Hal Duncan, author of the (forthcoming, if you're in the States, and) highly praised novel Vellum and all around Righteous Dude, holds forth quite cogently on the distinctions (or lack thereof) between SF and fantasy. He calls them less feuding Campbells and Macdonalds than giant extended families that have long intermarried:
In truth, I think this whole division between SF and Fantasy is an illusion, an artificial dichotomy based more on claims of allegiance than on actual practice. Two small subsets of the field may live by their words, creating Hard SF or High Fantasy that do exemplify the warring aesthetics of Rationalism and Romanticism -- probably par excellence. But if you look around the drunken wedding party, ignore the two old maids sitting in their corners, that dusty old duality looks pretty irrelevant. I've said it before and I'll say it again: it's fucking Modernism. Pulp Modernism, cheap, populist, balls-to-the-wall-and-entertaining-as-fuIn a way, Duncan articulates a thought I've had for many years, which is that SF and fantasy, at their best, are the disciplines that employ more of the tools from the writer's workbench than any other. At our best, we can pull off every trick in the "mainstream" writer's playbook besides stirring in half a dozen all our own.
ck Modernism, but still Modernism. We use mimesis on the one hand, fantasy on the other. We rationalise magic and romanticise science. We combine the exotic and the mundane. We experiment with literary conventions. This isn't the fiction of science; it's the science of fiction. We take metaphoric conceits, fantastic ideas, and we put them to the test with literature as the laboratory. Of course, when we get good results, we do have a tendency to go into mass production mode, churning out dodgy copies from the cheapest of materials for a consumerist market that loves our new toys for a few days before abandoning them for the next shiny doohicky... but, hey, that Big Corporate Structure keeps the R & D department going so I'm not complaining. [full post]