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Inclusa
2011-Apr-30, 06:49 AM
Honestly, many "science fiction" are technically "fantasy", which means something that have no ground in reality.
Fiction is something that is relatively "realistic".
Star Wars and Dragonballs are strictly fantasies, I believe.
Something may be a little more less "borderline".

Githyanki
2011-Apr-30, 07:38 PM
Originally, science-fiction was on the par of today's futurism. However, now, science-fiction is on par with fantasy.

However, fiction isn't based on reality; it's just fiction; it's made-up if you will, which is on par with fantasy.

profloater
2011-Apr-30, 07:53 PM
There is a spectrum of "reality" in fiction, but the dividing colours are subjective and shift with time. A huge amount of "science fiction" explores the human condition in weird settings and the interest is more in the speculation than the reality of the scene. Suppose you want to examine what it would feel like to be immortal, it's a psychological exploration and we would say the premise is fantasy. However the fiction can produce insights. I remember Fred Hoyle's black (conscious) cloud, just such an exploration but is it fantasy or fiction? It's both, I think.

SkepticJ
2011-Apr-30, 09:21 PM
Fiction is something that could happen, but hasn't.

Science fiction is a spectrum from realistic and totally possible someday, to fantasy whose magic is replaced with technology. That's the difference between science fiction and fantasy--what allows the feats. A time machine is science fiction, a magic spell that does the same thing is fantasy.

Fantasy is, well, fantasy. Pretty self-explanatory, there.

HenrikOlsen
2011-Apr-30, 09:43 PM
As with most things in life there's a continuum, Fantasy and Science fiction are blurry bordered, partially overlapping areas in the country of Story, the differences are greatest when you get to the center of each area, but in the borders it can be difficult to see the difference.

And no, it's not the presence of spaceships that makes something science fiction.

Inclusa
2011-Apr-30, 09:49 PM
And no, it's not the presence of spaceships that makes something science fiction.

Of course; Star Wars is a good example of fantasy with space ships. Dune certainly contains magical elements, too.


There is a spectrum of "reality" in fiction, but the dividing colours are subjective and shift with time. A huge amount of "science fiction" explores the human condition in weird settings and the interest is more in the speculation than the reality of the scene. Suppose you want to examine what it would feel like to be immortal, it's a psychological exploration and we would say the premise is fantasy. However the fiction can produce insights. I remember Fred Hoyle's black (conscious) cloud, just such an exploration but is it fantasy or fiction? It's both, I think.



Things aren't as "well-defined" as many people think.

Paul Beardsley
2011-Apr-30, 10:26 PM
Fiction is something that could happen, but hasn't.

No, fiction is simply something that hasn't happened. The subcategory of realistic fiction is quite small.

Paul Beardsley
2011-Apr-30, 10:29 PM
I remember Fred Hoyle's black (conscious) cloud, just such an exploration but is it fantasy or fiction? It's both, I think.

I would say it is quite clearly science fiction. Which I would define as that branch of fantasy which takes a rational approach to dealing with the fantastic.

HenrikOlsen
2011-Apr-30, 11:24 PM
I would say it is quite clearly science fiction. Which I would define as that branch of fantasy which takes a rational approach to dealing with the fantastic.
I tend to define it as the branch where the story explores the consequences of the different technology/physics.

Jeff Root
2011-Apr-30, 11:58 PM
Many years ago I developed definitions to distinguish between science
fiction and fantasy. My definitions had problems from the beginning, and
I have liked them less and less over time. They started out quite similar
to what SkepticJ suggested, "something that could happen, but hasn't."
Now I find Paul's suggestion more to my liking, horrifically vague as it is.
There is no boundary between SF and fantasy. Occasionally there may
be hints that a story is a better fit to one category than to the other.

