Let's discuss the space fantasy & sci-fi genres of both books and film.
Are these two genres' the same? The short answer is no. While both space fantasy and science fiction fall under the speculative fiction umbrella, they are, in fact, two very different subgenres. They share some similarities that may or may not be based on scientific principles, but there are also key differences between the two.
Space fantasy, also known as science fantasy, is a subgenre of speculative fiction that combines elements of science fiction and fantasy.
What qualifies as science fantasy or space fantasy genre?
Science fantasy is a subgenre of speculative fiction that combines elements of science fiction and fantasy. It often features futuristic or science fiction-like settings and technologies alongside supernatural or magical elements. In science fantasy, the rules of science and technology may not be strictly adhered to, and elements of magic or the supernatural may be incorporated into the story.
Some examples of science fantasy elements include:
Magical or supernatural powers or abilities that cannot be explained by scientific means.
Alternate universes or realities that exist alongside our own.
Advanced technologies or futuristic societies that coexist with mystical or fantastical creatures.
Gods or other supernatural entities that interact with or influence the world.
Science fantasy can encompass a wide range of storytelling styles, from epic adventures to character-driven dramas. It can also be set in a variety of settings, including outer space, other planets, or alternate dimensions. Some well-known examples of science fantasy include Star Wars, the Dune series, and the Chronicles of Amber series.
Space fantasy stories typically feature fantastical elements, such as magic, mythical creatures, and supernatural powers, set within a science fiction setting, such as space travel, advanced technology, and alien worlds. Examples of space fantasy include Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Doctor Who.
Science fiction, on the other hand, is a genre of speculative fiction that typically explores the impact of actual or imagined science and technology on human society and culture. Science fiction stories may incorporate elements of science fantasy, but they are primarily based on scientific principles and explore concepts such as space exploration, time travel, artificial intelligence, and genetic engineering. Examples of science fiction include 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, and The Martian.
Is space opera in the science fiction genre or science fantasy book genre?
Space opera is considered a subgenre of science fiction. Stories in this genre typically feature large-scale, dramatic adventures set in space, often involving conflict between powerful groups, such as empires, interstellar civilizations, or spacefaring races. This genre emphasizes action, adventure, and epic themes, and may include elements of science fantasy, such as superhuman abilities or mystical powers. Although space opera often contains fantastical or unrealistic elements, such as faster-than-light travel, sentient robots, or psychic powers, it is still primarily focused on scientific or technological concepts related to space exploration, space battles, and interstellar civilizations.
In contrast, fantasy typically involves a unique set of conventions, such as magic, mythical creatures, and supernatural phenomena that do not rely on scientific or technological concepts. While there may be some overlap between space opera and science fantasy, which combines elements of both science fiction and fantasy, space opera is more grounded in science fiction and focuses on futuristic technologies and scientific concepts.
Overall, while there may be some blurring of the lines between space opera and other genres, it is considered a subgenre of science fiction.
Some examples of space opera in science fiction include Star Wars, Dune, and The Expanse. While space opera may not always be scientifically accurate or grounded in hard science, it is still considered a subgenre of science fiction because of its focus on space travel, technology, and futuristic societies.
The key differences between space fantasy and science fiction lie in the balance between fantastical elements and scientific principles. While both genres explore imaginative scenarios, space fantasy is more focused on magical or supernatural elements, while science fiction is more grounded in scientific theories and principles.
But for fun, let’s consider two of the largest space exploration franchises in modern times. I feel a war brewing.
Star Trek vs Star Wars
Is Star Trek science fiction or fantasy?
Star Trek is considered an example of science fiction rather than fantasy. Why? Star Trek is grounded in scientific concepts and explores themes related to space exploration, technology, and human society. You actually have a vague idea of how the warp core and other technologies work.
I know what you’re thinking. Star Trek contains some fantastical or speculative elements, such as faster-than-light travel and encounters with alien species, but the series is more concerned with exploring the scientific and social implications of these concepts rather than focusing on epic storytelling or mythical themes. The series has often been praised for its scientific accuracy and its portrayal of a diverse, multicultural future society that values knowledge, cooperation, and progress.
