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Creative Writing: Types of SF and Fantasy Worlds

Creative Writing: Types of SF and Fantasy Worlds

    Eugene Doyen
Writing
Fantasy
and
Science
Fiction
 
 Creating
Successful
Story
worlds
 In
 the
 writing
 of
 fantasy
 and
 science
 fiction
 there
 are
 differenttypes
 of
 story
 worlds
that
can
be
created.
A
writer
needs
to
understand
the
type
of
story
world
 they
are
using
or
they
have
created
and
write
a
story
that
is
coherent
within
that
 world.
Audience
and
readers
have
got
used
to
a
range
of
narrative
and
story
world
 conventions,
 so
 there
 are
 ‘rules’
 and
 established
 forms.
 New
 forms
 develop
 and
 this
means
that
story
conventions
change,
but
a
writer
needs
to
be
clear
what
the
 rules
 are
 for
 the
 world
 they
 have
 created
 for
 their
 specific
 story
 because
 the
 reader/viewer
needs
to
be
clear
what
is
credible
and
what
is
not.
This
is
a
guide
 for
the
writer.
 
 
 SCIENCE
FICTION
WORLDS
 
 What
is
scientific?
 Science
is
secular.
Science
studies
what
is
observable
and
asserts
what
is
proven
in
 the
real
world.
This
is
considered
separate
from
the
conception
of
a
spiritual
and
 religious
world.
By
self‐definition
the
non‐natural,
the
supernatural
exists
outside
 of
the
context
of
scientific
proof
and
explanation.

 
 Hard
 Science
 Fiction
 is
 based
 on
 known
 and
 proved
 science:
 some
 speculation,
 but
limited
to
a
secular
world
with
no
supernatural
elements.
For
instance,
a
virus‐ based
pandemic
is
scientifically
possible
and
the
film
Contagion
speculates
on
how
 such
 a
 disease
 would
 be
 spread
 and
 how
 it
 would
 be
 combated.
 The
 key
 convention
for
hard
science:
the
real
world
with
proven
science
 
 Soft
 science
 fiction
 which
 can
 be
 applied
 to
 the
 majority
 of
 work
 in
 the
 science
 fiction
 genre
 because
 it
 is
 based
 on
 ideas
 and
 concepts
 which
 have
 not
 been
 proven
or
observed.
Soft
science
fiction
is
almost
always
based
in
a
wholly
secular
 world
with
no
supernatural
elements.

 
 There
are
likely
to
be
aliens
in
the
real
universe,
but
the
aliens
of
science
fiction
are
 speculative:
there
is
 no
 political
 system
 in
the
galaxy
bringing
together
disparate
 societies
 of
 multi‐form
 creatures
 into
 a
 single
 trade
 federation
 as
 in
 Star
 Wars.
 Actual
 science
 and
 technology
 involving
 human
 space
 travel
 has
 got
 no
 further
 than
the
closest
orbiting
planet,
the
moon.
Scientists
do
speculate
about
alien
life
 and
about
long‐distance
space
travel
for
humans,
but
this
is
speculation:
there’s
no
 proven
 experiment,
 scientifically
 observed
 phenomena
 of
 these
 possibilities,
 except
in
fiction.
 
 Other
examples
of
soft
science
fiction
can
speculate
on
human
potential.
There
is
 the
 conception
 that
 man
 is
 changing,
 can
 be
 changed,
 developed,
 altered
 or
 transformed:
genetic
development,
cyborgs,
robots
with
minds
and
consciousness.
 In
story
form
this
is
soft
science
fiction,
but
there
has
been
so
much
discussion
and
 consideration
of
these
topics
that
they
seem
achievable
or
even
already
achieved
 which
is
not
the
case.
Other
human
phenomena
such
as
telepathy
and
telekinesis
 are
also
soft
science
fiction.

 
 Because
soft
science
fiction
is
speculative
there’s
a
drift
from
proven
science
to
soft
 science,
 and
 many
 take
 what
 is
 soft
 science
 as
 accepted
 ‘scientific’
 convention
 when
it
is
not.
Widely
accepted
science
fiction
concepts
which
are
actually
pseudo‐ science
are
things
like
spacecraft
have
gravity
simulators
that
allow
people
to
walk
 about
 on
 spacecraft
 rather
 than
 float,
 that
 spacecraft
 are
 likely
 to
 achieve
 the
 phenomenal
 speeds
 needed
 for
 interplanetary
 travel
 or
 time
 travel.
 People
 are
 used
 to
 these
 ideas,
 so
 they
 seem
 more
 plausible
 than
 they
 are.
 
