wrote in news:emagdd...@fenelon.com:
>
>> Gene Ward Smith <gws...@svpal.org> wrote:
>>> What are people's thoughts on why fantasy has increased its market
>>> share so markedly wrt science fiction? Here are some possibilities to
>>> start out with:
>>>
>>> (1) Sensawunda.
>>> (2) Post-humans.
>>> (3) Suspending disbelief.
>>> (4) Alien psychology.
>>> (5) Eliminating tech.
>>> (6) Flexibility.
>>
>> 7. No need to be logical or even pretend to be logical.
>> 8. Market. EFP sells, therefore publishers buy more EFP.
>> 9. Ridiculously low quality thresholds.
>
> Apparently the only fantasy you read is the low quality stuff that fits
> your preconceptions. There is as much high quality fantasy as there is
> high quality SF (maybe more, as there are more people working in the
> genre), and the same goes for the low quality stuff, and the 'extruded'
> mindless drivel.

The problem is, "as much" is a relative term. There may well be more good
fantasy than SF, but two is more than one. And since there is more fantasy
than SF being published, there's that much more drek to dig through looking
for the diamonds.


>
> But tarring any field (yes, even romance or westerns or testosterone-
> poisoned action-adventure) with the same brush is guaranteed to be a
> mistake.
>

So, what's your point?

marks...@yahoo.com

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Aug 11, 2005, 7:48:14 PM8/11/05
to


I remember a time when Science Fiction was one set of shelves and the
Fantasy was another section. Sci-fi fans snuck into the Fantasy
section when no one was looking and got the book in a plain brown
wrapper.

These days it is sometimes difficult to tell what category a particular
author is trying to serve, and occasionally I find a book that would be
better off in the mystery or romance section. (ignoring the soft-core
porn category)

Excellent fantasy stories , in my opinion , need to be internally
consistant, which means the author needs to work the rules into the
story. A fantasy story where there is not a basic rules set in place
becomes somewhat unreadable because you can never tell what is likely
to happen.

It seemed in the Midkemia series (Magician,Krondor etc) the author kept
dreaming up reasons why a main character (the very powerful PUG) was
always off somewhere when he could have ended the story with a wave of
his hand.

I suspect some of the older sci-fi books (1960-1970 s) would now be
classed as Fantasy. EE Doc Smith for one.

Christopher Adams

unread,
Aug 11, 2005, 8:05:19 PM8/11/05
to
Tina Hall wrote:
>
> Btw, the 'silly made up example' sounds like the title of a Fantasy
> story, not Science Fiction. (If it's a mangling of a real title, I'm
> curious what that is.)

Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen is a novel by H. Beam Piper. To quote from an Amazon
user review:

"Calvin Morrison is a Pennsylvania State Trooper who suddenly finds himself
lifted out of his (our) world, and deposited on a parallel Earth. In this other
Pennsylvania he finds a small kingdom of bearded primitives who appear to be on
the losing end of a war of conquest. The locals have so little gunpowder
compared to their enemies because the secret of making it is controlled by a
corrupt religious order, Styphon's House. Calvin, a student of military history,
finds himself proclaimed Lord Kalvan, and given the job of rescuing a seemingly
hopeless situation."

I've no idea if there's more to it than that.

--
Christopher Adams - Sydney, Australia
The geek with roots in Hell!
http://www.users.bigpond.net.au/mhacdebhandia/prestigeclasslist.html
http://www.users.bigpond.net.au/mhacdebhandia/templatelist.html

Who do you blame when your kid is a - brat?
Pampered and spoiled like a Siamese - cat?
Blaming the kids is a lie and a - shame!
You know exactly who's - to - blame:
The mother and the father!


how...@brazee.net

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Aug 11, 2005, 8:16:44 PM8/11/05
to

On 11-Aug-2005, "Gene Ward Smith" <gws...@svpal.org> wrote:

> (6) Flexibility. In fantasy, you can do whatever you like, which makes
> it easier to plot. In science fiction, there are all these scientific
> constraints, which increase the more science you know, ending up with
> the dreaded Science is Killing Science Fiction problem.

