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Science Fiction versus Fantasy—The Giveaway Contest!

by nickmamatas

Here at Haikasoru we love science fiction and fantasy. This month we’re exploring the spectrum of the field by publishing the philosophical hard SF of Jyouji Hayashi’s The Ouroboros Wave and Noriko Ogiwara’s heroic fantasy Dragon Sword and Wind Child. They’ll be out on the sixteenth, but you can get them up to a week early, thanks to our SFF Giveaway Contest!

All you need do is leave an essayish comment on this post of between 25 and 100 words (or thereabouts, we won’t count) on why you prefer SF, or like fantasy better, or like them both equally. Heck, you can even argue that there is no real difference between SF and fantasy. We’ll pick the four we like best—at least one pro-SF piece, one pro-fantasy piece, and if the other arguments appeal to us, we may pick from among them as well. Pro-SFers will win The Ouroboros Wave and fantasy-lovers will win Dragon Sword and Wind Child. Fence-straddlers will get a random choice of the two. If you happen to already have a a copy of one of the previous editions of Dragon Sword, I’ll swap out the prize for the Haikasoru title of your choice.

Haikasoru is all about international speculative fiction, so feel free to play from anywhere! We’ll also accept submission in Japanese, German, Spanish, Chinese, French, and Greek, to name a few of the languages we know around the office. You have all week, and we’ll announce the winners on Friday at noon, Pacific time. Sound good? It’s great! Let’s get to it!

Note: we do moderate comments so it may take a bit for your entry to appear.

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39 Responses to “Science Fiction versus Fantasy—The Giveaway Contest!”

  1. PhoenixTerran says:

    I love science fiction. I also love fantasy. And all that stuff that manages to be a hybrid of the two or fall in between? Yup, I love that too. I call it speculative fiction, and that’s what I read. I don’t have time to get into arguments over terminology and definitions, just give me fascinating stories and characters and I’m happy.

  2. Sylvia says:

    The probability of the story happening in our world is what draws the line between fiction and fantasy. I can’t help but see science fiction as a subset of fantasy – the fantastic worlds which we create which may or may not have a basis in hard science. The lines are blurred: castles in the air are fantasy … but if we travel between them in spacepods then it starts to veer towards science fiction. If the military defends those castles with their spacepods, it becomes clearly sci-fi. But it is a narrowing of the subjects to put the science into the fantasy, rather than two genres side-by-side. The details of the fantastical world create science fiction. As such, I consider myself a fantasy reader, although the basis of the prizes makes me feel I have to cite myself as on the fence.

  3. Alan Bostick says:

    Science fiction is a subset of fantasy; fantasy is the set of texts narrating events that have not, cannot, and will not happen; science fiction is subset of that set, containing texts narrating events that plausibly might happen.

    Some tropes we identify as absolutely pure SF tropes are completely fantasy. FTL travel, for example, may or may not be possible, but if it is possible, its nature and impact would be far stranger than depicted by any SF writer I know of. Classic FTL, as depicted in even the hardest of SF, is pure fantasy.

  4. Jason M. Robertson says:

    Science fiction and fantasy are different, but often not distinct. My own values in genre reading prioritize detailed examination of the relationship between _being_, and how this relates to being supervenient upon other physical laws. Fantasy can conduct this program through the use of un-reality to query how things actually _do_ work, but this approach is more common (though still a minority branch) in science fiction. The genre tropes generally assure a closer resemblance to the real world in science fiction works than in fantasy works, which I enjoy. Accordingly, I prefer science fiction, though I both practice and recommend, selected readings in fantasy as well.

  5. molly tanzer says:

    Huh, I’ve never really thought of why I preferred fantasy to science fiction as a grown-up. Me at 13 would simply reply, “fantasy has dragons; sci-fi doesn’t.” These days, I need a whole lot more than a dragon, but I still prefer fantasy overall. I wish I had some sort of grand reason or unified theory, but it’s probably just that the concept of interstellar travel terrifies me due to my irrational fear of suffocating–and before anyone tells me that you probably don’t technically “suffocate” in space, I don’t care, not even one bit. The thought of being blown out into the yawning, star-filled blackness is too much for me, and that’s how one gets to those other planets, after all. I’ll stick to getting to new worlds and dimensions via wardrobes and rips in reality or whatever, thank you very much.

