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Genre, genre, genre
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Rexfelum



Joined: 26 Sep 2003
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PostPosted: Fri May 14, 2010 9:26 pm    Post subject: Genre, genre, genre Reply with quote

There are things in this world I do not accept. Some of those things relate not so much to health and well-being, but to opinions and approaches to the world. Some of those latter things relate to storytelling. One of those last things relates to genre.

I do not tolerate the lumping together of fantasy and science fiction. Many people, it seems, sort the two on one shelf in their bookstore; and sometimes, instead of even calling them "Science Fiction/Fantasy," will give them just a single title of the two. Off the top of my head, I cannot tell you which one is most often used, because the thought is so foreign to me it does not stick.

You do not lump together historical fiction and fantasy. You do not lump together spy- or other-high-tech-based fiction and science fiction. And surely, James Bond is far more similar to science fiction than science fiction ever has been to fantasy. Thus, I see no good reason why science fiction and fantasy books should be labeled the same, nor science fiction and fantasy authors given a single title. Storytelling is what it is, and all non-nonfiction work is equally "fantastic" if you truly insist on looking at it that way.

I could write more on this, I'm sure, but it would necessitate me putting into words the embarrassingly poor explanations of how "fantasy and science fiction are more 'fantastic' than the rest," which have nothing to do with how the genres differ from each other. If we bother to use the terms at all, we may as well use them the way they mean. As such, though the issue is surely not as great a concern as other ones debated in the past, it is so clear-cut to me that I simply do not accept this erroneous approach to stories.

--Rexfelum
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Evil_Sponge



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PostPosted: Sun May 16, 2010 7:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ah...so I guess when I finish the story I'm working on that mingles science fiction and fantasy elements, I should refrain from posting it here
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Rexfelum



Joined: 26 Sep 2003
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PostPosted: Sun May 16, 2010 9:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Evil_Sponge wrote:
Ah...so I guess when I finish the story I'm working on that mingles science fiction and fantasy elements, I should refrain from posting it here

No, post it. And I'll tell you how much it reminds me of the fantasy in Warhammer 40,000 (which I like), or the science fiction in Dungeons & Dragons (which I don't like so much), or whatever. Nothing says genres can't be mixed.

My point is just that most people don't use the word "table" to refer to "appendectomy," unless they know what they're doing.

--Rexfelum

P.S.: That was a fun sentence to write.
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Emperor Xan



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PostPosted: Sun May 16, 2010 11:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rex, you are aware that Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Westerns spring from the same basic source, yes?
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Evil_Sponge



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PostPosted: Mon May 17, 2010 3:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Emperor Xan wrote:
Rex, you are aware that Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Westerns spring from the same basic source, yes?


The Iliad?
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Rexfelum



Joined: 26 Sep 2003
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PostPosted: Mon May 17, 2010 5:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Emperor Xan wrote:
Rex, you are aware that Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Westerns spring from the same basic source, yes?

I am not.

Evil_Sponge wrote:
The Iliad?

I am dubious.

Signing off,

--I am Rexfelum
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Bearses



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PostPosted: Tue May 18, 2010 6:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My feathers are ruffled. Or in my case, my cuddly bearses hairses.

Please elaborate.
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Emperor Xan



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PostPosted: Tue May 18, 2010 5:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rexfelum wrote:
Emperor Xan wrote:
Rex, you are aware that Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Westerns spring from the same basic source, yes?

I am not.


Consider yourself so informed. If you'd like to know why/how, I'll gladly run though that with you, but it would be better to do so in person since my hand's feeling like it's been fed through a grinder from the 4 classes I took this quarter.
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Zenphobia



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PostPosted: Tue May 18, 2010 7:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Emperor Xan wrote:
Rexfelum wrote:
Emperor Xan wrote:
Rex, you are aware that Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Westerns spring from the same basic source, yes?

I am not.


Consider yourself so informed. If you'd like to know why/how, I'll gladly run though that with you, but it would be better to do so in person since my hand's feeling like it's been fed through a grinder from the 4 classes I took this quarter.


Is it necessarily relevant in a discussion of genre that they originated from the same basic source? I mean, technically people and squids originated from the same basic source, but by now they are quite different and are thus classified as such.
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Rexfelum



Joined: 26 Sep 2003
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PostPosted: Tue May 18, 2010 9:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Emperor Xan wrote:
Rexfelum wrote:
Emperor Xan wrote:
Rex, you are aware that Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Westerns spring from the same basic source, yes?

I am not.

Consider yourself so informed. If you'd like to know why/how, I'll gladly run though that with you, but it would be better to do so in person since my hand's feeling like it's been fed through a grinder from the 4 classes I took this quarter.

Yes, I would like to know. (And I am also concerned about your hand. You may recall that I have had long-standing wrist issues. Be good to those things.)

However, I was hoping you could at least give me a tidbit here. It's entirely possible that something will click in my brain as soon as you start talking, because I have encountered a good number of literary discussions by now, and this may be among them. I mean, I imagine you're not going to reference Tolkein here, but what?

