Ambush: Hal Duncan on Why SF is Really Fantasy

Vellum       Ink 

For the second in the "ambush" series, in which I check in unexpectedly on SF and Fantasy writers to see what they're thinking about, and in some cases struggling with, I contacted Hal Duncan, whose highly praised Vellum and Ink are two of the most mind-blowing and ambitious SF-Fantasy novels of the past decade (well worth reading if you haven't already). Duncan has been working through the "difference" between genres and gave us this snippet in advance of posting his complete thoughts on his blog.

Duncan writes: "As SF writers and readers we are ready, it seems, to abandon the limitation of light speed that comes with Einsteinian Relativity so we can play with FTL, or to ignore the physical foundations of mind in the neurochemistry of the brain so that we can use ESP. We are willing to ditch the Conservation of Energy that is a basic aspect of Newtonian thermodynamics in order to portray teleportation as an act of mere will, to swallow jaunting as an ability to transport oneself instantaneously through space-time. We are more than able to throw away the very coherence of the space-time continuum we exist in so we can imagine a road that links all possible times and all possible histories. If we're ready, willing and able to play this fast and loose with science why should we draw the line at equivalent paradigm shifts that, for us, render a work fantasy rather than SF? Aren't the secondary worlds of fantasy simply alternative realities where the archaeological distinction of gracile and robust hominids translates to elves and dwarves as distinct races? Aren't the magical powers of fantasy just the telekinetic talent to manipulate a reality tractable to the human will? Aren't all the spurious fabrications of fantasy in fact equally as recastable as rational speculations if only we accept paradigm shifts no more radical in truth than those required with the seminal SF of Bester and Zelazny?"

I'll be interested to see what Amazon's hard core science fiction readers think of this argument. When does a work of fiction become fantasy in your eyes? What is it about science fiction that makes you appreciate it more than fantasy? --JeffV

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