Fantasy stories and science fiction stories are often lumped into the genre of “Sci-Fi/Fantasy” without a second thought. Many readers consider the two so alike that identifying the exact point of difference would be splitting hairs. But if there was no need to distinguish the two, why not just choose one? As it turns out, it’s more than just convention.
One of the quickest ways to identify a story’s genre is to pinpoint common tropes. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (hm…) are among the most well-known science fiction stories. Science fiction stories commonly feature outer space, time travel, and advanced technology.
The simplest explanation of what makes a story science fiction is that the work operates according to the universe’s scientific rules. “Scientific rules” gives the impression of a strict requirement; however, the criterion encompasses anything that could be feasible given our understanding of science. This leeway allows for futuristic “science” that seems far-fetched (like time travel in The Time Machine when Wells wrote the work) making the definition—frustratingly, at times—broad.
One of our users, beco99, has been writing sci-fi web serial fiction. “The Company Man” is set in a universe post-nuclear war and follows Lieutenant Commander Nic Horshmire as he realizes humans have been brainwashed into conducting “the greatest search the galaxy had ever known.”
Fantasy stories also exist outside of the ordinary, but such works are generally more implausible. When readers think of fantasy stories, after all, works that come to mind include Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, and The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. (Another clue could be all these initials in authors’ names.) If you encounter monsters, hobbits, elves, wizards, witches, and a talking lion, chances are you have yourself a fantasy story.
In contrast to science fiction stories, fantasy stories deal with magic and the supernatural (I suppose we’re going to have to write on the difference between fantasy and supernatural stories. Evidently I didn’t think this one through.) Fantasy stories are not grounded in science at all, though good fantasy fiction is bound by the constraints of its universe. Otherwise, everything would be chaos.
Prolitfic user Chrysalis has written two fantasy web serial fiction installments of “When the Blue Hour Strikes.” The protagonist, Laila Rose, is an ethereal “Solarite” who is hosting a party when she meets someone she’d never thought she’d see again.
This is the first installment of Prolitfic’s Web Serial Fiction Writing Workshop! In these installments, we’ll be addressing frequently asked questions regarding fiction writing, web serial fiction, and more. Let us know if you want a topic covered, and we’ll get right to it.