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Monday, January 05, 2009

Would You Rather Live in Science Fiction or Fantasy World?

Marian of Flights of Fantasy recently had an interesting post about what kind of world she would want to live in and it got me thinking about the same thing. Warning: I will be taking this whole idea very seriously even though it's totally fiction and unreal.

My initial reaction to this question is: which world would inevitably be better for me? Both fantasy and science fiction worlds have their good and bad points (for the sake of argument, I'm going to stick with the stereotypical examples of these genres).
Fantasy worlds have magic, fantastic creatures, swords, talking animals, fair maidens, noble kings, and other such goodies. But fantasy worlds also have evil overlords, evil creatures, wars, bad food of the bland variety, and prophecies that always seem to put the world in chaos for a short period before some "chosen one" can come along and put things right--why it is more rare that fantasy characters don't get ticked off about this last one doesn't make much sense to me.
Science fiction worlds have spaceships, alien races, faster-than-light travel, cool gadgets, space adventures, and damn good food. But science fiction worlds also have interstellar wars, alien invasions, evil aliens that can't talk, but manage to wreak havoc on ship crews, moral quandaries, technology that goes bad, and sterile environments or excessively dirty environments.
Which is better? Do I want magic and unicorns or spaceships and aliens with three heads?
On the one hand, perhaps I could use magic to escape from all the darkness of a fantasy world, but that assumes that if I lived in such a world I would be fortunate enough to have magic. This also makes me a terrible coward. A fantasy world also means I can't take all the things I currently enjoy with me. No computers, no Twitter, no WISB, no nothing. A science fiction world means I can keep my gadgets, but I also would have to face dystopian societies, interstellar wars, space pirates, and the like.
Do you see the dilemma? In some ways, I think science fiction worlds are harsher than fantasy worlds. Sure, in science fiction worlds a lot of things are handed to the characters: they rarely have to worry about food or water or running out of laser guns or whatever. But, these same characters live in a world (or galaxy, I imagine) where governments turn into Big Brother, robots reject and kill their masters (a simple snap of the neck will suffice), interstellar wars rage for decades, decimating planet after planet, civilization after civilization.
That's not the say that fantasy worlds are a picnic. At least in science fiction worlds death is quick (usually). Laser guns tend to kill people a lot faster and less painfully than bleeding to death on a battlefield. Characters in fantasy worlds also don't have the luxury of food processors or good storage methods (no fridges in Narnia, I'm afraid). Plenty of salted meat, moldy fruits and vegetables, and food poisoning. Plus, the "chosen one" is almost always some stupid farm boy who takes forever to fulfill prophecy, which is unfortunate if you're impatient like me. While fantasy characters are waiting for someone to rescue them, evil warlords are turning them into slaves or outright killing them in droves (I suppose similar happens in science fiction worlds).
But a fantasy world allows me to do things that can't be done in a science fiction world, primarily because science fiction worlds should adhere to standard rules of science. I've always wanted to shoot fireballs out of my hands or take a trip on the back of a dragon. Having my own set of armor and an enchanted sword would be pretty cool too. Or, I could be a bard and travel the world telling amazing stories about people that lived or never lived, captivating the minds of children and adults alike! When I think about fantasy worlds that way, it certainly makes them much more appealing.
How do I decide, though? Would I be willing to give up Twitter or computers or the possibility of travelling into space? Would I be willing to give up dragons or magic fireballs or enchanted swords? Which one would be the best fit?
If I had to take a guess, I would say that the science fiction world would fit best, but only because I can see how difficult it would be for me to give up technology. Technology is as much a part of my everyday life as breathing and I can't imagine being able to toss that away without thinking long and hard on it, and even then I would be apprehensive and might even regret going to a fantasy world. But I might regret going to a science fiction world too. It all depends how it turns out. Would I end up in a good fantasy/science fiction world or a bad one? Perhaps if I knew that information ahead of time it would make the decision easier. I'd be much more likely to forego science fiction for fantasy if I knew that the fantasy world would inevitably be a better place for me, one where I wasn't going to end up enslaved by evil three-eyed squid-like aliens.
I guess I'm still on the fence.

What about you? For the sake of making this argument easier, let's assume that you could choose between a perfect fantasy world or a perfect science fiction world. Which one would you choose?

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  1. Since a sufficiently advanced technology looks like magic anyway, I'd go with SciFi.

  2. Anonymous1:22 PM

    You should go to the SF world and tell stories with technology ... it'd be just like here, only probably easier.

    As for me, I'll stick with this dysfunctional little world, thank you very much.

  3. I'm going to be a cheater and pick an Urban Fantasy world - best of both worlds! Dragons, elves, fairies, magic, vampires, werewolves AND indoor plumbing! It's brilliant!

    But if I can't have that I'd go for Sci Fi, as long as it isn't a utopia - that sounds boring.

  4. Fantasy Art: Technically speaking, if something is so advanced it looks like magic, then it's fantasy. If you can't tell the difference between what is and isn't magical, then it can't be science fiction at all :P.

