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Is fantasy easier to write than science fiction?

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Is fantasy easier to write than science fiction?

Postby Bmat » Sun Jun 29, 2008 7:31 am

I read a comment that fantasy was easier to write than SF and that this explained the increasing availability of fantasy and the declining availability of SF.

I have noticed in bookstores that there seems to have been an increase in the proportion of fantasy to SF.

Is the reason for the increase that female writers of the genre prefer fantasy, and there are more female writers being published? I'd think that publishers would publish what sells, so fantasy must sell well. Has the popularity of Harry Potter caused the increase in publishing fantasy? Is, perhaps, fantasy easier to read than SF, in general, and so the general public would be more inclined to read fantasy?

And this brings me back to the question of why some people don't like SF that is in another thread. Is SF "harder" to read?

Why are fantasy novels increasing in popularity or in visibility in book stores?
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Postby spknoevl » Mon Jun 30, 2008 6:56 am

I would think the success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy probably had a bigger impact. Right now fantasy seems to be very popular not just in books but in films as well. I imagine the original Star Wars trilogy had a similar effect on SF books in it's day.
I'm not sure which would be easier to write; they both require a certain amount of world building and some research on either medieval weaponry and customs for fantasy writers, or some basic space travel and physics for SF writers. I enjoy reading both, but find my love of history draws me more towards fantasy.
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Postby Qray » Mon Jun 30, 2008 7:25 pm

It's the swing of the pendulum. Currently Fantasy stories are more popular than Science Fiction, but it'll swing back to Science Fiction a some point. Then back to Fantasy, then back to Science Fiction...er...I hope. I likes me some Science Fiction.

I can see the LOTR movies giving the pendulum a push, but to me, it seems Science Fiction was already in decline before the movies came out.

As to which is easier, writing is writing. Stories all take on a certain formula. It's generally how those story elements are tweaked that show how a good story gets created.

That being said, for me writing Fantasy is infinitely easier. Now mind you, I didn't say good Fantasy. I just said Fantasy. :mrgreen:

Personally, I think the ease for me comes directly from having DMed D&D back in the day. A good DM is a good story teller and should be able to create detailed fantasy elements on the fly.

There's also the very fact that at it's core, good Science Fiction is social commentary. One not only needs to know a bit about science and technology, but how to weave the premise into a way to comment on society today without having it seem heavy handed.

Then there's the cross-genre works which are at the heart of good Science Fiction. Look at Asimov's Robot series. It takes on the heady subjects of cloning, gene manipulation, robotics, racism, and bigotry. Then wraps them all up in the guise of a detective story.

So it could be said that not only does a Science Fiction writer need to know something about science and technology (and to predict where some of the current trends in these fields are going to lead us) AND how to write, AND how to comment on society without making it look like they're commenting on society, but also be able to write in other styles and genres.
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Postby The Master » Mon Jun 30, 2008 10:33 pm

Overall I do think Fantasy is easier to write simply because its based on "whatever you can imagine goes". After all, magic can be whatever you want it to be. Science Fiction is not as forgiving and requires some basis in actual or theoretical science that plays a role in the story to be valid.

I think Qray has a good point in that most Science Fiction, even hard SF, relies on more story elements to be engaging than just the science alone can provide (otherwise it would be a text book heh). Significant social commentary has always been a favorite topic of SF authors as he mentions, whereas even if a Fantasy story includes some commentary along the way as a plot device it is rarely the actual focus of the story.

I do think that recent public fascination with things like Harry Potter and the huge success of the Lord of the Rings movies plays some role, but not necessarily in a good way. I think it can lead to imitation and formulaic storytelling instead of something more original. Still, their popularity creates interest for the genre as a whole which is definitely a good thing!
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Postby aldan » Wed Jul 02, 2008 9:40 am

Another thing to think about with this topic is that in the heyday of SciFi, there was a lot to 'look forward to' with the space race and whatnot. However, the 'race' has turned into a crawl, and it seems as though we'll not make it to another planet for another hundred years or so... which would definitely have an effect on Science Fiction, seeing that most of the greats of SciFi started out when 'the final frontier' hadn't even been labelled, and the sky seemed to be the limit, at least if you think of the sky as what you can see at night, looking up.

