Tag Archives: Fantasy

Reader Question: Should I Read Science Fiction or Fantasy?

Someone recently found this blog by googling the following question:

Should I read science fiction or fantasy?

I thought it was a great prompt for today’s post. Just like apples and pears are both types of fruit, fantasy and science fiction are part of the wider speculative fiction universe that also includes sub-genres like horror, dystopian, utopian, supernatural, science fantasy, and superhero fiction. Science fiction and fantasy share a lot of similarities, but they aren’t identical by any means.

On the off chance that they ever see this post, I’d be happy to give the person who did this search some personalized reading recommendations if they’re interested in such a thing.

Since I don’t know that person or what their tastes in reading material are like, I’m going to keep my advice as general as possible. The only assumption I’ll be making is that you were interested in exploring both of these sub-genres and are wondering which one you should dive into first.

Like most children in western cultures, fairy tales were my first taste of speculative fiction in general. I quickly developed a preference for the original, and often surprisingly macabre given the age group they were marketed to, versions of classic fairy tales, so I was soon introduced to the horror and supernatural genres as well through my insatiable appetite for as many new fairy tales as I could find at our local library.

There is so much overlap between the science fiction and fantasy, though, that I quickly found myself wandering deeper into the science fiction end of the spectrum. I now have a preference for hard science fiction, but I’ll never forget my love of fantasy or many of the other sub-genres under the speculative fiction umbrella.

The question of whether you should read fantasy or science fiction really depends on the sorts of stories you enjoy versus the ones that you don’t find so alluring. I’m going to be making some broad generalizations here that definitely won’t apply to every book or author out there. They may be helpful in steering the original visitor and everyone else reading this towards a specific section of the library or bookstore as you decide what you want to read next.

Science Fiction tends to be:

  • Realistic.
  • Related to what is, or could be, scientifically possible. For example, the discovery of a vaccine for AIDS or a cure for cancer.
  • Set in the present or future.
  • Rational. When someone weird happens, there is generally a logical reason for it.
  • More political (in many cases).
  • Interested in exploring specific ideas, ideologies, or conflicts. These themes can often be traced back to controversial subjects that are or were hotly debated when that specific book was first published.

Fantasy tends to be:

  • Imaginative.
  • Related to things that will never be scientifically possible. For example, the existence of Hogwarts (*sob*) or a pet dog that suddenly begins speaking plain English.
  • Set in the past.
  • Supernatural and/or magical. When something weird happens, it is not generally explained rationally to the reader.
  • Less political (in many cases).
  • Interested in world-building. You stand a good chance of meeting dozens of characters and many different fictional cultures when reading fantasy, so their page counts can be dramatically bigger than a science fiction novel.

Again, there is a lot of overlap between these sub-genres and these lists shouldn’t be taken as a strict interpretation of what you’ll find in either one. There are many speculative stories out there that combine elements from both of these sub-genres together (along with many other themes), but many of them do tend to lean one way instead of the other.

This isn’t even to mention all of the other genres, from romance to mystery, that are often swirled into these tales as well. Figuring out how to label books these days is so complicated, especially for fans who don’t always enjoy seeing their favourite genre being mashed up with other styles of writing, that I think I’ll save a more detailed discussion of that aspect of it for another day.

Readers, what would you recommend to this person? is there a specific fantasy or science fiction author you think would be a nice introduction to their genre? Which types of speculative fiction do you tend to gravitate towards most often?

18 Science Fiction and Fantasy Shows I Can’t Wait to See in 2018-2019

Last year I blogged about the fourteen science fiction and fantasy series I was looking forward to watching during the 2017-2018 season. Wow, that was a lot of shows! Somehow I managed to continue watching almost all of them, though.

Today I’m talking about the shows I’m currently watching or will be watching during the 2018-2019 TV season. Once again, I’ll be sharing the release dates and a short explanation of why I’m interested in each one. This list looks like a long one, but many of these series will be finished long before the ones at the bottom of the list are aired. I love the fact that shows are staggered like that these days.