  6. Christian says:

    I think it’s impossible to claim that science fiction and fantasy are the same. True, they often rely heavily on similar concepts, but it is the author’s perception that evokes the story’s true meaning. When an author chooses to write science fiction, he has already adopted a specific mindset. Simply by choosing SF, an author necessarily writes a story unique from fantasy because he has chosen a different viewpoint from which to analyze humanity.
    Resting on the evolution of science and technology, SF evokes what makes mankind least human. By revealing the degeneration of humanity to mentally mechanical beings, it exposes the rawest form of modern man. It seems counterintuitive, but by removing from society what makes us human, SF unveils the most about the human condition. Fantasy relies on a world bursting with humanity. In doing so, fantasy loses the depth that science fiction has in interpreting the state of humankind. It holds so strongly to a traditional understanding of the human mind that it can only scratch the surface of our modern race. Because of this, science fiction is superior to fantasy in that it instills in the reader a more enlightened understanding of the world we occupy and operate within. It leads us to a deeper explanation for the ways we react and take action.

  7. Thomas says:

    I don’t think there is a clear-cut answer for me. I self-identify as primarily a science fiction reader, but a couple of times I have tallied the number of science fiction versus fantasy books I have read the past year, and when I’ve done that, fantasy has won.

    I think it depends on what I am in the mood for and how well the particular novels are written and what new elements they bring to the table.

  8. Chris B says:

    For me it’s logistical: I prefer science fiction to fantasy because my small town library had a crappy sf/f section. The science fiction it had was either self-contained or a media tie-in (which I probably knew) while the fantasy were mostly the middle books of various series. It’s been two decades or more since I last had to deal with those limitations and my tastes and range have grown since then, but I still kind of view the genres in that light. I’m not immune to series these days, but I admit that seeing “Book 1 of The Long Story Saga” written on the cover is likely to put me off.

  9. Julia S. says:

    I prefer science fiction, because it gives me one more thing to be delighted about the author getting right and one more thing to be disappointed about the author getting wrong. With fantasy, they just have to be self-consistent (and not everyone can even manage that, but I digress).

    I think I probably don’t have a lot of imagination, which is why I write historical novels. Or on the other hand, there’s Kelly Link’s contention that historical novels and science fiction are closely allied, because both need effective world-building or the illusion doesn’t work.

    Obviously I do not want to win your contest (because I am a rich old lady who can afford to buy books) so I’m sharing my true thoughts instead of some pizzazzy edited version. Fun!

  10. Grim says:

    I believe in reason and the scientific method, in the glorious process of observation, hypothesis, test and debate, over and over, enriched forever by curiosity.

    But damn it, when it comes to fiction, I just prefer fantasy. And I don’t just mean the kind of fantasy that has all the magic worked out with mathematical precision, that is, the kind of fantasy that’s almost science fiction. Give me even an old folk tale where vengeance ghosts won’t listen to reason or where foxes turn back and forth to human form without apparent explanation. Amaze me and perhaps bewilder me. But tell me a good tale about the ultimate issues of life. I get bombarded with enough gizmos and jee-whizery in everyday life.

  11. Jörn says:

    There is the old saying that SF isn’t about the future, but about the present with window-dressing. That’s certainly true for many SF writers, but one reason I prefer SF over fantasy, which “nearly” always plays in the realms of the never-real, is that a few SF writers still try. They really want to divine the future, to get a glimpse of what might be. They subject themselves to the hardest constraints and even that isn’t enough. Inevitably their tool set is what dates them faster than most other forms of speculative fiction. Todays newest insight into physics or biology makes their latest hard SF novel look silly on the science side and doom all their speculation. But at least they are ambitious, even if their need to get the shape of the future right is doomed from the start. And what they create are some of the most involving, the most fascinating stories ever put down.

