Bias against Sci-fi Elements in Fantasy?


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The Exchange

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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Call it something I just don't get.

Sci-Fi elements have snuck into D&D since day one. They're there in countless other examples of Fantasy where 'ancients' or outsiders turn out to be what we would consider high-tech. Hell, 90% of Anime Fantasy cultures are actually hidden ultratech ones.

That said, why do some players and gamers get into the most painful of snits when they see androids and relics of a by-gone age show up in their games. Espcially if it's a one-off gimmick or oddball event? Or better yet, it's handled with the same attention to authentic fantasy reactions to tech. "It's Magic!" etc.

I can 'kinda' get the purest standpoint if you are trying for a stylistic theme in your game. But having the options out there for those that like to take the crazier tech side of the Fantasy Pulp coin isn't a mortal sin against your game. Or setting even. It's your game. If your DM is using it and you don't like it, find another game. (Or politely ask for it to be removed.)

It's all about setting expectations right?

I guess I don't get why there seems to be some very vocal bias against it at all in any fantasy settings.

That's my beef.

Thoughts?


I don't know. It's only fairly recently that they even became classified as two different genres in the first place.


I agree with you, TheLoneCleric. In the fiction that inspired D&D and its successors there is often an admixture of science fictional and fantasy elements, so why not in the game? The 1st published adventure for D&D (Temple of the Frog) had science fictional elements. My campaign certainly has some.

Of course, tastes differ. Some people don't like to mix the two, but some do, and there's nothing wrong in either approach.


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How DARE you get chocolate in my peanut butter, Sir! ;)


Ahem, the first published adventure for D&D was Palace of the Vampire Queen. Perhaps you meant to say, the first published adventure by TSR hobbies for D&D, but I digress.

Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, anyone? Bueller, Anyone, anyone.


I like my sci-fi and fantasy together, rather than pure.


Rynjin wrote:
I don't know. It's only fairly recently that they even became classified as two different genres in the first place.

And by recently you mean sometime before "science fiction" became a common term? And long before "sci-fi".

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
TheLoneCleric wrote:

Call it something I just don't get.

Sci-Fi elements have snuck into D&D since day one. They're there in countless other examples of Fantasy where 'ancients' or outsiders turn out to be what we would consider high-tech. Hell, 90% of Anime Fantasy cultures are actually hidden ultratech ones.

That said, why do some players and gamers get into the most painful of snits when they see androids and relics of a by-gone age show up in their games. Espcially if it's a one-off gimmick or oddball event? Or better yet, it's handled with the same attention to authentic fantasy reactions to tech. "It's Magic!" etc.

Because what you put in your fantasy sets tone. Imagine droping Numerian Androids in the Silmarillion, or Kender in the Mwangi forest. Or give Gandalf a six shooter in Saruman's Tower. Additions like these have major impact in the flavor and tenor of a setting.

And I think that preferences in flavor and tenor are valid ones.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Everything you described are improvements. Why would people complain about adding guns and robots?


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I prefer "A world of savagery, super-science, and sorcery."


Terquem wrote:

Ahem, the first published adventure for D&D was Palace of the Vampire Queen. Perhaps you meant to say, the first published adventure by TSR hobbies for D&D, but I digress.

I don't think so. "Palace of the Vampire Queen" was published in '76. "Temple of the Frog" was a part of the Blackmoor supplement published in '75.

I think that "Palace of the Vampire Queen" was the first product that contained only an adventure (the first "adventure module" to use the old TSR term).


I've got no problems with mixing sf and fantasy. Some of my favorite fantasy works mix the two.

But usually when the two mix, unless it's a modern or near future setting, the sf tech is used as an explanation for the "magic" in the fantasy. Dragons are genetically engineered, special powers were bred into the gene pool, "magic" items are misunderstood relics of superscience, etc.
You rarely get actual wizards casting spells and unrelated high tech. When you do it's often clunky. It feels like a deliberate mash-up, rather than a coherent whole.

Much like psionics mixing with spell-casting. Plenty of fantasy has psychic powers, but that's usually the magic of that story. Or part of it. Rare that both exist as distinct things.