Also, I am a few seasons behind some of the items on this list. So expect to see them reappear in future updates on what I’m watching unless I suddenly stop watching a lot of current programs for some reason.

Disenchantment

Season 1 premiered this August. I’m currently watching it.

Calling all fans of Futurama! The creators of that series have something new for you.

Disenchantment was about a princess who befriended an elf and a demon and proceeded to have all kinds of PG-13 related adventures with them. Yes, this is an animated program. No, it’s not suitable for kids. There’s everything from sex to violence to substance abuse in this tale, so send the small, impressionable humans to bed before you watch it.

 

The Good Place 

Season 3 premiere: September 27.

So much of the stuff I want to say about this program would give away major spoilers for anyone who hasn’t watched the first two seasons yet. Needless to say, the characters have continued to explore the afterlife and learn just how complicated things can get when the line between heaven and hell becomes so blurry.

I would not recommend watching this to anyone who is easily offended or who has strong opinions about what, if anything, happens to people after they die. While the tone of it is tongue-in-cheek and friendly, this is something that will work better for viewers who are easygoing on this topic.

The Man in the High Castle

Season 3 premiere: October 5

If history had been a little different, the Axis powers could have won World War II. This series takes a look at what life would be like in the country formerly known as the United States this had happened. Germany and Japan split the U.S. up into sections in this universe, and everyone who wasn’t a Christian Aryan was in terrible danger.

I should warn all of you that this show can get very dark at times. It’s not something that anyone should watch if they’re easily triggered by references to Holocaust-like events.

Black Lightning

Season 2 premiere: October 9

Black Lightning has been changing my opinion of the superhero genre for the better thanks to everything that was going on in the main character’s life. I adored the complexity of his personality and life. He had to deal with everything from chasing down bad guys to repairing his relationship with his wife in the first season. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens to him and his family next.

The Orville

Season 2 premiere: December 30

I adored season one of this program. While it was originally written to be a lighthearted parody of the Star Trek universe, it felt much more like a Star Trek show than Discovery has so far. This isn’t a diss, either. I’m enjoying Discovery, but it doesn’t have the optimism about the future that I’d expect from this universe.

Luckily, The Orville picked up that slack beautifully in its first season. The characters dealt with some serious issues, but there was always a lighthearted undercurrent to their conflicts that reassured me that better days were coming for everyone in that universe. The world needs more material like this, especially now.

Timeless

Movie premiere: late 2018

Technically, the last TV season of this show ended this past spring. There is a two-hour movie about the characters in it coming at the end of this year, though, so I’m including it on this list. I’m glad the fans are going to have a proper goodbye for it. The time travel in this story was really well done. I especially liked the fact that the characters who weren’t white men acknowledged how difficult certain eras would be for them to visit due to the prejudices and laws of those times.  hoping there will be plenty of that in the sendoff.

 

Star Trek: Discovery

Season 2 premiere: January 2019

Despite my comments above, I actually did enjoy the first season of Discovery. There was a huge plot twist in it that I didn’t see coming ahead of time. I can’t say anything else about that without giving away spoilers, but I am looking forward to seeing where this series goes next and if it begins to feel more friendly and hopeful like other Star Trek tales.  (Although I am hoping that the second season will flesh out the secondary characters. So far, only the main characters have gotten attention from the storyline).

Roswell, New Mexico

Season 1 premiere: April 29, 2019

This is a reboot of Roswell, a science fiction show about aliens living on Earth in the early 2000s that I liked quite a bit back in the day.

Like the reboot for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I’d prefer to see this universe revisited in its current form. This doesn’t stop me from feeling excited at revisiting this universe in whatever form it will take.

The Handmaid’s Tale

Season 3 premiere: April 2019

Anyone who has followed this blog over the past few years already knows how much I adore The Handmaid’s Tale, so I won’t repeat myself.

Needless to say, I’m already counting down the weeks until season 3 is here.

Castle Rock

Season 2 premiere: 2019. I have yet to begin season 1, but plan to start it soon.

Two words for you: Stephen King. Every time a TV show comes out that is based on something he wrote, my ears perk up. This was no exception to that rule.

