Genres: Do you think this is possible to pull off?

by Tora Blaze
(Europe, Earth, Solar System)

Hi! I'm currently worldbuilding a story I'm going to write in some years. English is not my mother tongue, so I'll need some time to enrich my vocabulary enough to write.

Anyway, my question is regarding the genres of the said story.

Is there any possibility for a novel to be both a High Fantasy and a Hard Science Fiction, since that's my intention?

I'm not an avid reader (yet) - I've read about 20 books in my life, although I'll try to multiply this number by ten (at least) before I start writing. However, I've seen multiple movies and I've never watched something like that. Most fantasy settings tend to be set in the medieval ages, while sci-fi stories take place in the future.

The problem is that my story takes place in a completely detached fictional world, not another planet, where everything looks futuristic compared to our world. Not only that, but scientific theories are at the core of mostly everything (yeah, I know I'll need a lot of research to explain everything correctly, but that's what I want to do). The typical places the characters visit are megalopolises; there is artificial intelligence, seasteading, etc. I hope you get the idea.

However, there is magic that is unexplainable by science, as well as creatures that do not and cannot possibly exist in our world. There are magicians who are believed to have inherited their powers from the creation gods. There is a creation myth. Moreover, the plot (deliberately) follows a common fantasy concept - a hero on a quest, a villain trying to stop him, and the theme of good vs. evil.

There are only two movies I've seen so far that are closest to this concept, the first one being Star Wars, but even it is mentioned that it takes place "in a galaxy far, far away". And the only notion of "magic" there is "The Force", which could easily be interpreted as psychic powers. The second one is The Golden Compass. Although it avoids the typical medieval setting, it's still not that close to my concept, being steampunk and lacking the overall scientific approach to the world. I would call it a Soft Science Fiction and a High Fantasy, which is not like my idea.

Anyway, that was a long wall of text. Sorry if I'm troubling you, but I cannot leave off my wordiness yet. I'd be glad if you could help me with my question, and if you could recommend me some literature on the subject.

Thank you in advance!

Answer: I consider science fiction (SF) to be a subgenre of fantasy. Like all fantasy, SF is set in a world that does not and has never existed.

That said, there is a difference.

SF is based on a writer's attempt to imagine a future by extrapolating from current trends in either the hard or soft (social) sciences. It attempts to tell us about a possible future

With fantasy, on the other hand, the author imagines a world that operates on different rules (magic) or is populated with imaginary creatures. Fantasy is not concerned with worlds that are actually possible.

With that in mind, I would call The Golden Compass a fantasy. True, the designers of the film version made use of a steampunk aesthetic. But the world Lyra lives in bears only a superficial resemblance to the real world of the 19th century. It is set in a parallel dimension, and there is some evidence it is supposed to be in the same time as 20th century earth. The fact that the multi-worlds theory is drawn from quantum physics is mere window dressing to what is really a fantasy setting.

As for Star Wars, it certainly is not an imaginary future, being set long ago and far away. So it is hard to call it SF, despite the advanced technology. Moreover, the Force is definitely a form of magic.

There is no scientific basis for "psychic powers." Psychic powers are an element of fantasy/gothic/paranormal fiction that originated with some esoteric (religious) traditions. They crept into SF during a period when some researchers were investigating to see if they had any validity. SF writers started to speculate that if a scientific basis for psychic powers could be found, perhaps human beings would develop them in the future, or there could be other species of intelligent life in the universe that had them. Also, writers have always written stories that mix genres. As far as I know, no serious evidence for psychic powers has ever been found.

I would call Star Wars a combination of fantasy and space opera. Space operas are stories that resemble adventure stories, such as those of medieval knights, but are set in a world of interplanetary travel where ancient technology has been replaced with futuristic equivalents. For example, sailing ships become spaceships, swords become light sabres, pistols become blasters, foreigners become extraterrestrials, etc.

Space opera doesn't tell us anything about our future because sociological change is seldom a part of the space opera world. If anything, societies in space opera worlds resemble the past more than the future.

It sounds to me like you are writing a high fantasy, not SF. However, like a number of writers, you are making advanced technology part of your fantasy world. Like any good worldbuilder, you are striving to make the story world plausible (scientifically valid), apart from the limited use of magic.

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