Beyond that, what else was on my mind got stated by Zenphobia very well (while simultaneously referencing squid, which are awesome). I react to your comments the same as I did to Evil Sponge's: I don't think they affect my point. My point is that we have two different phrases here, and it only confuses matters to use them as if they meant the same thing.

--Rexfelum
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Communist_Spy



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PostPosted: Wed May 19, 2010 4:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've seen it argued that Lucian's True History could be considered the first in the genre of sci-fi, while maintaining its heritage in the fantasy of myth. It was mostly a satire, at its heart, but plenty of good sci-fi is that, as well. But a 2nd century (sometimes irreverent) take on Homer that somehow has the epic hero on the moon, dealing with extra terrestrial, is a little bit impressive.

However, I must say that Zen is on point here. Genres are a modern invention and their fallacies are present despite what roots they share. Especially since all stories could be traced back to the same root anyway: all written stories traced to the oral tradition, and the oral tradition, if you believe that sort of thing, traced to the now-clothed, exiled Adam, telling his sons of those blissful, ignorant days of Eden.
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Emperor Xan



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PostPosted: Thu May 20, 2010 6:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not talking about a common source. If I had more time (never, ever, EVER take 4 classes in a quarter) I'd say more than this: Sci-fi, fantasy, and westerns are all stories that at their core are concerned about power.

Sci-fi: Ethics of power (expressed as conquest of death and/or gravity), as in "do we have the right/responsibility to wield such power?".

Fantasy: Romance & love in the face of overwhelming force.

Western: Morality of power (freedom vs. law) as in who should rule.

Everything else in these stories is just window dressing.


Now, before I get back to my crazy essay-writing and video-making spree for my classes, have you read Stephen King's Dark Tower novels?
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Bearses



Joined: 21 Apr 2005
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PostPosted: Thu May 20, 2010 8:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Emperor Xan wrote:
Stephen King's Dark Tower novels


yum
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Rexfelum



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PostPosted: Thu May 20, 2010 10:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Okay, there's something, Xan. And I have three reactions to it:

First, it is cool.

Second, okay, we basically just have to admit we are no longer talking about the point that started the thread. Instead, we are discussing "genre" in general, which is itself cool.

Third, I disagree.

Emperor Xan wrote:
Sci-fi, fantasy, and westerns are all stories that at their core are concerned about power.

Sci-fi: Ethics of power (expressed as conquest of death and/or gravity), as in "do we have the right/responsibility to wield such power?".

Fantasy: Romance & love in the face of overwhelming force.

Western: Morality of power (freedom vs. law) as in who should rule.

Everything else in these stories is just window dressing.

Maybe, yes, and no, to all of the above. These may be prototypical, and I call your comments "cool" because they definitely speak to what I feel about these genres, but they are not the be-all and end-all.

In the past, I have encountered people who "just don't like X," where "X" may be a genre such as science fiction. I have always found this weird. When someone is telling a good story, when the story asks questions of humanity that speak to us, what matters the "window dressing"? So the creators spent a lot of money on special effects. Big deal. The story is more. The form is not the content.

So I take it as a given that a good (science fiction, or fantasy, or anything) story dives into the same pool of questions as all others. Upon reading your comment . . . I get the impression you are stating the opposite: that each genre has its own shades that differ from each other, while the shades all come down to power at the end, which, it is implied, is different from other genres such as historical fiction. I repeat that I feel there is something to your words, but it does not have to be true. Long-standing storytelling vehicles such as Doctor Who and Star Trek are astounding examples of the different sorts of stories that you can cover in the genre of science fiction. Seriously, whenever I describe Doctor Who to an uninitiated person, it includes a sentence like "this series has been going on so long, that you just name a theme or plot device and I can tell you it's in there somewhere." And then there's the question of what happens when you try to classify Sandman.

One could, of course, argue that these are exceptions sticking out from a base of the themes you listed. And that's fine. But the exceptions routinely exist, and I enjoy them greatly as they occur, or even as my main experiences with the genre.

Emperor Xan wrote:
Now, before I get back to my crazy essay-writing and video-making spree for my classes, have you read Stephen King's Dark Tower novels?

I have only heard good things about them. A good roommate I had back when I was an undergrad discussed some basic ideas of the books with me, but I have not read anything.

--Rexfelum

P.S.: This may or may not be relevant. Are you familiar with other people, such as those studying the psychology of human relationships, who likewise bring everything down to "power"? It is fairly easy to see power (or the number 5, or rectangular shapes, or witchcraft) anywhere you want.

P.P.S.: I am aware that you are very busy, and that you are referencing a domain of thought that has a larger body of argument and defense than you can reasonably present at once. I'm not trying to frustrate you and make you feel compelled to defend against unreasonable onslaught just because I'm writing my thoughts.
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Zenphobia



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PostPosted: Thu May 20, 2010 11:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well Rex basically articulated what I wanted to say.

