Sci-fi / Fantasy—they’re grouped together all the time, and for good reason. The genres overlap in many aspects and are both categorized as speculative fiction. So, what exactly makes them similar, and what distinguishes one from the other? And why should you even care?
Science fiction explores how science might impact a society or individuals, oftentimes in the future. Sci-fi presents a world that doesn’t exist but could exist with technological advancement—classic examples are Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
Fantasy, on the other hand, contends with the supernatural, the magical, with settings in different worlds that could not exist—see The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien and A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin.
Both include super fun sub-genres. Here are some examples in a very non-comprehensive list:
Writing a science fiction or a fantasy novel will require creativity and imagination to be sure, but you’ll also need to follow some rules. Oftentimes people think of science fiction as logic based and differentiate fantasy by chalking the genre up to a magical nonsense land where the rules don’t apply because . . . well, magic! We don’t recommend taking this approach.
Like science fiction, fantasy also requires a set of rules that the reader can follow so that the story remains satisfying and impactful.
Science fiction and fantasy both deal with worlds that are unlike our own. The differences come into play when building those worlds.
Common (not required) characteristics of science fiction:
Common (not required) characteristics of fantasy:
Why does any of this matter? Well, if you’re writing a sci-fi or a fantasy novel, it’s important to know the elements characteristic of each genre. You wouldn’t want to leave readers scratching their heads by including a wizard, a selkie, and a hobbit in your sci-fi novel, right? It’s important to be familiar with the genre you’re writing in so that you can be aware of the conventions of that genre. There are certain elements of each genre that readers come to expect, and we wouldn’t want to disappoint!
So, when does defining your genre become important? When querying your book, publishers will want you to be able to be able to sum up your book succinctly and clearly, and oftentimes genre can be a great first step in doing this. The reason publishers tend to care about this categorization is, ultimately, the genre will determine certain elements of marketing and how your book gets into the hands of readers. If you’re unable to clearly define your genre, categorizing your book in industry databases becomes more difficult, which could inhibit readers from finding it.
Whether you’re writing the next great sci-fi or fantasy novel, keep your reader in mind, and do whatever you can to make your book as accessible to them as possible.
written by Grace Ball
First things first—let’s make sure we’re all on the same page about the Oxford comma.
So, what is it?
According to Webster’s, the Oxford comma, sometimes called the serial comma or the Harvard comma, is a comma used to separate the second-to-last item in a list from a final item introduced by the conjunction and or or.
Which American style guides support the Oxford comma?
Because AP style is used by journalists, there’s a real space-saving mentality. So, in an effort to pack in more news per square inch, the Associated Press and journalistic style guidelines advise against using the Oxford comma.
To be very clear, here at Wildling, we’re huge supporters of the Oxford comma. It’s true, though, we also love concision, so AP’s reasoning isn’t totally bonkers to us. However, their reasoning falls apart when concision hampers clarity.
See? No Oxford comma = chaos. CHAOS.
Still not convinced? You may concede that there are times when the lack of an Oxford comma could lead to ambiguity, but the frequency of misinterpretation is just not high enough to worry about the little guy. Well, I’d argue that the clarity an Oxford comma provides is essential—even lucrative, according to a judge.
Hear me out: Three drivers sued Oakhurst Dairy for four years’ worth of overtime pay that they said they had been denied. Maine law requires time-and-a-half pay for each hour worked after forty hours, but the following were listed as exceptions to that rule:
The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:
Meat and fish products; and
Without the Oxford comma, the line “packing for shipment or distribution,” could be referring to packing and shipping as a single act or as two separate tasks.
The drivers argued that the line reads as a single act, and since they didn’t actually do any packing, they shouldn’t have been exempt from overtime pay. In the end, Oakhurst Dairy agreed to pay $5 million to the workers!
Need I say more?
by Grace Ball
Some people say that when you read a book, you create a movie in your head, so there’s simply no need for the existence of book-to-film adaptations. However true that may be, those adaptations do exist, and some are excellent and others are absolute travesties. Here at Wildling, we have strong opinions on this topic, and we’re sharing them with you!