Obviously, now people will point out counter examples, but that remains the root of my discomfort with SF in D&D.


Terquem wrote:

Ahem, the first published adventure for D&D was Palace of the Vampire Queen. Perhaps you meant to say, the first published adventure by TSR hobbies for D&D, but I digress.

Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, anyone? Bueller, Anyone, anyone.

Palace of the Vampire Queen was published in 1976. Temple of the Frog appeared in Supplement 2 Blackmoor, published in 1975.

Edit: Whoops! Ninja'd!.


As a card carrying fan of steampunk and other blended genres I really don't mind it at all. But I do understand that as a DM you might be striving for a certain atmosphere in your campaign and seek to keep your players away from putting their own scifi peanut butter in your fantasy chocolate.


I do sometimes sprinkle in some sci-fi flavor into my games, if only for outsiders that play the role of aliens. So far, it has all been magic that had the look-and-feel of sci-fi.

Spoiler for PFS Season 0:
For example, I ran a significantly-modified version of the PFS Scenario "King Xeros of Old Azlant" in my home game. The scenario is about a strange ship that materializes in the harbor. While the ship is Azlanti and powered by magic, it was essentially a "crashed spaceship" adventure. I ramped up the sci-fi tropes.

For example, the alien crew (which are xill) were armed with "a two-handed weapon that looks like the stock of a heavy crossbow, without the bow" that fired rays of electricity. They wore wide golden belts with a buckle that had a large red gem: when they pushed the button, a shimmering force field surrounded them. I called the weapon a scepter of electric ray: a wondrous item that fired a ray for 4d6 electricity damage-- essentially scorching ray modified by Energy Substitution. The scepter had 50 charges. Likewise, the belt was a belt of shielding, that gave a +2 deflection bonus to AC for 1 minute, as shield of faith. It also had 50 charges.

IMHO, if done right, it can really add to the game.


ok Gandalf with a six shooter would be super sweet. But I agree it about tone six shooters and lasers don't fit into every story.

Sovereign Court

I usually don't mind a blending of the two; neither sci-fi or fantasy is an exact term, so there's a lot of wiggle room to be both.

However I do think a lot of GMs unintentionally trivialize a "pure" fantasy setting with the introduction of sci-fi elements. There's an unspoken conceit that (most) real world technology is liberating, and that scientific discovery has saved us from the tyranny of superstition. We're so comfortable with the notion of technological progress that no one bats an eye at the concept of magic that only *seems* so because it is misunderstood or intentionally concealed supertech. It’s as if a joke is being played upon the small minded who have no recourse but to believe it’s magic.

I've played in 2 campaigns where magic was actually high technology. I've never played in (or heard of) a game where what we thought was technology turned out to be very intricate, hidden, magic. What if scientists were the fools and the 'old wives' knew the truth?! The former seems logical (if cliché) the latter seems plainly bizarre, because it up-ends our concept of progress. I think sci-fi elements are only interesting in a campaign when it’s obvious the GM has given some thought to the preconception that magic=primitive and technology=advanced. Otherwise it’s just rote.


Selk wrote:

I usually don't mind a blending of the two; neither sci-fi or fantasy is an exact term, so there's a lot of wiggle room to be both.

However I do think a lot of GMs unintentionally trivialize a "pure" fantasy setting with the introduction of sci-fi elements. There's an unspoken conceit that (most) real world technology is liberating, and that scientific discovery has saved us from the tyranny of superstition. We're so comfortable with the notion of technological progress that no one bats an eye at the concept of magic that only *seems* so because it is misunderstood or intentionally concealed supertech. It’s as if a joke is being played upon the small minded who have no recourse but to believe it’s magic.

I've played in 2 campaigns where magic was actually high technology. I've never played in (or heard of) a game where what we thought was technology turned out to be very intricate, hidden, magic. What if scientists were the fools and the 'old wives' knew the truth?! The former seems logical (if cliché) the latter seems plainly bizarre, because it up-ends our concept of progress. I think sci-fi elements are only interesting in a campaign when it’s obvious the GM has given some thought to the preconception that magic=primitive and technology=advanced. Otherwise it’s just rote.

