Science-fiction is Superior to Fantasy

Hello Interwebs! Science fiction and fantasy are two popular genres of entertainment which fanbases of each frequently compare and contrast. And said fans can be incredibly passionate about which they prefer! I’ve always been a sci-fi guy myself, hence this week’s warm take: science fiction is a superior genre to fantasy. For all you fantasy lovers out there, don’t worry. I’m not here to bash on your genre. I’m just here to argue why it’s not as good as my favourite… Consider the gauntlet dropped. 

NOTE: This article features more examples of movies and TV than literature. It’s just what I’m more familiar with.

Grounded in Our Reality

The fundamental reason I prefer sci-fi to fantasy: it’s grounded in our reality. You probably want to stop me already– “But Joe! There’s nothing grounded about aliens, starships, laser guns, and foreign planets!” Yes, you’re right. Science-fiction doesn’t have so firm a hold on what is, but rather what can be. To this end, there are two main camps of sci-fi: hard and soft. Hard science fiction is based entirely around concrete science and would absolutely be possible under the correct circumstances (Ex. The Martian). Soft sci-fi is more theoretical and takes some liberties, but isn’t necessarily out of the realm of possibility (for example: we haven’t discovered intelligent alien life, but it’s reasonably possible it exists somewhere in the universe).

It’s not just a matter of mirroring our “physical reality” though. No matter the sci-fi setting, the genre commonly revolves around humankind (or stand-ins for humankind). And though we humans can differ in the extreme, we’re really more the same than we often realize. The best sci-fi traditionally grounds itself in universal human emotional experiences, even when the specific situations are made to seem fantastical. Because of this, most sci-fi stories act as hypothetical tests of humanity’s emotional fortitude, wondering “what would our species do if __ happened?” And because of this, we can look to series like Star Trek: The Next Generation and think “humanity could do exactly that someday if we get over our baggage!” or dystopian works such as 1984 and think “that’s where our society is heading if we don’t change our ways soon…”

Ladies and Gentlemen: presenting the best botanist on Mars!

Meanwhile, fantasy stories revolve around people whose day-to-day lives are more fantastical than our world will ever be– past, present, or future. Considering many fantasy writers let their imaginations run wild, it’s uncommon for fantasy stories to have a grounding in anything we can relate to. For example: I’m no space traveler, but at least there are dozens of real people who have been to space. Magic, on the other hand, is (probably) fake and will never play into our reality, other than the whimsy of fantasy tales.

Science-fiction is preferable to fantasy because it can or will happen. Sci-fi stories are fundamentally about us, our world, and how we think about it. And, because the genre draws from our world, and the stories are able to resonate with people in a meaningful way to their lives, it can have real consequences for us and our future.


A semi-scientific grounding and emotional relatability allows sci-fi to offer valuable insight into our day-to-day lives, and possibly even the fate of our species. From science-fiction’s first story (Frankenstein) to its present, the genre has argued over and theorized what humankind may do when confronted with a variety of problems, usually of our own making. Whether or not the issues at hand are relevant for our current culture doesn’t matter.

So what we haven’t invented time travel, or true artificial intelligence, or met alien races, or destroyed ourselves with a lab-grown virus/ nuclear bombs/ overpopulation? We still might! And we’ll be glad science-fiction predicted almost every eventuality for these scenarios. 60 years ago, before we’d even reached the moon, Gene Roddenberry envisioned a space-faring future where humanity formed a peaceful federation with other beings. Will that come to pass? Who knows? But if it does, someone is bound to remember Roddenberry’s stories and use them as a template for that situation.

TNG is one of the best cumulative works of sci-fi ever produced

Some other, more real examples: Isaac Asimov wrote famous “laws” for governing robots over 70 years ago (to ensure they never harmed humanity), and scientists still consider those laws in their creations, even though robotics are significantly more advanced than in Asimov’s day. And, of course, scientists are undoubtedly influenced by countless stories which demonstrate the dangers of scientific progress. Basically– in the famous words of Dr Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park: “your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should!” Indeed, Doctor Malcolm… Indeed.