Christina's fave: His Dark Materials (2019-current)
This is a TV show on Amazon, not a film, but same diff! This series based on the Philip Pullman trilogy is a beautiful, skillful tribute to the original text. The book series is complex, fantastical, and multifaceted, and the show manages to convey all of the many layers of this story without seeming to have to compress anything together or skip anything—seriously, I was hard-pressed to find a single omission that I didn’t fully agree with. In fact, they even found the time to develop some characters and plotlines more thoroughly than the books did. This show is the perfect argument for my thesis that fantasy book series are truly better served by being developed into shows rather than films. Seasons 1 and 2 (based on books 1 and 2) are out on Amazon now, with Season 3 due in 2022.
Christina's failure: Dune (1984)
This film is an insult to the original text, its beautiful and cerebral themes, and its vast, fiercely devoted fan base. The film was too long by about two hours, and yet somehow it failed to explain properly even the most foundational concepts from the novel. Granted, the novel is dense, vast, and epic—but the movie seemed to have truly turned its nose up at the source material the way a child quits the school band when they can’t master the trumpet within a week. The ubiquitous touch of the mid-eighties didn’t help things, either. DO NOT WATCH.
The new movie is great, though.
Christina's bonus: Ella Enchanted (2004)
There are a couple of films out there that are terrible adaptations of their source material, but really fun in their own right. My numero uno in this category is Ella Enchanted. The book is great. The film is great. They have next to no resemblance to each other beyond some core concepts, like the main character having to obey any command and eventually falling in love (sorry, spoilers!). My brain can separate these enough to appreciate each of them without comparing them.
Mary-Peyton's fave: Anne of Green Gables (1985)
I could watch the 1985 film adaptation of this book over and over again! It really captured the heart of the book, and Megan Follows perfectly captured the wild spirit of Anne Shirley--a kind, clumsy, and stubborn girl adopted by an older couple who had wanted to adopt a boy, but ended up falling in love with the quirky redheaded bookworm. I wish every little girl could watch this movie, like I did (well, maybe not exactly like I did, since I had it on two VHS tapes). Anne didn’t fit into the small, quiet box that young ladies were meant to inhabit in her world (and still are in this world), and although people tried to shame her, she never apologized for being herself. The acting in this film was perfect, subtle, and real, and the writing kept much of the humor and heart that makes the book so wonderful. I highly recommend this for a family movie night.
Mary-Peyton's failure: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005)
When I read these books as a kid, I was enchanted. The real world would melt away, and I’d find myself completely within the world of Narnia alongside Lucy, Edmund, Susan, Peter, and Aslan. So years later, when I first saw the movie trailer, I was beyond excited. But I was so disappointed in the movie. As often happens when grown-ups decide to make a popular children’s book into a movie, it had lost much of what made the story wonderful; ironically, it had lost much of its wisdom and depth. The best kids books, the classics that stay with us throughout time, deal with some really heavy and “grown-up” topics, like grief, betrayal, and loneliness, in such a way that helps kids process those things. But the movie version of such books often comes out as a shallow, cartoonish, and flashy shell of the book. Ella Enchanted, The Golden Compass, and the Percy Jackson series are great examples of this--those books are downright dark and even scary at parts, which makes the story so much more intense; the more terrible the evil, the more magical it is when good wins. Kids don’t fall in love with these magical adventures because they’re fun; they love them because they are full, deep, and emotional stories of bravery, growth, kindness, and more. The fantastical adventure is only part of the appeal. It seems like the people who made these movies missed the point.
Michael's fave: The Princess Bride (1987)
Who doesn’t love The Princess Bride film adaptation? If you don’t, I don’t want to know you. Too harsh? Maybe, but this movie is amazing! It has it all: adventure, comedy, suspense, and wuv, tru wuv. William Goldman, the author, was a huge part of the adaptation and this helped keep the movie true to the book. And with Rob Reiner directing, pure magic was made. He also directed book to movie adaptations like Stand by Me and Misery. The only bits and pieces of the book that are not found in the film were edited out simply because of time constraints. And anything added were small additions; did you know there weren’t any shrieking eels in the book? As someone who deliberately reads the book before the movie comes out so they can tell whoever will listen how much the movie failed to capture the power of the book, I’m happy to report that this is one adaptation I can do nothing but praise.
