I recently picked up one of those “Best blah blah blah of 2012” books hoping to gain some insight into what’s hot in the way of topics and modes of storytelling. This particular one is meant to deal with fantasy and science fiction.
While I certainly don’t know everything about either of them, they have both been staples of my reading since I can remember. I read the heck out of every book on mythology and everything by Ray Bradbury in our small town local library in grade school. In high school I got into Dungeons and Dragons and read a number of books by Gary Gygax (the creator of D&D.)
One of the stories in this collection, however, left me a bit stumped. Where is the sci fi or fantasy element? I asked myself. Where are the dragons or ghosts or robots? In lieu of these more obvious, even trite tropes, I expected something recognizable on some level as involving a different set of laws of physics, magic, high- or different-technology.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed The Sandal-Bride by Genevieve Valentine, to name names. I thought the imagery and emotion in the story was great. These characters were believable and acted in reasonable ways. It also could have easily happened in any of a thousand places on Earth as we know it(or knew it, literally thousands of years ago, there is little to tie the story to specific time or place except an arduous journey across arid terrain), only with a few changes of place names and the creation of this custom.
Is that enough to create fantasy? Is it perhaps something to consider ‘soft’ fantasy as stories which do not attempt to explain or use technology we might see tomorrow, but kind of create on the fly are considered ‘soft’ sci fi? (rampant use of faster than light travel, light swords, antigravity vehicles, etc.)
So help me out, let me know what you think. Is genre dead? Are there so many things that fit along a vast spectrum that they are erasing the lines between one and the next? What is the minimum requirement to call something fantasy or science fiction?