The Genres Of Science Fiction & Fantasy - Part 2
If we eliminate the comic book originations and the various series which are just basic television dramas or comedies with a bit of "fantastical" or "tongue in cheek, campy" content thrown in, we find that there really were only 22 television series (or sequences of series) which truly qualify as Science Fiction and Fantasy in the entire 20th Century!
The Twilight Zone, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Time Tunnel, Star Trek(s), UFO, Planet of the Apes, Space 1999, Logan's Run, Battlestar Galactica, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Day of the Triffids, V, War of the Worlds, Alien Nation, seaQuest(s), Babylon 5, Earth 2, Space - Above and Beyond, Sliders, The Outer Limits, Earth - Final Conflict, Stargate(s).
What is it, exactly, that makes a story concept fall into either one of those two categories? Is it the title? Is it the content of the story? How is it that such stories can be so readily labelled while others are not?
Both Science Fiction and Fantasy fall into the broader category of Speculative or Imaginative Fiction. Each can be further divided into sub-categories (or genres) that all have their own distinct qualities. To begin with, the broad classification of Speculative Fiction must be broken down, if only into two categories at the present, so that it is more easily discussed. Science Fiction, the older of the two genres, seems to be the most widely accepted and recognized of the two genres. Most people can easily label a story about robots as Science Fiction: but it is not as easy to recognize a story about King Arthur and his knights as being Fantasy.
If Science Fiction and Fantasy, though, are themselves sub-classes of the broader category of Speculative Fiction; what is Speculative Fiction? Also termed Imaginative Fiction (a term that seems to more easily encompass Fantasy), Speculative Fiction is that class of literature that asks the question: What if? One can quite easily see how this applies to Science Fiction: it is not as easy to look at a Fantasy work and identify either the question or even the response.
Most readers and critics agree that Tolkien's Lord of the Rings was the origin of contemporary High Fantasy, as this piece of fiction takes place on a world called Middle-Earth, which Tolkien, himself, claimed could have once existed (speculatively) in the time between myth and history. So Fantasy, then, can be seen as the speculation, or the "what if," of an author's own imagination, rather than the speculation of what might be or what is to come.
Speculative Fiction, too, is a classification that seeks to identify the nature of both of its major sub-classes. Both Science Fiction and Fantasy are the creations of the author's doing, whether that creation draws on our own world or is one entirely of the imagination... in either case, though, the two genres have some connection to the world we know.
What, then, are the qualities that distinguish each genre and make them recognizable to a reader or viewer? While both of them present a world different from our own, that world is still similar enough for the reader to associate with it. Similarly, both of them present a philosophy that must then be discovered throughout the course of the work.