Over the years, the constraints on SF have increased as we have been less
willing to accept that we will ever have a society that we're familiar with
on other planets. So we have to suspend our belief in order to have old
style SF. Enough so, that we might as well go to fantasy where they can
make whatever rules they want without us doing double takes.

Paul Colquhoun

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Aug 11, 2005, 10:00:19 PM8/11/05
to
On Thu, 11 Aug 2005 21:41:00 GMT+1, Tina Hall <Tina...@kruemel.org> wrote:
| James Nicoll <jdni...@panix.com> wrote:
|>> Gene Ward Smith <gws...@svpal.org> wrote:
|
| (Just a general thought on the subject. Quotes mostly only left in
| for some kind of context.)
|
|>>> What are people's thoughts on why fantasy has increased its
|>>> market share so markedly wrt science fiction?
|
| [...]
|
|> Even if you start off writing SF, agents will strongly suggest a
|> career move and publishers will package book as fantasy if they
|> can, even if, to pick a silly made up example, the books are no
|> more fantasy than LORD KALVAN OF OTHERWHEN.
|
| What if the insistence on realistic science in Science Fiction is to
| be blamed, because it bullies all the fantastic stuff to shuffle off
| to Fantasy, to stand in the corner, ashamed, with a paperbag over
| its head? Maybe mundane readers (unlike some posters here) don't
| want technobabble, but galaxy-sized comets (<g>), giant trees as
| spaceships, and flying cities.


Galaxy-sized comets you can keep, but the others exist in SF of reasonable
quality. Niven has 2 examples of trees as 'spaceships', Stage Trees from
Known Space, and Integral Trees from the book of the same name (OK, a bit
of a stretch there). James Blish gives us flying cities in the Okie books.


| Btw, the 'silly made up example' sounds like the title of a Fantasy
| story, not Science Fiction. (If it's a mangling of a real title, I'm
| curious what that is.)


--
Reverend Paul Colquhoun, ULC. http://andor.dropbear.id.au/~paulcol
Asking for technical help in newsgroups? Read this first:
http://catb.org/~esr/faqs/smart-questions.html#intro

how...@brazee.net

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Aug 11, 2005, 11:02:49 PM8/11/05
to

On 11-Aug-2005, Paul Colquhoun <postm...@andor.dropbear.id.au> wrote:

> Galaxy-sized comets you can keep, but the others exist in SF of reasonable
> quality. Niven has 2 examples of trees as 'spaceships', Stage Trees from
> Known Space, and Integral Trees from the book of the same name (OK, a bit
> of a stretch there). James Blish gives us flying cities in the Okie books.

Does the tree from _Rainbow Mars_ count?

Tina Hall

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Aug 11, 2005, 11:19:00 PM8/11/05
to
Richard R. Hershberger <rrh...@acme.com> wrote:
> John Desmarais wrote:

>> I've always blamed it on laziness. Fantasy is easier to write
>> and easier to read. Both the writer and the reader have a large
>> library of tropes and cliches to fall back on - the writer
>> therefore needs to explain less and the reader has less
>> explanation that needs to be understood. (It's magic, he's and
>> elf, the gods will it, etc, etc...)

Only writers without the ability to imagine something new do that
and no more. If there really is a ton of that out there, maybe that
just indicates that there is indeed far more junk in fantasy.

Just out of curiosity, is there a fantasy story that doesn't have:
elfs, dwarves, trolls,... , gods, knights (short for 'medieval
weaponry[*], armour, horses, royality, palaces,...'), magic that
needs gestures, spells and/or ingredients, or other rituals (also
none in general), and just for the sake of it; no ships? I probably
miss a lot of tropes... Ah, the evil grand vizier mustn't occur,
either.

As an added difficulty; no oaths/honour stuff, no fashions, and no
whores. (I'm aiming at the kind of society here, which is more or
less the same, too.)

(Wondering whether I should add 'no giraffes', for general amusement
value.)

[*] Something to hunt with is allowed, but none of it for warefare.

