Mixing Science with Fantasy
Science fiction and fantasy are close cousins in the writing world yet they are still separated by class systems, use of technology, monsters, setting, and even characterization. But what if they weren't?
There's a great line in the Hulu series Marvel's Runaways (and also in Marvel's Thor) that goes:
"Magic is just science we don't understand."
If we're picking teams I'm team fantasy. I've always liked the old school sword and sorcery type stories involving fantastical monsters and adventures. It takes a really good science fiction to draw me. Something like Star Wars captured my attention the same as everyone because its a sweeping, epic story where the central theme is good versus evil. Isn't that what all stories depict in one way or another? It's in the execution where you draw your audience.
At its core Star Wars is the Heroes Journey archetype that's used in many stories, including fantasy. In fact, when I would discuss the plot of my Best Series nominee Demon Hunter, I'd tell people its very "Star Wars-eseque" because my character went on a similar journey.
In fact, some people have even argued that Star Wars is not a science fiction at all but rather science fantasy. Science fantasy is a mixed genre that combines tropes and elements from both science fiction and fantasy. The biggest difference between science fiction and science fantasy is the science.
The world of science fiction will have technology grounded in realism based on a theory that this could happen at some point in the future. Fantasy embodies its name, it's a world made up of its own rules. For instance, magic often is just there and accepted as such because the created world deems it as such.
Mixing the two under the umbrella of science fantasy creates some fascinating stories. It offers the freedom to explore creativity and also provide a sense of realism within the elements being portrayed.
Star Wars is probably the most famous example but I found myself drawn to the Marvel's Runaways series for this exact reason. I can't speak on the comic series as I've not read it yet. The Hulu series departed from the comics in small ways to bring it to life on TV screens and one of the ways they did that was to ground a lot of the magical elements in scientific explanations.
For example, the magical Staff of One that Nico Minoru uses in the comic series is more of a magical element. It appears from her chest after she calls it with bloodletting. And although the series leans into the more magical aspects of the staff later in season 3 when we first see The Staff of One it has a technical element attached to it.
Nico still gets the staff to react by pricking her finger but her mother Tina explains that the staff is reading her DNA. She then goes on to say it was engineered in the laboratory of their company Wizard and powered by some very special unique technology. Later in the series this version of the staff is destroyed. The new one born of Nico's body is pure magic.
Runaways has combined elements of sci-fi such as the fistagons Chase Stein uses and hard-core magic like the spells Morgan le Fay, a well-known magical character in the Marvel universe, uses through witchcraft. The series also taps into the Dark Dimension which is pure fantasy and Karolina's powers which are derived from her alien blood, which has always been a science fiction trope. I liked the way they weaved the science and magic together so much it had me hooked throughout the 3 seasons it was on.
There are so many other examples of science fantasy around but they've been mislabeled as solely science fiction or fantasy. This is why speculative fiction is such a misunderstood, but necessary, genre in the fictional world. So many different elements can make up a story. The hard rules are being expanded upon to bring forth enjoyable stories full of creativity.
Take a look at the video for a deeper look into examples of science fantasy:
I've been working on a trilogy that I originally thought fell in the realm of science fiction. It threw me off because I tend to stay under the fantasy tree with my work laying under the different branches like urban fantasy, superhero fantasy, or even dark fantasy. But because now I know that the story I'm writing is a science fantasy I feel more comfortable continuing it because I know my way around that genre better than I would a full-on science fiction.
So if you didn't know you could mix science fiction and fantasy into one novel now you have permission...in fact its encouraged.
Still struggling to figure out your genre? Keep calm and read my post on choosing a writing genre