I'm a bit worried that if we continue with this method of 'space exploration', we may end up losing Science Fiction as a genre for quite some time.
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Re: Is fantasy easier to write than science fiction?

Postby berry » Wed Aug 20, 2008 10:10 am

I do think that looking into our future and trying to imagine what might be is as easy as it once was. As Aldan said it seems that the space race is not being run at the moment. Getting off the planet is not going be a substitue for a beach holiday anytime soon. We also have integrated the idea of cloning, transplants, fertility outside a womb and fake limbs into everyday life. Public uproar certainly isn't as firece or as dedicated when new technology threatenes to make us that little bit less human and so there is less and less opposition to it. We have already allowed computers to take over our world and our jobs. Big brother is now entertainment not a hideous future. The star trek communicator now has easily downloadable ringtones.
Is sci-fi getting closer and closer to journalism? I guess not as transporters, hovver cars and replicators are not in general use yet but writing the future must be more of a challenge these days.
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Re: Is fantasy easier to write than science fiction?

Postby Bmat » Wed Aug 20, 2008 11:53 am

berry wrote:...
Is sci-fi getting closer and closer to journalism? I guess not as transporters, hovver cars and replicators are not in general use yet but writing the future must be more of a challenge these days.


I see what you mean. Maybe not "writing the future" as much as writing a future that surprises and intrigues the reader.
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Re: Is fantasy easier to write than science fiction?

Postby Neurolanis » Wed Aug 20, 2008 4:27 pm

Yes, I have the same thought; that science-fiction has become now-fiction, or at least near-now fiction. Not too many people seem to be imagining that far ahead of what is currently, or almost currently, possible. It has been my feeling for some time that what has been known as "science fiction" will soon become "speculative drama."


If you have an imagination fantasy is certainly a lot easier to write than Sci-Fi or almost anything else, because instead of researching facts, findings or the workings of various gadgets, mechanics, sciences or organizations, you may simply make up your own (and because it's fantasy, it doesn't have to be explained scientifically.) They say romance is the easiest, Fantasy the second easiest. And I'd say yes to both, provided the writer has an imagination. Otherwise, a horror novel or thriller would probably be a lot easier to plot out.

To me what matters is originality; the degree of honesty/trueness in the inspiration of the work, and thus of course its value, influence and endurance as a story.
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Re: Is fantasy easier to write than science fiction?

Postby Qray » Sat Aug 23, 2008 10:26 pm

Good science fiction need not be heavily laden with the science of far futuristic elements to be good science fiction though. A fine example of this is William Gibson's two most recent novels Pattern Recognition (2003) and Spook Country (2007) which are set in contemporary times, yet are solid science fiction.
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Re: Is fantasy easier to write than science fiction?

Postby The Master » Sun Aug 24, 2008 12:25 am

That's a good point. Its good to keep in mind that Science Fiction doesn't mean "future". HG Wells work was primarily writtien as contemporary (Victorian era) fiction. Steampunk is usually set in the past but is also sometimes used as alternative history device to project a different modern world (coincidently The Difference Engine by William Gibson is an award nominated example of the genre). Even Star Wars is set "a long time ago", its the fact that its "in a galaxy far, far away" that accounts for the technology differences.
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Re: Is fantasy easier to write than science fiction?

Postby Neurolanis » Mon Aug 25, 2008 5:40 pm

Yeah I guess, but they are still usually 'futuristic.' At one time a speed racer seemed like something lightyears ahead, and now due to hover technology it doesn't. But point taken.
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Re: Is fantasy easier to write than science fiction?

Postby Qray » Tue Aug 26, 2008 8:40 pm

Look at it this way, you don't need to set a story in a far different time to write Science Fiction. Nor does the story need to center around some fantastic technology. There are plenty of technologies in the here and now that you could use. Write a story in which hydrogen fueled cars play a significant plot point and set the story in the present day or not too distant future.
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