Michael's failure: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (2016)
I had such high hopes for this film adaptation, especially with Tim Burton at the helm! I just knew he would be able to capture the right amount of darkness that hangs over the Peregrine universe. But . . . the movie was an utter disappointment. The author, Ransom Riggs, should have had more of an opinion during filming. Tim Burton ended up swapping the main female character’s powers for those of a weaker female character, which felt like it was just so the main male character could be more of a hero. Then, because Tim Burton wanted to work with Samuel L. Jackson so badly, he created a character and story line that isn’t found in the book. It completely changed the vibe of the first book, and the direct consequence was they couldn’t make a movie series using the other books. Maybe that was a blessing because this film was a complete letdown.
Grace's fave: Practical Magic (1998)
I probably watched this movie for the first time during my preteen years, so it has a special place in my heart. When I found out it was based on a book by none other than the amazing Alice Hoffman, I had to read it. Even though I really enjoyed this book, I truly think the movie is a culmination of the book’s strongest parts—and that’s not just because of the “special place in my heart” thing I mentioned. Okay, maybe a little. There are plenty of differences between the book and movie versions, and they’re both fabulous in their own ways, but I think the Practical Magic movie is an awesome example of how a film adaptation doesn’t have to be a scene-for-scene remake of the book to be good.
Grace's failure: Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)
This movie adaptation is so bad that I haven’t even seen it!! I’ve heard enough to know I need to stay away, far away. I know, I probably should’ve included a movie adaptation I’ve actually seen, but the validity of our list would’ve been called into question without, so did I really have a choice? I somehow missed the Percy Jackson train when it rolled through years ago, so I’m catching up and reading them now. I’m smack-dab in the middle—ugh, maybe I’ll end up watching the movie one day. I’ll let you know if I do!
Feel free to add to our list with your favorite and least favorite book-to-film adaptations in the comments below!
by Grace Ball
A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Circe by Madeleine Miller
The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec
Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
Ariadne by Jennifer Saint
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
You probably recognize these books, may have even read a few! And so I ask, what do they have in common? Yep, you got it—they’re all retellings of myths. And true! Look at you, smarty-pants—they were all published within the last ten years. So, why is this particular genre of fiction, myth and fairytale retellings, so hot right now?
Well, if you ask us, it all comes down to accessibility and inclusion. These retellings are an opportunity to include those voices and perspectives that were sidelined in the original mythos. They’re often written in a way that’s digestible, certainly more so than the original tales they’re based upon. In fact, you really don’t even need prior knowledge of the original myth to read these books! These retellings are actively filling a major gap in the book world, and that’s why they’re important.
Maybe you’d like to have a go at writing your own retelling. From a publisher’s perspective, here’s our advice to you:
Research, research, research!
Perhaps the source material isn’t totally crucial when reading a mythological retelling, but if you’re writing one, you better brush up! You’ll have to know all the characters and the parts they play to check off the next items on our list.
Find a voice you want to amplify.
We recommend looking for a lesser-known character in the original myth to give you some wiggle room when creating the plot of your retelling, and here’s why. We listed Ariadne at the top of this post, and while the character of Ariadne may not be at the very forefront of classic Greek mythology, she is a relatively well-known character, and therefore, Saint’s retelling ends up staying pretty close to Ariadne’s original tale. If you pick a lesser-known character, though, you’ll have more opportunity to get creative with how that character’s story comes together. To us, that just sounds like a better time for you and for your readers!
Figure out what you want to contribute to the overall narrative.
This is so, so important. After all, if you’re not adding something new and fresh to the conversation, why retell the story? It’s great that you’re exploring the perspective of a character the world hasn’t read much about, but how does that perspective impact the larger narrative of this myth and beyond? How does the perspective you’re highlighting relate to our world now? Answering these questions before you put pen to paper will focus your story and help you find your purpose.
Myths have always appealed to us, and why wouldn’t they? They’re epic tales that touch on questions and issues humans have been dealing with for thousands of years. It’s hard to believe that we’re just now, finally, getting the stories of those human characters—women and people of color—that were glossed over by the “classics.” But here we are. It’s incredibly exciting and long overdue.
And, hey, if you decide to try your hand at writing your own mythological retelling, send it our way. We’d love to see what you’ve come up with.
by Grace Ball
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