Alternately, in a D&D-like setting with high magic, it's just kind of boring. The treasure you find in this old ruin isn't magic, it's science, but it's still pretty much the same: a laser pistol instead of a wand, medkits instead of healing potions, a light saber instead of a flaming sword. You fight robots and aliens instead of golems and monsters and knowbody even notices the difference except that nothing detects as magic.


TheLoneCleric wrote:

Call it something I just don't get.

Sci-Fi elements have snuck into D&D since day one. They're there in countless other examples of Fantasy where 'ancients' or outsiders turn out to be what we would consider high-tech. Hell, 90% of Anime Fantasy cultures are actually hidden ultratech ones.

That said, why do some players and gamers get into the most painful of snits when they see androids and relics of a by-gone age show up in their games. Espcially if it's a one-off gimmick or oddball event? Or better yet, it's handled with the same attention to authentic fantasy reactions to tech. "It's Magic!" etc.

I can 'kinda' get the purest standpoint if you are trying for a stylistic theme in your game. But having the options out there for those that like to take the crazier tech side of the Fantasy Pulp coin isn't a mortal sin against your game. Or setting even. It's your game. If your DM is using it and you don't like it, find another game. (Or politely ask for it to be removed.)

It's all about setting expectations right?

I guess I don't get why there seems to be some very vocal bias against it at all in any fantasy settings.

That's my beef.

Thoughts?

If it is fantasy, I really want to keep out the sci-fi, except Lovecraftian sci fi, aliens from that mythos or something like that. If it is sci-fi I don't mind it being blended with fantasy.


I think we're just splitting hairs, but according to the Acaeum (which I have contributed to)

"The early printings of both these modules were distributed (but not actually produced) by TSR. Palace of the Vampire Queen has the distinction of being the first D&D module ever published (module G1 Steading of the Hill Giant Chief was the first module produced by TSR; the first scenario was "Temple of the Frog", included in the Blackmoor D&D supplement, which predates PotVQ by a few months)."

bold text by me.

The Exchange

Lloyd Jackson wrote:
I like my sci-fi and fantasy together, rather than pure.

Then you should enjoy this little adventure: The Caldwell Incident

Sovereign Court

If you go through Appendix N in the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide you'll actually find a number of Science Fiction recommendation.

Things involving time travel, space adventures and the distant future are common themes in these stories. Science Fiction and Fantasy have gone together for ages now and it shows in the games we play.

Just take a peek for yourself Here.


Science Fiction and Fantasy are the same thing - or at least, they were until someone decided to start sub-dividing the perfectly fine genre of "fantasy" into smaller, more restrictive things like "science fantasy" and "historical fantasy" and so on...

and then some crazy person decided to change that to "science fiction", which then confused a lot of people into thinking that the following two things aren't perfectly identical:

1) a story detailing a man, his travels on Mars, and the alien races and strange devices he encounters there.

and

2) a story detailing a man, his travels through an unknown wasteland, and the inhuman races and magical artifacts he encounters there.

All it takes to change a story from "science fiction" to "fantasy" is to change the proper nouns - which is not really a change at all.

The Exchange

TheLoneCleric wrote:
I guess I don't get why there seems to be some very vocal bias against it at all in any fantasy settings.

I guess that depends on which sources define the term "fantasy" for you. For me it was Michael Ende, Tolkien and C.S. Lewis (I'm talking Narnia, not Perelandra^^) and while I learned to know about Howards & co. soon thereafter, in my mind Science Fiction and Fantasy are two totally different things since then.

Now I don't mind a healthy dose of Science-Fiction options in fantasy RPGs for those who like it but generally I tend to avoid such materials. I won't go out of my way to remove it from material I use (I wouldn't rewrite "Children of the Void", for example) but on the other hand, in fantasy settings I tend to simply ignore those regions heavily influenced by science fiction (Numeria and such).

That doesn't mean that I wouldn't play Steampunk settings or something like Star Wars. It's just that if I'm playing fantasy I don't want to explore sci-fi-based stuff.