I think that it's dangerous to say, "X genre does this, and Y genre does this." Some common themes may appear, given the setting, but as Rex pointed out, their potential is far greater.
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Emperor Xan



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PostPosted: Sat May 22, 2010 7:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You're right, there are other aspects that define the three genres, but those are not connected to the underpinnings of what is key to Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Westerns. You can have Science Fantasy films, Sci-Fi Horror, etc. You can't have a Fantasy Horror story, because that is just redundant. Westerns often have themes of love interests, but any such tale that combines the romance with the western is rare as hell as the genre caters to masculine fantasies. Any tale that is described as a "Weird Western" tale is a Sci-Fi film set in the late 1800s/early 1900s.

Where Sci-Fi differs as a genre is that there's nothing that cannot be encompassed by it. Let me give you an example and show you how it still boils down to moral/ethical questions of power:

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The book of the same name in the story is a source of knowledge and is considered an invaluable resource. The pan-probability drive is unique and sought after by several people and was stolen by Zaphod. The Ultimate Answer to the Ultimate Question connotes power in it's very existence and the search for that knowledge. In order to afford a meal at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, you have to have an inordinate sum of money that requires bending space-time (an act that requires power) in order to set up a bank account so far in the past that you are fantastically rich in the future.

The story is a spoof, however. The rift between reality and the story world is so large that most people forget the above are all instances of power and whether it is ethical to do/create any of the above. After all, thwarting gravity is described as "throwing yourself at the ground and missing." That's flight without any artificial source.
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Bearses



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PostPosted: Sat May 22, 2010 9:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Emperor Xan wrote:
Westerns often have themes of love interests, but any such tale that combines the romance with the western is rare as hell as the genre caters to masculine fantasies.


Wizard and Glass <3
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Rexfelum



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PostPosted: Sat May 22, 2010 9:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pardon me while I get a smaller bit out of the way:

Emperor Xan wrote:
You can't have a Fantasy Horror story, because that is just redundant.

I believe I have had that particular conversation before, but it's interesting you bring it up. I just recently tried to create a "fantasy horror" story and had problems with it. "Redundancy" actually described a lot of what happened: there were more elements in the story than were necessary to tell the story.

It really seems that there are patterns to be found in the grand scheme of storytelling, and this all can go into the pile of "writer's lore" one can learn and use. So keep in mind I still acknowledge this as I move on:

Emperor Xan wrote:
Where Sci-Fi differs as a genre is that there's nothing that cannot be encompassed by it. Let me give you an example and show you how it still boils down to moral/ethical questions of power:

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
[Et cetera]

The story is a spoof, however. The rift between reality and the story world is so large that most people forget the above are all instances of power and whether it is ethical to do/create any of the above.

My concern, then, is twofold. First is as I said before: it is fairly easy to see power (or the number 5, or rectangular shapes, or witchcraft) anywhere you want. This does not mean that "power" is truly integral to the larger phenomenon or central to the lesson we are to learn from it.

Therefore, second is how you define "integral" or "central" (or "it boils down to"). In the examples I've had in mind (both here and beyond the thread), I asked myself "What is the point of the story? What is the message? The function?" With the good ol' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, I ask again, what is the message? Am I to worry about the ethical ramifications of its plot points?

Surely, I as an audience member learned an important lesson from the fate of the Golgafrinchans (who sent their middlemen out on the B-Ark). This is very true, and I find it interesting now that you've pointed it out. But also, in your last lines, you pointed out that most people do not view it all as a series of ethical questions. Which, then, is your standard for finding the "center" of the Guide? If the story communicates little message about power, does distilling "power" from plot points trump that?

What if the story seems to be "about" the absurd decisions that people make, which cause the audience to laugh? Or what if, say, the story seems to be "about" the painful decisions that people make, which cause the audience to cry? Surely, one could teach the lessons about humanity therein (decisions from ignorance, decisions about sacrifice, et cetera) through whatever medium, concurrent with power struggles, adversity, and so on. I think that insistence that everything must come down to one side or the other is not as helpful when looking at an individual story's message.

After all, I am certain that one could come back and say "Look, making decisions; that's an expression of power." Yes, sure. But people make decisions in most stories, regardless of whether we are looking at science fiction. Which is more important for the message: the fact that "it is power," or, say, the fact that you sacrifice for your loved ones, in this particular story?

--Rexfelum
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Emperor Xan



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PostPosted: Sun May 23, 2010 9:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dude, seriously, you should come over. I live like a mile and some change from you and have a sizable writing reference library.
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Rexfelum



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PostPosted: Tue May 25, 2010 9:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Emperor Xan wrote:
Dude, seriously, you should come over. I live like a mile and some change from you and have a sizable writing reference library.

Well, sure. That would be a logical thing to do. But I'm pretty set as-is. I believe I understand your points.

And consulting a reference library would require me to do something.

--Rexfelum
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