IS IT SCIENCE OR FANTASY? (or, There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.)

Rachael Harrie, who has created a most excellent campaign: htp:// (may she live forever in the Kingdom of Bestsellers), has forcibly inspired me to define my novels’genre as something other than YA Time-Slip (because she doesn’t offer that category on her website).  So my writing is now officially Historical Fiction AND Fantasy, but leaning toward Sci-Fi.  This was an extremely difficult call to make, and here’s why: 

Borrowing from my close, personal friends at Wikipedia, the standard definition that most of us abide by, is: 

Stories that involve time travel devices or technologies that take people backwards and forwards in time and space are considered part of the science fiction genre.  Whereas stories that involve time travel through supernatural, magical, or unexplained means are considered part of the fantasy genre. 

Isaac Asimov, when asked to explain the difference between science fiction and fantasy, once explained that science fiction, given its grounding in science, is possible; fantasy, which has no grounding in reality, is not. 

“Ah-hah!” I cry, into the blogness, “But, Mr. Asimov, you have overlooked the realm of spiritual time-travel, which is an activity Druids (and other out-of-body specialists) have been indulging in for centuries.  What about Einstein’s theories of time and motion not being linear?  What about the ‘places,’ either within or outside of ourselves, that hold an energy of another time?” 

I was in a film called ‘Contact,’ based on the Carl Sagan novel of the same name, in which Jodi Foster (as Ellie Arroway) does just this.  In the film, it looks to the outside world as though Ellie is just sitting in one spot.  But in HER consciousness, she goes to another place, 26 light-years away, and visits with someone who appears to be her deceased father. 

Have you never had a very life-like dream of something from your own past?  Have you zoned out while driving and ‘found’ yourself at your destination?  Have you ever encountered a sort of waking vision that involves people or places you do not know?  If so, then I would suggest you have at least been on the threshold of time-travel. 

So, okay, just because some people (maybe agents and publishers) sometimes feel more comfortable if things fit neatly into catagories, then I will categorize my current manuscript as YA time-slip ‘fantasy’ or ‘historical.’  But I will append this caveat to that pigeon hole: 

Just because you can’t see it, define it or count it, doesn’t mean it’s fantasy, Heracio! 


  1. Hello, a fellow campaigner here. I love the Celtic imagery on your blog - my favourite mythology. I loved Carl Sagan's 'Contact' too...well let's face it, I loved Carl Sagan. What a mind!

    Anyway, looking forward to seeing what this campaign brings.

  2. Okay, took me awhile to travel here through the various portals, but I found you. I have a thing for bards, so happy to have met you through the Campaign. :)

  3. As a soldier in the writer campaign, I salute you.

    The YA genre tag overrules the Science Fiction / Fantasy subgenre. In terms of the Fantasy genre, the "I know it when I see it," rule applies, as it's a very aesthetic genre. If there are men in star-studded pointy hats, it's fantasy. If there are mad scientists and blimps, it's steampunk, otherwise it's Sci-Fi. But again, YA overrules (because it sells the best).

    Best wishes on your writing.

  4. And, dammit, Asimov! I notice that sci-fi writers do not give favorable definitions for fantasy.

    I would prefer to say that fantasy is firmly rooted in imagination and the childhood delight for wonder and creativity that is the core of human greatness. Eat that, robot head.

  5. Hi Fiona! I hopped on over here from the Campaign, and I understand your dilemma about picking genres! Fortunately, most of what I write just generally falls in 'fantasy', but sometimes I have to scratch my head for a while.

  6. Yay for a blog Fiona!!! Looks amazing too:)

  7. Nice blog!

    I agree that it would just generally be YA. Although--it would be interesting to see how Flight by Sherman Alexie is listed because it sounds like a vaguely similar concept. Not the same by any means--just dealing with time travel and historical events.

    Fellow campaigner stopping by. I'm in your historical group. Nice to meet you!

  8. Lady Fiona

    Well, you know my view. They're the same thing, really. Writers 9and readers) just like to pretend they're different to fill more shelves :-P.

    How are they the same? I'll steal from my own blog posting:

    "First Mage Cardelian checked the pentagram. The ruby on the dexter point was smudged. That was bad. It might give the demon a path through the ward. Or the demon and his familiar. Or the demon, his familiar and the hordes of hell. Cardelian smiled to himself, stepped in and polished the ruby against his robe before setting it in place again. He opened the Book of Theramis, and began the chant. He paused. 'I summon thee Great Demon of Kathos' Was the accent on 'Kath', or 'os'? He flipped to the back of the Book. Ah. Right. In a moment, the rubies at each point of the pentagram began to glow. The air inside the wards shimmered, and the walls of the palace at Kuldar appeared round him."

    And this:

    "Chief Engineer Baker examined the transporter chamber. The Kubasi crystal looked cracked. That wasn't good. Trying to warp a Kappa wave through a cracked crystal was a quick way to need a new transporter chamber. And a new ship. And maybe a new solar system if the solar flare cycle was in the wrong phase. He replaced it with one of the spares. Baker switched on his omni-scope and ran through the warm up routines. Not that he didn't know them by heart, but you couldn't be too careful with Kappa waves. He wasn’t happy with the readings from the sensor array. He nudged the vector-translitorator a little. That, he thought, should do. Stepping on the portal disc, he stepped off into the Dendrani desert."

    Are they _really_ different?

    I'll raise your Asimov and offer a Clarke - his Third Law:

    "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

    Which has the inverse law:

    "Any magic is indistinguishable fro a sufficiently advanced technology."

    From Mary Gentle's 'Grunts" to J. Michael Straczynski's Techno-Mages, the genres have often borrowed from each other. Which isn't really surprising :-).

    Of course, that's just that whole 'logic' thing. nothing to do with genres, or which shelf to target at the book store that closed down last week :-(.

  9. Wow! - You are intensely fascinating! And what a thought-provoking, interesting, well-written post. You express spiritual time-travel so marvelously.

    I'm beyond irked that publishers want our stories to fit neatly in a category - I mean, it's ludicrous to have boxes for creativity to conform to. Your category of Time-Slip is fantastic!

    I LOVE the artwork at the top of your blog, I LOVE your name, I LOVE that you live in Ireland - so jealous!

    I'm a fellow campaigner in the Fantasy Group. It's super to meet you!

  10. Hi Fiona, trying to get around and say hello to all the authors in the fantasy groups! Hello! I'm fascinated with your blog and will be back.