    Ellira: To be honest, I would probably get bored with that. I already hate writing about normal life in my fiction :P. I like writing about stuff that hasn't happened or won't happen :P.

    LoopdiLou: Nope, not cheating at all. Technically the question didn't specify whether or not you could choose the kind of world you wanted to live in. I simply addressed the question from the perspective of randomness.

  5. I'd take SF world. As long as it's a space opera. ;)

    Why does food taste bland in Fantasy's? Just wondering, I have not read much Fantasy.

  6. Ken: Because they only have about three things--meat, turnips, and rotten apples. If you're lucky you'll find some good carrots. Only the noble folks get the good stuff, to be honest, but mostly, if you're dealing with a fantasy world that isn't young adult, you get muck and crap and almost no spices. Salted pork gets old after a while, I assure you. Plus, absolutely no concept of fresh/rotten. They just eat moldy bread all the time.

  7. Fantasy for several reasons.

    Yes the world is harder, no dishwashers, computers, cell phones, mass transit, electricity, indoor plumbing.

    There also seems to be more heroism, self sacrifice, loyalty, trust and faith. I mean can you imagine someone today, getting on a horse and riding 1000s of miles just to fulfill a promise to a dead friend? I sometimes have trouble just getting somebody to jump in a car and go a couple of miles to get me something from the store.

    Fantasy also, by its very definition, allows me to totally suspend belief. This to me, is the ultimate escape. I find it easier to escape to a world that can not possibly exist then to one that will likely exist sometime in the future.

    And of course, I've always had a love for magic, it comes without electric bills, pollution, traffic jams, repair costs......granted good magic comes with some type of cost, as it should, but it isn't MY cost!

  8. Anonymous5:17 PM

    Ehhh I'm writing a post about how awesome fantasy food is. Shaun, you'd hate it.

  9. Mulluane: In a science fiction world you wouldn't need friends to bring you stuff. You'd have those nifty transporter things and it would do it instantly :).
    That, and I would question whether your friends a really all that great. I don't have a lot of good friends, but the ones that I trust the most are the ones who generally are willing to help when I really need it. LoopdiLou has been really awesome about picking my fiance up from the airport, and taking her back, and I imagine if I were really sick and needed OJ, she'd probably be willing to help there too.
    But, maybe this is a generational issue, or I just got lucky...

    Plus, there are heroes and self sacrific and loyalty and trust in scifi worlds too!

    But I agree with you on all the other stuff :P.

  10. Ellira: I look forward to that post!

  11. For me it'll be fantasy most every time, but then I live in the clouds half the time. I love magic and with technology its just one more thing to go wrong. I love dragons and elves and why oh why does there always have to be some evil warlord. There isn't in my books.
    Here's to living in a fantasy where there's no poor, no pain, no struggle, only harmony where people work and live together, with heat and air.

    DW Golden
    Are fairies living in the woods behind your house? Maybe you go to school with one. Discover the world that Lucy Discovered when she befriended a fairy child :

  12. Sick and in need of OJ? You're screwed ;)

    Ok, so I probably would.. but I'm a total sucker for sick people. I've officially adopted you as my really old and kinda gross son, so it's my job. :)

  13. I'll check out your work, Mr. Golden.

    And thanks for calling me Gross, LoopdiLou...

  14. I would like to be in a steampunk world because I like alchemy, automatons, airships and other stuff.

  15. It depends quite a bit on what particular setting I'd live in and what I get to be in it.

    I wouldn't want to live as a serf in a fantasy world. But a powerful wizard would be pretty nice to be.

    Overall, though, I lean more toward a far future transhumanist, postmortality civilization.

    Like is depicted in some of Greg Egan's books. SCHILD'S LADDER or DIASPORA.

  16. David: That's a good argument to make too. Although, I would submit that even if you got a good "job" (wizard, ninja space cadet, etc.), you could still end up in a crappy position, you know? Having a cool job wouldn't necessarily mean that things would go well. Heck, even kings and queens in our short human civilization have had a rough time here and there (most of the English ones were technically dead broke...).


  17. Although, I would submit that even if you got a good "job" (wizard, ninja space cadet, etc.), you could still end up in a crappy position, you know?

    No doubt. But the wizard would have a lot better odds. Though, again, that depends on the setting. Wizards have it good in Lawrence Watt-Evans ETHSHAR setting (one of my favorites) but I wouldn't want to be one in some others. In some settings, magic is incredibly dangerous and wizards, even talented ones, tend to meet nasty ends.

  18. Well, what if you lived in a world where wizards were hunted down and exterminated by EVERYONE except other wizards and you were the last one on the planet? Might not be such good odds, don't you agree?

  19. Hence the qualifier: "depends on the setting".

  20. I know, I just like arguing :P.

  21. Anonymous9:10 PM

    Definatly in a SciFi world like the movie Avatar. It would be a dream come true.

  22. I don't know if I'd go for Avatar...a bit color saturated for me. Star Wars maybe...