>> The best science fiction is built on a foundation of plausible
>> science - even if it's not possible, it possible to imagine that
>> it could be. This demands more from both the writer and the
>> reader (the author must have enough of a science background to
>> make up something plausible and the reader much be able to
>> understand what the writer has created).

> I don't know whether I agree or disagree with your larger point,
> but that library 'o tropes is what turned me off from fantasy
> fifteen or twenty years ago.

It's what I definitely don't want in fantasy, too. (But science
fiction is full of technological mumbojumbo, and I don't care about
the actual science, much less whether it's plausible. The setting
should just be consistent.)

> Fantasy in principle has no limitations, but we got an endless
> string of generic watered-down Tolkien knockoffs. Better to read
> the original another time.

I didn't get far the first time, and didn't try again. (Deadly eight
words, plus the writing style, plus it was boring. The appendix -
which I had read first - was the only interesting part.)

Konrad Gaertner

unread,
Aug 12, 2005, 12:00:56 AM8/12/05
to
Gene Ward Smith wrote:
>
> What are people's thoughts on why fantasy has increased its market
> share so markedly wrt science fiction? Here are some possibilities to
> start out with:
>
> (1) Sensawunda. Maybe magic gives better sensawunder than tech.

I don't get much sensawunda from magic; what impresses me is
characters acting intelligently or an author who Thinks Things
Through. So in theory this shouldn't be an issue.

> (3) Suspending disbelief. In fantasy, you simply require a
> straightforward suspension of disbelief. In science fiction, you are
> given some kind of quasi-scientific language to help the process along.

I've long believed this to be why I prefer fantasy. Every time the
premise includes something impossible I can just say "That's why
it's called fantasy." Even if the author is claiming science
fiction (I'm looking at you, Ms. Baker).

> (5) Eliminating tech. In fantasy, it's common to eliminate tech by
> setting everything in a pseudo-medieval environment, which allows us to
> get rid of things like guns which are just not helpful from a story
> point of view. Then, we may replace whatever tech we choose at will
> with a suitable magic equivalent.

True, for high fantasy. But urban fantasy seems to be rapidly
growing these days.

> (6) Flexibility. In fantasy, you can do whatever you like, which makes
> it easier to plot.

AAAIIIEEEEEE!!!!!!!

I HATE that! In fantasy or science fiction. Give me a universe
with rules if you want me to read your books.

(7) People interested in robots, exploding spaceships, and hot
scientist babes can read about those in the tech journals.

(8) The same stories are being written, but publishers have
gotten better at distinguishing between fantasy and science.
[In case there was any doubt who is writing this post. :) ]


--
Konrad Gaertner - - - - - - - - - - - email: gae...@aol.com
http://www.livejournal.com/users/kgbooklog/

Terry Austin

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Aug 12, 2005, 12:10:56 AM8/12/05
to
marks...@yahoo.com wrote in
news:1123804094.7...@g49g2000cwa.googlegroups.com:

The reverse was also true.


>
> These days it is sometimes difficult to tell what category a
> particular author is trying to serve,

Often through no fault of the author, but yes, that's true.

> and occasionally I find a book
> that would be better off in the mystery or romance section. (ignoring
> the soft-core porn category)
>
> Excellent fantasy stories , in my opinion , need to be internally
> consistant, which means the author needs to work the rules into the
> story. A fantasy story where there is not a basic rules set in place
> becomes somewhat unreadable because you can never tell what is likely
> to happen.
>

Internal consistency is a feature of all good writing, in all genres. So is
proper use of the language, and an interesting story about interesting
people.

> It seemed in the Midkemia series (Magician,Krondor etc) the author
> kept dreaming up reasons why a main character (the very powerful PUG)
> was always off somewhere when he could have ended the story with a
> wave of his hand.

Can't say I've read more than one or two of those, and that was decades
ago. Perhaps now I know why.


>
> I suspect some of the older sci-fi books (1960-1970 s) would now be
> classed as Fantasy. EE Doc Smith for one.
>

And probably should have been then, but fantasy was not yet much of a
recongized market.

