“It is said that science fiction and fantasy are two different things. Science fiction is the improbable made possible, and fantasy is the impossible made probable.”
The above quote came from Rod Sterling, creator and narrator of The Twilight Zone. Remember when that word inspired memories of science fiction instead of vampires? I guess that’s a topic for another time. Anyway, fantasy and science fiction are my two favorite genres. They tend to get sorted together at the bookstore, and a lot of people think of them as the same, but they are two separate experiences that scratch two different itches. They also offer two different opportunities for storytelling.
What Mr. Sterling said about sci-fi is true. Science fiction is about possibilities. They inspire and terrify people with the possibilities of where society, biology, and technology will go in the future. I’m not the biggest sci-fi fan but as a fantasy writer, this aspect makes me jealous. I wrote a post about the passing of Mr. Armstrong a few weeks ago and the reason that meant so much to me was because he was one of those people that made us think about what we would become. There have been many great people like that. DaVinci, the Wright brothers, all those people who flexed against our natural limitations and expanded our horizons. I don’t think we’ve quite fulfilled Mr. Armstrong’s dream, but it will always be there for the future. That’s one of the amazing things science fiction can do for literature and entertainment. It brings the wonder of fantasy but with that added joy of knowing that it may not be out of the realm of possibility.
Fantasy doesn’t usually make us think about possibilities. What it does do, and is unique in this sense, is release all the limitations of what is seen as possible. As long as you can justify a concept within the bounds of your story, anything goes. Sci-fi has the ability to make us think about possibilities but fantasy has the ability to make real what can never be. It makes our darkest or greatest ideas, those ones usually constrained by petty things like the laws of physics, into reality. It gives a storyteller the ability to take a story into situations that have never and will never exist.