  12. Cash says:

    In words, it’s hard to choose which is a better genre – science fiction or fantasy. There are many similarities and contrasts between the two that define the great stories that they fall under. From hard-up medieval sword fights against unnamed monsters from the neighborhood dark lord, or cascading battles between large, interstellar vessals across AU’s of a far-off universe. Both of their stories bring me wells of emotion and I love them both.

    But if I was forced to make a choice, I would point to science fiction as my favorite of the two.

    Its simpler, yet at the same time that much more comlex. The difference between fantasy and scifi, is that scifi is based off reality. Alan B before said that faster than light travel is impossible. Improbable, maybe, but impossible is not the case. Its just a matter of finding a way to harness tachyon energy. Unlike, say magic, is an energy that does not exist. Tachyon particles and their energy, do exist. That tangibility…..that realness…..its what makes SF so appealing.

    Sure alot of SF is fantasy, but with time, maybe that fantasy can become reality. As far as I know, magic will stay the stuff of dreams for all eternity. Until interstellar space travel, or human databanks, or the matrix is complete, SF LEAD ME.

    ((Im another soldier, and so far All You Need is Kill, is probably my favorite book to come out from HS, a close second would Slum Online. Will there be anymore novels based on war or a harsh space-travel novel with a male lead?!))

  13. Zeborah says:

    I’m torn, these days. The settings I love are science-fiction: the possibilities of new worlds, new cultures, new ways of seeing things and speaking about them. But the stories I love – the stories that actually focus on the cultures and the people – tend more and more to be written in fantasy settings. I grew up on science fiction and yearn to read more of it, but take a look at my bookshelf, library card, and bookcarts and the vast majority is fantasy.

  14. Shaun says:

    I am way too hungover to manage a halfway articulate comment, but what the hell: me wantee awesome free books. I read both fantasy and SF and don’t tend to draw a line in the sand between the two. That said there’s a kernel of truth to the gross generalisation that fantasy is often consolatory and conservative – in that the way of things is restored by the end of the story – and SF often involves paradigm-altering change that persists beyond the close of the plot. Of course even a halfway well-read person can pick out a dozen examples from the core of each genre that puts the lie to this distinction. Anyway, SF and fantasy are cool, but deep down I really love the variety of Harlequin romance. GIVE ME FREE BOOKS.

  15. GrimJim says:

    I favor science fiction in part because I find commercial fantasy to be far too derivative, too comfortable, and problem-solving is more easily found in science fiction. I prefer to see stories where characters are faced with moral quandaries relevant to the current world rather than a shame-redemption cycle upon a lengthy quest formulaically doled out a piece at a time to keep the reader hanging in page turning mode as characters go on a scavenger hunt to bring on an apocalyptic restoration. I find reading fantasy provides me with less novelty as mythology, mostly Western, and Tolkien tend to be a major inspirational sources, with the result that the paths have become well-worn due to heavy remixing. I find that science fiction more regularly presents me with characters facing epistemic challenges, forced to cope and occasionally adapt when the world upsets their paradigm.

  16. Galbinus_Caeli says:

    I love Science Fiction, Fantasy, and even their bastard children like Steampunk and Urban Fantasy. What I absolutely insist on though is internal consistency. Create a world and set a story in it, but don’t break the rules of that world

    Most important, TELL ME A STORY. Give me some interesting people doing interesting things in and interesting way and I will enjoy your story.

    Make it new and make it fresh. Don’t just slap some brass gears on a hobbit and retell the Illiad.

    Make your aliens or fey internally consistent, and make them think in different ways than just humans in fancy dress.

  17. SMD says:

    I prefer science fiction because it is a gateway into thinking about where we were, where we are, and where we will be. It’s a thought experiment, an extrapolative adventure into worlds unknown, places unseen, but within a world that might, within a very loose realm of possibility, actually be. When it comes to thinking about the future and what it means to be human, and having fun while doing it, science fiction pretty much fits the bill.

