Science Fantasy is a subsection of science fiction. In science fantasy, authors combine elements of traditional fantasy with the terms, icons or themes of science. Common themes of science fantasy are epistemology (what is the nature of knowledge) and ontology (what is the nature of our existence). Also there are common forms of science fantasy:

The Norton Book of Science Fiction is a collection of science fiction short stories by North American authors from the years 1960-1990 edited by Ursula K. LeGuin and Brian Attebery. In this anthology there are several examples of science fantasy. It is interesting to look at a few of these stories and how the authors approach the genre of science fantasy.

Robert Zelazny--Comes Now The Power (1966)

This is a science fantasy story in the form of a conternatural actant/character. The story deals with a telepathic main character who has lost his powers but overcomes his block with the assistance of a little girl who is dying of leukemia. The science components consist of the present day realistic setting; the girl dying of leukemia; and the scientific process the main character uses to overcome his block. Fantastic elements of the story are the idea of telepathy; shape-shifting which telepathy afford the main character; and supernatural powers. This story's ultimate theme is ontology--What is the nature of our existence? It deals with the relationship between two telepaths and what they can give to each other. The girl gives the man back his telepathic powers and in return he telepathically gives her experiences from his life that she will not be able to experience for herself.

Pat Murphy--His Vegetable Wife (1985)

This story deals with the braking of a known law of science. To be exact it deals with a farmer who grows a wife from seed. The fantasy elements of the story are: animation of a plant to be human-like, sex with a plant, and the ultimate victory of the victim. The scientific elements are expressed in the way the plant-human functions. It needs soil, water and sun, it grows gradually until it is "ripe" and it moves slowly toward sun or away from danger. This story utilizes both epistemology and ontology as its themes: Epistemology because it changes how on views plants and ontology because it deals with the abuse of the plant by the human and the plants revenge.

Kim Stanley Robinson--The Lucky Strike (1984)

Robinson's story deals with the altering of a historical fact. It is a story of the pilots who bombed Japan in World War II and how one pilot in particular, Frank January, deals with the prospect of killing hundreds of thousands of people unnecessarily. January is the soldier responsible for actually dropping the bomb and in this story decides not to drop it directly on Hiroshima but on a desolate forest area. The fantasy elements are the hero motif and the persecution of a hero as well as the obvious altering of history. Scientific elements are the technological setting of the bomber, the atomic bomb and the actuality of history up to a point. In the end, this is a story of epistemology. How did the pilots and scientists responsible for the atomic bomb and its deployment feel?

Philip K. Dick--Frozen Journey (1980)

The premise of this story is the altering of a scientific fact. Dick's story explores the field of cryonics and travel to other stars both of which are hereto not possible. The main character is Victor Kemmings, one of nine passengers on a ship, who is supposed to be cryonically preserved in order to travel to another planet ten years away. However, something malfunctions and he becomes conscience. The ship is responds to Victor and tries to remedy the situation but is unable to help because of Victor's feelings of guilt. The scientific elements are: the ship which is able to "think" and resolve problems, cryonics, and long term space travel to other planets already colonized and inhabited. The fantasy elements include: the adventure travel to new worlds, long term suffering by main character, and reuniting lovers. The theme is one of ontology (the nature of existence) because Victor reviews his own existence and guilt for ten years.


Sandy Clevenger