The term “sci-fi” was coined by Forrest J Ackerman in the 1950s, and has been in use ever since. There’s even a TV station (spelled “SyFy”) sharing the name. When science fiction started out, authors like H.G. Wells imagined gleaming societies of the future, in which mankind improved itself through innovation, and often took its place among the stars (like in Star Trek). Since the beginning of the 20th century, however, Science Fiction has taken an obviously gloomy turn. These days, it’s hard to imagine literature about the future that doesn’t present it as irredeemably awful, usually made so by the mankind that we used to think would only improve itself. Dystopia as a genre has seen an explosion lately (especially teenage romance dystopia, which is an entire other kettle of fish).
Fantasy, however, still seems to maintain its sunniness. Perhaps it’s because most fantasy takes place in a nebulous time period at some point in the distant past, and so creators don’t feel any need to make predictions about where humanity is moving. There are many differences between Science Fiction and Fantasy besides the time period, even though they do share a distant common ancestor. Science Fiction, as the name in implies, relies on the idea of science–that everything in the story is explainable and attainable. The Fly, for instance, is Science Fiction, not because humans actually have scientifically viable teleporters, but because presumably the teleporter in the movie was made possible by science. If the doctor proclaimed proudly to his wife that he had created his teleporter through a spell instead of a feat of science, then it would be fantasy. The line is thin enough to be almost negligible, but it is there prominently enough that identifying the difference between Science Fiction and Fantasy is easy for anyone who has read books or watched movies.Judge Memorial Catholic High School
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