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Is fantasy easier to write than science fiction?

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Re: Is fantasy easier to write than science fiction?

Postby erazmus » Sun Sep 20, 2009 8:19 pm

Sorry to go so far back but I came across these posts and just had to put in my two cents.

Fantasy is not easier because you can "just make stuff up". Its harder, because every element you pull out of whole cloth has to consistently work with every other factual element in the story, or it falls apart. The best fantasists don't "just make stuff up".The have to work it out as well. Just like in science fiction, they must postulate "what if" and then extract answers. And the answers will be scrutinized by the readers.

Science Fiction does the same thing, or else it isn't really science fiction, its just a techno-thriller set in the future where the cutting edge has become common place. Or else its fantasy with the numbers rubbed off and a patina of science added. There is a lot, and I mean a whole lot, of SF on the shelves that fits that pattern. Including most series currently being produced.

The one requirement that writing science fiction has that writing fantasy doesn't is a solid, working understanding of science. Most good SF writers have that, some don't but manage to make up for it with a dogged level of journalistic research. The rest write science fantasy. Fantasy has its own requirements but they are much more technical writing requirements, the ability to tell a story, balancing the magic with character, plot and such. SF writers have to do this with science but it seems easier as they only have to "invent" one or two aspects beyond current use, in fact most adhere to the rule of only asking the reader to accept one impossible thing, and let everything else flow from that. Fantasy writers do the same.

That said, over half the readers, or at least buyers, of genre fiction are women and women have shown a tendency, for what ever reason, to prefer Fantasy over Science Fiction by a wide margin. Even gynocentric SF written by female authors. Perhaps especially so. So if a writer were shooting for becoming the top-dog in their genre, Fantasy is considerably more rewarding right now, and has been for a number of years. This will change, in the way that everything always changes, but that change is probably far off.
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Re: Is fantasy easier to write than science fiction?

Postby Bmat » Sat Sep 26, 2009 11:05 am

Welcome to Speculative Vision, erazmus!

This is an aspect I hadn't considered, that in fantasy the universe is constructed on a basic or fairly basic level and must be consistent. Of course in SF you still need to keep the world view consistent, too; and I also feel that in SF technical knowledge or at least plausible science background of the featured concepts are needed.

I enjoy fantasy that surprises me when quite apart from the main construction that peripheral matters are tossed in and explained well by the construction. :)
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Re: Is fantasy easier to write than science fiction?

Postby Grand Evander » Sun Sep 27, 2009 11:03 am

I think the ratio of new SF to fantasy in the marketplace today is more a reflection of what readers are reading. Agents and publishers receive manuscripts by the millisecond across genres, and it's hard to believe that there's a shortage of SF writing being done in the modern day. There is some evidence of this. A recent poll by one agent of his blog constituents showed a surprisingly large proportion of aspiring writers were writing within the fantasy genre, though this also included MG and YA fantasy which really isn't distinguished as a genre for that audience. What actually gets published is what's commercial, not necessarily what's being written. I don't think what's in bookstores today is representative of writing as much as reading.

Writing science fiction can be difficult and require more research, but you can put just as much or little effort into creating a rational magic system as you can into creating a new interstellar transport system. They both can be far removed from our world today or in the near future (think urban and low fantasy for fantasy), and both can be well-researched and planned thoroughly or written with a lot of hand-waving.

I think writing is as hard as you make it as a writer. The more meticulous and punctilious you are with genre conventions and authenticity, the more difficult it is to put constrained pen to paper, but I don't think what's in stores today is about writing as much as reading.
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Re: Is fantasy easier to write than science fiction?

Postby Neurolanis » Thu Oct 01, 2009 8:34 pm

Kids have big imaginations, and thanks to books like Harry Potter and Eragon they are very interested in fantasy. Now, they are growing older and reading more adult-level fantasy books (LOTR and so forth.) Real Sci-Fi would be harder to pitch to a younger readership, and doesn't grab up the readers it once did. I think Star Trek used to do a good job of pulling in young sci-fi fans, and maybe the new films will help to an extent (not the same impact as a weekly TV show though.) But that's the catch; catching the readers while they're young.
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Re: Is fantasy easier to write than science fiction?

Postby sightpress » Fri Jan 29, 2010 5:31 am

I think its the audience, for an example as you said harry potter more the younger people read it. for a SF it should be abit older. because it might be abit difficult to understand.
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Re: Is fantasy easier to write than science fiction?

Postby Spiderkeg » Fri Jan 29, 2010 9:43 am

I think fantasy is much, much easier to write than science fiction. People expect a certain level of truth with the science portion of science fiction, while in fantasy nothing has to be proven to still make sense. Dragons can persist in fantasy, but the author does not have to explain them. Warp drives can exist in science fiction, but the reader expects some level of explanation, or adherence physics at least, to exist.
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Re: Is fantasy easier to write than science fiction?