Isaac Asimov commented somewhere that the genre of SF tends to
engulf other genres like an amoeba. Put a science-fiction element
into a story, and the story becomes science fiction. Or will at least
be perceived to be science fiction by many people. He noted that the
effect seems to be unique to SF.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

HenrikOlsen
2011-May-01, 12:19 AM
Isaac Asimov commented somewhere that the genre of SF tends to
engulf other genres like an amoeba. Put a science-fiction element
into a story, and the story becomes science fiction. Or will at least
be perceived to be science fiction by many people. He noted that the
effect seems to be unique to SF.
If I don't misremember, he said it also has the immediate effect that the story will be dismissed out of hand as trash not worth wasting time reading by "serious" critics.

SkepticJ
2011-May-01, 03:10 AM
No, fiction is simply something that hasn't happened. The subcategory of realistic fiction is quite small.

Ok, the first one is true.

I have to disagree with you on the second one. Visit any decent bookstore and compare the volume of romance, political and techno thrillers, adventure stories, murder mysteries, comedies and whatnot to the SF and Fantasy section. The bulk of fiction is basically possible. It does depend on what you mean by realistic, though.
A mousy woman having a steamy time with a Fabio clone in some bodice ripper set in Tuscany is possible, but not terribly likely.

SkepticJ
2011-May-01, 03:19 AM
If I don't misremember, he said it also has the immediate effect that the story will be dismissed out of hand as trash not worth wasting time reading by "serious" critics.

But for some reason those "serious" critics love Classical fantasy, like the Iliad and Odyssey. Which is incredibly mysterious to me, as those tales made my eyes glaze over almost as badly as the Book of Leviticus.

Hernalt
2011-May-01, 03:34 AM
The reported thoracic injuries in Homer's Iliad (http://www.cardiothoracicsurgery.org/content/pdf/1749-8090-5-114.pdf)
Injuries to the head and neck in Homer's Iliad (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6WC5-4K0FJV5-3&_user=9555371&_coverDate=03%2F31%2F2007&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=gateway&_origin=gateway&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_searchStrId=1736331820&_rerunOrigin=google&_acct=C000055186&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=9555371&md5=b7e41c17c6f309f0237956225281bb7a&searchtype=a)

,

Age of the Supergalleys (http://www.utexas.edu/courses/citylife/readings/ships.pdf) Technological feasibility may lack political or economic feasibility and is therefore a (political) (or economic) fantasy. Huge works require huge rationales.

SkepticJ
2011-May-01, 05:04 AM
Huh, that's interesting.

My problem with Homer's epics isn't their technical accuracy, I just found them numbingly boring to read. In their original format, being said aloud by a skilled storyteller, they're probably much better. At that, though, they're not magically good, IMO. Any good modern literature is their equal. They're just a few millennia old, so to people who fetishize old things simply because they're old, they're somehow the height of fiction, worthy of infinite commentary. I stumbled across a paper wherein someone argued that Homer infused his epics with a quasi-feminist sympathy!

I have a similar problem with reading Bill Shakespeare's plays. They're plays. The audience isn't supposed to read them, they're supposed to watch them. How boring would it be to read a movie screenplay? I wonder if in future college lit. classes they'll do just that, and read the coding for video games.

Paul Beardsley
2011-May-01, 07:24 AM
Ok, the first one is true.

I have to disagree with you on the second one. Visit any decent bookstore and compare the volume of romance, political and techno thrillers, adventure stories, murder mysteries, comedies and whatnot to the SF and Fantasy section. The bulk of fiction is basically possible. It does depend on what you mean by realistic, though.
A mousy woman having a steamy time with a Fabio clone in some bodice ripper set in Tuscany is possible, but not terribly likely.

My point is that fiction doesn't have to feature were wolves or time machines to be unrealistic. By "realistic" I mean "it didn't happen but something pretty similar either did or could have done", and this kind of fiction is rarer than you might think. In many cases the "not terribly likely" is more a case of "clearly wouldn't happen, ever".

I was reading a book on police procedure recently, written for would-be writers of detective fiction by an actual detective. According to him, a lot of "realistic" crime fiction is anything but. He wasn't suggesting that fiction has to be realistic to be good, btw, and in fact he strongly hinted that good storytelling is more important than technical accuracy. I even got the impression that he thought some good books would be less good if they were more realistic.