--
Terry Austin
http://www.hyperbooks.com/
Campaign Cartographer Now Available

GSV Three Minds in a Can

unread,
Aug 11, 2005, 7:25:34 PM8/11/05
to
Bitstring <1123783689....@g49g2000cwa.googlegroups.com>, from
the wonderful person Gene Ward Smith <gws...@svpal.org> said

>What are people's thoughts on why fantasy has increased its market
>share so markedly wrt science fiction? Here are some possibilities to
>start out with:
>
<snip>

IMO it's simply selling better because it is easier to read (the stuff
that sells, at least), and doesn't require any
scientific/engineering/math background on the part of the reader .. of
course the ScF that sells well too (Star-wars-trek-Babylon-Dr-Who) also
comes pretty well pre-digested.

Looking at the shelf space, the (IMO) 'good' Fantasy writers are not
doing very much better than the 'good' ScF writers .. Jordan, Goodkind,
Eddings, %other EFP author%, and Star-wars<etc>franchise are stomping
all over all of them. I guess it's another sign of the impending end of
civilization....

Fantasy seems to film better too. 8>.

--
GSV Three Minds in a Can
Contact recommends the use of Firefox; SC recommends it at gunpoint.

r.r...@thevine.net

unread,
Aug 12, 2005, 1:18:21 AM8/12/05
to
On Fri, 12 Aug 2005 03:19:00 GMT+1, Tina...@kruemel.org (Tina Hall)
wrote:

>Just out of curiosity, is there a fantasy story that doesn't have:
>elfs, dwarves, trolls,... , gods, knights (short for 'medieval
>weaponry[*], armour, horses, royality, palaces,...'), magic that
>needs gestures, spells and/or ingredients, or other rituals (also
>none in general), and just for the sake of it; no ships? I probably
>miss a lot of tropes... Ah, the evil grand vizier mustn't occur,
>either.

Cherryh's _Rusalka_ doesn't have most of that. It does have a boat (a
dilapidated ferry), but that's not quite the same as a ship. And I am
taking elfs, dwarves, and trolls as literal descriptions. None of
those in the book.

The second and third book in the series do have horses, though.
Mostly because Sasha was a stableboy and likes horses.

Rebecca

Ethan Merritt

unread,
Aug 12, 2005, 1:52:57 AM8/12/05
to
GSV Three Minds in a Can wrote:
>
> Fantasy seems to film better too. 8>.

Seems to attract better acting, anyhow.

But the best SciFi movie made in the last few years has
got to be Cowboy Bebop. It's one of the few movie-format
SciFi offerings I've ever seen that managed to tell a
coherent story based on believable science without
neglecting to provide "sensawunda" and a good plot as well.

Ghost in the Shell 2 had better visuals, but the words
"coherent" and "believable" don't spring to mind :-)

--
None so blind as those who will not see

Wayne Throop

unread,
Aug 12, 2005, 1:57:39 AM8/12/05
to
: Ethan Merritt <emer...@eskimo.com.invalid>
: But the best SciFi movie made in the last few years has got to be

: Cowboy Bebop. It's one of the few movie-format SciFi offerings I've
: ever seen that managed to tell a coherent story based on believable
: science without neglecting to provide "sensawunda" and a good plot as
: well.

Believable science? The gate system? Um... what?
For that matter, the spaceships show a bit too much of
"bank in space" syndrome. Mind you, they do a better job
of lots of little details than many another depiction.

So, I guess... ignoring a lapse or two, yes, quite locally hard.

But the gate system? Um... what?

: Ghost in the Shell 2 had better visuals, but the words


: "coherent" and "believable" don't spring to mind :-)

Heh!


Wayne Throop thr...@sheol.org http://sheol.org/throopw

John Reiher

unread,
Aug 12, 2005, 2:32:48 AM8/12/05
to
In article <11238...@sheol.org>, thr...@sheol.org (Wayne Throop)
wrote:

> : Ethan Merritt <emer...@eskimo.com.invalid>
> : But the best SciFi movie made in the last few years has got to be
> : Cowboy Bebop. It's one of the few movie-format SciFi offerings I've
> : ever seen that managed to tell a coherent story based on believable
> : science without neglecting to provide "sensawunda" and a good plot as
> : well.
>
> Believable science? The gate system? Um... what?
> For that matter, the spaceships show a bit too much of
> "bank in space" syndrome. Mind you, they do a better job
> of lots of little details than many another depiction.
>
> So, I guess... ignoring a lapse or two, yes, quite locally hard.
>
> But the gate system? Um... what?

