They may have pulpy, over-the-top cover art, but science fiction and fantasy books are often some of the most daring, adventurous, thought-provoking, and intellectual books on the shelves. They explore the question “What if…?” in myriad ways: some create whole new worlds, while others reflect our own world, changed or tweaked yet still recognizable.
Many authors write both science fiction and fantasy books; these include Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game), Roger Zelazny (the Chronicles of Amber series), Ursula K. LeGuin (the Earthsea cycle), and George R. R. Martin (the Game of Thrones series), among others. Likewise, many readers enjoy both genres, while some readers are devoted solely to sci-fi, or solely to fantasy.
“What’s the difference between science fiction and fantasy?” you might be wondering. Librarian Joyce Saricks outlined the following differences:
- Science fiction (sci-fi, SF) deals with ideas that speak to the intellect, while fantasy delves more into relationships and emotions.
- Sci-fi worlds are scientifically possible; fantasy worlds are not.
- Sci-fi generally explores the new, while fantasy taps the old, familiar stories, myths, and legends.
- Sci-fi is based on scientific extrapolation; fantasy is based on magic.
Within each genre there are many sub-genres, and there are many “crossover” titles as well: a book may be both fantasy and romance, or science fiction and mystery. “Genre blending” is becoming more common, so don’t be afraid to try something new – it may be more familiar than you expect.
Here are some resources for those interested in reading more SF and/or fantasy:
- Locus Magazine in print and online: www.locusmag.com (see also the recommended reading list: http://www.locusmag.com/Magazine/2013/02/2012-recommended-reading-list/)
- Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America: http://www.sfwa.org/
- Fantasy Book Review: http://www.fantasybookreview.co.uk
- Best Fantasy Stories: http://bestfantasystories.com/about/
- Fantastic Fiction: www.fantasticfiction.co.uk
- io9 (“a daily publication that covers science, science fiction, and the world of tomorrow”): www.io9.co
- Science Fiction & Fantasy News & Reviews: graspingforthewind.co
- SFF World (Sci-fi, fantasy, and horror): www.sffworld.co
If you’re new to these genres, one smart way to start is by looking at some award-winning books. Here are a few sci-fi and fantasy awards:
- World Fantasy Awards: http://www.worldfantasy.org/awards/
- Nebula Awards (voted on by members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America): http://www.sfwa.org/nebula-awards/
- Hugo Awards (“for excellence in the field of science fiction and fantasy”): http://www.thehugoawards.org/hugo-history/
- Mythopoeic Fantasy Award: http://www.mythsoc.org/awards/winners/
- Locus Magazine Awards: http://www.locusmag.com/SFAwards/Db/LocusWinsByYear.html
- James Tiptree, Jr. Award (“an annual literary prize for science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores our understanding of gender”): http://tiptree.org
- The RUSA Reading List of “outstanding genre fiction”: http://www.ala.org/rusa/awards/readinglist
Do you read sci-fi and/or fantasy books? What are some of your favorite books and authors? Tell us in the comments, and we can add them to the sci-fi/fantasy display in the library.