Did you know Gene Roddenberry actually had scientists evaluate his tech jargon? That’s because he wanted his series, though fantastical, to be as scientifically accurate as possible.
Another hot button issue among fans is: Is Star Trek a Space Opera?
We just learned that space opera is feature large-scale, dramatic adventures set in space, often involving conflict between powerful groups, such as empires, interstellar civilizations, or spacefaring races. Sounds like Star Trek, right?
It could be. But if we delve deeper into the show and the subsequent books, Star Trek is a mixed bag of space opera and hard science fiction. In some shows and books, the emphasis is more on the characters and space battles (Space Opera). In others, the stories emphasize the impact of technology on the environment and culture (Hard Sci-Fi). How one classifies Star Trek will depend on their own interpretation and understanding of the genre conventions. Sometimes, Star Trek is not considered a space opera, it’s hard science fiction. But what is hard science fiction?
Hard science fiction focuses on exploring scientific and technological concepts and their potential impact on society, often with a focus on accuracy and plausibility. While Star Trek does feature adventure and excitement, and sometimes wars, it is more focused on exploring scientific and social issues, rather than on grand and dramatic storytelling. The series is known for its exploration of topics such as space exploration, time travel, artificial intelligence, and the relationship between humans and aliens. It also often addresses contemporary social issues through its stories and characters.
Despite anyone’s opinion of the genre of this fantastic world, I think we can all agree it’s an amazing sci-fi world that I would love to live in.
Is Star Wars science fiction or science fantasy or space opera?
Star Wars is considered an example of science fantasy rather than science fiction. While Star Wars is set in space and features futuristic technologies such as spaceships, blasters, and lightsabers, it also contains a significant amount of fantastical or mystical elements, such as the Force, Jedi Knights, and Sith Lords.
Unlike science fiction, Star Wars is more focused on epic storytelling, adventure, and mythological themes. While there may be some scientific or technological explanations for certain aspects of the Star Wars universe (midichlorians and cyber crystals), they are often treated as secondary to the overall narrative and the fantastical elements of the story.
Star Wars is often considered a space opera. A space opera is a subgenre of science fiction that typically features melodramatic and larger-than-life stories set in a futuristic or spacefaring setting. Space operas often involve epic battles, political intrigue, and grand adventures.
Star Wars has many of the characteristics of a space opera. It is set in a vast and expansive universe, features large-scale conflicts between opposing forces, and includes elements of romance, drama, and adventure. It also features memorable and larger-than-life characters, such as Jedi Knights, Sith Lords, and iconic spaceships like the Millennium Falcon. Let’s not forget the droids because I love R2-D2 and BB-8; C3PO is fun too.
Whichever space exploration shows and books you enjoy more, I think we can agree both franchise has shaped and defined our generation.
For me personally, I was watching Star Trek when I was drawing my first haphazard map of the Six-Systems. Then Star Wars came out. I loved seeing the Jedi powers at work, along with the development of the Sith Lords. In my heart of hearts, I’m still a Tolkien girl, I’d rather be having afternoon tea in the Shire with a good book. But like Bilbo, I long for adventure. But unlike Bilbo, I sometimes imagine traveling through space to see a nebula up close. Or having a holographic doctor mend my wounds. Either way, all of these speculative fiction genres have influenced my writing.
Here are a few science fantasy and space opera books that you might love. If you've read any of these books, let me know in the comments below.
Ahsoka by E. M. Johnston
Fans have long wondered what happened to Ahsoka after she left the Jedi Order near the end of the Clone Wars, and before she re-appeared as the mysterious Rebel operative Fulcrum in Rebels. Finally, her story will begin to be told. Following her experiences with the Jedi and the devastation of Order 66, Ahsoka is unsure she can be part of a larger whole ever again. But her desire to fight the evils of the Empire and protect those who need it will lead her right to Bail Organa, and the Rebel Alliance….
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race's next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn't make the cut―young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.
Ender's skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.
Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender's two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.
Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the academy would touch . . .
A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates
A smart-ass tech whiz with the galaxy's biggest chip on his shoulder
An alien warrior with anger-management issues
A tomboy pilot who's totally not into him, in case you were wondering
And Ty's squad isn't even his biggest problem--that'd be Aurora Jie-Lin O'Malley, the girl he's just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler's squad of losers, discipline cases, and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.
