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The Difference Between Sci-Fi and Fantasy, According to Twitter

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Danika Ellis

Associate Editor

Danika spends most of her time talking about queer women books at the Lesbrary. Blog: The Lesbrary Twitter: @DanikaEllis

If you don’t know about Joyce Carol Oates’s tweet history, I envy you. Suffice to say, she’s notorious for going viral with some truly mystifying hot takes. In her latest example, she claims that “fantasy as a genre is fundamentally YA” and misrepresents Ted Chiang as saying that sci-fi is “impersonal, never ‘magical'” and fantasy is “personal, character-driven, ‘magical.'”

Of course, book Twitter was not going to let that stand, and after the initial shock and joking subsided, they began discussing the real differences between science fiction and fantasy. From pointed commentary on fundamental problems in SFF publishing and fandom to jokes about actors that play in both spheres, there was a huge range of responses using this format.

I was watching this unfold with rapt attention, because I love a bookish Twitter meme. In case you aren’t swimming in the depths of book Twitter like I am, I’ve collected some of the best responses below.

If you want to know the real difference between sci-fi and fantasy, you have to follow the money.

Interesting how there seems to always be a reason speculative fiction worlds are so white.

Despite often erasing the people of color, SFF worlds still manage to appropriate other cultures.

Look, we all want fancy pointed ears, no matter the setting. Why did humans get stuck with these boring rounded ones?

If this tweet speaks to you, might I interest you in some alien romance books?

You didn’t think we were done talking about racism and antisemitism in SFF, did you?

It’s just that simple.

Oops, more bigoted SFF tropes.

Either way, you can’t go wrong.

What a coincidence that I’m reading a book called The Future is Disabled as we speak. I highly recommend picking that up instead of SFF books that feature ableist tropes like this.

What about if there’s a chapter dedicated to a food truck?

It’s subtle.

As someone who lives not far from Vancouver, this one really got to me.

And, of course, there’s always the cheese factor.

And there you have it! In case you had any lingering questions, now you really know the difference between sci-fi and fantasy. If you were hoping for some serious answers, you might want to check out this explainer post about speculative fiction. And while you’re here, why not take a look at the Most Influential Science Fiction Books of All Time and the Most Influential Fantasy Books of All Time?