Checking my genre?

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Cindy From Oregon

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Good morning! Can you help me settle something? My WIP is MG, takes place on another planet, and the MC is a small, furred creature (think 1/2 way between Chewbacca and an Ewok). Is it Science Fiction, or Fantasy? Having a debate with another writer, and he makes cogent arguments for Fantasy. Can someone point me in the direction of a clear explanation of the elements for both? If it makes any difference, I'm writing it inspired by Star Wars, Eragon, Lord of the Rings, King Arthur, The Three Musketeer, Lost in Space, and Galaxy Quest - the things I love about each of them. Thanks for your help!
 

Maggie Maxwell

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I think the big question is "are the things that make this world/time different from modern earth technology-based or magic-based?" If it's low-tech but on another planet, sort of like Redwall but not Earth critters, then it's probably fantasy unless it MATTERS that it's in the same universe as Earth (such as humans appearing as a plot point). If it doesn't matter, then it may as well be other-world fantasy even if there's no magic.
 

Pinkarray

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Science fiction and fantasy can co-exist in a story. Though, from that little detail you gave, I can't debate whether or not it's a fantasy or science fiction. If this is set on another planet, are there aliens or space elements in there? If not, then I'd say fantasy.
 

Pat Waldron

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Some people call scifi and fantasy 'speculative fiction.'

In both scifi and fantasy series there are genre swaps. I read that you can have one main genre and two subgenres. For each Scifi point that you make, you can make fantasy point and a joke. But throw in something else and the audience gets lost.
 

Ninten

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This isn't an easy debate to settle, but another definition that people sometimes use to differentiate the two genres is that science fiction is something that could plausibly happen but hasn't happened yet whereas fantasy is something that could never happen. I think in your case the question I'd ask (especially in MG, since it's less serious) is does this other planet exist in our universe? If a character would get on a spaceship, could they fly to earth? Do the characters in the story ever reference the fact that they're on a planet in a larger universe and that there are other planets out there, or are we completely immersed in this made-up world? And of course, as others have pointed out, are there typical science fiction elements (things like advanced technology, alien lifeforms--as in from planets other than the one your story is set on)? Or typical fantasy elements (magic, creatures typically associated with the fantasy genre, low-tech)?
 

pharm

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I think the big question is "are the things that make this world/time different from modern earth technology-based or magic-based?" If it's low-tech but on another planet, sort of like Redwall but not Earth critters, then it's probably fantasy unless it MATTERS that it's in the same universe as Earth (such as humans appearing as a plot point). If it doesn't matter, then it may as well be other-world fantasy even if there's no magic.

^ This feels closer than any rubric I could come up with. For me, a core component of sci-fi is some preoccupation with extrapolating human futures (or sometimes pasts) and speculative technology. If there’s nothing to tether it to our world and/or if it doesn’t resemble some possible future of our world, I’d call it fantasy.

There are definitely edge cases out there—there always are—but I would call Star Wars and its ewoks “fantasy” or “science fantasy” in light of the fact that they take place in an apparently alternate universe heavily featuring magic. Whereas I would call something like Mass Effect “science fiction” since, despite it also featuring psychic wizards, it takes place in a speculative future of our world where science has attained feats indistinguishable from magic.

Dune is right on the edge. I’ve heard people call it science fiction, science fantasy, or just straight-up fantasy. I’d call any of those labels correct. Which one it’s billed as is a matter for marketing experts based on current sales trends ;)

OP, I wouldn’t obsess too much about it. If your work could plausibly fit either category, I’d go ahead and pitch it as either whatever you personally feel it is or what you think a given agent/publisher might prefer.
 
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