    Plus, I like spaceships and ray guns.

  18. Scott says:

    I personally prefer science fiction. I like fiction that knocks humanity around a bit and shows how it will change. For instance: how will cloning affect our culture. If we can settle on the moon, how will daily life change? Science fiction has more of this speculative nature. Fantasy, when magic comes up, normally doesn’t analyze how human nature will change. Some does, but not in general, not as much as science fiction. Fantasy normally shows an “as-is” world while SciFi will show a “changed” world. So, I like science fiction because it gives more “what ifs” than fantasy.

  19. nickmamatas says:

    Great comments so far, it’s already hard to choose! And Cash, yes, we have YUKIKAZE, which is military SF, and I am already hard at work editing its sequel GOOD LUCK, YUKIKAZE.

  20. EdZ says:

    Fantasy is when you break the laws of physics in the name of telling a good story. Science Fiction is when you break the laws of physics in the name of telling a good story, but you do your sums first just in case.

    Me? I’m a big fan of math.

  21. Loptous says:

    I already own the previous edition of Dragon Sword as shown here 🙂 : http://ppdnotsonic.free.fr/notAMess.JPG
    …and absolutely loved it. I suppose I like the medieval era quite a lot and this applies to different media such as books, movies, mangas and video games. Examples respectively include Eddings’ Belgariad and Malloreon, Jackson’s adaptation of the Lord of the Rings, Miura’s Berserk and Intelligent Systems’ Fire Emblem series.
    I guess what I enjoy the most about them though, is when these works are bordering on the epic genre (read Three Kingdoms, despite not being a fiction, it does have fantasy elements), meaning how a (preferably large) group of characters affect their world on a significant spatial and temporal scope.

    I guess you could say it’s the same reason I enjoy Legend of the Galactic Heroes (oh no, one more person nagging about this one). It does have that epic feel attached to it. But I also enjoy others sci-fi works, mainly for the author’s questionnning: “what if x happened, then how would y react?”

    P.S. Please note that I’m French, and I hope that my English isn’t too broken.

  22. Alaina says:

    Sci-Fi is something you can pick up and read ten times and get something different out of it every time. Fantasy can be interpretated in so many different ways and every author (artist, if you will) has a new story to tell. I love both genres and could sit and read them all day!

  23. Phish says:

    Seeing a lot of definitions of the two in these comments! No room for that, no room! Has only a few words to say… Imo; sci-fi > fantasy.

    I read fantasy much more often for always having trouble finding a new science fiction piece that really lives up to what I ask. It requires more than colorful descriptions of beautifully eerie, martian wastelands and random space probes doing whatever space probes do. (?) Which sounds pretty awesome… But MORE! It needs…shock.

    SCIENCE fiction. Science…fiction? Taking something that, if said casually, would sound either fantastical or simply impossible, and making it sound totally probable.

    Tell me I’m wrong.

    Everyone is wrong!–and THIS is what’s really going on… As much as I love a good medieval brawl of swords and magic, seeing the world fall to pieces over computer just seems ever so much more threatening. <3 Which isn’t to say all fantasy is swords+magic, jeez no. But once the computer apocalypse comes in, it’s sci-fi and thus awesome.

  24. Evan says:

    Fantasy appeals to my escapist nature–but fantasy stories don’t exist in the realm of possibility. Good science fiction burrows into the imagination not just because, like all fiction, it fascinates the human imagination, but because it is often wholly conceivable. Fantasy is fun, but more than any other genre, be it Nobel-winning literary novels, classics, or even non-fiction, science fiction has helped me grow more as a human being.