And I can easily imagine that it breaks the suspension of disbelief for other people so I guess that's where the bias stems from.

Silver Crusade

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Sometimes it's a matter of tone preference that doesn't apply 24/7. I probably wouldn't really dig cyborgs and aliens in a fairy tale-themed game for example. But I absolutely do want those themes supported because sometimes I want games that need those themes supported right alongside the "traditional" fantasy ones.

And sometimes it's purism across the board, which I don't really get but it doesn't bother me as long as it doesn't cross the line into "I don't want these themes supported at all, for my game or yours". Which is what some folks have unfortunately dipped into from time to time(or stay there all the time in a few cases).

It's not just sci-fi elements that catch flak from that latter mindset though. Anything that falls outside the extremely narrow view of what fantasy can be gets hated on, whether it's anything outside the Medieval Western Europe mold, influences from any form of media outside the original Appendix N(and sometimes even that), breaking alignment absolutes and stereotypes, trying anything new ever with certain races, long elf ears, exotic races outside the LotR range, non-human paladins, female dwarves without beards, gender equality, and so on and so forth.


I'm a fan of mixing the two--in fact, whenever I indulge in creative writing, it almost always ends up being somewhere in the middle ground between science fiction and fantasy; I read too much Arthur C Clarke and science books as a kid to let things be 'a wizard did it.' I like internal consistency, even with something as chaotic as magic, and I like to think that even in a world with magic, technology would still advance (unlike some fantasy settings, where the tech level stays the same because magic fills the niches science would have filled) because the people without magic would still want some way to bridge the gap.

And when I write something more science fiction-y, I like adding in psionics and highly advanced technology, sometimes even outright magic, because it makes for interesting stories.

And zero-G magic duels in space. That's always a nice bonus.

More on topic, I was actually really impressed with the firearms in Ultimate Combat, because it meant I could play as a more 'primitive' gunslinger, and I like things like steampunk and black powder in my fantasy

Anyway, tl;dr, I find the two can be mixed and turn out amazing, provided the mixing makes sense and is well-written.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

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Laithoron wrote:
How DARE you get chocolate in my peanut butter, Sir! ;)

How DARE you get peanut butter in my Chocolate! :(

The Exchange

Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I'm more a Butterscotch man myself...


I think I'll bring up something I've pointed out before, but I think bears repeating. Volume 3 of the original D&D boxed set mentions Robots, Androids and Cyborgs as potential monsters. So, Sci-Fi elements have been in D&D since day one. So while anyone is perfectly justified in disliking Sci-Fi elements in D&D, as a matter of precedence such things are well established.

The Exchange

lordzack wrote:
I think I'll bring up something I've pointed out before, but I think bears repeating. Volume 3 of the original D&D boxed set mentions Robots, Androids and Cyborgs as potential monsters. So, Sci-Fi elements have been in D&D since day one. So while anyone is perfectly justified in disliking Sci-Fi elements in D&D, as a matter of precedence such things are well established.

This is true, but on the other hand, not all of todays' players were there from the beginning. I started with AD&D 2nd (Realms mainly) and played nearly a decade long before becoming even aware of such influences in D&D. And even then, it wasn't in the form of any material I wanted to use but it was in form of references made by the Dragon/Dungeon staff.

And for people like me, the argument that it was there from the beginning doesn't necessarily hold much water. I have nothing but respect for the inventors of this great game, but reading through the old Dragon issues (and the old rulebooks as well) there are tons of thoughts (from Gary Gygax and other designers) I heavily disagree with. So I don't think that "it was there from the start" should be reason alone to let something stay as it was.

But then, that there are still many people enyoing this is a very good reason. Good enough for me, at least.


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Wormys, you have a good point in that we should not hold "how it has always been" up as some measure of how it should be now.

The topic of sci-fi in fantasy usually comes down to the detractors not saying "I don't like it," or "I prefer my fantasy without science elements," which are statements of subject nature - but saying "Has no place in fantasy," which is an objective statement... an objective statement that is objective proven false with the evidence that fantasy and sci-fi used to be one and the same, and that not only does the originally quoted inspirational material include things classified as sci-fi, but the original designers of the game saw fit to actually include those elements in the game itself.

