Science fiction is a much more practical literary medium than it's often credited for, a bias I attribute to a basic misconception. Granted, there are pockets of audiences that appreciate science fiction for what it is, though I find them to be in the minority due to the widespread--and erroneous--placement of the forward slash ( / ) between science fiction and fantasy in literary forums. These two forms are as different as economics and finance, which aren't merged with a forward slash, despite both involving currency.
Star Trek is one of the most popular science fiction shows on television, to date. I don't doubt the entertainment quality, however that isn't what distinguishes it as science fiction. Sure, numerous new species and planets exist, however those creations are actually speculations because they are anchored by knowledge, or known scientific principles and tenets of actual reality. Science fiction can only venture as imaginatively far as the strength of the reality that anchors it. Thus, the multiple species of Star Trek each embody certain traits known to man, while allowing the individuals within the species to develop their own unique personality. What's so false about that? Sure, the Ferengi don't really exist, but the reality of their traits, behaviors, and values do. This is why science fiction excels at theory; it starts with general principles and knowledge, which provide the framework of the story, character, and universe, then creates a "new" reality based on that framework, becoming a creative but practical subset of reality. It's practical by nature.
Fantasy storylines can superficially manifest as science fiction, however it doesn't share science fiction's interest in reality. Whereas science fiction is a systematic speculation of alternate realities, fantasy is the quasi-systematic creation of unique feelings, abilities, and powers to control actual reality. Fantasy is thus borne of a god-complex. The only umbilical connection between the content and the audience are the substance of the characters' conversations, and the abilities the characters have that the audience covets.
If you do a basic search into either the Marvel or DC comics universe, you'll find a myriad characters with a myriad magical abilities. The overarching factor though is that these abilities don't reflect anything more than individual power, indicating that associations, relationships, and principles are not seen as significant as the extent and strength of their individual powers. Fantasy is thus more focused on the subjective individual, commonly producing themes of destiny, history, and identity, and how they affect and drive present action. Science fiction, rather, focuses more on relationships, hidden, concealed or unpopular meaning, and individual freedom versus social mores, primarily in the future tense.
Due to this future orientation, science fiction is often fixated on some kind of change; adaption precipitated by plurality, how changing one event in the past can effect multiple in the future, etc. And since it's anchored in reality, the audience can be led down strangely plausible theoretical scenarios; time-travel, space-bending, etc. Fantasy doesn't care so much about change or speculation as it does about personal revelation and expression. The characters are always fulfilling some kind of compulsive need or destiny, not content with anything other than action, movement, or catharsis. Fantasy cannot exist without some kind of raw emotion being addressed.
Just because these two mediums are imaginative doesn't mean they're the same, just as economics and finance aren't the same even though they both deal with currency. Since they're unique, mixing them together because they're both "imaginative" is a form of artistic stereotyping.
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