A fantasy is a self-coherent narrative. When set in this world, it tells a story which is impossible in the world as we perceive it. When set in another world, the stories set in that other world may be possible. It is a story evoking wonder with supernatural or impossible worlds, beings or objects. Fantasy stories take the reader clearly out of the world of reality as we know it. Sometimes we begin in the r “real” world, but it quickly becomes evident that another world exists, rich and strange and magical. Fantasy refuses to accept the world as it is, but asks the reader to see what could have been. What is the difference? Here is where things get a little fuzzy. Some say that fantasy deals with the immeasurable, while science fiction deals with what is measurable. Because there is often a bit of overlap, most people treat the two genres together, making fine distinctions when apparent. Orson Scott Card, the only author ever to have won both the Hugo and Nebula awards for the best science fiction novel, two years in a row, tried to simplify it by saying that if the story contains plastic, metal or heavy machinery, it is science fiction. If the story contains talismans or magic, it is fantasy. Science fiction may contain elements of time travel, space, aliens, technology, and gadgets.
All literature borrows from itself, but this is particularly apparent in the fantasy genre. Motifs, characters, patterns of events, settings, and themes often seem familiar. The roots of fantasy reach far into the earliest civilizations with folktales, talking animals, legends of great heroes, and fanciful fairy tales of magic and mystery. Fantasies of today borrow from such early works as Beowulf, Gilgamesh, and the Odyssey. Many modern fantasies also borrow from the King Arthur tales, such as Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising, and William Mayne’s Earthfasts. The retellings by Rosemary Sutcliff, The Sword and the Circle, and King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table , have been popular. The stories of Merlin have shown up in many series such as T.A. Barron’s works The Wings of Merlin… The stories of the Celts also figure heavily in many modern fantasies such as Lloyd Alexander’s The Black Cauldron, from the Chronicles of Prydain. These stories follow the tradition of the Mabinogion, a collection of medieval Welsh tales. These were tales used to instruct young bards in the legends and myths of the Celtic tradition. Traditional fairy tales have no identifiable author, but have been passed on by word of mouth from generation to generation. While the name of Grimm has become associated with some of these tales, they did not write the stories, but compiled them from the tales of the common folk of Germany. Modern fantasy uses many of the conventions of these stories, but has an identifiable author. Some say that Perrault’s fairy tales are the underpinnings of the fantasy genre.
There are many schools of thought regarding the history of fantasy. Some say that all stories written before the 18 th century were fantasy because science as we know it did not exist then. Others say that the popularity of Perrault’s fairy tales in the 18 th century was the true beginning of the fantasy genre. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, important works in fantasy appeared. In 1865, Lewis Carroll wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In 1894, Rudyard Kipling wrote the Jungle Book, which is said to be the prototype for all other animal fantasy. L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published in 1900, hugely popular with readers, met with much criticism from literary experts, for its lack of literary merit. Others say that the genre as we know it began with J.R.R. Tolkien, with his series of stories of the Hobbits, written in 1933 for his children. Fantasy as a marketing genre began in the late 1960s, but it really came into its own in the 1970s. Prior to this, fantasy was considered for children. Later, series came out that were aimed at adults. Currently, publishers and writers cross over into both adult and young adult markets. Some of the important young adult writers of today: Ursula LeGuin is a dominant voice in contemporary fantasy with her four books in the Earthsea series. There are wizards, sorcerers, magical island and all the important fantasy themes: fear of the unknown, the need to love, dangers from too much power. Anne McCaffrey’s magical world is set on Pern, where the inhabitants protect themselves through the Pern dragons. Robin McKinley uses several of her books as a remaking of traditional stories, and for creating strong female heroes. J.K. Rowling has nearly revolutionized the reading habits of young people, who now find the ability to pour through nearly 800 pages. Adults and children alike have enjoyed the series. Philip Pullman’s “Dark Materials” is an epic series, compared to Milton’s Paradise Lost.
