View Poll Results: Star Wars...Science Fiction or Space Fantasy

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  • Science Fiction

    2 5.56%
  • Space Fantasy

    29 80.56%
  • combination of both

    5 13.89%
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Thread: Star Wars...True Science Fiction or Space Fantasy?

  1. #1
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    Default Star Wars...True Science Fiction or Space Fantasy?

    Just a thought I had a few days ago and would like people's opinion on what genre they think Star Wars falls under. To help people out a bit, I'll define the genres:

    Science Fiction-within the bounds of physical laws, sci fi is rooted in scientific fact

    Space Fantasy- fantasy has no root, doesn't have to be even the smallest possible reality, everything and anything becomes possible

    I hope these definitions make sense to you!
    Last edited by naboo_princess; 15 October 2007 at 10:04 AM.
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  2. #2
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    Star Wars essentially defined the genre called "Space Opera." It's more accurately fantasy than hard sci-fi, although obviously it still includes elements of both. The only problem with that is that Star Wars was so successful, the terms "Space Opera" and "Science Fiction" have become synonymous in the minds of the rank-and-file public. Of course, most people aren't really familiar with the term "Space Opera," so they just think, "Well, Star Wars is science fiction, right?" Well... not exactly.

    This point was perhaps best illustrated to me when I read Roger Ebert's review of Serenity, which he called "an old-fashioned space opera." My first reaction was, "Dude, if you think Serenity was a space opera, you missed the whole point." And I think he did. From reading his review online (which you can find here) and seeing the clip where he reviewed it on the TV show, my impression is that he enjoyed Serenity, but not as much as he would have if he had approached it as science fiction rather than space opera. "Well, what's the difference?" some may ask. Basically it's the fantasy elements. Science fiction has been called "fantasy with rules." In that context, space opera might be best defined as "science fiction without rules, or at least where nobody follows the rules."

    Space opera is more the classic battle of good vs. evil, with archetypical, larger-than-life heroes and villains. Contrast that with something like Serenity, which I would consider a piece of true science fiction. The characters are ordinary people with ordinary flaws and weaknesses, who become heroes not by "destiny," but more by accident. That's just one example, of course, but it's an accessible one. Essentially, the difference between science fiction and space opera (or space fantasy, as this poll calls it) is a subtle one, but one that is especially important in Star Wars.

  3. #3
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    A lot of people would put science fiction and fantasy together. I like to make the comparison of Star Trek vs. Star Wars. Star Trek is what most people would define as science fiction: thier strengths and weaknesses defined by scientific laws while in the Star Wars universe anything can happen (and it usually does).

    Then again, probably a lot of people think that star wars is science fiction because of space and starships and the like. But like you said, it's a space opera.

    I also put 'space fantasy' because not everyone might know the term 'space opera'
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    Star Trek is also Space Opera. For all that they try to come up with pseudo-scientific theories (Treknobabble) it's still Space Opera.

    2001 was Science Fiction.

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    On the other hand, Star Trek does generally try to follow the accepted laws of physics, whereas Star Wars just throws them out the window and defies any scientific law that is inconvenient to the story.
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    Another red flag that something is science fiction is that the conflict is caused by science (HAL makes a murderous jump of logic), the problem is solved by science (cold virus kills invading martians), or both (Pax makes reavers, and you can't stop the signal).

    Star Wars clearly deviates from these red flags. The conflict is caused by a bullying bad guy ("Fear will keep the local systems in line..."), who happens to be in charge of the galaxy. The conflict is solved by a hero who shuns the standard technology ("Luke! You've switched off your targeting computer!") and trusts in his own skills as a human being to save the day. Oh yeah, he hangs out with an outlaw, his loyal but dangerous first mate, and a fugitive princess. To top it all off, he has a sword. Science fiction? More like Sinbad the Sailor!

    Star Wars is Space Opera.

    Star Trek's (if that's where this thread is going) techno may be babble, but even fake science is a science that solves the problem. It's not "hard" science fiction, and there are enough episodes that play out more like a drama than speculative fiction, but I'd say it's closer to science fiction on the continuum than Star Wars.
    Last edited by Jedi_Shadow; 16 October 2007 at 01:59 PM.
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  7. #7
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    The best definition I ever have found for Sci-Fi was that it showed how people would act, interact and live in the future. With all of these new gizmos and spaceships and who knows what else, what will life be like for mankind? How will he have changed? Other elements can be mixed in, like dynamic struggles of good and evil, but Sci-Fi is about people.

    An Opera of any sort is a fable, where something happens... the story is about the events more than the people. Now the people can directly affect the events, but it is the main idea of the Opera that drives it forward, whether it be a vallant struggle against an Empire, a forbidden love or a bitter family fued.

    Star Wars is a space opera... it is a story of struggle, fall and redemption, which happens to exist in a space fantasy setting.

    The origional series of Star Trek was mostly classic Sci-Fi, but it became more and more like a space adventure series the further it went along. DS9 still clung to a few elements of Sci-Fi, but by then it was mostly an adventure/drama.

    As a side note, I always find it funny that the fantasy and sci-fi sections are always right next to eachother... while it is true that they appeal largely to the same crowd, they are VERY different. And most of the stuff in there isn't actual Sci-Fi anyway. Maybe there should be an additional "geek" category....
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    Technically, both genres fall under the blanket term "speculative fiction." While fantasy and sci-fi pursue drastically different avenues, they both ask the question, "What if?"
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  9. #9
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    I don't mind talking about Star Trek in the context of what defines space opera and science fiction, but if this becomes Star Trek vs. Star Wars, I'm bound by the code to shut it down. It's not a problem, just a heads up.

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    Yeah, I'm certainly not looking for a throw down. But if we want to explore what sits where on the speculative fiction continuum, I'm game. I don't know if that would technically be a rant or a rave.
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  11. #11
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    Technically, both genres fall under the blanket term "speculative fiction."
    So do a bunch of other things, like horror or alternative history. And really, all fiction is asking "what if" or "what would happen."

    But anyway, Sci-Fi and Fantasy are different enough that I wouldn't group them togeather.
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  12. #12
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    Of course there's a bit of a sliding scale, so nothing is going to fit precisely in one category or the other. Star Trek may still be space opera, but it's clearly closer to true science fiction than Star Wars is.

  13. #13
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    Wow. I didn't realize where this thread was going. It wasn't supposed to be Star Trek vs. Star Wars. That was just a comment I had to compare the two.
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  14. #14
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    No problem, princess. I think it's a totally valid comparison, and as far as I know, there's no problem with it unless things get confrontational. It may be risking getting off the subject, but where might other science fiction/space fantasy works fit on the scale?

  15. #15
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    Yeah... as long as we aren't comtemplating "borg cube vs star destroyer," we should be good.

    Of course there's a bit of a sliding scale, so nothing is going to fit precisely in one category or the other.
    Agreed.

    Star Trek may still be space opera, but it's clearly closer to true science fiction than Star Wars is.
    That's the thing... I personally wouldn't consider any of the Star Wars movies Sci-Fi besides Episode 4. Many of the other "faces" of Star Wars, books, games, etc are much more sci-fi-esque (most of my games are much more sci-fi than space adventure), but most of the movies themselves are not. In my opinion.
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