Scifi vs Science Fiction

Hi, my name is Mary, and I’m obsessed with space.

I once wrote an entire post dedicated to why I love space so much. I’ve reviewed First Man, talked about my top 5 fiction and nonfiction books set in space, wrote a space short story that was published and that will someday be a novel, and am in the process of reading as many astronaut memoirs as I can get my hands on.

Here’s the thing, though. I have a very specific love of space, and I have this vivid memory of finally sitting down to write the Marvel space fanfiction (no one else had done the no powers/just astronauts story I wanted so desperately). In my opening notes for the series, I said, “There will be no aliens. This is not scifi, this is science fiction. See me after class to discuss the difference, if you’re so inclined.”

Oh heck, I’m linking it. Here you go. Enjoy college!Mary. She was so full of herself.

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Anyway, the amount of people that then dropped a comment like um hi I’m here after class please explain has stuck with me ever since. Because I still say this a lot. When people find out I like space, they have one of two reactions.

“Oh my god, my life is in complete shambles, what planet is doing what so I can blame my problems on it?”

OR

“Oh cool! Are you a Star Wars or a Star Trek fan?”

Number #1: blaming giant balls of gas and fire and rock for your problems is fucking stupid. Get over yourself, and own up to your mistakes. And no, the moon has no hold over you. If lakes don’t have tides, then you’re definitely too small.

Number #2: Both, but I’m firmly in The Martian and Sunshine category.

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oh wow jfc I need to reread this again immediately I miss this idiot

Now, quick disclaimer, I don’t think scifi or science fiction is better than the other. Star Wars and Star Trek are great! Valerian is one of my favorite space stories! I love scifi, but when it comes down to it, I’m going to pick a real human being story over something stuffed with aliens and different planets every time.

Honestly, we could probably just stop there because I think I just answered my own thing.

Okay, so scifi vs science fiction. The versus was probably a bad idea. This post is not about one being superior. It’s about what I mean when I say that.

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Scifi, for me, is kind of like the Syfy channel. It’s my dad watching Alien recently. It’s the Mandalorian never taking off his helmet and toting around baby Yoda. It’s The Magicians giving Fillory a real, living, breathing presence full of mythical creatures.

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Science fiction, on the other hand, for me, is the Discovery channel. It’s Sandra Bullock tumbling through space and trying desperately to get back to her ship. It’s Matthew McConaughey traveling through a black hole to try to save humanity. It’s The 100 descending onto a radiation-riddled planet and learning how to survive again.

Is the new Lost in Space making me weep with joy? YES! (I feel like I have to keep repeating this because someone is going to @ me about hating scifi.)

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Look, I know that scifi is literally just an abbreviated term of science fiction. I’m not an idiot. I also know that the English language is malleable and weird, and that if, realistically, you went up to someone and asked them what their favorite scifi movie was, they’d probably have a different answer if you asked them what their favorite science fiction movie was.

There’s a kind of connotation that comes into each word.

Scifi is magical. Sometimes impossible. Colorful and wild and full of a heck ton of hope. It’s diverse. Powerful. It dives into our strangest dreams and makes them into a genre-bending reality.

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Science fiction is gritty. Steeped in realism, which is sometimes not full of hope. It’s angry. Lost, and always searching. It’s full of human frailty, and the desperation to overcome that.

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I love both. I love a story that I can escape into, that I can suspend my disbelief for, where anything is possible. Scifi is badass.

Science fiction is always going to be my home, though. So I guess this post is both discussing why I feel like they’re different things, or what I mean when I say I like science fiction more than scifi, but it’s also about why I like it more.

I teach yoga, and the amount of people that come up to me and ask me what my astrological sign is or why Mercury sucks or what this particular full moon means is just unbelievable. And I get it. I work in a field where, as my boss says, you’re supposed to be kind of hippy dippy woo-woo. And, for some things, I am. Kind of? Ugh, whatever, crystals are just fucking rocks, guys. I have an endless supply of them because I love them, but at the end of the day, crystals do the same thing tarot does. They’re just vehicles to utilize to help your mind figure out its path. They’re just rocks and paper cards, but they’re also extraordinary pieces of magic that can heal your body or answer questions.

But I’m never, ever going to fall into that category when it comes to space. I’m here for the knowledge that Mercury’s north and south poles are permanently frozen despite being the closest planet to the sun. I’m here to tell a lengthy af story about why Uranus is my favorite planet, which has nothing to do with how pretty it is, but the fact that it defies math. I’m here to get excited about the sun being in conjunction with the moon in wild ways. I’m here for Neil Armstrong and Mark Watney.

I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t want to suspend my disbelief. I want to be terrified and awed by things that are actually possible in our world. We’re going to Mars. In a few years, that is no longer going to be science fiction. But will we travel at the speed of light to a planet that has two suns and befriend an alien race? Probably not. The sun’s definitely going to kill us way before then.

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Scifi is great. 10/10 would recommend. I’ll watch it once, and probably love it. It’ll probably make me cry like a motha. It’ll probably make me want to start a revolution.

But if you need me, I’ll be hanging out with these dumbasses.

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What is your favorite scifi AND science fiction movie/book?

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Mary RYT 200 Tibetan Buddhism Gryffindor Part-time witch, full-time novelist. Lover of words, planets, dragons, and mountains.

5 thoughts on “Scifi vs Science Fiction

  1. This is such an interesting discussion! I hadn’t really thought about it before but the two terms do have really different connotations.

    My favourite SciFi is 100% Illumimae – I will never not be in love with sarcastic space teens doing their best (and a psychopathic AI, of course).

    The only real Science Fiction I think I’ve read that stood out to me was Wool by Hugh Howey. I hated the sequel, Shift, which felt so unnecessary, but that first book has always stood out to me as incredibly clever and unique. I tried rereading it once but I remembered it so clearly I put it down because it felt pointless 😂

    Even though The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet involves alien coalitions and tunnelling through space, it still feels “science fiction” to me. I think it’s the simple tone, and the focus on genuine relationships and interaction. However you describe it, it’s a really good book!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right! They obviously mean the same thing, but they’re a little different, too.

      I haven’t read Illuminae yet! I’ve been unsure about it, but sarcastic space teens might have totally just sold me on it.

      Ohhh, I want to read that so bad! It seems like one that I would totally love, so I’m definitely going to have to check it out soon!

      Liked by 1 person

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