Grav. Attraction Launch Party – Writing SF and Fantasy – is it different?

July 21, 2014


I do write both SF and Fantasy – and sometimes I’m asked whether there’s a big difference in my SF and Fantasy fans.

It is a different process and probably the biggest reason why my SF and Fantasy novels have a very different “feel” to them. While some of both have been serious, darker pieces (see No Enemy But Time on the Fantasy side and Prisoner 374215 on the SF side, both free reads, if you’re curious) and some of both have been comedic pieces (see Hearts and Flowers for Fantasy and the Brimstone series for SF) they still feel as if they’re tapping into different bits of brain matter.
In fantasy, one begins with the premise of “I would like the world to work in this way.” The premise can be quite simple (certain humans have powers others don’t) or it can be as complex as the author desires, incorporating parallel worlds, magical laws of force and reaction, hierarchies of magic and so on. In fantasy, one begins with a blank, rough block of marble and chips away until the world is built.

Science fiction must, or should, begin with the known laws of the universe and the current state of the world as its premise. The science fiction writer must presume, of course, that science does not stand still and it’s the author’s job to extrapolate on existing knowledge, attempting to predict future discoveries built upon the old or to anticipate the next step in current events and processes.

Whereas Fantasy is the blank slate, Science Fiction is the existing sculpture garden. You add to and rearrange the garden to achieve your vision.

Harder? Perhaps in some ways. Mostly different. Both rely on a strict attention to detail and the laws set forth in the work. The cardinal rule of Fantasy is that you may NOT break your own rules. (OK – I see it happen all the time, but the reader feels cheated and WILL call you on it. Deus ex machina does not a good ending make.)

The hardest part in SF, for many folks (though it is one of my greatest joys) is the research. If you’re delving into unfamiliar territory, best get your facts straight before you start extrapolation. Factual research is a must – but it’s equally important to understand the genre. What’s been done before? What things will you evoke in hard-core readers? Are you going for Deja Thoris or Pyanfar Chanur in your strong women? Are your first contacts Star Trek-esque or Ender’s Game?

In a way, I think Fantasy and SF exercise different halves of the brain- while the analytical and the creative are engaged in the process with both, there’s a definite leaning toward one or the other for me depending on genre.

6 Responses to “Grav. Attraction Launch Party – Writing SF and Fantasy – is it different?”

  1. Susan says:

    While I love both fantasy and SF, I found your fantasy books first. I think you do a great job in both genres!

  2. Thank you, Susan, that’s lovely to hear! I do love my fantasy boys, too. Oh, so much.

  3. H.B. says:

    I love both sci-fi and fantasy and it was actually your sci-fi stories that got me hooked on your books.

  4. May you never be unhooked ;)

  5. JJ says:

    I liked how you clarified the difference between the two genres, which I enjoy reading.

  6. Thank you, JJ! I love them both but have issues with how they’re often squashed together.

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