Lucifer

Season 4 premiere: 2019

First this show was cancelled, and now it’s somehow coming back for another season.

All I know is that I have a huge crush on Lucifer. Yes, he’s (sort of) the Lucifer you’d expect someone with that name to be. That is, he is the devil in this universe, but he’s not evil. Children love him, and he only harms people who have already hurt innocent folks. Everyone else is pretty safe around him unless they happened to be horribly annoyed by shameless flirting.

The Magicians

Season 4 premiere: 2019

I have four words for you: Harry Potter for adults. While this isn’t set in the Potterverse, the characters in it do attend a school for magic and end up having all sorts of unauthorized adventures when their professors aren’t looking.

It took me a couple of tries to get into the first season, but now I can’t get enough of this series.

Cloak & Dagger

Season 2 premiere: 2019

Not only are there two superheroes in this story, their powers complement each other perfectly.

I’m also watching this one with the hope that when a romance develops between the main characters, their racial differences won’t be a source of conflict for the plot in any way. One of the beautiful things about living in Toronto is seeing interracial couples living their ordinary lives together without it being a big deal. While I know this definitely isn’t true for every community (or even in every single Torontonian household, to be honest), I think it’s high time for screenwriters to stop assuming that every interracial relationship is fraught with conflicts over race and culture.

That is such an old-fashioned and unhelpful way of perceiving the world, especially if you’re on the outside looking in at someone else’s relationship.

Glitch

Season 3 premiere: 2019

Some of the characters in this show were people who came back to life from the dead without being zombies, vampires, or ghosts. One moment they were corpses, and the next they’d come to life.

I can’t say much else about the premise without giving away massive spoilers, but I’ve loved the character and plot development so far. It’s going to be pretty interesting to see what happens now that more and more townsfolk have realized that some of their new neighbours are actually people who lived there decades and even a few centuries ago.

 

Stranger Things

Season 3 premiere: mid-2019

The first two seasons of this show were filled with stuff that happened in the 1980s but would be frowned upon today. For example, smoking was ubiquitous, and children weren’t supervised well back then.

This isn’t the only reason why I’m looking forward to seeing what happens to the town of Hawkins, Indiana, but it is one of them.

Luke Cage

Season 3 premiere: late 2019 (tentatively)

So, it turns out that I might like superhero shows more than I thought I did. When I first began working on this post, I hadn’t fully realized how many different superhero shows I watch.

One of the coolest things about Luke Cage was how close he was to various members of his community. Some of my favourite scenes so far have showed him talking to his neighbours and trying to figure out how to improve all of their lives. The social justice aspect of the storyline is what originally pulled me in and what has kept me coming back for more.

Black Mirror

Season 5 premiere: unknown, but I’m hoping it will show up in 2019.

The only episode I’ve seen so far from this series was 4.1, “USS Callister.” It was about a massive multiplayer online game populated by sentient digital clones who were treated very poorly by the man who created them. When the clones realized that the world they’re living in isn’t real, they had to try to decide how or if to escape their circumstances.

I was so impressed by the storytelling and writing quality that I’ve added Black Mirror to my to-watch list. I’m hoping to catch up on as many of the other episodes during the winter of 2018-2019 as possible.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (no photo available yet for this one).

Season 1 of the rebooted premiere: unknown, but I’m hoping it will show up in 2019.

To be honest, I don’t know if Buffy the Vampire Slayer will be rebooted in 2019 or come out at some point after that. Either way, I’ll be curious to see how this universe is reimagined for a new generation.

What science fiction and fantasy shows will you be watching between now and next summer?

Classic Fantasy Films I’ve Never Seen

Last week I listed many of the classic science fiction films I’ve never seen. This week I’ll be sharing the fantasy films I’ve never seen.

When I was a little girl, my siblings and I weren’t allowed to read or watch most things that had to do with ghosts, witches, or magic. (C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series was one of the exceptions to this).

This rule was created for religious reasons, and our parents eventually changed their minds on that topic.  I’m just glad that they realized that stories about magic aren’t actually harmful before the Harry Potter series came out!

