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Why is fantasy more "standardized" then science fiction?:

 76 Bobby G, Fri, 23rd Mar '12 5:45:33 PM from the Silvery Tay
vigilantly taxonomish
Works termed Magical Realism also tend to prioritise characters, ideas and themes over plot and to avoid the more obvious fantasy clichés.

There are other works where magic is present but not the focus. I'd argue that this is true of Baccano!, for instance, although less so as the plot progresses. It can be true of Haruhi Suzumiya, but that depends entirely on the particular story in question. Both would, I think, qualify as fantasy, in spite of the lack of obvious fantasy genre conventions (the latter also contains elements of science fiction).
 77 nrjxll, Fri, 23rd Mar '12 5:50:32 PM Relationship Status: Not war
[up][up]I have never looked at things that way before, but it's very interesting (and I think fairly accurate). Not sure if it really answers the question, though - it's entirely possible to write "adventure" fantasy against a backdrop different from your generic Tolkien/D&D pastiche.

edited 23rd Mar '12 5:50:42 PM by nrjxll

 78 Bobby G, Fri, 23rd Mar '12 5:59:52 PM from the Silvery Tay
vigilantly taxonomish
^ See, for example, Problem Sleuth, a computer game pastiche set in a Prohibition-era urban environment, with fantasy elements like electrical windows, aggressive murals and flying boats. For that matter, Homestuck is very unconventional, the odd familiar fantasy creature aside.

Also on the webcomic front, Rice Boy has many elements of the traditional fantasy epic, but the world building is anything but traditional.

The premise of this thread strikes me as increasingly dubious.
 79 nrjxll, Fri, 23rd Mar '12 6:05:31 PM Relationship Status: Not war
[up]The question is not whether all fantasy can be described this way - certainly, there are exceptions, but they don't appear to be the majority. Webcomics in particular are bad counter-examples, as they are essentially self-published works with predominantly young creators. They're more likely, I think, to buck existing trends then follow them.

Raven Wilder
[up][up][up] Yes, it is possible, and many people do so, like China Miéville, Stephen King, Tim Pratt, Phillip Pullman, Christopher Moore, Scott Lynch, Susanna Clarke, J. K. Rowling, and others.

EDIT: [up] Again, if we're just talking about the most popular fantasy stories being printed, I might agree with you, but making that sort of claim about the genre in general is a whole different matter. Can anyone here honestly say they've read more than a small percentage of all the fantasy books published in the last year?

edited 23rd Mar '12 6:20:36 PM by RavenWilder

"It takes an idiot to do cool things, that's why it's cool" - Haruhara Haruko
 81 nrjxll, Fri, 23rd Mar '12 6:28:33 PM Relationship Status: Not war
Read? No. But I visit bookstores and skim the shelves regularly.

 82 Bobby G, Fri, 23rd Mar '12 6:40:05 PM from the Silvery Tay
vigilantly taxonomish
I don't think I've read any of the fantasy books published in the last year, honestly.

If we're going to judge books by their covers, I can't say the science fiction sections of bookshops look any more inspiringly diverse to me.

edited 23rd Mar '12 6:42:07 PM by BobbyG

 83 nrjxll, Fri, 23rd Mar '12 6:54:04 PM Relationship Status: Not war
I don't just mean covers - I said I skim books.

Off-topic: they actually divide them into separate sections where you're from? Lucky SOB. I'd give my right arm to browse through science fiction without running into urban fantasy/paranormal romance every three authors.

 84 Bobby G, Fri, 23rd Mar '12 7:07:22 PM from the Silvery Tay
vigilantly taxonomish
It depends on the store in question. In the arts centre bookshop near here, they're separate. They even distinguish between paranormal romance and fantasy, actually.
 85 JHM, Sat, 24th Mar '12 9:26:41 AM from Neither Here Nor There Relationship Status: I know
Thunder, Perfect Mind
To briefly backtrack to Feotakahari's point: I think that it would be extremely interesting to provide some kind of fantasy counterpoint to Asimov's science-fiction types, though I think it might behove the constructor of such a thing to consider the different subtypes of fantasy and how they fit to such things: The "magic-as-point" (Gadget) story has a very different implication in "low" (real-but-tweaked) fantasy than it does in "high" (another world entirely).
 86 Oh So Into Cats, Sat, 24th Mar '12 9:49:21 AM from The Sand Wastes Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
CANON!!
I wonder about the whole "we make fantasy too narrow a subject by excluding any fantastical lit fic, " and raise you police dramas which are considered contemporary but have currently impossible technology.
"Beware of the wolves. They were raised by wolves."

