3 Strengths of Science Fiction Over Fantasy

Science Fiction.  Fantasy.  Horror.  Superhero.  Every geek proudly defends his chosen genre.  While art is always subjective, it can be interesting to explore how each genre has its narrative strengths…and pitfalls.

I love fantasy.  The Lord of the Rings is one of the greatest epics of all time, and, yes, I am a member of a Dungeons and Dragons club.  #WaterdeepDragonHeist #NoShame

But, I do feel that science fiction has some narrative strengths over fantasy, which is why that is genre I am currently dabbling in for my creative writing.  These are general patterns, there will always be outliers.

Strength #1:  Sci Fi Avoids the Messiah Complex (When Done Right)

Fantasy stories frequently have a messianic character.  Frodo.  Harry.  King Arthur.  The Pevensies. These “chosen ones” are a very common fantasy trope. There is a time and place for this type of storytelling.  I am a Christian and I do think that sometimes Providence calls people to certain missions.  These fantasy characters (at least in Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia) can serve a christological function if done right.

However, it can be hard to relate to these characters.  I don’t have a prophesy telling me what my role will be.  History is not micromanaged by prophecies or chosen ones.

Consider Star Trek.  Are the characters gifted?  Yes.  Are they in a unique position given the technological eliteness of the Enterprise?  Yes.  However one can more easily see oneself becoming a psychologist, like Troi, or an engineer, like Shorty, or a captain (albeit not of a Starship) like Picard than one can imagine being marked for greatness like Harry Potter.

Yes, some Sci Fi falls back on fantasy tropes (Star Wars, I’m looking at you). However Science Fiction generally does not need a “chosen one.” That makes the characters more relatable and raises the stakes.  If there is a prophecy, we can trust it will be fulfilled.  If a character is just one member of the crew among many…well they don’t have fate to shield them from danger.

Strength #2: We Can See Science Fiction Coming True

Wizards, as fantasy understands them, are not real and never will be real.  The crocodile is as close as we are ever going to get to a dragon.

On the other hand, the communicators of Star Trek have come true in cell phones.  The book burning world of Fahrenheit 451  is all too real in some countries (and will come to our own if we are not careful).  And while we may not have cyborgs, like in Ghost in the Shell, human beings are becoming more and more attached to technology and that technology is providing a new platform for warfare.  We may not be able to reanimate dead corpses like Victor Frankenstein, but the history of science is filled with less-than-ethical science experiments.

When we read fantasy we have to suspend disbelief.  When we read science fiction the scenarios are often all too real.

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Strength #3 Science Fiction’s “What If…”

Fantasy’s “What if” is often well…a fantasy.  People joke all the time about how they are “still waiting for their Hogwarts Letter.”  People wish they could go to Narnia.  People wish they were a wizard.  People wish they could find a genie.

With SciFi…it ain’t so simple.  Do you wish you had an X-gene?  Where your powers may be unstable, may cause you to kill your boyfriend if you kiss him, and will cause you to have to live in hiding from the fearful human population?  It may be cool to be an X-man…but not completely.

We don’t wish to be Katniss from the Hunger Games, or the humans under attack in War of the Worlds.  We don’t wish to be a Loonie from The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.  Science Fiction makes it easier to pick “what if’s” that are blessings…and curses.  This can make it all the more exciting and believable.

Furthermore, fantasy often falls back on recycled Lord of the Rings knockoffs.  Elves, dwarves and dragons again and again and again.  Science Fiction’s need for novel “what if’s” has spurred a great diversity.  Just see the range from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to Deep Space Nine, from the optimism of Star Trek to the crushing despair of Frankenstein. There is a massive difference between Xenomorphs and Klaatu from The Day the Earth Stood Still. 

I will go back to Narnia soon.  But for now, I will hear the prophets warning and celebrating an all too close future.

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Robot Image by Comfreak on Pixabay

Fantasy Image above by peter_pvw on Pixabay

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You’ll Need to Save the Planet to Secure the Boarder

Too often climate change is seen as a nebulous intellectual theory that may or may not bring some sort of apocalyptic doom in a far-fetched future that never seems to come.  The fact is that climate change is having a real impact right now.  We are seeing it at our border.

This is worth reflecting on because today, June 30th, has been declared a National Day of Action Against Family Separation by a movement called Family’s Belong Together.  The event was called to criticize Mr. Trump’s “zero tolerance policy” which led to the separation of thousands of children from their parents.

What does climate change have to do with this?  According to Lauren Markham writing in the New York Times, rising temperatures are making it harder for Guatemalan farmer’s to make ends meet.  This exacerbates already dangerous conditions in the country and can make the highly risky and undignified journey north seem more attractive.

In fact 22.5 million people have been displaced by climate and weather related causes, according to the International Displacement Monitoring Center and the UN.  As climate change continues to accelerate, we may see more and more immigrants seeking asylum.

It would do well for the leader of the free world who has said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people” to consider that it is perfectly natural for the hungry and desperate to move toward food.  And given that the USA is a major polluter on the world stage, we should do more minimize our impact to these people’s plight before we demonize them and rip their children away.

Trump’s immigration policies have led to international outcry and Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights rebuked the policy saying, “The American Association of Pediatrics has called this cruel practice “government-sanctioned child abuse” which may cause “irreparable harm,” with “lifelong consequences.”  Trump currently seeks to continue a zero-tolerance policy and detain families together.

This is not to say climate change is the only cause of our current immigration crisis, but it is a cause that can’t be ignored.  Climate change deniers seek to make so much noise that no decisive action will be taken.  Time has officially run out.  We needed to get serious about this issue a long time ago.  To many people have already paid for our failure to act.


I highly recommend Lauren Markham’s article.  In addition to conditions in Guatemala, she discusses other examples from El Salvador and around the world.