Generally, I’m more interested in the science fiction genre than I am fantasy, so I haven’t felt the urge to watch as many of the old fantasy flicks as I did the scifi ones. Maybe someday I will go through this list and check it out after I’ve finished my current to-watch list, though.

It’s always kind of funny when someone makes a reference to a well-known fantasy tale and I have no earthly idea what they’re talking about. This is even more true when they’re about the same age as me and assume that everyone grew up watching that stuff.

Just like I did last week, I’ll be including the year a film was published if I know that story has since been retold.

  • TIme Bandits
  • Lost Horizon
  • The Purple Rose of Cairo
  • Orlando
  • The NeverEnding Story
  • Big
  • Conan the Barbarian
  • Willow
  • Princess Mononoke
  • Jason and the Argonauts
  • Highlander
  • The Secret of Nimh
  • Ladyhawke
  • The Holy Mountain
  • The Fall
  • Clash of the Titans
  • The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
  • Wings of Desire
  • Excalibur (1981)
  • My Neighbour Toto
  • The Dark Crystal
  • Spirited Away
  • King Kong
  • Jack the Giant Slayer
  • Bridge to Terabithia
  • The Witches of Eastwick
  • Hook
  • The City of Lost Children
  • The Frighteners
  • Life of Brian (and most other Monty Python films!)
  • Life of Pi

What classic fantasy films have you never seen? Were you allowed to read and watch stories that referenced magic when you were a kid? I know my childhood was a little out of the ordinary in certain ways, so I try not to assume that everyone has had the same experiences in life.

3 Embarrassing Things I’ve Learned From Books

Today I have three embarrassing stories to share with you.

Before I dive into them, let me explain a few things about my childhood to the new readers of my blog.

I grew up in a series of small towns and rural communities in the United States. I was also homeschooled for the first several years of my education. While the Internet has technically existed since before I was born, it wasn’t until I was older that it became at all well-known. In fact, I was in high school before my family finally bought a computer that could surf the web.(Based on how much I begged them to do this, I’m going to take the credit for it, too. LOL!)

My parents were lovingly protective of their children. There were certain facts of life – and, as I like to joke, a particular English sweet as well – that they shielded us from until we were old enough to fully understand them.

Sometimes People Get Pregnant Before They Get Married

The time: Early 1990s

I should warn my sensitive readers that this section of today’s post post contains two brief references to infant deaths.

My parents were married long before they conceived their kids. This was a pattern that was also repeated with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, family friends, and the vast majority of the other adults in my community.

While I met some kids whose families didn’t fit that mold when I began attending public elementary school, my assumption about the world was still that this was a rare and very recent occurrence.

Due to all of these assumptions and previous experiences, I was endlessly confused by a line I read in a biography of Winston Churchill that gave a date for his parents’ wedding that was much less than nine months before his birth.

Shortly before I picked up this book, I’d read a Reader’s Digest article* about a premature baby who died despite many heroic efforts by her doctor and nurses to save her. My family knew at least one other family who had lost a baby this way.

Due to all of these facts, it didn’t make any sense to me that premature babies born in the 1980s and 1990s who had access to wonderful medical care would die while one who was born at a time when no one knew anything at all about keeping preemies alive would thrive in the 1870s.

I spent an embarrassing amount of time assuming that his parents had been unbelievably lucky and resourceful instead. There was even moment when I briefly wondered if Mr. and Mrs. Churchill had shared their amazing knowledge with their local doctor. Maybe he was the first doctor who ever began testing new theories on how to keep premature babies alive?

You really don’t want to know how long it took me to figure out that Winston Churchill was probably conceived months before his parents got married and not a micro-preemie at all.

*Yes, I literally read everything I could get my hands on as a kid. I even read my mother’s nursing school textbooks!

The Meaning of Words Can Change Drastically Over Time

The time: Late 1990s

One year I decided to read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Winter felt like it was never going to end, so I hoped I could pass the time by finally finding out what happened during Bilbo and Frodo’s adventures.

Suddenly, I began to notice references to “faggots” in these stories. Characters wandered into the woods to pick them up without any explanation of what was really going on there.