I knew an actual detective. She told me about a time she was searching a house and accidentally broke a tile. In doing so, she revealed a hiding place for numerous credit cards. She pointed out that this sort of "mystery story" incident does indeed happen, but only on very rare occasions, whereas the paperwork that takes up the bulk of a detective's time is generally glossed over in fiction - indeed, in some cases, failure/refusal to do paperwork properly can be an endearing part of a fictional detective's character.

Captain W.E. Johns's early Biggles stories were basically accounts of actual events, but they happened to several different people. In fiction, it's generally more enjoyable to have a main character who does all the exciting stuff, and so Captain Bigglesworth got to do all of them, even though it's not terribly likely that a single man would have as much time, energy and luck.

I think the same is true of pretty much all the other genres you mention, SkepticJ. Check out the TV Tropes webpage if you haven't already. Among other things, it demonstrates just how widespread common misconceptions are in fiction - and also how audiences are so conditioned to accept these misconceptions as true that they sometimes reject realism as unrealistic. (A few years ago there was a discussion on BAUT about being shot in the shoulder. In fiction, the hero will grimace for a minute, then recover. In reality, the victim will probably qualify for disability benefit.)

HenrikOlsen
2011-May-01, 11:44 AM
Check out the TV Tropes webpage if you haven't already.
Provided that is, that you have a couple of hours to waste.


(A few years ago there was a discussion on BAUT about being shot in the shoulder. In fiction, the hero will grimace for a minute, then recover. In reality, the victim will probably qualify for disability benefit.)
A much worse lie they tell is the "hitting someone over the head to make them unconscious always work, and is harmless" thing, there are people sitting on death row because they believed the movies which tell that it's safe to do.
In reality, if you hit someone strong enough on top of the head to cause unconsciousness, a very large proportion (more than 10% I read somewhere) will have internal cranial bleeding and be dead in a week without medical treatment. This will even be true for some that don't lose consciousness at all from being hit. (I wish we had Grant for a fact check on this:()

Paul Beardsley
2011-May-01, 01:14 PM
Provided that is, that you have a couple of hours to waste.

Hmm. I was under the impression that "a couple" meant "two"! ;)


A much worse lie they tell is the "hitting someone over the head to make them unconscious always work, and is harmless" thing, there are people sitting on death row because they believed the movies which tell that it's safe to do.
In reality, if you hit someone strong enough on top of the head to cause unconsciousness, a very large proportion (more than 10% I read somewhere) will have internal cranial bleeding and be dead in a week without medical treatment. This will even be true for some that don't lose consciousness at all from being hit. (I wish we had Grant for a fact check on this:()

Indeed. Fiction also teaches us that it's a good idea to go into burning buildings without breathing apparatus - even though hundreds of people die through doing this.

mike alexander
2011-May-01, 02:14 PM
I was at a SF convention last week and had breakfast with the editor of Fantasy & Science Fiction. He was saying he never gets enough science fiction submitted. So I offered to write a straight science fiction story featuring a scientist and real science.

This is extremely difficult. Most of what a scientist does is boring to those outside, and even with excessive trimming the sections of "Tell me, Professor" can bring the story to a screeching halt.

I needed to be able to analyze the molecules of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons by mass spectrometry. So I had the character use a cyclopentadienyl cobalt ion-pairing reagent on a quadrupole mass spectrometer (eyes glazing over yet?).

This won't work. It WILL work using a matrix-assisted laser desorption interface on a Fourier transform high-field ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometer (MEGO alert!). But I can give a bare explanation of how a quadrupole MS works in two sentences without lying outright. The same explanation for a FTICR could be used as a boat anchor.

So I lied and used the wrong equipment. My goal was to draw the nonspecialist into the workings without overly offending the two people who might read the story and send me a letter explaining that I know nothing about how real mass spectrometry is done. The story is much more important than the science, as a rule.

