Tag Archives: Definitions

Meme Monday – Covfefe

Covfefe.

It’s funny, after a certain point, one of the most common things people were saying was that this cultural moment had already ended. Honestly, that moment had almost come by the time we woke up that morning… This one hit fast, and hit hard, and was all over the Internet. Usually, when you say “meme” you have an image with some text over it in mind (an image macro), but a meme has more to do with being a cultural artifact that we carry on – and I think that convfefe will be just that.

Because as Anderson Cooper notes towards the end: remember how we all still know that Dan Quayle screwed up spelling “potato?”

But still… what does it mean? Is it a substance – I’ve seen coffee suggested a lot. Is it something else?

Is it a proper noun?…

But I’m not sure about that. Although name makes sense, since pretty much any combination of letters work for a name – meanwhile, covfefe is amazing in that it doesn’t seem to have turned out to be a word in any language…

At least, it wasn’t before the president made it a matter of permanent public record…

I mean, it was a tough day to be the dictionary.

However, there’s a visual place that exists between language and understanding: Ikea. Maybe it’s from them?

But it’s probably just a mess up, right? Maybe accidental, maybe deliberate…

I’m sorry, what was that word?

We can hope that it was nothing, right? That all is well otherwise, that this is a meme and a laugh. Because otherwise:

Throwback Thursday – Discrimination against Science Fiction and Fantasy

So this was something of a conclusion to my posts on the definition of Science Fiction and of Fantasy, by diving into a personal and specific example of why the whole discussion mattered to me in the first place. I hesitate to share it again for two reasons: one, for the personal aspects, and two, because the original post generated a whole bunch of discussion. As such, going back to the original to see others’ opinions is¬†a good way to get more than my single story here. Also, the personal aspects are no longer accurate.


One of my favorite things I’ve written on the blog is my series on the definition and importance of Science Fiction and Fantasy Рof fictions that might be called Speculative, or Romantic. And when asked, I said that one of the things that I would most like to change in the world is people’s opinions about these genres, or maybe about genre fiction in general. However, through all of this, I lacked a solid, concrete example. An example of prejudice against Science Fiction or Fantasy.

There are a lot of things in this world that we shouldn’t discriminate against. Things you can’t control, things that aren’t a choice, things that should have no bearing on life. But then, there are things that are opinions, that are a choice, that I can go right ahead and be upset about. And for me, the one that takes the cake is being against Science Fiction and Fantasy.

So, I had said I was going to do a post about movies this week. That’ll have to wait. Because last night I got a great example of anti-Sci-Fi discrimination. And I feel the need to share, and to vent. So let me set the scene, let me rant a bit, and then hopefully I’ll have it out of my system!

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Realistic vs. Romantic Literature – Throwback Thursday

In many ways, I feel like this was where the whole series I had been writing on the Definition of Science Fiction (and Fantasy) got good. Sorry I missed getting this out last week, but here we go! Also, to note: this one got pretty long…


Hello my readers, time again for me to touch on a series of posts I’ve written over the course of the blog so far. It all started out from a definition of science fiction I read in a book, which led into a blog post exploring that. Then, for comparison, I explored a definition of fantasy based on a quote that’s floated around social media. So between the two, I had pitted Frank Herbert against J.R.R. Tolkien. Then, for another look at it, I compared Star Trek and Star Wars. I still really like my genre exploration there.

And then I listened to George R.R. Martin on the Nerdist Podcast, and it got me thinking that all this work of putting things in genres, and holding one over another or pitting them against one another, was wrong; and I was working on coming up with new terms or new ways of thinking about the differences, of trying to really articulate what I was trying to say.

That’s when I got a comment back on that first post, questioning what I meant about science fiction, making me really think about what I was saying. The commenter Рwho had the opportunity to interview the author, Paolo Bacigalupi Рrecommended and discussed The Windup Girl. So I felt I needed to read that first and consider it. And to consider what it is I have been trying to articulate, to think of the terms and groupings and ways that we talk about these sorts of stories, and so that is where I am coming from with this post. Let me know in the comments what you think!