Eidolonomics: ~60.4k/100,000 words
 87 Bobby G, Sat, 24th Mar '12 11:01:55 AM from the Silvery Tay
vigilantly taxonomish
I think a case could be made for those being equivalent to Magical Realism works with only incidental fantasy elements, but not to works like A Christmas Carol, in which overtly fantastic elements make up a substantial part of the plot, or Gormenghast, in which the setting is a wholly invented society.
Hello ^-^, I have read the thread and I hope I'm not repeating anyone (if I do I'm sorry).

I think part of the problem of people finding fantasy more standardized is that they are more set in their ways about what they consider to be fantasy or science fiction.

Cityofmist said that fantasy literature seems required to focus more on the supernatural elements. While he or she has a point, I'm not so sure it's as simple as all that. Consider a story about an advanced alien race, which I'm sure will shout science fiction to readers from the word go. But hang on, what if said alien race believe in ghosts, wraiths, poltergeists, and what not? And as a result their culture, society, and moral beliefs are determined by their encounters with these entities?

Also consider technological advances, which again many might associate more with science fiction. I've not read The Wheel of Time, but I do recall reading on the trope page for it that guns have recently been invented. The Wheel of Time is definitely fantasy, but as Fantasy Gun Control seems to imply, readers feel guns don't belong in the genre. But why do readers object to them so? Do they feel firearms are better suited to science fiction?

I guess what I'm trying to say is that things like magic, developing technology, characters studying the mechanics behind a machine or a living organism are bare bone aspects. A story simply including any of what I've listed shouldn't indicate immediately to the reader what kind of story it is or how it will go, but it seems to anyway.

I had some more to add but maybe it's better I don't make my first post too big, sorry ><.

edited 24th Mar '12 3:17:07 PM by SoloWingPixy

 89 nrjxll, Sat, 24th Mar '12 3:21:13 PM Relationship Status: Not war
I'm honestly not certain what the point you're trying to make is. Yes, there's obviously going to be some arbitrariness about the dividing point between fantasy and science fiction (although not all your examples really make sense), but I don't think that's really a major factor in the "standardization" of fantasy. Most of the cases where it comes up are going to be the sort of less-formulaic work that is the exception to the rule.

In fact, some of the things you point out seem related to such standardization. Why is Fantasy Gun Control so prevalent, for instance? There's nothing in the inherent nature of the genre that requires it. Yet fantasy seems to nigh-universally set itself in a specific technological time period, in a way that science fiction does not.

[up] That's why I mentioned guns being invented in The Wheel of Time in the latest books. Wheel of Time again is definitely fantasy, but I just know there will be readers who won't like the fact they've been introduced because they feel they are too modern which to them equates it to not being fantasy. Even if the guns aren't automatic weapons, it sadly can strike as too modern depending on the reader. You're right, there's nothing inherent in the genre that requires Fantasy Gun Control but if a story is labeled fantasy, more than likely Fantasy Gun Control will be expected.

This is what I meant by many readers being so set in what they feel is "proper" fantasy. I'm not excusing the writer, but writers need to be mindful to an extent of what readers like in fantasy so their work will be picked up. Writers and readers contribute to this "standardization" of fantasy.

Homestuck was mentioned earlier, and there's a work that ignores fantasy convention and does it for the better. We need more authors like Hussie and fans of his work if fantasy is ever going to shake it's standardization.

edited 24th Mar '12 3:59:43 PM by SoloWingPixy

 91 Oh So Into Cats, Sat, 24th Mar '12 3:53:01 PM from The Sand Wastes Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
CANON!!
I think the main problem with Fantasy Gun Control is that guns are Older Than They Think.
"Beware of the wolves. They were raised by wolves."

Eidolonomics: ~60.4k/100,000 words
Raven Wilder
I wonder about the whole "we make fantasy too narrow a subject by excluding any fantastical lit fic, " and raise you police dramas which are considered contemporary but have currently impossible technology.

