Before continuing to dive into the hard stance on Science Fiction previously taken, let us look at its paternal twin, Science Fantasy. While over the years their relationship has been confused, it is clear that the differences between them are as drastic as that which separates Luke and Leia Skywalker.
The exercise here is to understand the difference between the two genres by seeing the contrast through the use of one unique work: The Star Wars Universe
Science Fantasy is a well loved genre that closely resembles Sci-Fi. However, by stepping away from the basis of pure scientific method, it delves into a world where reality is stretched further than what is reasonable. The reader, in most cases, is forced to accept that which is paranormal or implausible for the sake of the story.
To illustrate this line of thinking, not upsetting too many fanboys, let us look at Star Wars. This is a popular story that stared its life distinctly in the Science Fantasy realm. Through a minor plot twist, it crossed from Science Fantasy into Science Fiction, and has continued straddling the line between the two genres all the way up to the most recent movies.
The abstract concept of “the Force”, not rooted in a scientific realm, was originally, just to be accepted as a part of this reality. It was not given any scientific foundation, and throughout the original trilogy, was referred to as a religion. The Force played such a prevalent role in the story that it placed the work in the category of Science Fantasy.
With the stroke of a pen, the prequels changed the labels and blurred the lines by introducing the idea of the Midichlorian. Midichlorians are micro-organisms introduced to Anakin by Qui-Gon Jinn in The Phantom Menace that are said to control an organisms interaction with the Force. By attributing the Force to a biological connection of a symbiotic creature, the story reclassified itself as a work of Science Fiction, thus ending the debate.
There are some, however, who hold onto the premise that the Force is an abstract concept.
While the term, the Force, explains why people in this universe are aware of a greater power and ultimately how to control or manipulate it, it does call into question what exactly should be considered abstract. If the Force is considered abstract and undefined then the story itself still firmly grips onto its roots of fantasy. If the rules are observable and therefore qualify as “real” under the scientific method, then Star Wars has staked its claim as a Science Fiction series. As a purist, this is one work with strong lineage in both genres and both sides have strong arguments to claim it among their titles.
On one more note of scientific inquiry, would our own world, if it appeared in a science fiction epic, qualify as something fantastic due to the existence of Dark Matter? While we are aware of its existence, our lack of understanding to a third party reader, might appear like an unexplained piece of our story. Is something fantasy just because we have yet to solidly explain it?