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Science Fiction versus Fantasy – Throwback Thursday

Next up, after pitting Star Trek versus Star Wars, I decided to do some more direct comparison between Science Fiction and Fantasy. It helped to have some comments by George R.R. Martin to start from. At this point, I started working on new terms to maybe replace the old genre titles – more of these to come!


I have given a definition of both Science Fiction and Fantasy before, and I love both, so I care. If you look back at our Liebster Award nomination, I said that one of the more important things to me is Science Fiction being taken seriously. And I think I would happily include Fantasy in that as well. There are a lot of other causes out there, and things to be done – I’ve talked about Geeks and Charity as well – but the discussion about Science Fiction, and its place in thought, in learning, in the classroom… That seems like something I can influence a bit, right?

So recently we listened to George R.R. Martin on the Nerdist Podcast. And first off, if you like George R.R. Martin, it was a lot of fun. It was right after he destroyed the guitar (which we talked about before) at Comic Con. He talks Game of Thrones, and conventions, and writing, and, to the point here and now, he talks Science Fiction and Fantasy.

If part of the reason I like the quotes from Frank Herbert and J.R.R. Tolkien is because they are the fathers of the genres. However, George R.R. Martin is something of a current crown prince, or some other metaphor, in Fantasy. So what does he add to my thought? And where do we draw the lines?

WHAT GEORGE R.R. MARTIN SAID

If you look carefully, you’ll see that Winter is Coming. Found on http://www.nerdist.com/2013/07/nerdist-podcast-george-r-r-martin/

So, George R.R. Martin was basically of the thought that there are people who take Science Fiction too seriously, that it’s not too different from Fantasy, that there are people seriously considering life and humanity in Fantasy (very true: read some George R.R. Martin…), and that we should maybe not fight between the two.

And really, is that a bad conclusion?

In many ways, it matches reality. I don’t know a lot of people who like ONLY Science Fiction and not Fantasy, or ONLY Fantasy and not Science Fiction. I can think of a few, but they stand out. For the most part, however, how many of us are there watching Doctor Who and Game of Thrones at the same time? How many of us love Lord of the Rings and Dune? Blade Runner and Princess Bride?

Science Fiction and Fantasy often blend, anyway. As I talked about in my post about the idea of the Ancient Alien Race, large Fantasy series tend towards having Science Fiction in their past. And suddenly, the two genres are one. So what do you call them?

It matches our reality at the store, too. Assuming bookstores are still a thing, and we’re not all reading on a Kindle… But bookstores inevitably combine Science Fiction and Fantasy. In part, it seems easy to tell if a book is one of these two, but would take a ton of work to figure out which to put it in. Plus, more importantly – they understand that there’s more money to be made by combining the two. Same audience.

However, here’s where my opinion does come in: Just because we shouldn’t draw so hard a line between these two Genres does not mean we shouldn’t still take their works of art seriously. Just like there is good and bad literature, there is good and bad Science Fiction. And we can debate and fight all day about which is which – but it’s important to think we could have that debate. Instead of it being a given that one, the other, or both of these genres is pointless.

So, let me go on to think of other ways we can consider Science Fiction and Fantasy.

SPECULATIVE FICTION?

One of the terms I hear thrown about for the sort of What-If Science Fiction that might describe the best of the genre is Speculative Fiction. A vague term that could also just be called “Fiction,” Speculative Fiction tries to mean something very specific: to mean fiction that asks a question, and generally, a question about our future, where we don’t know the answer to the question we ask.

This is the good thought experiment of Science Fiction: to ask a question about our future, and try to provide an answer. Sometimes, the ideas and answer are the main point. I see this in stories by authors like Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick – a strong question is asked, a strong answer is given, and they link the two with a plot. Then there is more cinematic sorts of fiction, heavier on plot, where sometimes the questions asked and answered happen after the fact – like the sorts of science questions that cropped up around Star Trek and Star Wars after the fact.

