I have read lots of excellent arguments online against the arbitrarily lumping together of these two genres. These are the two genres that I most enjoy, almost exclusively in fact. I had never really taken a moment to consider why they are so frequently cited together. Superficially, they are very different types of writing. However, ultimately, I think they pair well, complement one another and appeal to the same general type of audiences.
The Appeal of Fantasy
Fantasy is something written or filmed around an impossible idea. It is quite often written in a past or primitive setting. Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and The Witcher all take place in a Dark Ages (or earlier) type of setting. There are, of course, many exceptions to this rule, but it seems to be a common setting for a lot of fantasy media.
Authors have more freedom with fantasy than science fiction, I think. You can revisit the past, alter the present, or leave the constraints of conventional time behind altogether. Fantasy media is an adventure through the impossible, and that can be a lot of fun.
Endless Possibilities: Sci Fi
While many fantasy pieces are rooted in the past, science fiction most often looks to the future. There is an appeal here, that is similar to the appeal of fantasy. It takes the lives of seemingly ordinary people and elevates them to the plane of danger and adventure. The major difference here, is that science fiction is often ripe with material that may be possible to achieve in the near or very far future. The possibilities are endless when looking forward.
Popular sci-fi media such as Dark Matter and Ready Player One tackle concepts that are eerily close to where we are in the progress of science and tech right now. Old sci-fi classics, such as Neuromancer, seem more possible today than every before.
Horror is another favorite genre of mine. It is unique in that it can be sci-fi, fantasy, or both! it often can be many other genre mashups as well, but the sci-fi and/or fantasy horror is always the best. Comic heroes have made a huge comeback in the last decade. it feels like a new super hero movie or tv series comes out every month.
There are also those rare and wonderful sci-fi fantasy mash ups. My personal favorite being Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. This series in particular is a multi-layered work of fiction, containing themes from fantasy, sci-fi, horror, westerns, and even romance.
In comes the umbrella term, speculative fiction. As far as I know speculative fiction is fairly new term in the literature field. It came up for me quite often in university, but I had never really heard of it before my formal education in literature. While this is an excellent term to describe many genres, I think that we can appreciate each individual genres charms whether they are unnecessarily lumped together or not.
To enjoy these genres, all you need is an open mind and a little bit of imagination. This is ultimately what ties these two genres together. You, me, the readers, the watchers, the players.
Long days and pleasant nights.
Further ReadingThe Difference Between Science Fiction and Fantasy
*Getting Under the Skin of Speculative Fiction
*Sci-Fi and Fantasy: These often grouped together genre are not truly related.
*Science Fiction and Fantasy: A Genre With Many Faces