I’ve always been drawn to science fiction and fantasy genre books.
They’re exciting. They’re adventurous. They’re magical.
But beyond that, what elements of these genres really make me fall in love and keep me coming back for more?
What is Fantasy? What is Science Fiction?
First, let’s discuss the similarities between the two genres. Both sci-fi and fantasy are speculative fictions and they require the reader to suspend reality. They can feature impossible locations, mysterious magical elements, and fictitious cultures.
Of course, not all books in these genres will feature every element discussed here. But they will have at least a few. It’s the unique combination of similar elements that make each novel stand out.
I’ll never get tired of reading fantasy and sci-fi.
Let’s break down some elements of sci-fi and fantasy to see what draws me in!
Not all fantasy features magic, but I think the best kind do.
Magic should always enhance the story and never give an easy way out. It must have rules and it must provide value. There are so many ways you can approach magic: The Stormlight Archives take with 10 unique Orders, the Red Sister approach with 4 ancient races, or the classic Harry Potter with magic wands.
Some characters have magic, while others don’t. I love the sense that this mythical power makes our protagonists special. I get to live through my favorite characters as they discover and learn amazing new abilities.
Some of my favorite book characters of all time are not human. Remember Rocky from Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary? The lovable and intelligent rock-like being who communicates through sound? Yea, I love that little guy.
Dragons, centaurs, goblins, aliens, and more. I love meeting creatures and characters that are above and beyond humanity. They add complexity and interest to a story by letting the reader see into something completely imagined.
Plus, I’m a sucker for a good zombie story.
When an author excels at world-building, the reader is immediately immersed in the setting of the story. They create a reality that is so genuine you want to live there forever. This includes the location, the culture, and the magic/reality rules.
My favorite fantasy worlds are based on reality, but with a twist. Everyday normal world, but then there’s another world behind the wardrobe. Everything seems normal, but then there’s an alternate dimension where you get warped to that’s almost the same as yours with a few important changes.
Maps are pretty important in sci-fi and fantasy. It’s hard to keep up with a fictional multi-planetary solar system without a map. Same goes for land or sea-based quests that have characters traversing great distances.
If you can make me fall in love with your fictional world, I’m willing to look past a lot of character flaws or plot holes; world-building is that important.
The average word count of a fantasy or sci-fi book is 50,000 to 150,000 words. Epic fantasy can go beyond 200,000. Think about J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix coming in at 257,045 words. Then imagine Patrick Rothfuss’s The Wise Man’s Fear hitting almost 400,000! That’s so much book to love!
Average read times for stories like this can hit above 20 hours depending on the reader. I might read a lot, but I do read pretty slow. All this means more time to live in my favorite fantasy worlds.
Fantasy writers tend to create more series than other genres. So on top of a 250,000-word count for book one, you also get another quarter million words for each of its three follow-ups.
What’s a good book without a cause? A reason to leave home and solve a problem?
Going on a quest is a very common theme in sci-fi and fantasy. I love a good old-fashioned adventure story.
Red Rising does an excellent job of taking Darrow and friends across the solar system on an epic 5 book adventure. There’s fighting, there’s strategy, and there’s exploration.
Good vs Evil
Eragon, The Lord of the Rings, and The Hunger Games all exemplify the Good vs Evil theme. I want a true hero to lead my story. I’ll take them, flaws and all, as long as they are fighting for the good of the world.
I really enjoy the simplicity of “this is the bad guy, this is the good guy, good guy beats bad guy” trope. It’s simple. It’s heroic.
Fantasy and sci-fi authors are so much more creative than I am in every single way. The most obvious way is their ability to create words, cultures, religions, histories, and entire speakable languages.
The intricate details make all the difference.
Language, culture, nationalities, and the like technically fall into the world-building category. But I think this deserves its own mention when it comes to specifics.
Often, fantasy and sci-fi have a chance to build more intimate languages because of their high word count. I love when new words are seamlessly integrated into the dialogue.
I’m a scientist by nature, so of course, I love to read real science embedded into fiction. I’m a sucker for space travel and physics backed up by research. I might not get to see those things in real life, but reading about them is the next best thing.
Sci-fi books do take some liberties with ‘real science’ and that’s ok. As long as the book’s version of science is consistent and logical, I’m in.
So why do I love fantasy and science fiction so much?
Well, I like to get lost in their world. I want my books to take me to another place and time. I want to learn something new and imagine a world where the rules don’t apply. I want to read for 10 hours straight and still have the third act to look forward to.
Fantasy and sci-fi will always be my favorite genres.
Until next time, happy reading.