Since I have a contender in this year's Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, I've been combing through the contestants from this year and also from previous years.
One thing disturbs me, though—that some of the books are disqualified for being too 'sci-fi' for this particular contest.
That's a fair justification. After all, this is the Fantasy Blog-Off. But it makes me wonder—what is the criteria for labeling a book 'sci-fi'?
Magic Vs. Technology
The inadequate answer is that fantasy books contain magic, while sci-fi books contain technology. And it is clearly an inadequate answer, because we all know Clarke's Third Law:
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
So let's take an example. What about teleportation? Is that fantasy?
Obviously, using teleportation in a story doesn't lock it into either category. Maybe flying cars are a better example.
Or maybe not.
Okay, here's another insufficient answer: the setting determines whether the story is fantasy or sci-fi.
Because if the story takes place in a strange new world with flying beasts, it must be fantasy...
But if it takes place in a strange new world with flying beasts, it must be sci-fi...
Um, the characters, maybe?
Obviously, only fantasy stories have pointy-eared people who are physically and intellectually superior to humans.
Did I say fantasy? I mean sci-fi.
What was the point I was trying to make?
Reductio ad absurdum
It seems like the real difference, even though nobody will say it, is that fantasy takes place on flat worlds and sci-fi takes place on round planets.
Both of these shots are from Star Wars, by the way.
So What's The Real Difference?
I don't claim to have the answers. I don't write the dictionary, I have no authority to dictate the definitions.
I have some thoughtful theories, which you are welcome to check out. But I'd also like to know your thoughts.
Drop a comment below, and tell me how you tell the difference between those genres!