Zenith by Sasha Alsberg & Lindsay Cummings
Known across the galaxy as the Bloody Baroness, Captain Androma Racella and her motley crew of space-bound privateers roam the Mirabel galaxy on the glass starship Marauder, taking what mercenary work they can find to stay alive.
When a routine job goes awry, the Marauder’s all-girl crew find themselves placed at the mercy of a dangerous bounty hunter from Andi’s past. Coerced into a life-threatening mission, and straight into the path of a shadowy ruler bent on revenge, Andi and her crew will either restore order to the ship—or start a war that will devour worlds.
Across the Universe by Beth Revis
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO SURVIVE ABOARD A SPACESHIP FUELED BY LIES?
Amy is a cryogenically frozen passenger aboard the spaceship Godspeed. She has left her boyfriend, friends--and planet--behind to join her parents as a member of Project Ark Ship. Amy and her parents believe they will wake on a new planet, Centauri-Earth, three hundred years in the future. But fifty years before Godspeed's scheduled landing, cryo chamber 42 is mysteriously unplugged, and Amy is violently woken from her frozen slumber.
Someone tried to murder her.
Now, Amy is caught inside an enclosed world where nothing makes sense. Godspeed's 2,312 passengers have forfeited all control to Eldest, a tyrannical and frightening leader. And Elder, Eldest's rebellious teenage heir, is both fascinated with Amy and eager to discover whether he has what it takes to lead.
Amy desperately wants to trust Elder. But should she put her faith in a boy who has never seen life outside the ship's cold metal walls? All Amy knows is that she and Elder must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets before whoever woke her tries to kill again.
The Skyward Series by Brandon Sanderson
Skyward: Spensa's world has been under attack for decades. Now pilots are the heroes of what's left of the human race, and becoming one has always been Spensa's dream. Flight school might be a long shot, but an accidental discovery in a long-forgotten cavern might just provide her with a way to claim the stars. Starsight: Spensa's made it to the sky, but the truths she learned there were crushing. Everything Spensa has been taught about her world is a lie. But Spensa also discovered a few other things about herself--and she'll travel to the end of the galaxy to save humankind if she needs to. Cytonic: Spensa has flown through the sky and voyaged past the stars in her quest to save humankind from the forces that threaten to destroy it. But now she must navigate a dangerous new frontier, which not one person has returned from alive: the mysterious realm of the Nowhere. But in a place where nothing is real, the truth can be slippery--and nothing is black and white.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth's fate hinges on one girl. . . .
Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She's a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister's illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai's, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world's future.
The Progenitor by Sara Wright (That's Me)
Peace was all Xendara desired, but her enemies hunger for her power.
Princess Xendara is the heir to the throne, but her life is turned upside-down when a mysterious spaceship attacks. She learns her father had secrets. With his untimely demise, she must uncover them before her enemies remove her from power. In her quest to keep peace within the Six Systems, she discovers a power she didn’t know she had; a power that everyone is looking to exploit. With the help of her childhood friend Darijus, she unlocks long lost memories of her past, only to find his destiny is intertwined with her own. A prophecy guides her choices to the correct timeline. But can she trust a prophecy that foretells the death of a loved one? With the destiny of the Universe on the line, who she chooses to trust will divide a galaxy.
With powers her enemies aim to exploit, will she risk galactic war?
Sara Wright is a science fantasy author who loves to add dash of sweet romance to her books.
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Time Crystal by Sara Wright
The Progenitor Chronicles
Time Crystals are forbidden for a reason, but King Oren must use one to save a civilization.
King Oren’s only goal was to be a peaceful caretaker of the galaxy. But when a girl falls through a portal into his courtyard clutching a forbidden Time Crystal, his life changes.
With a cataclysmic event imminent, he must lead a group from his home system to the opposite side of the galaxy. Everyone looks to their seemingly immortal race for aid, but even with their elemental powers, they are far from perfect.
Armed with the Time Crystal, they seek to stop an exploding star from decimating an entire population. The problem is, he doesn’t know how to use the crystal. Even worse, he might die trying.
Will King Oren stop the star from exploding? Or will time unravel?
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