Science Fantasy, Old and New, by Glynn Stewart
People often ask me what I mean when I talk about the science fantasy or space fantasy genre. I usually reply with something about Star Wars, because, well… everybody knows about Star Wars.
When I started writing the Starship’s Mage books, it was partly because combining interstellar adventures with magic seemed like an obvious choice—and nobody was doing it. I’ve always loved reading and writing science fiction, and I noticed at one point that any piece of fiction with light-speed travel has to have a “don’t look behind the curtain” moment (what TV Tropes calls a “hand wave”). That’s because even in 2017 we have no clue how light speed travel would actually work, or if it ever will. So instead of trying to get the reader to ignore that hand wave, I called attention to it and declared that, literally, a wizard did it, and I challenged myself to make everything else is held as close to our current scientific knowledge as I could.
While science fantasy and space fantasy aren’t necessarily interchangeable, I’m definitely drawn to settings that have elements of both. It’s true that you can have a science fantasy that has nothing to do with space, and fantasy sometimes does a better job of sticking to science than something labelled “sci-fi” like Star Trek (https://io9.gizmodo.com/the-science-in-fantasy-novels-is-often-better-than-in-s-1590070621), but what inspirations can a science-slash-space-fantasy writer look to?
Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern (starting in 1967) is a great candidate. This long series of books, written over the course of decades, brings us a fantasy world where the author has taken a great deal of care in bringing science to a world of dragons. It helps that the planet Pern was actually colonized by people trying to escape overcrowding and a lack of resources on Old Earth, so it really was approached as science fiction from a writing perspective. Although how much science fantasy is in the story itself, rather than fading into the background, varies from book to book.
David Weber is one of the major names today in space opera and military science fiction, and his omnibus In Fury Born (1992/2007) falls into the fantasy category as well. This is Weber’s “usual” military science fiction, chock full of action and tactical scheming, except that the main character has magic powers… because she has a Greek Fury in her head.
Star Wars—with its star-blurring hyper speed and magical Force abilities—doesn’t always pay much attention to the “science” end of things, but Timothy Zahn’s original Thrawn (1991-1998) novels put Star Wars in a new light. Expanded universe fiction is always hit-or-miss, but this set of books is definitely a hit and will always be one of my favourites.
A New Hope
I’m obviously not the only one who is looking for more science fantasy. With a new generation of Star Wars movies — and potentially the success of my own indie science fantasy series — I’ve seen a lot of other indie authors dive into these waters. Which is good: space is a big place, and it’s nice to see some magic up in the stars.
About Glynn Stewart: Glynn Stewart is the author of Starship’s Mage, a bestselling science fiction and fantasy series where faster-than-light travel is possible–but only because of magic. Stewart’s other works include the science fiction series Castle Federation and Duchy of Terra, as well as the urban fantasy series ONSET.
Writing managed to liberate Stewart from a bleak future as an accountant. With his personality and hope for a high-tech future intact, he now lives in Canada with his wife, his cats, and a portable cast of thousands for readers to meet in future books. You can learn more about Glynn Stewart at his website, glynnstewart.com.
Mars destroyed his ship — but gave him a new one.
Mars drafted his Mage — for the good of humanity!
He should have known that wouldn’t be the end of it…
Captain David Rice has a new ship, a new crew, and a new set of Jump Mages to carry him between the stars. All he wants is to haul cargo, make money and keep his head down.
His past, however, is not so willing to let him go. An old enemy is reaching out from beyond the grave to destroy any chance of peace or life for Captain Rice—and old friends are only making things more complicated!
All he wants is to be a businessman, but as the death toll mounts he must decide what is more important: his quiet life or the peace humanity has enjoyed for centuries…