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Rant: Speculative Fiction

January 23, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Final Fantasy should just end. It isn’t even fantasy any more, its all science fiction with machines and future stuff (Edited for spelling).

I came across this quote while browsing through a gaming  forum, and it really ticked me off. It appears the stupid is contagious, and others began agreeing with this statement. This woefully incorrect statement.

I don’t much care for Final Fantasy, and have not played many of the console games. I don’t particularly care for the franchise, but I don’t think it deserves to end just yet – it’s a family name to a whole range of different universes and stories by the same studio. I’m not about to stand up say any of them are bad without playing them.

However, Final Fantasy is not the point – the point is the poster made, mistakenly, about the genre.

Firstly, in case you are unaware, Speculative Fiction is an umbrella term for a range of genres with one common theme – the author shows the audience an experience that one could not have normally. This includes fantasy, science fiction, horror and a few more. The opposite being naturalistic fiction, which is where the author portrays an experience that feasibly could happen.

Firstly – what is Science Fiction? There’s a lot of disagreement on what exactly it means, but I’ll give it my best shot. Science fiction is a story where all the changes between the fictitious world and ours derive from a single (or few) “What if?(‘s)”. Note that those “What if?’s” should be (and can be) explained in context, and that explanation can make rational sense. Generally speaking, the “What if?” never flies farther from existing ideas or fiction – common subjects are “What if history was different here?” or “What if technology X existed?”. Science fiction takes these ideas, and by resolving the conflict of a narrative, seeks to discover or understand the consequences.

Fantasy on the other hand, generally starts with a fictitious world. Magic and supernatural phenomena are common. The word does have laws that govern action and consequence, but those laws would be different from our own.

I’m not going to list examples of both. Why tell you something you already know? Oh, alright a few.

Star Wars – Science Fiction. “What if the Force?” “What if FTL travel?” It exists in a fictional setting, however, that setting is supposedly the same as our own (albeit removed, and in the past) and follows the same laws we expect from our universe, so we ignore that. I’ll ignore the fantasy elements of the Star Wars movies like the ‘desert planet Tatooine’ and the ‘ice planet Hoth’* due to either oversight or stupidity. Probably stupidity.

LotR – Fantasy – Different world, magic, mythril, ghost army, elves, dwarves, etc.

War of the Worlds – Science Fiction – “What if Martians?”

Doctor Who – What is this I don’t even – I think it wants to be science fiction. But then there are these episodes.

So – in response to that earlier quote, Final Fantasy is not science fiction because it’s setting becomes futuristic. It stays within the realm of fantasy because of all the other stuff going on – 13 alone includes magic, gods, a fictitious world, people turning into monsters and crystals – and all I read was the opening to the wiki page.

Possibly the reason is people are feeling the standard fantasy setting IS what fantasy should be – like somehow all fantasy narratives should conform to that ideal. A mistaken assumption, but there are so many new things now that blend genres or create new ones.

*  I’m not sure if Hoth was the ice planet – I’m not that big of a Star Wars buff. But there was an ice planet, and one planet called Hoth.

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