Exploring Genre: What is a Genre and is Star Wars Sci-Fi or Fantasy?

Is the Star Wars trilogy fantasy or science fiction? Sure, it has elements of Western, romance, and epic adventure, but if you had to put it under one genre, which would you choose?

Fueled by a discussion about whether or not Star Wars (the movies) is a science fiction or fantasy story, I started wondering about what really defines a genre and how often a story can blend multiple genres together and still be compelling.

For the record, my view is that Star Wars is primarily a fantasy, it’s just set in space. But I’m no expert…yet!

After that conversation, when I seemed so sure, I realized that I oscillated over whether or not Something Awesome and Also Fire (SAAF) was science fiction or fantasy in early drafts.  For awhile, I leaned more heavily into the science fiction elements because I wanted every magical aspect to have an explanation–making it, effectively, science fiction.

Still, many people would consider the presence of magic or magical powers to be indicative of fantasy, no matter how much explanation you put into them. My characters’ maja (their X-men-like powers, basically) all have an evolutionary origin and confer some kind of evolutionary advantage. There are even genetic disorders associated with each type of power consistent with other evolutionary adaptations.

There isn’t one aspect of my world that I cannot explain , but I still call it fantasy. I still stand firmly on the idea of Something Awesome and Also Fire as a young adult fantasy novel and not much else. That’s the genre and the target audience, right there.

So, if my story is a fantasy but has strong elements of other genres that, together, may outweigh the fantastical elements (I mean, the main characters are ALIENS for crying out loud), how does the fantasy genre fit in?

Let’s start with, “What is a genre?”

According to Merriam and Webster, genre, a noun, is defined as: A particular type or category of literary, musical, or artistic composition

But, in most discussion about literary genres that I’ve seen, “genre” typically describes either a broad category of prose (fiction, non-fiction, epic, etc.) or specific, fictional categories outside of literary fiction (sci-fi, fantasy, romance, supernatural, etc.).

I am going to spend the next few Thursdays exploring different genres and, for this, I’m going to be using the second concept:

Genre describes specific subcategories of fiction outside literary fiction.

I’m interested in exploring four genres in particular:

Fantasy

Science Fiction

Speculative Fiction

Horror

There are the genres I tend to find myself writing. I especially like fantasy and speculative fiction because they let my characters live in a familiar world with a little extra to illuminate aspects of the human condition–very sci-fi in its purpose but not its execution.

I’m limiting myself to these because this will be at least four Thursdays’ worth of posts and I might get bored but, also, because there are so many genres, I couldn’t possibly cover them all without hijacking my own blog.

Is there a specific genre you would be interested in reading about on this blog? I have been thinking about collaborating with other writers to produce a guest post or multi-author post and would be happy to start with the genre discussion! Leave a comment, below!

Author: JA Goodsell

I write YA fantasy, blog about it, and then take my dog out for therapy. My current manuscript is ANATHEMA, a story of two sisters caught up in a war between the gods. Find me on Twitter at @JAGoodsell or Instagram at books_and_dogs

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