The gate system is just a plot device to move the characters from one
locale to another. The fighter craft were in an atmosphere, Martian, but
in an atmosphere, so I have to give them that.

Cowboy BeBop the Movie is so rich with detail and angst, all wrapped up
with SF trappings, it's a delight to watch. If it wasn't for the fact
that the movie was Anime, it would have been a major motion picture.
It's one of those movies that would have gotten lots of play in
mainstream media.

If it wasn't Anime. :-)

In America, when you say "it's an animated movie..." the other non-otaku
person will probably say, "It's a _car-tooon_? Shucks, it's fer kids!"

It's the movie you pull out to show what can be done with animation and
the kinds of stories, adult stories, that can be told.

American studios try, but they keep thinking "But my kids will be
watching this!" and keep pulling back because "it's a cartoon!"

--
The Kedamono Dragon
Pull Pinky's favorite words to email me.
http://www.ahtg.net
Have Mac, will Compute

Check out the PowerPointers Shop at:
http://www.cafeshops.com/PowerPointers

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David Bilek

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Aug 12, 2005, 3:45:20 AM8/12/05
to
Ethan Merritt <emer...@eskimo.com.invalid> wrote:
>GSV Three Minds in a Can wrote:
>>
>> Fantasy seems to film better too. 8>.
>
>Seems to attract better acting, anyhow.
>
>But the best SciFi movie made in the last few years has
>got to be Cowboy Bebop. It's one of the few movie-format
>SciFi offerings I've ever seen that managed to tell a
>coherent story based on believable science without
>neglecting to provide "sensawunda" and a good plot as well.
>

I thought Cowboy Bepop the tv series was utterly unwatchable. Would I
probably think the same about the movie?

>Ghost in the Shell 2 had better visuals, but the words
>"coherent" and "believable" don't spring to mind :-)

I'd agree with this. Beautiful movie. Lousy, lousy script.

-David

Damien Neil

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Aug 12, 2005, 4:17:24 AM8/12/05
to
In article <qqkof1dgan6l63v72...@4ax.com>,

David Bilek <dtb...@comcast.net> wrote:
> Ethan Merritt <emer...@eskimo.com.invalid> wrote:
> >GSV Three Minds in a Can wrote:

> >But the best SciFi movie made in the last few years has
> >got to be Cowboy Bebop. It's one of the few movie-format
> >SciFi offerings I've ever seen that managed to tell a
> >coherent story based on believable science without
> >neglecting to provide "sensawunda" and a good plot as well.
>
> I thought Cowboy Bepop the tv series was utterly unwatchable. Would I
> probably think the same about the movie?

Yes. If you didn't like the TV series, you won't like the movie.


> >Ghost in the Shell 2 had better visuals, but the words
> >"coherent" and "believable" don't spring to mind :-)
>
> I'd agree with this. Beautiful movie. Lousy, lousy script.

Can't argue too much there.

- Damien

GSV Three Minds in a Can

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Aug 12, 2005, 5:46:20 AM8/12/05
to
Bitstring <MSGID_2=3A240=2F2199.13=40fidonet...@fidonet.org>, from
the wonderful person Tina Hall <Tina...@kruemel.org> said
<snip>

>Just out of curiosity, is there a fantasy story that doesn't have:
>elfs, dwarves, trolls,... , gods, knights (short for 'medieval
>weaponry[*], armour, horses, royality, palaces,...'), magic that
>needs gestures, spells and/or ingredients, or other rituals (also
>none in general), and just for the sake of it; no ships? I probably
>miss a lot of tropes... Ah, the evil grand vizier mustn't occur,
>either.