Basically, one side can be seen saying the equivalent of "thieves have no place in heroic fantasy" and the other side is saying "um... Grey Mouser?" rather than "you must use them and like it because they are in one of the little brown books from the 70s!"

I am with you for the most part though... I started with AD&D 2nd edition, and even then at age 12 there were parts of the GM advice section that just struck me as crap advice of an amazing degree.


And while it may have "been there from the start", it's never been emphasized. There have never been core rules for science fiction PCs or high tech equipment. There have been a handful of references and a few adventures that used definite SF elements. That's really it.

The precedent may have been set early on, but it's been so ignored and neglected that it doesn't really matter.


AaronOfBarbaria wrote:

Wormys, you have a good point in that we should not hold "how it has always been" up as some measure of how it should be now.

The topic of sci-fi in fantasy usually comes down to the detractors not saying "I don't like it," or "I prefer my fantasy without science elements," which are statements of subject nature - but saying "Has no place in fantasy," which is an objective statement... an objective statement that is objective proven false with the evidence that fantasy and sci-fi used to be one and the same, and that not only does the originally quoted inspirational material include things classified as sci-fi, but the original designers of the game saw fit to actually include those elements in the game itself.

Basically, one side can be seen saying the equivalent of "thieves have no place in heroic fantasy" and the other side is saying "um... Grey Mouser?" rather than "you must use them and like it because they are in one of the little brown books from the 70s!"

I suspect most people saying "Has no place in fantasy" are more speaking sloppily than making sweeping statements. They're probably also not just saying "I don't like it", either.

They may be assuming, especially if it's in a D&D context, that they're talking about the particular kind of epic or heroic fantasy that D&D comes closest to. (D&D really has become a sort of genre of its own.) Fantasy, like science fiction, has tons of sub-genres, some of which merge better than others. Some sub-genres are explicit mixtures, sword & planet for example. Others are pure fantasy on the surface, but throw in a pseudo-science explanation for all the magic.

It's so blatantly obvious that fantasy & science fiction can go together fine that it's almost not worth mentioning. OTOH, that basic truism doesn't mean that any two specific sub-genres work together well. Just because "fantasy and sci-fi used to be one and the same", doesn't mean having a wizard show up in your hard-sf story will work. Or that a D&D setting will be improved by throwing in science fiction elements.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
AaronOfBarbaria wrote:

Science Fiction and Fantasy are the same thing - or at least, they were until someone decided to start sub-dividing the perfectly fine genre of "fantasy" into smaller, more restrictive things like "science fantasy" and "historical fantasy" and so on...

The problem with Science Fiction is the term itself. Now if you were to use the term I prefer with Ursula LeGuin, Speculative Fiction, you'd see why you'd use that for Neuromancer, but not for Lord of the Rings.

There are a lot of different kinds of stylistic trends within fantasy just as there are within speculative fiction.

Classic Sword and Sorcery such as Conan differentiates itself from say John Carter because the latter uses funky tech while the former uses evil wizards and serpent gods. What they have in common is that the hero typically is a Brawny Badass. Moorcock on the other hand takes that common trope and stands it on his head. Elric and Corum in comparison to the other two are effette and imperial, ultra-civilised figures.

What's common in all is that the funky stuff is pretty far removed from the norm of the setting itself. Flame lances, spells, are not things that the common man in either setting has a great deal of familiarity of.

Whereas in places like Eberron and Chiba their tech or "mystech" in the case of the former is something that's taken as routine. They have much in common in atmosphere but both are differnt from the novels in the first group.


LazarX wrote:
AaronOfBarbaria wrote:
Science Fiction and Fantasy are the same thing - or at least, they were until someone decided to start sub-dividing the perfectly fine genre of "fantasy" into smaller, more restrictive things like "science fantasy" and "historical fantasy" and so on...
The problem with Science Fiction is the term itself. Now if you were to use the term I prefer with Ursula LeGuin, Speculative Fiction, you'd see why you'd use that for Neuromancer, but not for Lord of the Rings.