Oh, and I also lied at the beginning here. The editor and I actually missed our breakfast meeting and had just a couple of minutes over a cup of coffee. He was giving me back a submitted horror story, saying he didn't find it horrible enough. I mentioned I had just gotten a rejection on a fairly science-heavy story and he said to send it along, he'd take a look at it.

I think my original take made a better story than the reality, though.

Fiction writers are, by my definition, liars. Nowadays it seems a lot of nonfiction writers are also liars, but that's another topic.

Gillianren
2011-May-01, 04:22 PM
Mike . . . what convention did you go to?

Personally, the reason I can never separate my own library into science fiction and fantasy as separate categories among all the others is that I'd have to split up Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency and Long Dark Teatime of the Soul.

Krel
2011-May-01, 10:05 PM
(A few years ago there was a discussion on BAUT about being shot in the shoulder. In fiction, the hero will grimace for a minute, then recover. In reality, the victim will probably qualify for disability benefit.)

Back in the 70s, or 80s there was an article in the TV Guide by a Doctor on gun, and knife wounds, and the real effects of same. He said that one of the worst places to be shot was in the shoulder. There are so many veins and arteries running through the shoulder that you could bleed to death very quickly.

David.

Swift
2011-May-01, 11:02 PM
There is a spectrum of "reality" in fiction, but the dividing colours are subjective and shift with time.
Yep.

I have always like what I believe was Asimov's definition of the difference (working from memory) - If you break one law of physics (or less) it is science fiction, if you break more than one its fantasy. ;)

Swift
2011-May-01, 11:03 PM
<snip>
I needed to be able to analyze the molecules of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons by mass spectrometry. So I had the character use a cyclopentadienyl cobalt ion-pairing reagent on a quadrupole mass spectrometer (eyes glazing over yet?).

Tell your editor you can guarantee at least one sale. ;)

SkepticJ
2011-May-02, 12:03 AM
My point is that fiction doesn't have to feature were wolves or time machines to be unrealistic. By "realistic" I mean "it didn't happen but something pretty similar either did or could have done", and this kind of fiction is rarer than you might think. In many cases the "not terribly likely" is more a case of "clearly wouldn't happen, ever".

How much of this can happen before it moves from realistic to not?

No Country for Old Men has an automobile gas tank that detonates. That doesn't happen, ever. Otherwise the film is very realistic, I think.

Casino Royale is over all possible. Just the bit with the defibrillator, shot propane tank, and building sinking in Venice (the water's not that deep) take it out of pure realism.


I was reading a book on police procedure recently, written for would-be writers of detective fiction by an actual detective. According to him, a lot of "realistic" crime fiction is anything but. He wasn't suggesting that fiction has to be realistic to be good, btw, and in fact he strongly hinted that good storytelling is more important than technical accuracy. I even got the impression that he thought some good books would be less good if they were more realistic.

Some examples?

I know the right to a phone call is a myth. And the Miranda rights don't have to be read at the moment of arrest, just before an interrogation.


I knew an actual detective. She told me about a time she was searching a house and accidentally broke a tile. In doing so, she revealed a hiding place for numerous credit cards. She pointed out that this sort of "mystery story" incident does indeed happen, but only on very rare occasions, whereas the paperwork that takes up the bulk of a detective's time is generally glossed over in fiction - indeed, in some cases, failure/refusal to do paperwork properly can be an endearing part of a fictional detective's character.

That's simply removing the boring stuff. No one cares. Fiction doesn't detail every time the characters eat, drink, excrete, bathe, wash clothes, go shopping . . .


Captain W.E. Johns's early Biggles stories were basically accounts of actual events, but they happened to several different people. In fiction, it's generally more enjoyable to have a main character who does all the exciting stuff, and so Captain Bigglesworth got to do all of them, even though it's not terribly likely that a single man would have as much time, energy and luck.

Not terribly likely, but not impossible. Fiction generally deals with people or situations that are exceptional.
How many offices are as dysfunctional and hilarious as in The Office? How many policemen battle terrorists and walk bare foot across broken glass in a high rise building?