 Non‐scientific
 illusions
 are
 shown
 in
 film
 and
 this
 filmic
 realism
 gives
 a
 sense
 of
 credibility
 to
 something
that
does
not
actually
happen
in
the
real
world.
 
 The
key
convention
for
soft
science
fiction
is
that
the
story
world
is
either
the
real
 everyday
 world
 with
 soft
 science
 added
 or
 an
 alternative
 world
 where
 future
 science
 is
 established:
 teleporting,
 warp
 speed:
 
 Star
 Trek
 and
 Minority
 Report,
 have
 normal
 humans
 with
 exceptional
 future
 technology.
 Spiderman
 has
 a
 contemporary
setting
with
powers
created
by
pseudo
science.
Soft
science
fiction
 is
 also
 termed
 Rationalized
 Fantasy,
 the
 non‐natural
 given
 a
 pseudo
 scientific
 explanation.
 
 Science
 Fiction
 with
 Supernatural
 Elements:
 Here
 a
 story
 is
 dominated
 by
 science
 and
 technology,
 usually
 soft
 science,
 but
 the
 story
 will
 bring
 in
 the
 supernatural.
 In
 this
 fiction
 the
 speculation
 shifts
 from
 extensions
 of
 scientific
 knowledge,
 soft
 SF,
 to
 ideas
 and
 belief
 that
 are
 quasi‐religious,
 or
 even
 fully
 religious.
Examples
of
this
in
film
are
Solaris,
2001
and
Contact.
These
films
don’t
 aim
to
be
entirely
explicable
through
scientific
theory.
Their
religiosity
is
based
on
 the
interpretation
of
the
viewer.
These
films
have
a
real
world,
a
present
or
future
 world
with
science
and
the
supernatural
added.
The
supernatural
intrudes
on
the
 real
world;
it
does
not
dominate.
 
 Point
of
Balance:
Between
Fantasy
and
Science
Fiction
 Fantasy
 can
 have
 the
 supernatural,
 other
 realms,
 magical
 creatures,
 more‐than‐ human
superheroes.
This
is
fantasy.
In
science
fiction
there
is
hard
science
fiction:
 speculation
 based
 on
 what
 is
 possible
 with
 present,
 emerging
 and
 speculated
 technologies.
 Science
 fiction
 moves
 towards
 and
 into
 fantasy
 the
 more
 it
 shifts
 away
 from
 present
 science
 fact
 and
 proven
 knowledge
 and
 into
 science
 speculation.

 
 As
 a
 possibly
 divisive
 example
 demonstrating
 the
 difficulty
 in
 separating
 science
 fiction
from
fantasy:
scientists
do
speculate
on
what’s
needed
for
alien
life,
what
an
 alien
life
form
might
be
like:
science
fiction
can
depict
this,
but
it
has
shifted
into
a
 middle
zone,
speculation,
something
that
is
not
scientifically
proved
or
observed,
 and
when
a
fictional
alien
is
just
give
an
ability
that
is
just
fanciful
and
speculative
 then
 this
 is
 effectively
 fantasy
 as
 an
 idea
 although
 it
 may
 well
 be
 understood
 as
 science
fiction
in
terms
of
genre.

 So
 in
 this
 case
 is
 Alien
 a
 science
 fiction
 film
 or
 a
 fantasy
 film?
 It’s
 fantasy
 as
 a
 conception
and
SF
as
a
genre
fiction.
In
reality
there
are
no
giant
space
cargo
ships,
 there
is
no
alien
contact,
there
are
no
super‐hostile
insect,
super‐monster,
horror
 aliens.
 There
 is
 no
 system
 for
 creating
 earth
 gravity
 on
 a
 space
 ship:
 gravity
 is
 created
by
mass.
Alien
has
no
basis
in
scientific
fact.
Its
speculation:
the
film
Alien
 uses
 pseudo
 science,
 science
 fiction
 based
 conventions
 about
 what
 is
 possible
 in
 the
future
in
terms
of
space
travel,
so
the
film
is
labelled
science
fiction,
but
its
soft
 science,
fantasy,
horror.
 
 Nearly
all
of
science
fiction
leaks
into
fantasy:
there
are
no
aliens,
journeys
to
other
 planets,
 time
 travel,
 space
 mining,
 off
 world
 colonies,
 cyborgs,
 computers
 with
 consciousness.
There
may
be
one
day,
but
this
speculation
is
presently
fantasy.
The
 audience
 may
 think
 of
 it
 as
 science
 fiction,
 but
 the
 writer
 needs
 to
 be
 sure
 they
 understand
when
they
are
writing
either
hard
science
fiction,
soft
science
fiction,
 science
fiction
with
supernatural
elements.
Credibility
is
different
for
each
type
of
 story
world.