And yet somehow I can see why you'd use science fiction for Neuromancer, but not Lord of the Rings. One involves science.

I'd have an easier time applying "speculative" to Lord of the Rings than "science".


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The genre D&D comes closest to is Swords and Sorcery, not heroic fantasy.


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The origination of a LOT of concepts for D&D came from a partially sci-fi series, Jack Vance's Dying Earth.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Irontruth wrote:
The origination of a LOT of concepts for D&D came from a partially sci-fi series, Jack Vance's Dying Earth.

Dying Earth is one of those fringe settings really, it's so far future as to be incomprehensibly distant from not only our time but our concepts as well. You're talking about an age that's several times more distant from us than we are from the dinosaurs, where virtually nothing of our time, not even of our continents even remain. I'm not very comfortable with trying to stick the science fiction label on it, although I'm quite happy with speculative. Although it's a major leap to assume that humans would still be present so far into the future.


thejeff wrote:
LazarX wrote:
AaronOfBarbaria wrote:
Science Fiction and Fantasy are the same thing - or at least, they were until someone decided to start sub-dividing the perfectly fine genre of "fantasy" into smaller, more restrictive things like "science fantasy" and "historical fantasy" and so on...
The problem with Science Fiction is the term itself. Now if you were to use the term I prefer with Ursula LeGuin, Speculative Fiction, you'd see why you'd use that for Neuromancer, but not for Lord of the Rings.

And yet somehow I can see why you'd use science fiction for Neuromancer, but not Lord of the Rings. One involves science.

I'd have an easier time applying "speculative" to Lord of the Rings than "science".

Does one involve science, though?

Neuromancer always struck me as a Joseph Campbell type hero story told in a technological vocabulary.

I understood hard science fiction not as internally consistent fiction set in the future, but as fiction extrapolated from accepted theories, which means that Arthur C. Clark was a hard science fiction writer. Soft science fiction and fantasy are the same thing; if you're talking about hyperspace, you might as well be talking about Fairyland. Thus do Bester and Zelazny enter the conversation.

Tolkien Wrote hard science fiction, but only because linguistics is a science.


LazarX wrote:
Irontruth wrote:
The origination of a LOT of concepts for D&D came from a partially sci-fi series, Jack Vance's Dying Earth.
Dying Earth is one of those fringe settings really, it's so far future as to be incomprehensibly distant from not only our time but our concepts as well. You're talking about an age that's several times more distant from us than we are from the dinosaurs, where virtually nothing of our time, not even of our continents even remain. I'm not very comfortable with trying to stick the science fiction label on it, although I'm quite happy with speculative. Although it's a major leap to assume that humans would still be present so far into the future.

A lot of Silverberg's stuff (Majipoor in particular) is like that too. The humans in that series know they came from Earth, and talk to aliens, but it's just not the kind of science fiction where spaceships fly around shooting lasers at each other.

I think the RPG word for this is "Gonzo."


LazarX wrote:
Classic Sword and Sorcery such as Conan differentiates itself from say John Carter because the latter uses funky tech while the former uses evil wizards and serpent gods. What they have in common is that the hero typically is a Brawny Badass. Moorcock on the other hand takes that common trope and stands it on his head. Elric and Corum in comparison to the other two are effette and imperial, ultra-civilised figures.

I skimmed ever this the first time, but:

I must object, sir. Captain John Carter is an officer and a gentleman, a shining example of a civilized man. Nothing at all like that uncouth brute, Conan.


Hitdice wrote:
thejeff wrote:
LazarX wrote:
The problem with Science Fiction is the term itself. Now if you were to use the term I prefer with Ursula LeGuin, Speculative Fiction, you'd see why you'd use that for Neuromancer, but not for Lord of the Rings.

And yet somehow I can see why you'd use science fiction for Neuromancer, but not Lord of the Rings. One involves science.

I'd have an easier time applying "speculative" to Lord of the Rings than "science".

Does one involve science, though?