HenrikOlsen
2011-May-02, 01:24 AM
How many offices are as dysfunctional and hilarious as in The Office?
Likely more than one. Though also likely not for long each.

How many policemen battle terrorists and walk bare foot across broken glass in a high rise building?
Very likely none.

Inclusa
2011-May-02, 05:46 AM
"Office comedy" has been a common thing for quite some time, but something than become "cliche", such as sales tactics, wardrobe disasters, etc.
It was highly unlikely for leaders of armed forces to determine victories by personal combats, yet many historical fictions try to give such an impression. (Let's talk about Romance of Three Kingdoms.
Historical fictions typically are at least PARTIALLY romantic; can someone who have read Ivanhoe tell me something?

tnjrp
2011-May-02, 08:34 AM
It's usually helpfull if you think of the field of speculative fiction as a big letter
V
with "realism" at the point in the bottom (obviously :whistle:), "fiction" at open the top, and with "fantasy" as the left "vertex" and "science fiction" as the right (or vise versa if you prefer in the case of these latter, but I'm assuming this ordering below).

Now all of the works of fiction, even the most realistic stuff (possibly even historical research papers and biographies but let's leave those and other non-fiction out) are somewhere inside the area of the V. The further they are removed from consensus reality the higher up they are, the more to the left they are the less likely they are possible to happen in the framework of the consensus reality and the more to right they are the more likely it is that they could or could've happened in the consensus reality (i.e. the historic timecone thereof, insofar as such a thing can be said to exist).

Depending on where you pin each work in the area ("say, is Star Trek higher up than Star Wars, it's definitely a bit more to the right...") and where exactly you draw the demarcation line (down the center? or is there a grey swathe in the middle of the V?) tells you if the given work is "science fiction" or "fantasy". The suit guys at the publishers and movie companies do the same, as do the authors, directors etc. of course, but they don't necessarily come to the same conclusion as you. Such is life.

It's really that simple, fundamentally :shifty:

Paul Beardsley
2011-May-02, 10:26 AM
How much of this can happen before it moves from realistic to not?

Individual scenes can be realistic.

I think I'm making two points here:

1. Generally, things in fiction do not happen the way they do in reality, even if there's nothing physically impossible involved. Generally, if you read two books about a subject you know a bit about (but are not necessarily an expert), where one is true and the other is made up, you can probably tell which is which from the text alone. Exceptions tend to be exceptional, such as some of Hemingway's stories. There is nothing wrong with this - the purpose of fiction is primarily to entertain.

2. Realism is much less important in fiction than credibility. Getting the facts right often supports credibility, but not always. For example, huge coincidences are acceptable in reality, but in fiction they look like lazy plotting.


Casino Royale is over all possible. Just the bit with the defibrillator, shot propane tank, and building sinking in Venice (the water's not that deep) take it out of pure realism.

Interesting example, given that a) the exceptions you give are showstoppers, and b) they don't happen in the book, which is relatively realistic.


Some examples?

He mentioned one of the Wallender books as being particularly bad. I think he also mentioned Ian Rankin. But most detective fiction - at least the best-known stuff - isn't even trying to be realistic. Agatha Christie's Poirot stories, for instance, often have Poirot present at the time of the murder (or else he already knew somebody involved), and the guilty party is always the one person who (we were led to believe) could not have done it. This is no more true to life than a game of Cluedo.

The point of most detective stories is to allow the reader to enter a fantasy world that superficially resembles our world and engage in a story of puzzles, revelations, shocks, angst and so on, and then return to the real world at the end, having been (hopefully) entertained. The real-world policeman who wrote the police procedural book reads the like of Rankin for pleasure, whereas his own fiction has always been rejected.


That's simply removing the boring stuff. No one cares. Fiction doesn't detail every time the characters eat, drink, excrete, bathe, wash clothes, go shopping . . .