 
 
 FANTASY
WORLDS

 
 Superheroes
in
a
Human
World

 The
 comic
 book
 worlds
 of
 superheroes
 is
 soft
 science
 fiction
 because
 there’s
 usually
 some
 speculative
 idea
 as
 to
 how
 the
 powers
 of
 the
 superhero
 emerged:
 there’s
technology
involved
or
some
sort
of
change
that
can
through
convenience
 explain
 superpowers.
 The
 fictional
 X‐Men
 supposedly
 have
 their
 special
 powers
 because
 of
 human
 genetic
 developments.
 This
 species
 improvement
 idea,
 development
 through
 genetics,
 is
 a
 conception
 based
 on
 Darwinian
 and
 genetic
 science,
but
genetic
change
will
never
enable
someone
to
morph
into
the
physical
 appearance
of
any
other
person
in
the
world
because
there
are
limitations
to
mass
 and
 chemical
 composition,
 and
 similarly
 massive
 energy
 would
 be
 needed
 for
 a
 person
 to
 be
 able
 to
 use
 magnetism
 to
 lift
 things
 like
 cars
 and
 battleships.
 These
 powers
are
outside
the
laws
of
science
because
mass
and
energy
are
being
created:
 a
human
being
only
has
some
much
energy
and
mass
to
use:
this
can’t
be
altered
 by
 genetics.
 The
 science
 of
 the
 X‐Men
 makes
 the
 story
 secular,
 but
 it
 is
 a
 fantasy
 world.
 
 In
a
superheroes
story
there
is
a
split
between
the
ordinary
human
population
and
 superheroes.
 This
 is
 a
 world
 where
 there
 are
 mighty
 heroes
 and
 mighty
 villains
 and
 where
 the
 superheroes
 fight
 for
 good
 against
 evil:
 the
 superheroes
 work
 to
 save
humanity
and
the
evil
villains
to
control
and
destroy
it.
This
is
the
story
world
 of
 Superman.
 In
 these
 stories
 the
 humans
 are
 victims,
 spectators,
 admirers.
 The
 humans
are
weak
and
need
to
be
saved
or
protected.
There
is
a
normal
everyday
 world
 for
 the
 humans,
 they
 go
 to
 work,
 use
 mobile
 phones,
 but
 it
 has
 extra
 powerful
 beings
 within
 it.
 There
 is
 very
 little
 or
 no
 supernatural
 domain
 or
 any
 magical
 creatures
 within
 the
 comic
 book
 superheroes.
 This
 is
 a
 secular,
 contemporary
approach
to
having
heroes
who
used
to
be
depicted
as
gods.
Some
 superheroes
 are
 just
 ordinary
 men
 who
 use
 technology
 to
 become
 powerful:
 Batman,
Iron
Man.
 
 
 Gods
in
the
Human
World
 Gods:
the
superheroes
of
ancient
times,
beings
with
unearthly
powers:
the
gods
of
 mythology.
 Here
 there
 is
 a
 separate
 realm
 to
 the
 real
 world,
 so
 there
 are
 the
 supernatural
creatures
who
live
forever,
immortals.
These
gods
are
the
forerunner
 of
 today’s
 comic
 book
 superheroes.
 In
 the
 contemporary
 West
 fantasy
 favours
 a
 science
 fiction
 basis,
 science
 is
 what
 creates
 the
 superhero
 with
 special
 powers
 through
things
like
genetics,
electricity,
specialised
technology.
Gods
are
linked
to
 religious
and
cultural
beliefs
prior
to
the
dominance
of
humanistic
science.
Eastern
 drama
 is
 seen
 as
 being
 related
 to
 fantasy
 literature,
 but
 this
 is
 much
 more
 of
 a
 relation
to
mythology
and
folklore.
In
British
mythology
the
legends
of
King
Arthur
 shade
into
fantasy:
wizards,
magical
swords,
spirits
women
living
in
lakes
and
this
 is
parallel
to
the
use
of
the
magical
and
fantastic
in
Eastern
culture:
King
Arthur
is
 treated
like
a
historical
story
even
though
it
has
fantasy
elements.
Film
Examples:
 Thor,
Beowulf,
Hercules,
The
Immortals.
 