You mean like _Watership Down_, _Duncton Wood_, _Summon the Keeper_, or
almost anything by Charles De Lint, Robert Rankin, Tom Holt, Tim Powers
.. even quite as lot of Discworld. 8>.

--

GSV Three Minds in a Can

GSV Three Minds in a Can

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Aug 12, 2005, 5:50:26 AM8/12/05
to
Bitstring <1123804094.7...@g49g2000cwa.googlegroups.com>, from
the wonderful person marks...@yahoo.com said
<big snip>

>Excellent fantasy stories , in my opinion , need to be internally
>consistant, which means the author needs to work the rules into the
>story. A fantasy story where there is not a basic rules set in place
>becomes somewhat unreadable because you can never tell what is likely
>to happen.
>
>It seemed in the Midkemia series (Magician,Krondor etc) the author kept
>dreaming up reasons why a main character (the very powerful PUG) was
>always off somewhere when he could have ended the story with a wave of
>his hand.

I had the same problem with _Black Sun Rising_ .. Sunlight will kill the
Vampire, except ... plus a new/stronger sort of magic pops up every few
chapters, iirc. Of Course EE Doc Smith had the same approach to blasters
and shields....

Martin Wisse

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Aug 12, 2005, 5:59:25 AM8/12/05
to
On Thu, 11 Aug 2005 21:04:22 -0000, No 33 Secretary
<taustin...@hyperbooks.com> wrote:

>Lawrence Watt-Evans <l...@sff.net> wrote in
>news:f5enf1pt455o3dich...@news.rcn.com:
>
>> On Thu, 11 Aug 2005 20:28:09 -0000, No 33 Secretary
>> <taustin...@hyperbooks.com> wrote:
>>
>>>Lawrence Watt-Evans <l...@sff.net> wrote in
>>>news:nscnf11i3q5hjjmkn...@news.rcn.com:
>>>
>>>> It _may_ be harder to write good SF than good fantasy -- a case can
>>>> be made, but I'm not entirely convinced -- but most writers of SF
>>>> don't worry about plausible science, any more than most fantasy
>>>> writers can tell a hauberk from a halberd.
>>>>
>>>I think it's easier for a bad writer to write passable - not good, but
>>>passable - fantasy than passable SF.
>>
>> That could be true. I'd really need to look at it in detail and give
>> it some thought before agreeing, but it could be.
>
>It certainly seems like it would be less work to simply make up how stuff
>works, than to actually figure out how it's supposed to work to be
>realistic.

Though there's also a comfort in having to work within established
guidelines; many writers start to sweat when confronted with just a
blank page.

>Though I guess there's a trade off there, as SF can draw on real world
>history for world building, where the fantasy writer has to make more of it
>up.

But the fantasy writer can do this as well. The stereotypical lazy
fantasy is a thinly disguised medieval England, after all.

Martin Wisse

netcat

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Aug 12, 2005, 8:15:23 AM8/12/05
to


> On Fri, 12 Aug 2005 03:19:00 GMT+1, Tina...@kruemel.org (Tina Hall)
> wrote:
>
> >Just out of curiosity, is there a fantasy story that doesn't have:
> >elfs, dwarves, trolls,... , gods, knights (short for 'medieval
> >weaponry[*], armour, horses, royality, palaces,...'), magic that
> >needs gestures, spells and/or ingredients, or other rituals (also
> >none in general), and just for the sake of it; no ships? I probably
> >miss a lot of tropes... Ah, the evil grand vizier mustn't occur,
> >either.

I would suggest KJ Bishop's _The Etched City_, of recent works.
Features none of the standard zoo mentioned above. No god puts in an
appearance, though there's certainly discussion of them. Instead of
knights and royalty we get corrupted generals and slave traders. There's
a bit of explicit magic at the end, but handled in a non-cliched (IMHO)
way.

And despite the fact that the protagonists spend many days riding at the
beginning, I don't recall any horses. Hope you haven't anything against
camels, though...