Neuromancer always struck me as a Joseph Campbell type hero story told in a technological vocabulary.

I understood hard science fiction not as internally consistent fiction set in the future, but as fiction extrapolated from accepted theories, which means that Arthur C. Clark was a hard science fiction writer. Soft science fiction and fantasy are the same thing; if you're talking about hyperspace, you might as well be talking about Fairyland. Thus do Bester and Zelazny enter the conversation.

Tolkien Wrote hard science fiction, but only because linguistics is a science.

I suppose if you're going to divide it into "hard SF" and everything else, then Neuromancer isn't "hard SF". That's why we have sub-genres though. It's called cyberpunk and Neuromancer is pretty much the definitive work in it.

It's actually not that far from hard SF, in that it does extrapolate from current technology and cultural trends. Computer science, advanced in biotech and medical implants, corporate power. In many ways much of Clark's stuff is less "hard".


thejeff wrote:
Hitdice wrote:
thejeff wrote:
LazarX wrote:
The problem with Science Fiction is the term itself. Now if you were to use the term I prefer with Ursula LeGuin, Speculative Fiction, you'd see why you'd use that for Neuromancer, but not for Lord of the Rings.

And yet somehow I can see why you'd use science fiction for Neuromancer, but not Lord of the Rings. One involves science.

I'd have an easier time applying "speculative" to Lord of the Rings than "science".

Does one involve science, though?

Neuromancer always struck me as a Joseph Campbell type hero story told in a technological vocabulary.

I understood hard science fiction not as internally consistent fiction set in the future, but as fiction extrapolated from accepted theories, which means that Arthur C. Clark was a hard science fiction writer. Soft science fiction and fantasy are the same thing; if you're talking about hyperspace, you might as well be talking about Fairyland. Thus do Bester and Zelazny enter the conversation.

Tolkien Wrote hard science fiction, but only because linguistics is a science.

I suppose if you're going to divide it into "hard SF" and everything else, then Neuromancer isn't "hard SF". That's why we have sub-genres though. It's called cyberpunk and Neuromancer is pretty much the definitive work in it.

It's actually not that far from hard SF, in that it does extrapolate from current technology and cultural trends. Computer science, advanced in biotech and medical implants, corporate power. In many ways much of Clark's stuff is less "hard".

Full disclosure, that definition is something I learned by reading too many of my mother's Analog magazines; it was the scientific one, not the literary one (that was Fantasy & Science Fiction).

And yes, immediately after I posted the above, it did occur to me that: 1) If there's one person who invented cyberpunk, it's William Gibson, and he said, "The future's already here, it's just unevenly distributed."; 2) That dude doesn't even write Science Fiction anymore, it's all just Thrillers now; 3) Hard science fiction as a mix of fact and fantasy is a very quickly moving target.

I guess my point is, I don't feel a need to compartmentalize the writing I enjoy; that ways lies madness!


LazarX wrote:
Irontruth wrote:
The origination of a LOT of concepts for D&D came from a partially sci-fi series, Jack Vance's Dying Earth.
Dying Earth is one of those fringe settings really, it's so far future as to be incomprehensibly distant from not only our time but our concepts as well. You're talking about an age that's several times more distant from us than we are from the dinosaurs, where virtually nothing of our time, not even of our continents even remain. I'm not very comfortable with trying to stick the science fiction label on it, although I'm quite happy with speculative. Although it's a major leap to assume that humans would still be present so far into the future.

I said "partially".

Though, in splitting hairs the books are often categorized as Sciene Fiction & Fantasy -> Science Fiction. I think it really blends the methods and concepts of the two sub genres.

Also, the influence of the series on D&D is undeniable.

The Exchange

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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

It's strikes me funny because Golarion is Pulp Fantasy. I have expect to see Doc Savage running around with the Shadow.


Hitdice wrote:


Full disclosure, that definition is something I learned by reading too many of my mother's Analog magazines; it was the scientific one, not the literary one (that was Fantasy & Science Fiction).

