Genre Definition Revisited: Thoughts on Science Fantasy

It’s occurred to me that my current WIP, The Heart of Elebfar, might be labeled as ‘science fantasy’. Since the entire story takes place on one exotic world, it technically also fits the definition of a ‘planetary romance’ — although it’s certainly not ‘space opera’! But ‘science fantasy’, like many subgenre classifications, can be a bit nebulous, as it essentially just means something that combines elements of both science fiction and fantasy.

Some say science fantasy is fantasy ‘dressed up’ as science fiction, while others say it’s science fiction that includes fantastic elements that are not explained via science. But I think that brings up the question of how much of the science in science fiction is truly explained. It seems that, even in a lot of hard SF, the essence of it is about speculating that a certain premise might be scientifically plausible — either in the future or on another world — more than it is about trying to explain just how it might be plausible.

And if we’re talking about social science fiction, it’s accepted that future technologies or alternate biological conditions may be an essential part of the foundation of the story, but no one expects the author to spend time exploring how those things might actually come about. What’s important is how they would affect human society and the lives of individual humans in that society (as discussed in my previous post about the definition of SF). Continue reading