Tag Archives: Fantasy

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.

The Definition of Fantasy – Throwback Thursday

Last week, I shared the first in a series about defining Science Fiction, and next up in that series I tackled the definition of Fantasy, for a bit of compare and contrast. There’s more explicit comparing and contrasting to come later, so first, let’s explore Fantasy. What do you think of the definition given?


If I really want to talk about differences between Science Fiction and Fantasy, then I really need to have solid definitions of the two. I recently gave my working definition of Science Fiction, from one of Science Fiction’s greatest practitioners – Frank Herbert. So now, we need a definition for Fantasy.

So why not get that definition from J.R.R. Tolkien?

I don’t know the source, except that I found it circulating on Facebook. There is a signature in the lower left, so I will let that speak for the creator of this image. I found this on Doctor Who and the T.A.R.D.I.S. on Facebook, but this is mostly just a Facebook page that shares images from the fandoms, mostly Doctor Who. Actually, one I recommend, just know that there’s a lot of images that they share. Be ready.

Anyway, after the jump, check out the definition of Fantasy!
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The Definition of Science Fiction – Throwback Thursday

Over the course of Comparative Geeks, I crafted a series exploring this question of the definition of science fiction, by comparing it to fantasy, and by exploring the question from other angles. Each post was originally separated by months, so I’m going to pull it all back together and run it as a weekly Throwback Thursday for the next few weeks! 

I hope you enjoy, and the conversation is certainly not closed on these – tell me what you think!


If it wasn’t obvious so far, one of my favorite things is Science Fiction. The worlds we create, that become science fiction, are often so much fun. They are excellent ways to explore the world that we know and live in, as well as to extrapolate the future or what we might do in a wholly new situation.

For instance, here on Comparative Geeks, we look at how science fiction can inform our current world and our near future, how it can make us look differently at current issues or political situations. You can see our posts like this under the heading Science Fiction Today: https://comparativegeeks.wordpress.com/category/science-fiction/science-fiction-today/

I have also started looking at how science fiction and religion interact. Often, religion is strangely absent from science fiction – or is looked at as the mythology of the past. In particular, I have been working from a perspective in a particular science fiction novel, A Case of Conscience by James Blish. His thought was that the existence of aliens would be particularly troublesome to meld with faith. See my posts on this and others like it in Science Fiction and Religion: https://comparativegeeks.wordpress.com/category/science-fiction/science-fiction-and-religion/

However, underlying all of this is a singular question: What is science fiction? What does it mean, and what are we doing when we produce it, or enjoy it? I have a favorite definition, so let’s look at that, and at a few examples.

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Audio

Comparative Opinions: The Princess Bride – Episode 13

Welcome to the Comparative Opinions podcast! This week hosts Holly and David join the Princess Bride Party and talk about this enduring classic. Are there a lot of quotes? Yes. Do we answer some deeper questions about the book and movie? Yes. Give us a listen, then join the linkup of other posts over on WriteOnSisters.com!

Comparative Opinions is a weekly half-hour-ish podcast hosted on ComparativeGeeks.com. Subscribe for new episodes every Sunday!

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Music is by Scott Gratton: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Scott_Gratton/Intros_and_Outros

The Astral Chronicles – an Introduction

Hello and welcome to the Astral Chronicles! Before diving into the story, I thought I would give a bit of a history and an introduction.

A Little History

What has become the Astral Chronicles began as a successful NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) story, as in, I made it to 50,000 words. Immediately afterwards, as I imagine a lot of NaNoWriMo authors do, I reflected back on my large body of work and realized, though I had met my storytelling goal, I had done so with a minimum of characters and without fleshing out the world much. I proceeded to start to do so…

That was in 2003.

Since then, I have been world-building. Brainstorming. The story became the setting for a D&D campaign I ran. It grew and blossomed and changed some. I have an outline. The characters I had originally written about became secondary characters – very early on I thought up a new main character.

Somewhere in there, I started blogging, too. And got back into reading comics. Met a bunch of writers and great people online. Looked at what they were doing, what I was doing, wondering about writing. Because writing is why I got into blogging, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do… but I’ve realized, even more than that, I think maybe writing comics is what I want to do.

Unfortunately, that also includes drawing comics, or at least it means so for me right now without an artist to back this project up. I had not drawn for a long time when I picked it back up to explore doing this story as a comic. I’ve explored working with technology a bit. I’ve sketched and doodled. Is it perfect? No. Great? I dunno. Mine? Yes. And having my own style for it is at least something I can bring to the table.

Now that we have a full website where housing a webcomic makes sense, it seemed like the time to finally get this started. I’m aiming for one a week, and looking at Thursdays for that. If there’s enough support and call for it, I could work on expanding that over time.

So that’s where I’m at now – a decent story, a number of characters and settings, and for now you’re stuck with my drawing (which should improve with time!). Which means now, let me tell you a bit about that setting and story!

An Introduction

The Astral Chronicles began its life with me wondering what it could be like to explore the whole history of a world, from a fantasy beginning and towards a more modern and even science fiction later period. To tease a bit about how I was accomplishing this, the working title originally was Immortal Coil

The story opens in a modern-day sort of setting, but it is not our world. There are similarities – and there are differences. There’s a whole group of characters to meet, then, centered around a place – Astral. That word, astral, has a lot to do with the psychic and the thought of another plane of reality, and that is no mistake! The thing that’s maybe hardest to say in the work itself, so I guess I’ll say it here: this is a society with a mild level of psychic ability, that people are born with, and that as a thing is taken for granted in the same way we might take something like an opposable thumb for granted. So especially for technology, we have interfaces and such that interact in a certain way, and they would have a different way of interacting.

I also think there are things I want the audience to know that society in general does not know, because the audience is going to be getting to see the whole history – while in the modern day, much of that history has been lost. As such, you have both science and religion trying to find and present their view on what that history is and was. I wanted that tension as well, the thought that science and religion might both have some good points – and that they both might have some things wrong and some prejudices that are going to cause trouble.

I hope you enjoy! I’ll be happy to join in conversation and to take critiques. I’m sure I will improve with time, but the time to get started is now – so check back next week for the beginning of the Astral Chronicles.

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