Friday, January 2, 2009
Would you rather live…
…in a science fiction world or a fantasy one?
I saw this question on someone’s blog (can’t remember which it was now) and liked it a lot. The choice seemed easy – I’m nuts about fantasy, after all – but I had to justify it as well.
Science fiction often produces worlds in which it would be easier to live. I’d love to have a house like the one in Ray Bradbury’s “There Shall Come Soft Rains”, where meals are served automatically and little mechanical mice scurry out from the walls to do the cleaning. Robots could do heavy or repetitive work – or serve other functions, a la Jude Law in A. I., and I wouldn’t mind my morning commute being replaced with a transportation booth.
Oddly, although I like artificially intelligent computers, I’ve never wanted one. Maybe because my computer is associated with guilty pleasures like playing Civilization III when I should be writing.
Most fantasies, though, are set in medieval times, or at least in places without indoor plumbing and antibiotics. Especially if you’re in something written by Martin or Mieville, your life will probably be nasty, brutish and short (and in something written by me, you had better hope you don’t have some special magical ability, because you’ll have a big handicap or some really bad luck down the line to balance it out).
On the other hand, to me a fantasy world is a place of unlimited possibilities. Anything can happen there. That’s not to say they’re inconsistent; good fantasies adhere closely to their rules and don’t break their contract with the reader. But more things can happen in a fantasy than in a science fiction. Introduce magic into a science fiction background and it becomes a fantasy; introduce chemistry or railroads or even computers (e.g. the Construct Council) into a fantasy, and it remains a fantasy.
And then there’s the sheer coolness of fantasy, the dragons and unicorns and other strange creatures, the fascinating weapons and secret artifacts waiting to be discovered, the magic and the mystery. And the clothes are definitely a plus. Try wearing a lace and velvet concoction in a science fiction story. Most of the time, you’d look out of place. But in a medieval fantasy, you’d probably fit right in.
So those are my reasons for preferring to live in a fantasy world. Which one would you choose?