Postby M.Blaekr » Mon Feb 15, 2010 3:34 pm

I didn't read any of the other posts so if I reiterate ideas, pardon me.

Fantasy is simpler, traditionally. Science-Fiction usually entails more details given to the environment or technology (such as the cliche and dreaded "technobabble" which I can't stand). In my opinion, people are becoming allergic to thinking, so the rundown of an FTL (Faster Than Light) drive wouldn't appeal to them. However, when something happens because magic makes it so, people are relieved of an otherwise burden of an effort to comprehend fictional-semifictional concepts.

On a less cynical note, look at the other factors such as the situation. Lord of the Rings, for example. Yeah. Lord of the Rings, enough said. People enjoy what they were raised to enjoy, and someone who grew up on stories like Lord of the Rings is more likely to write/publish/buy one based on that, because people typically don't wander outside of their comfort zone.

However, perhaps books, themselves, are more attuned to writing Fantasy, while television/movies (Star Trek) and video games (Mass Effect, personal favorite) do a better portrayal of Science Fiction since one may actually see the technology rather than have to go off of technical descriptions. This makes the most sense to me, since it is easier to show in a pleasant way than describe in a pleasant way things that cannot, yet, be explained perfectly or even very well. Whereas with magic, and swords, kings, witches, etc. they can be described with incredible ease with words. And since our markets are literally flooded with mediocre stories living in the shadows of the originals (again, Lord of the Rings in example), people already have a vivid mental image of what is taking place.

Back to my cynicism, I think people would rather hear about the ease of describing mystical forces that merely "make things happen," sometimes with a sprinkle of realism, rather than read up on technical descriptions. Understandable, but slightly disappointing, at times.
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Re: Is fantasy easier to write than science fiction?

Postby Alex F » Fri Jun 11, 2010 9:28 am

An old chestnut I see. Science fiction is a fascinating subject doubtless but is often written more by people with technical knowledge on the subject which enables them to come up with such things.

Fantasy lends itself to good story telling from a magic perspective in that sword and sorcery doesn't have to be as technical. That's not to say that it can't be as technical or detailed, most fantasy world are quite detailed and lord knows I like detailed fantasy worlds because that's half the pleasure of fantasy worlds for me, defining how they work and what they are when compared to our own, and you can go into as much detail as you like in fantasy while the world continues to be credible given its 'fantasy' nature.

I think analysing the actual words themselves 'science' & 'fiction' give away the technical nature of the genre of sci fi in that some basic understanding of those concepts is necessary to write a credible story that doesn't just take the nature of the world it is set in for granted and becomes purely an action fest in a totally narrative driven plot which gives little detail about the actual world itself. The LOTR spinoff fantasy books that can be derided are the ones which are purely 'the adventure' and don't given much credience to the world itself, simply presuming that everyone understands 'the kind of thing in a fantasy world' and they can be samey because they don't really inspire.

Still regardless, both can be good and bad, it depends really on the level of skill as a writer that you have and how much you're willing to work to make it good.
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Re: Is fantasy easier to write than science fiction?

Postby NeoScribe » Tue Aug 17, 2010 6:00 pm

I agree with the above. Science fiction isn't really harder to write than fantasy, but many people think it is harder. Fantasy writers do often have the habit of simply borrowing Tolkien, D&D, or classical mytholgy settings and charcters for their stories. It gives them a base to work from and it is almost expected from them, much like the setting and character archetypes are already made and ready for a Western story.

Science fiction does involve a less ready blue-print for worldbuilding, and that can be intimidating for writers who have to do plenty of research if they want to write a believable Space-faring story without infodumping on the reader. Earth-bound scifi is varied but does seem to be used for for social commentary than space opera, but there is still that futuristic element that is daunting for some people.

As others have said, we have caught up to what used to be the scifi future. Computers, robots, and medicine have taken huge bounds since Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov started hammering away at their typewriters. And other old scifi concepts that used to be popular are dubunked as impossible or just plain silly. How often today can a writer tell the tantilizing tale of Venusians stealing young girls from school because they lack a female population? Or of children being kidnapped, dyed blue, and being sold off as cyborg servants? Or the African-American population of smalltown America building a rocket and heading to Mars?

As time goes on Scifi loses a lot of its old standards, what was written as something the tantalize the reader with it possibilty became farfetched. I don't worry though, There are still plenty of things to write about and our modern day possibilties, while closing some of those old doors, open up plenty of new ones if people just think a little.
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Re: Is fantasy easier to write than science fiction?

Postby ML Hamilton » Sat Jan 22, 2011 7:23 pm

Interesting thought that there might be more fantasy because more women are being published, but I just don't think that's it. There are too many "big name" male fantasy writers. I think others are right in that it's just a pendulum swing, but I also agree that it's probably easier to write fantasy because you don't have to worry about adhering to any science.
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