And yes, immediately after I posted the above, it did occur to me that: 1) If there's one person who invented cyberpunk, it's William Gibson, and he said, "The future's already here, it's just unevenly distributed."; 2) That dude doesn't even write Science Fiction anymore, it's all just Thrillers now; 3) Hard science fiction as a mix of fact and fantasy is a very quickly moving target.

I guess my point is, I don't feel a need to compartmentalize the writing I enjoy; that ways lies madness!

I agree. Mostly I categorize books into two categories, those I like and those I don't.

But sometimes it's useful to have names for things so other people know what you're talking about. It's also useful for writing. Nothing wrong with mixing genres, but it works better if you're doing it consciously rather than just mushing things together because "it's all SF, right"? You need to know the rules before you can break them properly.
GMing, which is where all this started, is closer to writing than reading, so attention must be paid.

More generally, part of the problem is that fantasy and SF are both as much setting as genre. Contrast with something like the Mystery or Romance genres. Those are purely about what the story is. The setting can be anywhere. Until it overlaps with Fantasy or SF, that is. But you can have practically any kind of story in a fantasy setting and it'll still get lumped into fantasy.

Oddly mysteries in a Fantasy or SF setting are usually considered Fantasy or SF, not Mystery, but romances are still considered Romance not F&SF.
This may have to do with literary genre hierarchies.


Hmmm.

If a setting isn't about cyborgs or guns, or starts out mostly that way, I don't want these things coming in too hard. Please don't mix your shadowrun in my sword and sorcery.

Yes, shadowrun, low blow I know. Course the more interesting parts of shadowrun (its magic, troll and monsters) are the fantasy elements transplanted to the cyberpunk future (okay so this troll can use a tank gun).

As a setting gets moving, it takes on new influences and some things mentioned and peripheral may become more central, like Alkenstar gunslingers. So Golarion may have a lot of continental and decaying medieval empires theme going, the fight between demons, knights and barbarians (Diablo influence?), gypsies and towns guard vs ogres and then in come the six-gun wielders.

Golarion isn't that strict any more, but some settings like the Dark Souls world are not at all, not even slightly close to high tech, guns, or cyborgs. There it is all dragons, demons, undead, sorcerers, poor humans and dodgy or shining knight protectors. That I much prefer, but Golarion isn't just that anymore, if it ever was just that (which I don't think it was).


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I think my main objection to mixing science and magic is that it has rarely been done at all well.

Typically, one theme/force/discipline/whatever (magic or science) is the dominant one in a setting and the other is poorly-crunched fluff.

And the interaction between magic and science is rarely handled in a believable manner.

It breaks my immersion to keep bumping up against these design issues, so I tend to prefer an EITHER science fiction OR fantasy game.

YMMV, and if you have fun with fusion campaigns, go for it! If I'm given my druthers, I'druther not deal with admixture of these elements, that's all...


Didn't Thief do it well? That would be about it.

Take cyborgs in a post apoc or fantasy setting. There would be a huge amount of facilities required to keep them going, maintained and functioning. If tech and the technological world has collapsed, mecha, cyborgs, replicants, whatever, are not going to last long.

I've seen strong winds ruin electronic doors, and powerful laptops have trouble lasting three years without replacement pieces (a compliant close to home, damn you alienware laptop!). The tech would quickly fail without the means to service and reproduce parts, and few cyborgs could be supported without a very large class of maintenance workers.

The Dwemer robots in skyrim, who is servicing them? Oiling them up and checking their functionality, because the dwemer are long dead.

Grand Lodge

3.5 Loyalist wrote:
Take cyborgs in a post apoc or fantasy setting. There would be a huge amount of facilities required to keep them going, maintained and functioning. If tech and the technological world has collapsed, mecha, cyborgs, replicants, whatever, are not going to last long.

In Post Apocalyptic games (like Gamma World for instance), one has to use the effects of entropy very fluidly. One of the editions of Gamma World spoke of this, where one could encounter a car with the rubber tires still intact, and then pass several others where the rubber tires have clearly rotted away long ago...

In this respect, the effects of entropy are like various elements in fantasy; one must be willing to suspend their disbelief for it to work...

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