I’ve never been sure of that. I’ve always been attracted to the idea of time travel, even though, going back a few years, I didn’t see myself as a sci-fi fan. It appeared in the books and movies I avidly consumed, but was it science-fiction or fantasy?
How much scientific accuracy there needs to be for a narrative to be considered science-fiction? Is that even at all relevant? Sure you have time travel that is so technical and scientifically structured that you don’t hesitate in calling it sci-fi – in perceiving it as such. Take H.G. Wells‘ The Time Machine, for example.
But then the lines start to get blurred. And a detective story – the movie Memento – or a love one – the novel & movie adaptation The Time traveler’s Wife – get’s you thinking. You even have a time-turner in Harry Potter, which there is no doubt of being Fantasy through and through.
So what does it take for time travel to be freed from the sci-fi spectrum?
Time travel is more often than not associated with the sci-fi universe, but it surely is not confined to it. Do you find it more often there? Is it more cohesive or realistic (if we can call it that)? Maybe, but it finds place in all kind of narratives.
From fantasy to romance to science-fiction, it can appear in any of these genres. The main difference is perhaps the level of imagination or scientific norms that rule that possibility: the paradoxes, the multiple timelines, what can or cannot be changed.
Through the Doctor in his TARDIS to Dr. Emmett Brown in his DeLorean we’ve been taught a lot about this matter, even if some of it is contradictory. We have seen a myriad of theories and rules, from the unchangeable force of the fixed points in time to the dangerous repercussions of changing the slightest moment in history.
We may question how something takes place, we probably don’t even agree or think that some theories are simply too farfetched.
Nevertheless, I dare you: have you never dreamt of travelling through time?
And that’s it. The universal force that binds us all to this story element, no matter the genre it is wrapped in.
So you’re part of a fandom. A whole group of people shares theories, art and fanvids fervently. You finally feel at home with all those likeminded peers.
Sure it’s fun BUT have you read or watched anything else for the past <introduce a ridiculously long amount of time>?
I’ll go out on a limb here and say you haven’t.
You’ve been sucked into a vortex of active participation (or sometimes just passive contemplation) of characters, story arcs and entangled theories.
Remember the “strange consequences” I mentioned on the previous post? Well, if you’ve ever been part of an active fandom, I think it’s safe to assume that you did cut some ties with the real world during your fanatic days.
And then maybe it got cancelled or you simply turned that dreaded last page. I’m pretty sure you felt angsty and acted snarky towards those clueless around you: withdrawal symptoms.
And that’s when you venture into the fandom’s gloomier place, reserved to relive those darkest hours that marked the end of the world you were so completely immersed into.
But we know this is how it goes. It’s a vicious cycle. So why?
Why do we feel the need to tear our eyes out watching favorite characters suffer, die, live impossible loves?… Doesn’t real life provide us enough pain? Do we really need more? Are we supposed to be living in such a perfect world that only their hurt – the one we watch, read -gives us the pathos escape we need?
I believe our lives are far from perfect many times. As it is often said we have moments. Of happiness, sadness, even despair. But this doesn’t mean that our lives aren’t good.
No matter how grateful you feel, there is always a little “something” you wish was different: for me is health. If only I had Disney’s Rapunzel magical healing powers… But it’s fiction. Fantasy. And there lies the reason why we take refuge in fictional worlds: there are no limits, or rephrasing it, the limits are different.
By this point you’re probably thinking “Eureka! What a breakthrough, Sherlock.” And you’re right. I’ve been just stating the obvious. Now, what I am trying to get to is why do we torture ourselves with fan art of those final agonizing moments of a character or story?
Having had some reasons to cry in real life, I found myself crying with one of those fanvids. I am not even talking about watching, say “Angels take Manhattan” (Doctor Who’s 7th season finale], where you are experiencing the whole thing for the first time and find yourself grieving the characters that you’ll miss, the familiar faces that won’t be on screen every episode. I’m talking about masochistically re-watching episodes and fanvids with “tear trigger” music. Seriously: what’s wrong?
I think we have to go back to the beginning: “why” are we part of a fandom?
We need to belong, to share our experiences through those worlds.
We need to have heroes, but they have to be flawed and able to get hurt.
Only then we get our catharsis.
You cry for their pain, while secretly crying for yours. Are we really that shallow? Can we just show feelings over fictional characters? No. But it’s easier. You don’t have to explain it. It’s there. It’s the lost of your favorite character or the love story that will never be.
It isn’t. It’s you. But that doesn’t have to be said to anyone, not even to yourself.
Westerns take me to ghost towns, dry unforgiving deserts, cowboys and, of course, those straw rolls blowing through the middle of the empty cinema canvas. Cinema! I only encountered westerns on movies. From “The Great Train Robbery” to “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”, my imaginary turns to fishy taverns and their dubious customers, just lolling around waiting for the best gunslinger in town to give a show – and maybe die in the process so that one of them can take his place.