Fantasy has a strict set of rules often called traditions or conventions. These are the unofficial rules that guide writers of fantasy stories, and it is said that these rules date back to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. These conventions must always be consistent within the story, even if they are not consistent with the world that we know. The world that the author creates has to seem real within the story. The problems of the story are often solved by the use of magic. There are magical creatures such as dragons, unicorns, elves, fairies, trolls, etc. There are often magicians, wizards, ogres or others with magical powers. Fantasy stories are often based upon a quest or a seemingly impossible task that the hero / heroine must accomplish. The story always has a serious message or universal truth. Fantasy appeals to a wide range of readers. This is one of the unusual features of this genre. A fantasy reader often begins at an early age and continues to enjoy the genre well into adulthood. Authors generally do not write specifically for adults or teens, but rather for fantasy readers.
Fantasy can take us out of our world into worlds where anything can happen. We can be more brave, more beautiful. It can send the reader on a journey to mysterious worlds, or be a way for the reader to spend enjoyable reading time. Some are concerned that it is too childish, predictable, and with little literary merit. Some feel that because it deals with the unreal, it encourages readers to avoid reality. And they feel this is dangerous. The value of fantasy literature is that it can serve to pass on the values, customs, and traditions of our culture. New generations can appreciate the literary traditions of the past. It can help us to see how we as humans respond when we confront the unknown. Some may find that this form of escape helps them to go back to their own worlds and face the same problems they faced in the fantasy story. Fantasy helps the reader to imagine a world that can be different.
There are many subgenres for fantasy fiction including sword and sorcery, quests, epics, heroics and those based upon myth and saga. These generally fall into two main branches of today’s fantasy. The first of these is the literary fantasy, which is usually more like mainstream fiction. They are individual works, not part of a series. The magic is usually on a smaller more personal scale. Example: The Thief Lord The second type is the adventure fantasy which usually involves multiple volumes. These are more like the epics of old. In these there are fully realized worlds, rich with their own history, geography, language, politics and involved genealogy. Examples: Chronicles of Prydain, Chronicles of Narnia, Dark is Rising, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Golden Compass. Today’s readers are very attracted to series adventure fantasy, made popular by the material such as those listed above, and especially Harry Potter.
How does an author make fantasy believable? One way is to firmly ground the story in reality, before moving into a fantasy world. Setting is very important to fantasy. Sensory images have to be very detailed. Smells, sounds and tastes, and visual images must be vivid. Language is very important. Must be appropriate to the story. Often the vocabulary and conventions of fantasy are used and the reader needs to have a working knowledge of this. Must have internal consistency. The world that is created needs to conform to whatever standards the author designs at the outset. The characters must be plausible in their own settings. The plot should be ingenious and original. The stories have all been told, but how does this author recreate the traditions we all know? Are there universal truths confronted in the story. How does the book compare to others of the genre, or others by the author?
The easiest way to describe science fiction is that it contains the equipment of science. Whereas fantasy presents a world that never was and never could be, science fiction speculates on a world that might one day be possible. Science fiction can use different laws of another planet than Earth, but those laws must be scientifically clear and consistent. Science fiction speculates on future technologies and more. Writers must imagine how those changes will affect the daily lives of ordinary people. In order to do this, the writer must construct a future world where certain unknowns are accepted as fact. Contemporary problems are projected into the future, and new views show a different perspective of our world. Theses stories are full of adventure. They care less about the motivations of the characters as they do about danger and excitement. What if a spaceship could repair itself? What if there were life on other planets? What if the Sun were to destroy all the technology of the Earth?…
Some argue that science fiction began back in 1726 with Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels . Some say it was Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Most agree that the first major and widely read science fiction writer was Jules Verne with Journey to the Center of the Earth in 1864, and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in 1870. These books were read on every continent, over and over again. Most critics were snobs about science fiction, or whatever it was called back then, but the readers did not care about the literary respectability as much as the enjoyment of the story. Respectability came much later, in 1959, when the first science fiction journal was published.