The point I'm making in this case is that in some fiction (the Inspector Frost being one example) it's almost the equivalent of having characters who don't eat, wash clothes etc. Paperwork isn't merely not mentioned, we are explicitly shown a senior officer avoiding paperwork. Real police work presumably involves effective communication between members of a team, but in fiction you can get away with loners who go off and do their own thing and still get their man, because they are not required to be realistic.

One could argue that SF is sometimes more realistic than "mundane" fiction. If we really had teleport booths, for instance, some of the events in Larry Niven's flashcrowd stories might really happen.

Jeff Root
2011-May-02, 06:59 PM
... in some fiction ... it's almost the equivalent of having characters
who don't eat, wash clothes etc.
I was thinking recently that the main difference between a character
like James Bond and a real person like myself must be that James
spends all his off-screen time preparing for his on-screen role. He
cleans his gun, practices jumping over things and landing without
breaking his legs or neck, learns how to operate every piece of
equipment ever made, gets the laundry done and put away so he
has a clean tuxedo ready when he needs it, makes his bed so it
will be ready for action...

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

mike alexander
2011-May-02, 09:00 PM
Mike . . . what convention did you go to?

Personally, the reason I can never separate my own library into science fiction and fantasy as separate categories among all the others is that I'd have to split up Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency and Long Dark Teatime of the Soul.

Norwescon. Don't tell me you were there and I missed you.

Ah, well, there were 3,500 attendees this year. Easy to get lost in the crowd.

Gillianren
2011-May-02, 09:15 PM
Actually, I'm pretty sure I saw your wife. There was a knitting woman I saw who looked familiar when I was standing in the Incredibly Long Jim Butcher Autograph Line.

mike alexander
2011-May-03, 01:02 AM
Actually, I'm pretty sure I saw your wife. There was a knitting woman I saw who looked familiar when I was standing in the Incredibly Long Jim Butcher Autograph Line.

Yup, had to be her. I think Astrid Bear was knitting as well, but she was with Greg Bear over near Butcher.

I want to thank Jim Butcher for relieving the rest of us from having to sign anything.

Inclusa
2011-May-03, 03:57 AM
Sorry, but I haven't read works of fictions for years; I was thought as a bibliophile in my school years, but the reading turns out to be so skimpy if compares to some people here.

Jeff Root
2011-May-03, 04:36 AM
Try reading some short stories rather than committing to a novel.
You can read a dozen short stories in the time it takes to get through
a novel. It's easier, much less pressure to finish, and can be a dozen
times as much fun. I need to follow that advice myself. I have read
less and less since going from BC to PC.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Gillianren
2011-May-03, 05:15 AM
Yup, had to be her. I think Astrid Bear was knitting as well, but she was with Greg Bear over near Butcher.

Well, anyway, tell her I said hi and that I wish I'd recognized her a little faster.


I want to thank Jim Butcher for relieving the rest of us from having to sign anything.

Hey, I got one of the people on the side to sign something! She's an old SCA friend! I did not, as it happens, know she wrote.

kamaz
2011-May-03, 11:50 AM
So I lied and used the wrong equipment..

About 10 years ago, I came across a story which was set in the environment of computer security specialists . It was written by a professional in the field, so he had the technical stuff right. You can find it here: http://www.trustednetworksolutions.com/ctw/

Hernalt
2011-May-03, 12:10 PM
'Science in Hollywood' by Carolyn Porco, AAI 2009 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGSv-uZCOyY&feature=related)

mike alexander
2011-May-03, 10:13 PM
About 10 years ago, I came across a story which was set in the environment of computer security specialists . It was written by a professional in the field, so he had the technical stuff right. You can find it here: http://www.trustednetworksolutions.com/ctw/

Mmm. Makes Tom Clancy sound like Ray Bradbury.

Inclusa
2011-May-04, 04:09 AM
Try reading some short stories rather than committing to a novel.
You can read a dozen short stories in the time it takes to get through
a novel. It's easier, much less pressure to finish, and can be a dozen
times as much fun. I need to follow that advice myself. I have read
less and less since going from BC to PC.

Alas, time is so scare that I don't have "leisure pursue".