But this world of outlaws and dusty misfits has been in the literary realm long before it reached the silver screen. Beginning with James Fenimore Cooper’s series of novels, it spread with the dime novels, based sometimes on real life characters, of the likes of Buffalo Bill or Billy the Kid. The Pulp Magazines and later the comics also helped immortalize the genre.
However, while the first stories have the cowboy, the sheriff, the indian, nowadays the genre has mutated. Mixed up with different genres, you get the most interesting set ups and characters.
Fantasy brings sorcerers and dragons into the outskirts of the cities.
Horror carries curses, zombies and unknown perils.
Steampunk takes the industrial clogged world to these deserts. Intricate machinery thrives, characters with mechanical limbs abound and guns are more powerful and unpredictable than any real western pal put his hands on.
Sci-fi adds some futuristic touches: cyborgs, spaceships, aliens and time-travel – which on its own conveys a ‘Verse full of opportunities to explore.
And yes, westerns are still on tv series and movies (even games), but in literature it has gained another chance of imposing itself as a sub-genre and get noticed by more avid readers. You can argue that it isn’t really “western literature” anymore, because it has an assortment of elements that its early writers would never approve.
Or would they?
Let’s not get too caught up on the labels, shall we? Let’s face these mixes as we would with…”fusion cusine”. Yes: embrace genre-bending or “fusion literature”, and just enjoy the new flavors authors keep on creating
Fantasy isn’t just castles, dragons, and wizards anymore.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you stumble upon a Fantasy book? Most people think of elements of folklore and mythology like castles, dragons, kings and queens, ghosts, wizards, and curses. Am I close?
Fantasy is a broad label—one that’s moved away from the stereotypical wizards-castles-dragons model of the past. Today, Fantasy encompasses many other genres and subgenres, including horror, sci-fi and everything in between. If there’s a fiction I.P. that doesn’t easily fit into the Historical, Romance, Thriller or Horror genres, you can be sure to find it in the Fantasy section. Some bookstores have expanded their Fantasy sections to include subcategories like Supernatural Fantasy or Historical Fantasy — neither of which have Fantasy’s hallmark mythology/folklore streak. Maybe it’s not a hallmark anymore.
Fantasy has become extremely popular as it has grown to encompass different kinds of fiction. Fans enjoy it because it gives them the opportunity to explore beyond the realm of reality. Fantasy fiction shows us the unreal and the real—things that don’t exist in our world as well as common, everyday things embellished by a setting that allows them to grow into something more.
I embrace the broad new definition of Fantasy. Perhaps I’ve been exposed to too much genre-bending fiction. I prefer not to put books into restrictive, premade boxes anyway. For me, Fantasy isn’t necessarily attached to myths or ancient folklore. I define it as any fiction that has something special or otherworldly.
When I pick up a Fantasy book, I know what to expect before I even read anything about it. I know that it will feature something out of the ordinary, even if it is set in my own time and space. I expect a change, for something more to happen — something that transcends the everyday. This is fantasy’s true hallmark: That shift away from normal that transforms the reading experience—and let’s be honest, the immersion in a book’s universe — into an experience full of discovery and wonder.
At some point, we’ve all been asked to determine whether a piece of literature is fiction or nonfiction. We are asked to distinguish poetry from narrative, plays from novels, stories from essays. We look for cues in the content and format to determine genre.
But genre has increasingly become more than a way to describe content and format. It defines the whole narrative structure: Science Fiction, Romance, Thriller, Young Adult, Fantasy, Mystery. Each genre a tight little package, the contents of which are often extremely predictable.
I’m not here to proclaim against genre, though. I just want to give it a tiny little nudge.
The two big literary genres are fiction and nonfiction, right? But let’s stick with fiction, as that’s what we do (and mostly read) here at Outland Entertainment. And that’s a lot. You can lose yourself between labels and all their sub-genres and crossovers: Supernatural Romance, Sci-Fi Thriller, Young Adult Fantasy—the list goes on.
But do we really need genres? Do we want labels to shape our reading choices?
Sure, even unconsciously you’ll be filing your next book away neatly on top of all the similar ones you’ve read, giving its genre away. Nevertheless, do these labels actually work their prejudice into our reading choices?
Genre labels can prevent us from reading great books. Think about it. Do you ignore your preconceptions and proudly strut into the Children’s department to get that latest Young Adult Fantasy book you’ve been dying to read? If so: congratulations! I have to confess that I always feel a bit queasy when entering an area full of glittery shiny books and cute stuffed animals. Yes, it’s all in my head. But so is the inexistent niece or sister I immediately conjure up in order to justify my presence as I shuffle through the “15 & up” section at light speed.
These posts will explore of the preconceptions attached to the genres we publish inside the Speculative Fiction scope. I hope to hear your thoughts on these matters and get suggestions on what genres or topics to tackle in our Genre Discussion. After all, blog posts are brief nonfiction essays that are meant to…
Okay, okay…I’ll shut up now.