Recently I read a forum in which a question was posed about the difference between science fiction and fantasy fiction. Essentially, the author of the post was asking readers what they felt were the properties that made one story sci-fi, and the other fantasy. Some of the replies seemed to think the difference was obvious, but with so many books crossing genres these days, I don’t think they were right.
I think the question can be answered this way. Sci-fi is speculating on the possible, and fantasy is speculating on the impossible. Both take imagination, but sci-fi has (or should) a solid foundation in scientific principles or theories so that although the story cannot happen now, it could happen in the future. Fantasy on the other hand is pure imagination with no foundation in fact. This doesn’t mean that fantasy cannot have factual elements of course. Some of my fantasy stories begin in ”our” world and progress into my alternate imaginary worlds a little later, but the important details of my fantasies like magic, vampires, werewolves, elves, etc have no scientific basis and could therefore never really happen. On the other hand, my science fiction story What price honour could happen far in the future. Some would say its unlikely, but unlikely isn’t impossible. Coming back from the dead as a vampire however is, and that makes Wolf’s Revenge an urban fantasy.
This leads me to the reason for the subject of this blog. When I read that forum post, I remembered how I had researched real world technology on which to base my weapons tech, and also the fundamental technology vital to my Viper cyborgs: nanotech. It will surprise many of you to learn that nanotech is a real science right now. It’s not made up from whole cloth for my story. It is already used in a basic form in the cosmetic industry. There are real men and women researching uses of nanotech right this minute for use in medicine. There are experiments and projects with the aim of using nanotech as drug delivery systems. These nanotech projects might well grow into something akin to the nanotech I made use of in What Price Honour My Viper’s IMS (Integrated Medical System) isn’t so far fetched after all eh?
When I designed my Viper Cyborgs, I knew I needed them to be tougher than the ordinary soldiers of the Alliance, yet the technology that created them didn’t just appear. It had to grow out of other earlier applications of nanotech. Every citizen of the Alliance has nano treatment as children that enhances their lifespans and health. Think of it as an immunization against old age and known deceases. Just as children of today are immunized, so too are the children of the future. It’s just that the medical community of the future has learned more about the human condition than we currently know, often through plagues on worlds far away, and are able to teach that experience to their electronic henchmen (nanobots). In my Alliance, doctors are not just traditional medics, they are superlative programmers of nanotech.
Building my Merkiaari universe in this way–making technology advance in stages as it does in reality–is very important. Spacecraft, weapons, communications, medicine, and every other area uses technology in different ways, but its all interconnected. An M18Ap rifle might not have nanotech swimming about inside it like my viper cyborgs do, but many of its components were created in orbital factories using nanotech. Spaceships are huge and weigh in the millions of tons, yet the “paint” is actually colonised by nanobots that harden and reflect incoming fire. A simple thing like a ship’s nanocoat “paint” can mean the difference between survival and destruction. My Vipers are tough, but as Gina Fuentez says when she gets shot, “It hurts!” Soldiers of the future therefore don’t like getting shot, enhanced with cybertech or not. They wear armour with nanotech coatings.
So my most “far fetched” technology and science is based upon the real science of today. Lasers are real now and have been tested on warships to knock down incoming missiles. Sonic weapons are in the news this week connected with protecting the Olympic stadiums, and as I say nanotech is real right now. Just Google some of these terms and you will be much enlightened about the fictional technologies (that are not quite fiction) that I use.