Sci-Fi vs Fantasy

Recently you may have noticed I’ve not been posting a lot, there are a few reasons for that. First of all I’ve started my masters course in creative writing, which is taking up a whole lotta time. Second I moved house, which basically means I’ve been reorganising my whole personal library (I have a tiny bookshelf just for my SF now I love it). And finally, I’ve not actually been reading that much SF.

Some SF

I spent about a month reading Jen Williams’ The Iron Ghost (review to come) and basically throwing myself into the world of fantasy a whole lot more, for a multitude of reasons but mostly because I feel way more comfortable with fantasy. For those of you that don’t know discovering SF was a fairly recent thing for me; About two years ago I took a module on SF literature and fell in love with John Wyndham, but for most of my life I’ve loved fantasy. My first favourite books were about witches, I had a healthy Harry Potter phase (though it’s yet to end) and I love nothing more than tucking into a new fantasy YA series. Though I love reading and studying SF it’s not really a comfort zone for me.

That’s not to say SF hasn’t always been a part of my life in some way, most nights I fell asleep to the sounds of Forbidden Planet, rainy days on holiday were dedicated to Star Trek and my dad’s classic SF box set. SF has always been there, but it’s not always been my focus. Part of why I set this blog up is so I’d read more SF and so I could get down my thoughts and feelings on it.

What’s changed recently is that I’ve started a new project. I might be a writing student but I have yet to ever finish writing anything novel length, but this summer I started writing a fantasy piece that I think could make it to a decent length and even be decent itself. But I hit a wall, as most writers do, and I realised that for all my fantasy knowledge I’m not that good at writing it.

Some fantasy

For years I’ve written in an environment that celebrates new and innovative thinking. I’ve studied SF, horror, weird fiction, poetry, even crime (which I hate), but I’ve never really studied fantasy. And though no tutor has ever told me this, I always felt like in academia fantasy was seen as overdone. Yes we studied the classics a bit, we looked at Ovid I’ve read some Chaucer and Beowulf but we never looked at the modern fantasy genres that came from that.

As I’m saying this I realise I’m lying, we did study some fantasy in my Cultures of Childhood module, but we looked at it as, primarily, something childish. At a time when I was struggling to show how grown up and mature I was this wasn’t the best message for me to start over analyzing. For a couple years I’ve proudly said that I only like Game of Thrones for the writing, that Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell was only picked up because it was set in York (where I studied), and that my fantasy YA series were just a hidden guilty pleasure. I still have yet to read the Lord of the Rings trilogy because I keep telling myself I’m not a real SF fan if I read Tolkien before I read Asimov’s Foundation trilogy.

Yes I love these books, no I’m not ashamed!

If you have read this far into my whinging you’re probably wondering why the hell I’m complaining and what I’m so upset about. And in reality there’s nothing to be upset about. There’s a reason SF and fantasy get lumped together in Waterstones, it’s because people who like one will most likely enjoy the other. They’re both genres of wonder and intrigue and imagination. They’re genres multiple writers cross and blend and stitch together to make something amazing.

But there’s still something that irks me; Whenever I tell people “I like science fiction AND fantasy” somehow fantasy gets lost in translation. I can only assume this is because we’re all so naturally attuned to fantasy from fairy tales, Disney films, and children’s books that we just see it as part of the furniture now. I think we forget when we’re sitting on sofas and putting our books on shelves that someone had to make that furniture and that we chose to put it there.

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