R.A.MacAvoy's _Tea with the Black Dragon_ is another, much older example
of a nontraditional fantasy novel.
Set in present day (meaning, early 1980s) and featuring nothing
supernatural besides a mysterious old gentleman who thinks he's a dragon
become human.

I really like both of these works, although neither of them is a perfect
masterpiece. Can anyone recommend something similar?

rgds,
netcat

Mark

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Aug 12, 2005, 9:32:51 AM8/12/05
to
All that sounds quite plausible. However, I'm inclined to think the
appeal is to something more fundamental. Most (not all) fantasy is of
the "I Have A Destiny To Fulfill" plotline. I think people who devour
fantasy have a deep-rooted need to feel that "Destiny" is an actual,
authentic phenomenon--just like people who look on tragedy and want to
believe "there must be a reason for it."

Science fiction tends to cut all that warm-fuzzy,
I'm-in-the-hands-of-a-greater-power junk to ribbons. As Ursula LeGuin
put it in one of her essays (which one escapes me just now) the
universe is a big, cold place; science fiction teaches us how to live
in it.

Mark
author of:
THE SECANTIS SEQUENCE
REMAINS
www.marktiedemann.com


p.s. On what basis would anyone claim that fantasy is "better-written"
than SF? They're different aesthetics, just to name one thing that
makes such a claim nonsense.

erilar

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Aug 12, 2005, 10:53:51 AM8/12/05
to
In article <d9FMLRBu...@from.is.invalid>, GSV Three Minds in a Can
<G...@quik.clara.co.uk> wrote:

Maybe it's easier to write, too? I have more trouble finding good sf
than finding pretty good fantasy. Note "pretty good" qualifier.

--
Mary Loomer Oliver (aka Erilar)

You can't reason with someone whose first line of argument
is that reason doesn't count. Isaac Asimov

Erilar's Cave Annex: http://www.airstreamcomm.net/~erilarlo

erilar

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Aug 12, 2005, 10:57:38 AM8/12/05
to
In article <Xns96AFD77A784B6ta...@216.168.3.50>, Terry
Austin <tau...@hyperbooks.com> wrote:

> Internal consistency is a feature of all good writing, in all genres. So
> is
> proper use of the language, and an interesting story about interesting
> people.

This is really what it all boils down to 8-)

erilar

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Aug 12, 2005, 10:59:02 AM8/12/05
to
In article <G8ydnReLOo4...@comcast.com>, Ethan Merritt
<emer...@eskimo.com.invalid> wrote:

> There is no useful distinction to be made between "fantasy" and
> "science fiction". It's a marketing label, no more.
> If you take that label off the spine, you're left with a continuous
> spectrum spanning styles that are loosely called fantasy, science
> fiction, magic realism, horror, surrealism, and so on.

Inasmuch as I find the latter three boring, irritating, or both, I'd
appreciate such labels 8-)

Aaron Bergman

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Aug 12, 2005, 12:21:18 PM8/12/05
to
In article <1123853571.0...@g14g2000cwa.googlegroups.com>,
"Mark" <mtied...@earthlink.net> wrote:

> All that sounds quite plausible. However, I'm inclined to think the
> appeal is to something more fundamental. Most (not all) fantasy is of
> the "I Have A Destiny To Fulfill" plotline. I think people who devour
> fantasy have a deep-rooted need to feel that "Destiny" is an actual,
> authentic phenomenon--just like people who look on tragedy and want to
> believe "there must be a reason for it."
>
> Science fiction tends to cut all that warm-fuzzy,
> I'm-in-the-hands-of-a-greater-power junk to ribbons. As Ursula LeGuin
> put it in one of her essays (which one escapes me just now) the
> universe is a big, cold place; science fiction teaches us how to live
> in it.

I don't see any particular reason why escapist sf can't exist. There's
just very little of it on the shelves. So, I assume, either people don't
write it or editors don't buy it. I suppose it could be true that people
just wouldn't buy escapist sf, but the popularity of MilSF and tie-ins
seems to belie that a bit. But, for whatever reason, it seems like these
days sf has to be about something. Fantasy doesn't.

(And that's not a dig. At either of them.)