That’s about how I remember him. Found on https://www.wizards.com/DnD/Article.aspx?x=dnd/4pr/20090401

And both are good. One is more high brow, I guess, and ends up looking very different if made into a movie. The other is more escapist – is perhaps a bit closer to Fantasy.

But, if we spread this thinking to Fantasy, then there are Heroic Journey sorts of stories, great epics in the traditions of mythology, and of archetypes. Then there are stories that are more Escapist, are Fantasy fun. I have read over twenty Drizzt Do’Urden books by R.A. Salvatore, and I love them; but have I learned much from them, have they made me think?

Well, a little, if I use that example. Salvatore does a great job of working in the thoughtful, philosophical quandaries of his main character in-between acts. Part of what makes this such a likable and popular character.

So really, I guess my point is, there is a lot to be said for a lot of stuff being done in Science Fiction and Fantasy. That even if the literary writing isn’t the best, the ideas in the book may be sound, or groundbreaking, even. If the writing is fun, there still might be something there to make you think, to bring you out of the story a moment and consider the implications.

There are other genres that exist adjacent to Science Fiction and Fantasy as well, which also enter into strongly speculative realms: Urban Fantasy, and Steampunk. The former is imagining our modern world, but with Fantastical elements. The latter is imagining our past, with a Science-Fictional future. Both of these can also have a lot of value, despite – or maybe especially because of – being new.

NEW TERMINOLOGY FOR OUR FICTION?

So maybe we need a new language to talk about these fictional genres. Something to remove the baggage, and get some attention?

I did a post, after looking at the definitions of Science Fiction and Fantasy, pitting Star Wars against Star Trek. Check it out here.

My conclusion was that, based on the definitions I was using, Star Trek is Science Fiction, and Star Wars is Fantasy. But if we’re thinking of a new language to talk about these veins of fiction, maybe these can help lead us.

For one type, call it Exploratory Fiction. Maybe exploring an idea, maybe exploring actual space. You see physical exploration in Star Trek, or Firefly; in games in Freelancer, or Skyrim. But this could also cover Speculative Fiction, and exploring an idea.

For another type, call it Escapist Fiction. This matches more like story-based games, where you are immersing in their story, unlike the free-range games like Skyrim. The heroic journey is the best sort of escape – the quest to become more than we were, and usually save some stuff in the process.Worlds, universes, kingdoms, friends.

So there are good examples and bad examples of these types, but that is like with all things. But this would bleed these genres together, and be more about the type of story they are telling, or the way they are telling it – rather than about whether the story has aliens or elves. And if we move away from aliens-and-elves assumptions about these genres, maybe other people could get into them – and, as my point earlier – they could be taken more seriously as artforms.

Star Trek vs. Star Wars – Throwback Thursday

After defining Science Fiction and the then Fantasy, it seemed appropriate to do something with those definitions. So why not dive into one of the biggest fights in all of fandom: Star Trek vs. Star Wars? They’re both billed as Science Fiction, but do they hold up as such when you’re working with these definitions? Let me know what you think!


This is an age-old geeky/nerdy question, as to which is better, or which is what, and I think now I am at a place where I can weigh in. Because both have a huge fandom around them, both have TV shows and movies and different eras and books and video games and… on what grounds do you compare these two worlds?

I have at least one way I would like to compare them. I recently did a post on the definition of Science Fiction – and one on the definition of Fantasy. I am going to be relying heavily on these definitions, as I think that weighing these will show a difference you can discuss between these two series.

Read up on the definitions if you haven’t already, and then let’s compare Star Trek and Star Wars!

STAR TREK – SCIENCE FICTION OR FANTASY?

Star Trek at its base is a story of exploration. This may be the very basis of science, as well, if we break it down, so in that way calling it Science Fiction makes sense. It also includes the hallmarks of science fiction stories, especially the large, space opera kinds: space travel, aliens. But does that all make it science fiction?

Looking at Frank Herbert’s definition of Science Fiction, Star Trek uses the aliens and situations to put the humans (and the rest of the crew of the Enterprise) to the test. There are varieties even within the alien races, with great examples being Spock and Worf. They stand out from the rest of their races, and we learn something through this interaction and comparison.