 Supernatural

Beings
in
the
Human
World
 The
devil
and
the
vampire:
these
are
two
examples
of
beings
that
are
supernatural
 and
can
exist
in
human
form.
Within
these
types
of
fantasy
there
are
both
male
and
 female
 supernatural
 creatures.
 They
 do
 not
 have
 their
 own
 realm;
 they
 walk
 the
 earth,
but
they
are
supernatural.
They
have
their
origins
within
mythology
not
the
 speculation
of
recent
science.

Soft
science
fiction
can
be
added
to
the
established
 mythology
 with
 things
 such
 as
 scientific
 experiments
 to
 make
 it
 possible
 for
 vampires
 to
 walk
 in
 the
 day.
 The
 origins
 of
 the
 vampire,
 succubus
 and
 necromancer,
and
the
dual
natured
animal/human
are
ancient
creations.
They
are
 supernatural
but
their
mythology
can
be
updated
with
science.
 
 Human
and
Non‐Human
or
Two
Natured
 There
 is
 the
 world
 where
 a
 lone
 individual,
 with
 a
 divided
 nature
 fights
 against
 their
 own
 demons:
 Jekyll
 and
 Hyde,
 The
 Wolfman,
 Frankenstein.
 Sometimes
 the
 evil
 is
 precipitated
 by
 science
 and
 sometimes
 by
 the
 supernatural.
 
 What
 is
 important
 is
 that
 a
 single
 being
 is
 divided
 within
 themselves:
 good
 and
 evil.
 The
 story
 world
 will
 remain
 realist;
 there
 is
 no
 separate
 supernatural
 world.
 Ghost
 stories
might
cross
the
divide
into
there
being
a
supernatural
world,
but
often
this
 world
 is
 not
 represented
 in
 the
 story:
 characters
 are
 inhabited
 by
 ghosts
 or
 demons
 from
 another
 world,
 but
 this
 world
 is
 only
 embodied
 in
 the
 real‐world
 events:
Film
Example:
The
exorcist
 
 Alternative
World
–
Full
Supernatural
 A
full
supernatural
world
where
there
are
domains
of
good
and
evil,
and
good
and
 evil
people
and
there
are
other
world
creatures.
There
is
magic
and
spells,
This
is
 the
 world
 of
 Lord
 of
 The
 Rings
 and
 Game
 of
 Thrones:
 a
 story
 world
 with
 its
 own
 history
 and
 places.
 Not
 the
 world
 of
 human
 history
 and
 human
 people.
 This
 is
 sometimes
called
high
fantasy
or
immersive
fantasy.
 
 Alternative
World
–
Human
and
Magical
Word
in
parallel
 A
 realist
 world
 that
 has
 a
 whole
 supernatural
 world
 that
 is
 hidden
 to
 humans
 or
 runs
 parallel
 to
 it.
 This
 retains
 a
 coherent
 secular
 world,
 and
 has
 a
 supernatural
 magical
 world.
 Buffy
 The
 Vampire
 Slayer
 is
 set
 is
 a
 normal
 world,
 but
 there
 is
 a
 world
of
demons
close
by.
This
form
of
fantasy
is
the
most
contemporary
method
 of
 approaching
 fantasy.
 It’s
 as
 if
 realism
 can
 exist
 without
 any
 day‐to‐day
 connection
with
the
supernatural
world.
The
supernatural
does
exist,
but
the
real
 and
the
supernatural
only
meet
at
a
point
where
the
main
characters
in
the
story
 meet
 the
 supernatural.
 Everyone
 else
 is
 living
 a
 normal
 life.
 Example:
 Harry
 Potter:
there
are
the
muggles,
the
humans
with
their
non‐magical
world,
and
then
 there
are
is
the
magical
wizarding
world.
 
 Alternative
World
–
Historical
and
Supernatural
in
One
World
 There
 is
 a
 historical
 world
 that
 admits
 to
 supernatural
 existence,
 known
 history
 with
 realist
 characters
 and
 events
 and
 with
 supernatural
 characters
 and
 events
 added.
 The
 historical
 mixing
 the
 supernatural
 has
 early
 beliefs
 and
 mythology
 combined.
The
West
has
secularised
and
split
between
religious
belief
and
secular
 belief,
but
this
not
the
case
in
other
societies
and
cultures:
secular
and
spiritual
co‐ exist:
Shinto,
Taoism.
Here
the
supernatural
and
the
human
both
exist.
The
films
of
 studio
Ghibli
have
a
world
were
there
is
both
fantasy
and
reallife
in
one
world.