Aaron

No 33 Secretary

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Aug 12, 2005, 12:35:36 PM8/12/05
to
erilar <erila...@SPAMchibardun.net.invalid> wrote in
news:erilarloFRY-FDD3...@news.airstreamcomm.net:

> In article <Xns96AFD77A784B6ta...@216.168.3.50>, Terry
> Austin <tau...@hyperbooks.com> wrote:
>
>> Internal consistency is a feature of all good writing, in all genres.
>> So is
>> proper use of the language, and an interesting story about
>> interesting people.
>
> This is really what it all boils down to 8-)
>

Yep. It's a pity so few writers (present company excepted, of course) seem
to get it.

No 33 Secretary

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Aug 12, 2005, 12:36:47 PM8/12/05
to
Martin Wisse <mwi...@cloggie.org> wrote in
news:6ksof19h8cs935o43...@4ax.com:

Very true. However, the lazy writer can skimp on detail, confident that the
reader's imagination will fill it all in for them.

Default User

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Aug 12, 2005, 1:26:01 PM8/12/05
to
David Bilek wrote:


> I thought Cowboy Bepop the tv series was utterly unwatchable. Would I
> probably think the same about the movie?

I imagine so, it's pretty much like the series. For what it's worth, I
couldn't disagree much more with you. Bebop the TV series is one I can
watch again and again. Second only to Futurama in my opinion.


Brian

No 33 Secretary

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Aug 12, 2005, 1:36:28 PM8/12/05
to
"Default User" <defaul...@yahoo.com> wrote in
news:3m44d9F...@individual.net:

I just don't get why people like Futurama. Repetitive, juvenile,
derivative, and frankly, boring.

Bateau

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Aug 12, 2005, 1:37:20 PM8/12/05
to
You forgot "Peter Jackson" you twat.

"Gene Ward Smith" <gws...@svpal.org> wrote:

>What are people's thoughts on why fantasy has increased its market
>share so markedly wrt science fiction? Here are some possibilities to
>start out with:
>

>(1) Sensawunda. Maybe magic gives better sensawunder than tech.
>

>(2) Post-humans. People like reading about recognizably human
>characters with superhuman abilities, but if they become truly
>post-human, they become hard to relate to. But that's the direction
>science fiction is moving in. The Golden Age and the Lucky Starr books
>are set at the same time--7000 AD. But how different! In Lucky Starr, a
>typical product of the golden age, space travel is highly developed but
>humans are still human. In Golden Age, it may take you a long time to
>get to Neptune, but it doesn't matter in a way because all kinds of
>weird aliens are right there already where you are, calling themselves
>human--more or less.


>
>(3) Suspending disbelief. In fantasy, you simply require a
>straightforward suspension of disbelief. In science fiction, you are
>given some kind of quasi-scientific language to help the process along.

>This can run into trouble at both ends. If, like a certain well-known
>poster to this group, you don't actually know any science, the
>quasi-scientific language will fail of its purpose. On the other hand
>if you know too much, the chances are excellent that you won't buy what
>is being presented either.
>
>(4) Alien psychology. In fantasy, the aliens are usually nearly human,
>which makes them easier to relate to. In Tolkien, the elves are
>idealized humans and the orcs degraded humans, whereas hobbits and
>dwarves are human variations just different enough to amuse without
>running any risk we won't be able to identify with them. Science
>fiction authors however get laughed at if they make an alien race this
>nearly human, and so feel obligated to give their readers ones which
>are more believeable, making them less easy to identify with.


>
>(5) Eliminating tech. In fantasy, it's common to eliminate tech by
>setting everything in a pseudo-medieval environment, which allows us to
>get rid of things like guns which are just not helpful from a story
>point of view. Then, we may replace whatever tech we choose at will
>with a suitable magic equivalent.
>

>(6) Flexibility. In fantasy, you can do whatever you like, which makes

>it easier to plot. In science fiction, there are all these scientific
>constraints, which increase the more science you know, ending up with
>the dreaded Science is Killing Science Fiction problem.

Michael Stemper

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Aug 12, 2005, 1:56:30 PM8/12/05