As Star Trek is an exploration story, it is not really a specific journey – even things like the five-year mission, or Voyager returning home, has strong episodic tendencies. This lends itself towards many problems, handled in a wide variety of ways. But the crew must always use their wits and technologies to handle these problems. Even if some of these technologies – like replicators and warp drives – are little more than wishful thinking.

Because of this episodic nature, Star Trek is not quite as escapist as it could be. It is still an escape – Tolkien may very well have liked it – but not so much so that it seems like a fantasy. The world is not so different from ours – it is, after all, our future – and is really more of a scientific utopian dream. It makes us think, and wonder, but maybe not escape from our world completely.

Star Trek is solidly Science Fiction.

STAR WARS – SCIENCE FICTION OR FANTASY?

Alright, you say, so far, nothing particularly surprising. Star Trek, a Science Fiction show, is Science Fiction. To which I say, let’s do that again, and see if the results are the same – with Star Wars.

Star Wars, at its base, is the hero’s journey of first Luke Skywalker, and then Anakin Skywalker (or really of Obi Wan Kenobi) before him. Even a story like Knights of the Old Republic, which I am playing right now, focuses on the journey, and rise to power with the Force, of your main character.

And here, then is the crux of the story: The Force. A mystical force of the universe which helps solve the characters’ problems. The good and evil of it are the basis of the conflicts in the story. It guides them, solves their problems, gives them powers to fight, to persuade… it is the mystical basis of what is done in the stories.

Following Frank Herbert’s definition of Science Fiction, characters in Science Fiction use their own wits and technology to solve their problems. But in Star Wars, there are pivotal moments where technology is turned away in place of the Force – like, say, in destroying the Death Star.

We also use aliens to tell us about our own humanity in Science Fiction – but in Star Wars, the aliens are far more part of the environment. They also, by race, tend to be similar to one another – a common trait in Fantasy, not necessarily Science Fiction. So are the Wookies, Hutts, and other aliens of Star Wars just the Dwarves and Elves of Star Wars?

I would say yes. Star Wars is escapist fun – if only there were the Force, we too could fight with swords and beat people with laser pistols (moving faster than light? Only possible if you can be in the right place before they fire, right?), move objects with your will, persuade others to your way of thinking… Yep, it all sounds really cool, and may be why Star Wars video games tend to be really excellent, and why Lucas Arts going away is such a devastating blow to the video game community.

Star Wars is a Fantasy story, where aliens and space are the fantastical landscape, where our heroes battle evil and go on personal journeys to become the saviors of the day.

STAR TREK VERSUS STAR WARS

So, if Star Trek is a Science Fiction world and series, and Star Wars is a Fantasy world and series, how do we compare them? Well, let’s think about a different comparison.

How about in books – can we compare Dune and Lord of the Rings? Sure, in terms of their roles as founding stories in their genres. One is a group, battling for good versus evil; another is a person fighting the various challenges of his day on his own (kind of continually true throughout the series). Comparing these to Star Trek and Star Wars, we switch which is a group and which individual, but these are not the fundamental differences between Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Dune and Lord of the Rings are both books – unlike the media differences between Star Wars with its base in movies, and Star Trek with its base in TV. So they’re more similar in this way. But in terms of what is and what happens in the stories, they are very solidly different. And I don’t feel like I have to say which I like better – they are different enough that I don’t have to choose, because I can’t compare them to each other well enough to say.

In the same way, how do we compare Star Trek and Star Wars? They’ve spawned worlds as large as each other, perhaps, so calling them two of the biggest fandoms and comparing them that way works. But in terms of the content? In terms of their stories? One is Science Fiction, and one is Fantasy.

So you can ask a different question, like, do you prefer Science Fiction or Fantasy? You can ask medium questions, like do you prefer movies or TV shows – Video Games or Books? But just asking the question, do you like Star Trek or Star Wars, is asking someone to compare apples and oranges.

And I’ve played enough Apples to Apples to know – it’s much more fun to compare apples to apples.