  25. ジュンジャ says:

    Pro-SF traditional Japanese haiku:


    It is less than 25 words, but if you include this sentence, it qualifies for the concours (^_^)v

  26. Cash says:

    lol thanks Nick, but I already own it =D lol. Yukikaze…PART 2?! Im all ears already lol.
    I’ve bought 4 copies of battle royale since my jump into Japanese literature.. I lost two copies back when it was all red with a two all black silohettes.
    I also have All You Need is Kill, Slum Online, Harmony, Yukikaze, and Rocket Girls. Im a big fan of Haikasoru and have been a fan of the Viz Media novels for a long time now.

    I was really into Slum Online. I like that I got to see an easy going story, that didn’t have a galactic or world crisis. Just a guy trying to overcome a small obstacle. I also liked the subtle romance that was given. Not too strong, not too light. Just a great short read.

    I’ve been reading all of these essays and the tally is as follows:
    Fantasy- 4 Sci-Fi-13 On the Fence- 6

  27. Kelly says:

    To be honest, I’m basically on the fence; Both are equally beloved by me. I think the fact that both genres have authors that write incredibly strong female characters (along with characters in general) particularly draws me to them. (btw, I love that Haikasoru has picked plenty of books with stronger female leads!)

  28. Owen S says:

    Asking me to choose between sf and fantasy is like asking me which parent I like more–he’s a brilliant, emphatic visionary who taught me how to look to the future, with many a life lesson in-between; she’s a warm, nurturing giver full of life and imagination, who taught me to think beyond my boundaries. But the analogy doesn’t end there–Just like my parents, both sf and fantasy have equally enriched my life. I grew up loving both of them equally, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.

  29. mefloraine says:

    Science fiction looks at what humanity can create; can be.
    Fantasy looks at what humanity can only wish to be.

    Fantasy is for those whose minds like to wander freely; science fiction is for those whose minds love logic and possibility. For me, both are a treat, but I would pick up a fantasy novel before science fiction because I love to float on the words of the one who has imagined this world; or to be carried along with the way they’ve incorporated ideas more ancient than science fiction and its modern technology or advanced scientific ideas could ever hope to be. Fantasy has roots in lore and legend; I love to see it written out in our modern world.

  30. Flory says:

    For me, there are good books, bad books and shades in between – genres are incidental. I love SF and fantasy as much as the next storybook: it just has to be engaging and tell a great story. Both genres may be about pushing boundaries and exploring different worlds, but it’s about characters first and foremost, and how we relate to them in different contexts. In particular, give me SF and fantasy that borrows respectfully from and reflects my Asian identity, that blends technology or magic with my cultures in sensitive, engaging ways, race or genderbends and subverts even SF and fantasy norms, (or heck is just really, really riveting) and I’m happy.

  31. zxc says:

    Through and through, I’m an admirer of fantasy and authors who let not even laws obstruct their ingenuity. In a society ingrained in science and teeming with rules, fantasy shines by embracing impossibilities. Reality is perception, and language is mind-bending.

    No doubt SF is one of my favourite genres. It explores what-ifs and could-bes just as fantasy embellishes the mundane. But my imagination is ambitious and reads for sentiment. I don’t just want to tread on Mars, but to dance on the wind. I don’t always want every particle rationalized by science, but romantic simplicity in the magic of nature. And fantasy is chock full of that.

  32. Jetse says:

    I prefer SF. Ultimately, to me, SF has this delicate balance between artistic freedom and writerly responsibility. Which fantasy should also have—and the very best does—yet it all-too-often strangely limits itself.

    Basically, SF’s need for a certain plausibility—this *could* happen—limits its possibilities. Yet, when it overcomes these limits it can break truly new ground. Fantasy’s need for anything but the barest of plausibilities—anything *can* happen—offers it unlimited possibilities. Yet, in the utmost majority of cases it keeps reverting to its clichés: vampires, werewolves, zombies and elves anyone?

    SF has its clichés, as well. Still, SF often embodies ‘less is more’ while fantasy increasingly seems hell bent on demonstrating that ‘more is less’.

  33. ZXC says:

    Side note: I just read through some of the comments – “Good Luck, Yukikaze” in the works? Yes! Thanks, Nick. I have the prequel and have been eagerly hoping for the continuation. I can’t read the original and so can’t comment on the translation, but despite the military jargon the language made for a superb read.

