I am someone who adores fantasy and never really thought of myself as a sci-fi author, but the truth is, I’m both. As seen in Deep Dive on Sci-fi, people commonly think of aliens, space, and innovation when it comes to the genre. My series doesn’t have any space theme, really, but a key component that makes it Sci-fi is the way I mess with my species. l generally like to take a scientific look at my magical species, including my living vampires.
In this way, I pick up the Sci-fi genre in my works even though I primarily work with fantasy. It’s not the Sci-fi people expect, but Sci-fi nonetheless. I would say even zombie novels that follow the typical convention are Sci-fi fantasy because it’s generally caused by a disease that mimics one in real life, rabies. It goes to show that your first assumption of a genre might not be the correct one given there are just so many factors within it.
Another thing I do to genre-blend is explain my magic as the output of energy, with the fuel being mana. Sort of like how our energy is obtained through food and outputted through kinetic energy via spending ATP. Of course, physics is way more complicated than that, but I’m writing an urban fantasy novel, not a textbook. Granted, the layout of my species lore and bestiary is a bit textbook-like, but that’s intentional. I don’t go too in-depth on my systems, as I’d need to take several physics classes for that (and I’m not great at that subject), but there’s enough scientific justification to toss the ‘sci-fi’ label on them as well.
Those who explain ‘well it’s magic, that’s how it works’ are entirely valid too, and in fact, I plan on eventually writing a novel that way, with no explanation to the magic system. Sometimes there doesn’t need to be an explanation, but if there is, it could be based in science. I think a blend is appropriate, because if you try to explain everything in the confines of just our earthly science, you’ll be restricted (and you’ll just be writing in sci-fi). That’s why I use powerful magic in mine as well that really wouldn’t make sense in our world (Familiar forms come to mind, there’s a complete loss of mass then gain of mass with that spell, no explanation).
You might be thinking: Why do some things make sense and not others? Well, doesn’t this apply to the real world? We only know the very tip of the iceberg when it comes to every subject in science, so a sci-fi fantasy writer shouldn’t be expected to explain every inch of their magic system as well even if they already explain a little bit of it. That’s why genre blending is a lot of fun–you can fill in the gaps where you need to with explanation or lack of it, and either way is very valid.
This is also how my fae magic and earth magic are so different. Given most of my readers will be human, it makes sense that I would explain how magic on their realm works as opposed to knowing entirely what a ‘unknown, mystical’ realm would be. Earth magic and species are therefore explained more in scientific terms, making that part of the story more in line with the sci-fi genre through biology, whereas the fae would be nearly pure fantasy.
Speaking of which, a great way to genre blend is to do portal or planet hopping. You could start off with a story that feels like pure sci-fi and pull the rug out from the reader (though I suggest putting that in your blurb if you do so.) What if your space exploration takes you to a planet with magic? What if your characters are able to learn that magic by drinking something like mana? Oftentimes we see powers like this inaccessible to the characters that come across it, but I think it’d be really cool to read about magic that is entirely learnable by anyone (in fact that’s my favorite way to shatter the ‘only special people born with it can learn magic’ trope.) Further, what if there are different planets, with different types of magics activated with different substances? Sure, some can be restricted, but there’s a whole playground you can devise with these ideas.
Hopefully I inspired something with this post! Genre blending can be lots of fun, and there’s so many ways to do it. I have my own ways, but I’d love to see some heavy fantasy stories with some sci-fi elements as well. I don’t like reading strictly sci-fi, but if there’s fantasy involved too? Sign me up.
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