In those cases, isn't the audience supposed to believe that the technology actually is possible in the here-and-now? Kind of like how I'd be reluctant to classify the Left Behind series as fantasy, because its authors actually believe all the supernatural events they describe are really going to happen.
"It takes an idiot to do cool things, that's why it's cool" - Haruhara Haruko
 93 nrjxll, Sat, 24th Mar '12 6:40:54 PM Relationship Status: Not war
[up][up][up]That's part of why I said before that webcomics aren't really going to be great counterexamples. Readers definitely do play a part in creating this standardization by making arbitrary standards like that of Fantasy Gun Control that most authors have to stick to. As self-published works that aren't necessarily made for profit, webcomics and the like aren't going to worry about that as much.

The question, though, is where those standards come from in the first place. Science fiction doesn't really have them.

Raven Wilder
The question, though, is where those standards come from in the first place. Science fiction doesn't really have them.

Try telling that to a hard science fiction fan.

Also, this discussion might go better if people would mention exactly what these standards are that they feel most fantasy conforms to. Fantasy Gun Control has been mentioned, though this only applies to certain sub-genres; Urban Fantasy and Gaslamp Fantasy almost never make use of it, and neither will Historical Fantasy if it's set in a time and place that had guns.
"It takes an idiot to do cool things, that's why it's cool" - Haruhara Haruko
 95 Oh So Into Cats, Sat, 24th Mar '12 7:11:30 PM from The Sand Wastes Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
CANON!!
I guess it just feels odd because through most of the middle ages there were guns.
"Beware of the wolves. They were raised by wolves."

Eidolonomics: ~60.4k/100,000 words
 96 nrjxll, Sat, 24th Mar '12 7:12:30 PM Relationship Status: Not war
Well, when I originally referred to "standardization", what I was thinking of was how fantasy tends to break down into neat subgenres like the ones you just reeled off. In comparison, while science fiction does have its own subcategories, they can't be as easily generalized as those of fantasy. It isn't really that there's a specific list of "standards".

edited 24th Mar '12 7:13:51 PM by nrjxll

I think a big part of it is the publishing business itself. It is dominated by a few companies that are unwilling to risk losing money on titles that they feel wouldn't appeal to fans. You see the same pattern emerge in the Sci-Fi genre too, if you only look at stuff published after the 70s (most of it involves fighting with aliens nowadays; not saying that there aren't the few gems that step outside of this mold like The Mars Trilogy, but the vast majority of science fiction these days involves human beings vs. alien invaders or robots or zombies or whatever). The only reason that science fiction has more variety is because it was established before the rise of giant publishing conglomerates, so a lot of the variety comes in from earlier works which weren't held back by these giant publishing houses.

If you want to find some variety in fantasy, I'd suggest looking into the free material available on the internet, or foreign imports like The Twelve Kingdoms.
 
 98 nrjxll, Sat, 24th Mar '12 7:39:59 PM Relationship Status: Not war
You see the same pattern emerge in the Sci Fi genre too, if you only look at stuff published after the 70s (most of it involves fighting with aliens nowadays; not saying that there aren't the few gems that step outside of this mold like The Mars Trilogy, but the vast majority of science fiction these days involves human beings vs. alien invaders or robots or zombies or whatever).

I'm not convinced this is the case. Space opera, almost by definition, will involve fighting against something (though that doesn't have to be aliens), but I wouldn't say that's true of all science fiction. And it's still an awfully broad "standard" compared to what fantasy seems to have.

I'm not convinced of the publishing house thing as the primary cause either, but you do have a point that the fact that science fiction predates "modern" fantasy probably has something to do with it.

Raven Wilder
I don't think fantasy subgenres are as easy to divide as you make them out to be. Sure, Urban Fantasy is easy to tell apart from Historical Fantasy, and they're both easy to tell apart from Constructed World fantasy, but those are incredibly broad terms. You could just as easily divide science-fiction based upon whether it's set in the past, present, future, or A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far Far Away..., and those distinctions would be about as informative. I mean, 'Salem's Lot, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Medium, Big Fish, Thomas the Tank Engine, Preacher, Practical Demonkeeping, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alcatraz Versus The Evil Librarians, and Angels in the Outfield are all part of the Urban Fantasy subgenre, but the stories they tell could hardly be more different.

And if you want to get into more specific subgenres like High Fantasy, Low Fantasy, Heroic Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, etc. then classifications become far more difficult to make. Heck, we can't even get a consensus on the what the definition of Low Fantasy is.

edited 24th Mar '12 8:35:20 PM by RavenWilder

"It takes an idiot to do cool things, that's why it's cool" - Haruhara Haruko
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