In
 this
 case
 the
 world
 is
 extraordinary,
 there’s
 no
 need
 to
 create
 an
 alternative
 fantasy
world.
 
 Alternative
World:
False
Memory,
False
World

 A
 story
 world
 that
 the
 viewer
 takes
 to
 be
 realist
 but
 is
 in
 fact
 as
 falsely
 created
 world:
a
false
memory,
a
simulation.
The
film
may
start
in
the
false
world
so
trick
 the
viewer.
This
type
of
world
is
usually
explained
by
technology;
virtual
worlds,
 or
 by
 psychology:
 faults
 in
 perception:
 the
 person
 is
 experiencing
 a
 different
 reality
to
the
real
world.
Examples:
Identity,
Vanilla
Sky,
The
Matrix
 
 
 REALIST
DRAMA
 
 Point
of
Balance:
Where
Realism
Becomes
Speculative
Fiction

 Realism
 will
 exaggerate
 realist
 circumstances
 for
 dramatic
 purposes;
 exaggerate
 actuality,
but
realism
does
not
set
up
alternative
worlds
with
non‐realist
rules.
In
 action
 films
 there
 are
 heroes
 who
 can
 escape
 from
 a
 hail
 of
 bullets,
 there
 are
 comedies
 where
 there
 are
 ridiculous
 incidents,
 but
 these
 do
 not
 go
 fully
 into
 a
 fantasy
world
because
they
try
to
portray
credible
action
and
story
within
the
laws
 of
 nature:
 no
 superhero
 powers,
 no
 supernatural
 beings
 or
 realms.
 Everyone
 is
 fallible
and
mortal.
Examples
of
realism:
The
Godfather,
Breaking
Bad
 
 There
are
stories
that
work
to
be
strictly
realist:
social
realism,
gritty
drama.
These
 stories
 work
 to
 avoid
 the
 over
 exaggeration
 of
 the
 realist
 genres
 like
 the
 crime,
 thriller,
romance
and
comedy
genres.
 
 Realism:
The
Everyday
Today

 A
story
set
in
the
present
with
ordinary
people,
no
special
powers,
no
breaking
of
 scientific
and
natural
laws:
no
one
can
fly,
no
telepathy
etc.
Reality
based
drama:
 no
superheroes,
no
supernatural,
no
alternative
worlds
or
realms.
 
 Realism:
The
Historical
Drama
 Events
of
the
past,
true
history
or
fiction
within
an
accurate
historical
setting:
no
 superheroes,
 no
 supernatural
 powers,
 no
 alternative
 worlds
 or
 realms.
 Events
 of
 the
 future
 are
 just
 about
 possible
 in
 historical
 realist
 fiction,
 but
 tend
 towards
 science
fiction,
as
the
future
needs
to
be
invented.
There
needs
to
be
speculation:
 dystopia,
 utopia,
 new
 technology.
 Realism
 might
 be
 maintained
 in
 a
 future‐based
 story
if
humans
are
the
same,
but
speculation
in
terms
of
differenttypes
of
society,
 new
religions,
social
orders
are
science
fiction,
SF
fantasy
or
fantasy

 
 Realism:
Re‐Worked
History
 History
re‐written.
Known
history
with
key
facts
changed
to
create
an
alternative
 timelines
in
the
past.
Placing
a
fictional
character
so
that
there
is
a
fictional
history,
 but
 within
 a
 realist
 world.
 If
 too
 much
 is
 changed
 then
 the
 re‐worked
 history
 becomes
 fantasy:
 Steampunk
 reworks
 society,
 science
 and
 technology
 to
 a
 large
 extent
 so
 is
 a
 fantasy.
 The
 Sharpe
 novels
 by
 Robert
 Harris
 place
 a
 fictional
 character
in
a
real
war
setting:
the
peninsula
campaigns
of
Wellington
in
Portugal.
 This
is
fiction
with
a
historical
basis.
Most
fiction
has
a
realist
setting,
recognisable
 towns,
 environments
 and
 social
 settings,
 but
 they
 are
 not
 historical
 specific
 to
 events.
A
serial
killer
story
such
as
Silence
of
The
Lambs
is
set
in
the
present,
but
its
 not
 tied
 to
 a
 particular
 date
 and
 place
 in
 history.
 
 The
 Bernie
 Gunther
 novels
 written
 Philip
 Kerr
 take
 place
 before,
 during
 and
 after
 world
 war
 II
 in
 Germany
 and
 each
 story
 is
 set
 within
 the
 known
 historical
 events
 of
 that
 period.
 They
 fictionalize
but
the
historical
setting
is
specific.