The first time it happened, I thought Tolkien was being vulgar, homophobic, and nonsensical. When I looked up that word in a dictionary, I was completely confused by the idea that such a hateful term was originally used as a unit of measure for wood.

As much as I enjoyed the storyline itself, I shuddered every time that word appeared again. Knowing that the author in no way meant it as a slur definitely helped, but I was still horrified by the thought of an innocent word being twisted into such a vile one over the centuries.

Turkish Delight Is Real

The time: The late 2000s

I briefly referred to this story a year and a half ago, but now it’s time to tell it in full.

The first time I read C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, my mouth watered at the thought of Turkish Delight.

Like talking animals and lamp posts growing in the middle of a magical forest, I assumed it was yet another piece of this fictional world that I’d always wish could become real.

It was hard to picture what Turkish Delight really was. Edmund loved it so much he betrayed his siblings for it, so I imagined it was the most delicious candy that would or could ever exist.

Occasionally, I’d try to picture it over the years for the sheer joy of challenging my imagination. Sometimes it was some sort of dairy-free gourmet chocolate that I could eat. At other times I imagined contradictory combinations of treats that couldn’t possibly exist in our world. For example, the softness of cotton candy combined with the warmth of hot fudge might have tempted me into climbing into a strange woman’s sleigh as a kid if Narnia was capable of producing such a thing.

I grew up, moved far away from home, and got married. Turkish Delight occupied less and less of my speculations about the world until one day I spotted a box of it sitting on a perfectly ordinary candy store shelf.

“Wait, Turkish Delight is REAL?” I said in a voice that was slightly too loud for the occasion.

“Yes,” my spouse said.

“Since when?” I asked. Another film version of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe had come out a few years before then, so I assumed that the producers of it had taken a look at all of the wildly successful Harry Potter candies and decided to make this treat a reality as well.

When my spouse explained that this wasn’t a new type of sweet and that it had existed back when C.S. Lewis first wrote this series, my brain practically exploded. Why hadn’t Turkish Delight become commonplace in North America since this series was released? Was it a common treat in England? Why was this the first I was hearing about it?

I still don’t have the answers to those questions, but I smile every time I see it for sale at the store. Maybe one of my British readers will have answers for me someday!

What is one funny, embarrassing thing you’ve learned from a book?

If Minecraft Was a Fantasy Story, This Is What It Would Be Like

The only thing Steve remembered about his past was his name.

His first memory of the land called Minecraft was of standing alone at dawn in an eerie forest whose trees came tumbling down if you hit them. He was wearing a shirt and a pair of pants but was otherwise alone and defenceless against the elements.

He had no food, weapons, or tools. Other than a few fluffy sheep in the distance, there were no other living things within sight.

The ground was covered in a soft layer of grass that was occasionally interrupted by a colourful flower, but, strangely enough, there were no butterflies, insects, earthworms, or other small creatures anywhere to be found.

Surviving in the Wilderness

Steve dug a small sleeping hole in the side of a cliff that first night. The thought of sleeping out in the open made him shudder for reasons he couldn’t explain, and that gut feeling turned out to save his life.

There were witches, zombies, skeletons, spiders, and green exploding monsters called creepers in that forest that growled, cackled, and prowled from dusk until the next dawn. Other nasty creatures revealed themselves later on, too, like Enderman (who could teleport) and baby zombies who were somehow twice as fierce and fast as their parents.

He didn’t know where they’d all come from, but the noises they made kept him from sleeping a wink. After swiftly being killed by a baby zombie the next morning, he learned two things: 1) always be cautious when leaving his tiny resting hole, and 2) death wasn’t permanent. He woke up beside the same tree he’d looked at while his first memory was being formed after the accident, and he was somehow no worse for the wear.

Over the following days, he slowly learned how to build a bigger shelter and where to find food. Arranging the pieces of wood he collected gave him everything from a workbench to crude wooden tools for hoeing the ground for his first little garden, defending himself from monsters, and digging deeper into the cliff to see what he could find there.

