I readily acknowledge that every story regarding is a story that tries to answer the what if of a situation. However, what if applies more solidly to the speculative genre. It is called the speculative genre after all. The big question of that massive genre is what if so and so. The major difference between science fiction and fantasy is the distinction of science fiction. The genre of science fiction deals with what ifs of science. This includes the evolution of society. If the story is science related, even if we have no current proof to relate it, the story is science fiction. This works for society because of a lovely little thing called political science. It is a bit mushier when it comes to hard scientific fact, but the line of study is valid and would provide the reasoning science fiction needs.
What makes Fantasy Different
Fantasy simply does not fall under the presumptions of science. Fantasy can occur for any reason and sometimes with no explanation at all. This allows for fantasy to be extremely broad. Each fantasy story is out to tell the what if of something that can’t be trutly derived from anything our current society presents. It is lingering thoughts that have no basis in reality. It is based on dreams that simply are not present in our society as we know it. Fantasy begs the question of what if. And as readers and consumers, we need to suspend our knowledge of the current world and accept the new reality we are presented. With Science Fiction we are expanding our beliefs to accept something we don’t yet know to be true. Thus Science Fiction holds an air of possibility, while Fantasy remains a far-fetched dream.
The What Ifs of Fantasy
Asking the question of what if can come in many different ways. We can ask what if Mt Vesuvius never destroyed Pompeii? The resulting story would be a story of Alternate History. It is Fantasy because we are reimagining a world that we don’t actually know. Any number of things could be different resulting in a world we may not even be able to recognize.
We can ask what if a man sprouted wings while at the bus stop. The resulting story could explore how he deals with his new transformation or tries to return to normal. Or the story could be about how the man becomes a vigilante trying to save those he can with his new power. Each of these stories would be different kinds of fantasy stories. Spanning from a superhero tale to magical realism if his sprouting of wings plays little effect on how the story receives it. Each one would be a very different tone, and a very different genre.
For Superhero’s try: Old Man Logan. For Magical Realismtry : The Very Old Man with Enormous Wings. For General Fantasy try: Metamorphosis
We can ask what if the world jumped positions every year or mystical creatures are real? The story from this would likely hold nature as the fantastical element. People may deal with the oncoming dread of their planets new location in proximity to unfriendly foes. Or People may live in fear of the torment of mystical creatures. On a lighter note, you could have nice creatures and how people learn to live with the creatures.
For Planetary Romance try: A Princess of Mars For mystical creatures try: The Lightning Thief
We can ask what if a man is kidnapped and brought to a secret society of mutants? The resulting story is pretty much The Tomorrow People, I admit it, but it could go many different ways. In general, this single character, or small group of characters, exposure to a secret fantastical society is something out of an Urban Fantasy.
For Urban Fantasy try: American Gods
New What Ifs
Fantasy being the expansive genre that it is can cover many different things. It can focus on various story points. Some fantasies can rely heavily on the fantastical elements, while others simply have it in the background. It can be handled in so many different ways, that I am desperately hoping to see someone knew break the box. Instead of creating something brilliant about something that already exists and presenting it in a fascinating new way, give me something entirely new. I’m interested in seeing the what ifs expanded into new territory.
Find the other Regarding Fantasy Series Posts:
Regarding Fantasy #2: Black Female Protagonists in Fantasy. Where are they?
Regarding Fantasy #3: About why Fantasy is primed for escapism.
Regarding Fantasy #4: Fantasy is the cross genre genre.
Regarding Fantasy #5: Worldbuilding in Fantasy can transcend just a story.