Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Space Opera

If you define fantasy as “a story that cannot occur in the real world”, as this web site does, then you can include sci-fi in that, as sci-fi takes places in worlds unseen and with technology uninvented, and any technology sufficiently advanced functions more or less like magic in the minds of many people.

But I’m not quite sure about that.

There’s definitely a link between sci-fi and fantasy, as both tend to be adventure stories. But Fantasy is by definition “unreal”, while sci-fi is “could be real”. Technology can seem magical, but it isn’t magic.

Which is why people tend to say “Sci-Fi and Fantasy” rather than just “Fantasy”. Related, but not a subset of. Because you can mix them, and the result is known as “Space Opera”.

Or is it? Here’s Tor.com working themselves into a later on the virtues of Space Opera, but holding off on really defining it (or refuting the statement that it’s Fantasy in Space). They talk about color and style, and poetry, but that seems to me a question of style, which is not really ontological.

To me, Space Opera means that there are elements of the universe that rely on speculative technology, space travel, and other Future Tropes, and also elements of the magical and supernatural. Star Wars is the most commonly known expression of this, but I think Dune qualifies even more, because with Dune the mystical/supernatural stands apart, plot-wise, from the tech. The Bene Gesserit and the Bene Tleilaxu are the institutional expressions of the cleavage.

What’s operatic in Dune is the struggle of Paul to understand himself, as well as the struggle against the Emperor and the Harkonnens. The remainder of the novels deal with the consequences of that struggle through the generations, as the metaphysical singularity represented by Paul is worked through by his son, Leto II, the God-Emperor.

The spice is real, and has a life-cycle, but it’s no less magic for all of that. It enables a mind to fold space and time, to see without seeing. The Worm is God.

If you keep the spice and lose the space travel, you have a struggle amid houses for dominance of the magic thing, which will play out much like A Song of Ice and Fire. If you keep the space travel, and lose the Spice, you have a sci-fi story about assassins and feudal regimes, with human enemies instead of aliens. The elements of each make make the other greater, while remaining distinct.

dune-1159937-1280x0

David Lynch’s Dune is So Bad it’s Hypnotic

The “Disasterpiece Theater” series at The Decider begins with a good choice.

In a lot of ways, Dune has a lot of the same problems as Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Hear me out… Both were made for a rabid science fiction audience. Both films boast beautiful production design and talented casts. However, the biggest problem with both films is that they spend more time providing exposition about tedious political plots and religious superstitions than they do establishing characters and relationships. Dune spends almost a half hour telling you about houses and treaties and spice and navigators before getting to the tense gom jabbar scene (which Herbert begins on, like, page 5). Lynch just drops you into Paul’s world and you go with it because he doesn’t quite know what’s going on, either. You’ve got a relatable protagonist to latch onto, use him!

Lynch’s Dune is visually stunning but a narrative mess. And I’m a big fan of the series. I even like God Emperor of Dune (But not any book after that. The last two novels that Herbert wrote feel tired and meandering, and all the works written by Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson just feel wrong). But even I find almost every line and acting choice weird and off (plus Patrick Stewart as Gurney Halleck? What?).

Yes, it should be watched. Actually, it should be watched several times:

  1. What? Who’s that? What’s going on? Why is this so BORING? Ugh, Never again!
  2. Actually, there’s some neat things to see here. It’s got a cool look. I might watch this again; it might grow on me.
  3. No, this is a bad movie. I’m done. Wierding modules? What were they thinking?
Virgina Madsen is gorgeous, however…