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Speculative Fiction - Rivets and Trees

Author Orson Scott Card said "Science Fiction has rivets, fantasy has trees," implying that the two genres are effectively the same, only the set dressing is different. There are many tropes the two genres share, many stories in both genres that follow Joseph Campbell’s archetypical "hero’s journey," and a lot of elements that are near identical in nature but dressed differently to fit the setting.

But is Card’s statement true? Are there elements of one that define it, other than the setting? Are there fantasy stories that would not work as sci-fi without fundamental changes to the story and outcome, and vice-versa? If there is a defining line between the two, where is it?

  • A term that is frequently used (especially in recent years, and especially to do with Star Wars) is "space fantasy," in lieu of the traditional label of "science fiction." The two are distinguished by how integral "science" is to explaining the fantastical elements of the story and its world. Because Star War is a narrative very much centred around the existence of magic (i.e. the Force), it is considered generically different from something like Firefly, whose fantasticism is explained wholly by science (i.e. terraforming and advance vehicular technology). This distinction is especially important to consider with regards to "rivets and trees," as it blurs the lines of this dichotomy. Furthermore, another important consideration is Arthur C.Clarke's Third Law of Scientific Prediction: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." This is often paraphrased as, "Magic is just science that we don't understand yet." The film Thor (2011) dealt with this matter extensively, attempting to justify the historicity of Norse mythology by intersecting it with the Ancient Alien Theory. This theory suggests that all mytho-historical accounts of divine beings were really extraterrestrials, misunderstood by ancient humans as being deities due to their lacking the proper critical vocabulary to describe what they had witnessed. Though this line of thinking is typically dismissed as pseudoscience - which has not been helped by a History Channel series jumping to its defense, not surprisingly - it is interesting to think about nonetheless, and makes for some fascinating speculative fiction. – ProtoCanon 5 years ago
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  • Here is a link which may help define the terms which is something I think you should do before the article is approved. http://www.nownovel.com/blog/difference-fantasy-science-fiction/ – Munjeera 5 years ago
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