  34. Martin says:

    I’m reluctant to differentiate between SF and fantasy, partly because I think it’s impossible to say whether today’s ‘fantasy’ is tomorrow’s ‘science’. Fantasy often involves some form of magical or supernatural element but as Clarke’s Third Law says, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic! I think speculative fiction is about challenging and breaking down boundaries and expectations, not creating them.

    The most important aspect of fantasy and SF for me is its use of different realities – ‘what-ifs’, ‘could-bes’ or even ‘could’ve-beens’ – to help us see aspects of our own reality in a new, different, light.

  35. Daniel H. says:

    I was reading a far-future short story the other day which described a beach scene — waves crashing against rocks late at night as the heroine waited for a monster to come ashore. Except that the rocks in the surf weren’t actually rocks at all; they were the tops of skyscrapers. At that little throwaway detail, my mind boggled for a moment. There it was: *that* feeling. I set the book down, smiling, and just savored it for a moment.

    I think that what SF often has over fantasy is “sense of wonder” — that moment when the universe or time or space or the mind suddenly seems so vast that it feels a bit like staring up into space on a clear winter’s night. I can’t seem to get that from a totally imaginary world, but SF insists on a connection (however tenuous) to the plausible, and that’s what makes that awestricken feeling possible for me. The other important things (internal consistency, characters that make you care about the plot, a solid ending, etc) are pretty much the same for both genres.

  36. Becky says:

    I actually prefer fantasy and dark fantasy fiction at that. My latest favorite, “Blood Soup” by Kelly A. Harmon was full of so much mystery and charm… took me to the kingdom of Omera, which is modeled after ancient Italy. Life can’t get any better than that.

  37. Jari M. says:

    I grew up reading both fantasy & science fiction, which both appeal to me for various reasons. Although, right now, I’m reading more fantasy novels (pro-fantasy essay). Fantasy appeals to me because it allows my imagination to take flight more so than science fiction, whose writers sometimes get bogged down in unnecessary, boring details (do I really need a 3 page description of your hero walking through an alien landscape w/nothing else happening? Do I care? No.). Fantasy lets me forget about technology and science for a little while and renews my appreciation for those things in my life. I think fantasy allows for more character exploration (motivations, etc.) than science fiction does. Also, it’s much harder for me to get thrown out of story in fantasy than science fiction because my knowledge of science allows me to spot holes/mistakes in science fiction but in fantasy I can relax and go with the story. Fantasy appeals to me also b/c a lot it has chivalry, courtesy, people fighting with and for honor (think Arthurian ideals), while a lot of science fiction has heroes I would never want to socialize with in real life although I do like them.

  38. George says:

    I prefer Science Fiction to Fantasy, but only by a hair. Science fiction seems to be limitless and a large canvas to paint on. Fantasy seems to have been severely limited, but only because many purists only see it as swords and sorcery. This is foolish to my mind; urban fantasy and magical subjects are far broader than people see, but I still love the tech and far-reaching concepts of science fiction just a bit more.

  39. James F.W. Rowe says:

    The superiority of fantasy as a genre does not reside in the general trappings of the theme – magic, elves, castles, dungeons, et cetera – but rather in that it allows the modern writer to escape the banality and smallness of contemporary life. As we live at a time dominated by small interests and petty concerns, literature set in the modern, real world, cannot escape being about consumerist values, meaningless love affairs, and other trivialities. In contrast, fantasy literature allows the author to recapture a heroic, aristocratic view of life that permits the true motivators of human greatness to return to the stage. Characters in fantasy can be provoked to both grand and vile actions by the purposes that have guided also the great figures of history, myth, and legend: Honour, pride, revenge, conquest, meaningful love, and all the rest. Moreover, the author can do so unblushingly: By being presented in a fantasy world, it is not held improbable and unrealistic for these characters to be moved by what would now be considered highly antiquated, perhaps even superseded, worldviews.

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