Fictional, But Possible

The "Harry Potter" series is a fantasy.
The “Harry Potter” series is a fantasy.

Books labeled science-fiction and fantasy sit on shelves next to each other in bookstores. Ever wondered why’re clubbed together?

They’re both genres of fiction. They’re both about made-up worlds. There, I’m afraid, the similarity ends.

In most instances, science-fiction deals with scenarios, set in the future, scenarios which are both possible and plausible. “The best kind of science-fiction involves science,” Isaac Asimov said. It can be based either on today’s science or the science of tomorrow.

Fantasy, by contrast, incorporates concepts that have no roots in science—magic, supernatural, occult. There’s a path from the here and now to the setting of a science-fiction story. But it’s never possible to journey to the milieu of a fantasy.

Mark Wilson, a science-fiction enthusiast, framed it crisply: “Science-fiction expands our world; fantasy transcends it.”

Science-fiction writer Robert S. Sawyer put it this way: “There’s discontinuity between our reality and fantasy; there’s continuity between our reality and science-fiction.”


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