Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Oh Science Fantasy, How I Love Thee...

"John Carter of Mars", Illustration by
Reilly Brown
As I've mentioned before on this blog, I'm a big fan of mixing genres to create something interesting and unique. Because of this, it should come as now surprise that I'm a huge fan of the Science Fantasy sub-genre.  Ever since I saw the Star Wars trilogy when I was a little kid (before George Lucas released the Special Editions and my love for Star Wars began to slowly die), I have found myself fascinated by the blending of the fantastical and the scientific.

While there are a couple of different varieties of Science Fantasy, I think there are three that are the most prominent. There is the variety where the game is set in the distance future long after a catastrophic event that caused an advanced society to collapse. Because of this, the world has entered a new dark age. However, pieces of technology developed by this ancient society still remain, but many view these devices as magic.

The second variety is basically a fantasy setting with some science fiction elements thrown in. Edgar Rice Burrough's "Barsoom" series of novels are a great example of this flavor of Science Fantasy. We have characters teleported to strange, alien worlds with weird monsters and fantastical devices. This flavor is generally referred to as Planetary Romance or Sword & Planet.

The third major flavor is where both flavors collide to create a strange world where magic and technology exist side by side. Perfect examples of this flavor would be Shadowrun and the later entries in the Final Fantasy series. In all honesty, this is my least favorite of the three major flavors because sometimes it just feels lop-sided to me.

If I had to pick a favorite variation, I would probably pick the second one that is closer to the fantasy genre because I feel like I can let my imagination go wild and now have to worry as much about scientific laws. Here, I can have mighty warriors wielding swords and laser pistols fighting vicious aliens and robots on-board a hover-barge. There is just something about that imagery that makes me smile and giddy inside.

Heck, just thinking about the genre makes me really want to run a Science Fantasy campaign. Most likely, I would either use Savage Worlds or some other rules-light system that I can easily hack and modify. I'd probably have a good does of alien technology, psionics, weird aliens, and a sprinkling of Burrough's Mars.

Just like my love for Fantasy, Science Fantasy just causes my imagination to go insane and bring a big smile to my face. Just thinking about fantastic alien worlds with equally fantastic lifeforms inhabiting it and strange technology just waiting to be harnessed by a diabolical villain or brave hero makes me happy.

What strange genres of fiction do you love and why?