Despite the presence of the giants of science fiction such as those listed above, this genre often comes under fire as being unworthy of a serious reader’s time. This is partly because science fiction originally was, and still is, published primarily in paperback, and most teachers dismiss it as less valuable. Other critics say that the stories are plot –driven and setting-driven, and have less likeable or believable characters. Another objection is that science fiction demands a high level of scientific accuracy and often contains scientific errors or inconsistencies.
Whether it is pure fantasy or science fiction, these types of stories stretch the imagination of young people, allowing improvisation, speculation and flexibility. Everyone needs to dream, to recognize possibility. These genres offer challenges and hope, bused upon our hope for survival. We all have trouble accepting change. Science fiction presents to us the endless question “what if…?
Fantasy and Science Fiction “ If a story is set in a universe that follows the same rules as ours, it’s science fiction. If it’s set in a universe that doesn’t follow our rules, it’s fantasy” -- Orson Scott Card
Which is it? <ul><li>How can we tell the difference between fantasy and science fiction? </li></ul><ul><li>Why should we? </li></ul>
Where it all began… <ul><li>The Roots of Fantasy </li></ul><ul><li>Folktales, fables, fairy tales and legends </li></ul><ul><li>King Arthur </li></ul><ul><li>Celtic legends “Mabinogion” </li></ul><ul><li>Brothers Grimm, Anderson, Perrault </li></ul>
Who’s Who of Fantasy Literature <ul><li>Rudyard Kipling </li></ul><ul><li>Lewis Carroll </li></ul><ul><li>L. Frank Baum </li></ul><ul><li>J.R.R. Tolkien </li></ul><ul><li>C.S. Lewis </li></ul><ul><li>Ursula LeGuin </li></ul><ul><li>Anne McCaffrey </li></ul><ul><li>Robin McKinley </li></ul><ul><li>J.K. Rowling </li></ul><ul><li>Philip Pullman </li></ul>
Conventions and Traditions <ul><li>Internally consistent </li></ul><ul><li>Magical </li></ul><ul><li>Dragons, unicorns, vampires, ghosts </li></ul><ul><li>Quests </li></ul><ul><li>Universal truths </li></ul><ul><li>Wide age appeal </li></ul>
Importance of Fantasy <ul><li>“Fantasy is our world turned upside down” </li></ul><ul><li>Pure escapism </li></ul><ul><li>Pass on customs and traditions </li></ul><ul><li>Respond to the unknown </li></ul><ul><li>Imagination </li></ul>
Subgenres of Fantasy <ul><li>Literary fantasy </li></ul><ul><li>Adventure fantasy </li></ul><ul><li>Series fantasy </li></ul>
Evaluating Fantasy <ul><li>Gradual move from reality to fantasy </li></ul><ul><li>Setting </li></ul><ul><li>Language </li></ul><ul><li>Real Objects </li></ul><ul><li>Consistence </li></ul><ul><li>Original Plots </li></ul><ul><li>Universal Truths </li></ul>
Now for Science Fiction… “Where No One has Gone Before” <ul><li>Includes paraphernalia of science </li></ul><ul><li>Adheres to natural law </li></ul><ul><li>Presents a speculated world. </li></ul><ul><li>Futuristic </li></ul><ul><li>Adventurous </li></ul><ul><li>“What if…” </li></ul>
The Beginning of Science Fiction <ul><li>Jonathan Swift – Gulliver’s Travels (1726) </li></ul><ul><li>Mary Shelley – Frankenstein (1818) </li></ul><ul><li>Jules Verne – Voyage to the Center of the Earth (1864) and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870) </li></ul>
Fathers of Science Fiction <ul><li>Isaac Asimov – “Foundation” series </li></ul><ul><li>Arthur C. Clark – 2001 : A Space Odyssey </li></ul><ul><li>Robert Heinlein -- Stranger in a Strange Land </li></ul><ul><li>Ray Bradbury – The Martian Chronicles </li></ul>
Value of Science Fiction <ul><li>Develops the imagination </li></ul><ul><li>Offers challenges and hope </li></ul><ul><li>Offers possibility for change </li></ul>