Friday, 9 August 2013

Genres: Fantasy vs Sci-Fi

In one of my earlier opening posts when I started this blog just over 2 years ago, I spoke about my first love: science fiction - anything and everything sci-fi I loved and fed upon as a kid. My two main loves were Dr. Who (the Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker era) and the original Star Trek.

Initial encounters with fantasy were met with a lack lustre 'meh' and then it was back to space ships, aliens and laser guns. I was a full-blown kiddy space cadet - hell, I even recall having Start Trek pyjamas, resplendent in Kirk, Spock and McCoy et al.

And now, decades down the proverbial path my shift is firmly fantasy; everything from animation, literature, gaming to art (and everything else inbetween). Please, don't misunderstand me, I still love sci-fi.

So why fantasy over sci-fi? Well, I suppose it's because of the breadth of flexibility (now here I speak as a DM ~ Dungeon Master ~ of 20+ years experience) in subject matter and researchable material for background information, lore, history, weapons, items, armour, buildings, clothing etc, etc. Plus I find people identify with it far more easily (in game terms) than science fiction. Maybe it's due to the fact there is a depth of history, fact, myth and legend we can fall back on if need be? Whereas the suspension of disbelief comes under greater strain where a sci-fi setting/theme is concerned.

I know from the past, running games like 'Traveller' and 'Shadowrun', players had a hard time getting to grips with accepting the sci-fi settings, equipment, and general immersion. I suppose it's hard to accept certain rules and ideas that challenge what we deal with day-to-day. And then you have those who like to argue the toss about the credibility of XY universe and the laws governing it by comparing to what we know as (supposed) fact in reality.

So why is it science fiction translates over to the medium of film so easily, yet there are few fantasy based films to compete, let alone stand equal to the myriad of sci-fi flicks we have today?

Yes, Peter Jackson has done brilliantly with the 'Lord of the Rings' saga, and now 'The Hobbit', but few ever reach such pinnacles of adoration and admiration. As for television series, fantasy once again fails, thought we do have, 'Game of Thrones'. Beyond this I can't recall a fantasy based tv series/program that has succeeded in doing the genre the justice it deserves and not looking like some half-baked pantomime.

I suppose, thinking about it from the heart, my affection for the genre is all about the imagination flying on wings of unlimited power to create anything without the boundaries that science fiction can often be dogged by - time travel being a major pain in the arse ('ass' for my American cousins). Plus it harkens back to a perceived time of simplicity. Technology hasn't cluttered the lives of the characters and the lands they roam, and money isn't all-powerful, and the law is clearer (in the majority of cases) and more easily understood - and broken - and carried out.

Although I tended to limit the high fantasy aspect when running my campaign to a minimal percentage of the content. I preferred the darker, grittier human story of love, betrayal, good, evil, treasure but rarely a dragon - at least, not in its true form ;) Plus, I found/find I can wax lyrical about a fantasy setting, whereas for the sci-fi genre my inspiration faltered as if blinded and shackled round the ankles.

Not one for long posts I shall allow you to have your say. Do you identify with the fantasy genre more readily than science fiction, or is it the other way round? Maybe you love both equally? I briefly touched on films and tv programs, so I'd be very interested to read about your thoughts, likes and dislikes in that area.

Thanks for reading :)


Jeremy [Retro] said...

To answer your question to the cheap trick song, that is my first experience to knowing them... tonight it's you was the first single of standing on the edge. i was a music late bloomer...

this a grand post... lots to share thank you!

DEZMOND said...

love it too, that is why HOLLYWOOD SPY is one of web's top sites for all things on science and epic fantasy and history :)

Mark K said...

lol... thanks Dezmond - I'm now a follower so I can stay up to date on everything Hollywood and beyond :)

Heather M. Gardner said...

I played D&D for about 10 years off and on. Our DM had an amazing imagination. But, he needed lots of material to work with. He would often steal from books and movies to help out in our scenarios. Nothing like playing a D&D game and ending up in the the Alien story. :)

Great post!

Mark K said...

Thank you, Heather - always love chatting with fellow D&Ders and rpgers - next to AD&D, my other favourite system was a great little paperback series called, 'Dragon Warriors' - look up the name in my word tree :)