Other lessons soon followed. For example, it turned out that monsters appeared during the day, too, if he failed to put up enough torches in his dark home or in the caves he discovered as he dug ever more deeply down into the cliff. Once he built a bed and began sleeping through the night, his encounters with these creatures became something he sought out on purpose instead of an unwanted source of danger while he was trying to gather basic supplies.

Thriving on a Homestead

Steve’s little farm quickly grew into a large, bustling homestead. He soon had so many sources of food that he was able to fill several chests with enough meals to keep him from ever going hungry again.

For example, he learned how to grow pumpkins, potatoes, wheat, and carrots. He also figured out how to keep a steady supply of fish, beef, mutton, and chicken in his diet as well. Exploring new biomes added even more animals and plants to this list.

Building fences and putting torches everywhere kept his property safe no matter what time of day or night it was. As he dug out more valuable minerals from the soil, everything from the weapons he used to the armour he built for himself became top-of-the-line.

There was nothing Steve needed that he couldn’t somehow grow, mine or build other than the answer to one burning question.

Wondering About His Origins

Where did he come from? Did everyone come back from the dead and into the same body every time they died? Why was he alone in this strange, flat world that defied the laws of science? Who were his people? Were they the ones that had raised him to adulthood, or had someone else done it? Why couldn’t he remember anything from his childhood when he did instinctively know how to hunt, farm, fish, fight, and mine?

He soon began wandering further and further from home both to discover what other fantastical things were out there and to see if anyone had any answers for him. One day he stumbled across a village filled with tall, thin people who looked nothing like him but who were quite friendly (if also occasionally inept at building safe homes and somehow never able to defend themselves against the monsters that came out at night if Steve refused to go to sleep).

They were the first human-like creatures he’d found in this land, and he soon figured how how to trade with them even though they found his language as indecipherable as he found theirs. Steve felt a kinship with them despite the fact that they had no way of understanding his questions or giving him any answers that might have been hidden inside of their memories.

Seeking Answers, Defeating Foes

The further Steve wandered away from his home base, the more wonders he discovered in this flat land. There were lava waterfalls, a hellish second dimension of this land called The Nether where day and night had no meaning at all, and monsters tucked away underground or underwater that were much bigger and more dangerous than anything he’d seen on the surface.

In time, he defeated them all. He even found a way to kill the dragon that lived in The End, the third and final dimension of Minecraft. A voice boomed from the heavens when this happened proclaiming him the winner and bestowing more riches upon him than he’d ever seen in all of his lifetimes put together, but still he found no answers to the questions he sought.

He was Steve, the man who could die but who would always come back to life again. This was all he knew about his identity and all he was ever going to know. Somehow, it had to be enough for him.

Steve carefully travelled back home again, carrying all of his treasures with him. The chickens needed to have their eggs collected again, and he had almost certainly had some vegetables to harvest as well.

As life began settling into it’s regular routine once again, Steve began thinking about his future. Perhaps it was time to build a bigger home. He could invite some of the villagers to live with him. Despite the vast language differences between them, he’d come to see them as dear, old friends. There was definitely enough food to go around!

What would your favourite game be like if it was translated into a story? 

Saturday Seven: Non-Human Protagonists

Saturday Seven is hosted by Long and Short Reviews.   Raise your hand if you love xenofiction! There’s something about experiencing the world through non-human eyes that makes just about any plot more exciting to me. I ended up coming up with so many books for this list that I’m going to have to revisit… Read More

How to Survive a Paranormal Storyline

  Congratulations on your new home, job, vacation spot, construction project, antique gift, or other plot device that has invited a restless spirit into your formerly-peaceftul storyline! While most of the characters who take the time to look up what to expect in a haunting are the protagonists, I’d like to give a special shout-out… Read More

Why It’s Okay to Take Breaks From Science Fiction and Fantasy

I have a confession to share with all of you. I’ve barely read any science fiction and fantasy books recently. Since I’m a sci-fi writer and a longtime fan of these genres, I’m regularly immersed in thoughts about wizards, robots, aliens, spaceships, science experiments gone wrong, and all of the other tropes you can expect… Read More