So there’s this huge battle going on… who am I kidding? There’s no battle. I just hadn’t noticed how hard it was to categorize a piece of art and/or entertainment (that’s another issue altogether – and perhaps even a battle) to these genres. What are they exactly? I’m sure the wondrous world is full of great definitions but I’m going to be blissfully ignorant about them and just think about what they mean to me. Because that’s more important, to me.
Now that my self centered nature has been dealt with, I’ll start my chatter slightly more on topic.
I start with sci-fi because it’s the first in the title, and it’s the first because everyone should always start with sci-fi. There are some dead giveaways for science fiction, like space travel and alien races. The technical aspect is a big deal too, and for some people that’s the real essence: the science in science fiction. Just having a shoe-phone isn’t really sci-fi though, so just any silly gadget doesn’t apply.
While well-founded scientific sci-fi is definitely something I applaud to, I disagree with the people who argue that sci-fi that doesn’t have any science backing it up is just fantasy. No. The most ludicrous space blobs who appear out of nowhere and suck our brains telepathically are still sci-fi. It might be very far from Gravity, but they both fit very nicely in the sci-fi shelf.
To me personally sci-fi has always been a philosophical genre. The exploration and the encounters with different races can be just as meaningful even if the science behind the traveling isn’t exactly water tight. Sci-fi has often intentionally provoked the racial and cultural biases of people by moving the society and its criticism into space.
Sci-fi also often presents us with a lot of gray shades instead of a “true” battle of good and evil. (If you never saw Star Trek DS9 episode 6×19 ‘In the Pale Moonlight’ go watch it now.) And even many of the (at least seemingly) evil threats are more realistic, as why couldn’t you wipe out a planet of annoying humans, when there’s still a vast universe filled with better races out there?
But don’t get me wrong. Ludicrous space blobs are fine too, as well as space operas. And sexy robots and androids – especially when they want to wipe out the human race. For some reason I never had a thing for the mechas though, must be missing a gene for that one.
Time travel is another thing that is very sci-fi. It’s most definitely sci-fi when it happens by some technical means, but it’s kinda sci-fi even if someone started jumping through time even without a decent explanation. Like time tarvel could ever have one. Oh god, the debate of the technicalities already kill people, even before they get to the paradoxes.
But what happens when time travel is just someone’s super power? Possibly among other superpowers? The 4400 was quite obviously sci-fi with the whole abduction and the research of the people with the new abilities. The X-Files had a major alien conspiracy main plot, but honestly most of the monster-of-the-week episodes felt more like stories of vampires and werewolves and boogieman under your bed, which would steer the focus more towards supernatural or fantasy.
We have Marvel everywhere now, but not all Marvel productions really feel like sci-fi either. The main movie universe with Agents of the S.H.I.E.L.D certainly is sci-fi with alien technology and races and everything. But then we have things like Daredevil in the same universe. Like what? What the hell is that? It’s already arguable if Matt Murdock has any kind of super power himself, he could just be that good. In addition to his incredible senses, there’s nothing really. It’s just a dark crime story with action and drama (I’m talking about the freshly released TV series, as I still pretty much pretend the movie didn’t happen).
Then DC Comics has Batman franchise. Like, umm. No superpowers, but what about all those crazy villains? Maybe they don’t attend the school for muta– gifted youngsters, but no way in hell are all those dudes (and gals) just people. Though Gotham city could definitely be just swooped away into a fantasy universe of some sort, Tim Burton has directed a bunch of stories in those already. Like Edward Scissorhands. That dude is a supernatural, right? But he isn’t in his world. Sure they think he’s odd, and they make a scapegoat of him, but they’re not like “scissors in his hands – that’s not possible!”. In my opinion this kind of acceptance invalidates the supernatural. Those unnatural supervillains in Batman universe are pretty much accepted the same way. Batman kind of and just a little bit fits all these genres but isn’t quite right for any of them. Stupid Batman.
Now I went and talked about non-generic fantasy before talking about the obvious fantasy. The high fantasy with elves and dwarves and wizards etc. and the low fantasy with usually a medievalish setting and some dabbling in sorcery. All these happen in fantasy lands – ding ding, we have fantasy here! Umm how about those alternate universes then? Often they fit better to sci-fi, like steam punk is categorized under it. Some alternate universes are none of the three, they just have some imaginary lands that are like ours for some other (not other-worldly) story purposes. And some certainly could be fantasy or supernatural, depending what’s on them.
So in my opinion supernatural is something that’s unnatural to the setting – not necessarily just unnatural to us. Like those superpowers people might have, most of them I’d categorize under both sci-fi and supernatural. But when it’s something in a worldwide scale, like the mutants in X-Men or the miscellaneous other superheroes in Marvel universe, tagging them supernatural might not be needed anymore – I’d probably leave it out and stick with sci-fi, as the origins of those powers are been investigated and explained anyway.
Vampire stories I consider to be supernatural ones rather than fantasy, since they usually exist in our reality, “hiding in plain sight” and all that. Then there are those alternate universes like True Blood, where at some point the supernatural creatures became known to the world. In my opinion this does not automatically turn the world into fantasy, it’s still supernatural, some things just changed. Like the whole show Supernatural. (Incoming incredibly vague and exaggerating spoilers that shouldn’t bother anyone.) At the start of it no outsiders know about the demons and other creatures but after the guys save the world the umpteenth time and the sky was raining fire and brimstone and all that shit at least thrice, some people started to notice. The show didn’t turn into fantasy at that point, it’s still supernatural, just in an alternate universe now.
Then something can be fantasy and supernatural at the same time. There’s a fantasy land with dwarves and elves, or perhaps with demons. And they have their magic powers natural to that world. But then something new, strange and unexplainable can appear even into that world. And there are tons and tons of sci-fi/fantasy hybrids out there, like most of the Final Fantasy games. Mixing technology and/or space travel and everything into the fantasy worlds with pointy-eared creatures and fireballs.
Umm, so, did I come to any kind of conclusion in here? Probably not. But I rambled a lot about how I try to categorize the titles in this site. If I had to give up ‘supernatural’, I’d probably push everything in it to ‘fantasy’ and be done with it. But I didn’t choose that easy route. Luckily I’m the sole ruler of the kingdom that’s my website, so I can just go with my gut feeling and splash each post with whatever tags I want.