Science fiction simultaneously teaches our culture to be amazed by great creations and reasonably hesitant of them. All too often in these stories, things made with the best of intentions end up tragically destructive instead. The real world remembers these cautionary tales and works to avoid the worst-case scenarios.

Perhaps more important than telling us what humanity could be or might do– science-fiction is a window into who we are. Some writers/ creators tend to think better of our species than others… For example: the movie Starship Troopers predicted EXACTLY how the U.S would respond post-9/11 4 YEARS before 9/11!! And yes– I know it was a book beforehand, but I’ve never read the book, so bear with me… That story shows how easy it is for propaganda to radicalize our society against whatever enemy is popular, whether the fight is reasonable or not.

George Miller’s Mad Max movies posit that humanity’s veneer of decorum and politeness is almost completely dependent on an abundance of wealth and resources. Once those things cease to exist, our niceties crumble. And stories such as The Day the Earth Stood Still question if human xenophobia is worse than the “alien” visitors.

For anyone who thought Fallout did this first…

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Films like 2001: A Space Odyssey demonstrate how humanity is constantly evolving, and though we began as apes and make plenty of mistakes, we are destined to grow and learn and become greater versions of ourselves; The Doctor Who franchise consistently advocates on behalf of the human spirit– its curiosity, ingenuity, compassion, and ultimate capacity for good; And then there’s sci-fi-based superhero stories like Superman or Batman or Spiderman which revolve around the concept that those with great power (or potential for power) can/ will do wonders for the world when they use said power responsibly.

In these stories, both good and bad reflections of our culture hold some truth to them. Oftentimes there is a healthy dose of nuance to the morality, but sci-fi almost always hinges itself on an ultimate message, or leaves its audience with something to think about. Fantasy is beautiful and imaginative but tends more towards escapism than high-concept moral plays. Its morality is generally simple and easy to understand– good and evil are A or B choices, heroes and villains are clear-cut, and the fate of the world will either be utopia or dystopia.

​To all you fantasy fans clutching your pearls right now– I mean no disrespect. That’s just how I see it. Simple doesn’t have to mean bad or even dumb– just simple. Maybe that’s even why you like the genre! But you have to admit– the stories might be entertaining but they don’t offer much insight into our culture/ world’s present or future (maybe the past).

NOTE: That could easily just be my ignorance speaking. Be sure to tell me how wrong I am in the comments below!

Radioactive spider + web shooters + science nerd = a great sci-fi hero

Diversity of Stories

And even if fantasy spoke to me like sci-fi did, I’d still prefer the average science-fiction story to a typical fantasy world for one simple reason: in my experience– science-fiction is a far more diverse genre than fantasy. Sci-fi stories can take place anytime, or anywhere in the universe, as long as it adheres to some kind of scientific concept. This can result in stories ranging from Interstellar to Godzilla to Iron Man to Back to the Future.

But Fantasy tales often have the same basic setup: they take place in a mythical, wondrous land (vaguely based in Medieval Europe) and feature some combination of wizards, monsters, and humans warring for control/ peace over the realm. That’s not to say that there aren’t more inventive fantasy stories out there. I’ve seen multiple variations on the concept, such as unexpected settings (Star Wars comes to mind). But I’ve found that the most famous fantasy tales still follow the above formula. For the record: Star Wars is a fantasy series and– don’t lie to yourself– it tells that story too (just with Jedi instead of wizards, aliens instead of monsters, and planets instead of regions).

So that’s my take on sci-fi vs fantasy! For those of you who started off indifferent, I hope I argued some points well enough to give you a new perspective; for those who were hard-core in the fantasy camp I never expected to change your minds; and for my fellow fans of science-fiction I’ve been preaching to the choir! Maybe sometime in the future TPM co-founder Matteo Mustari will write an article in rebuttal to this one. He’s the biggest fantasy fan I’ve ever met and I guarantee he’ll have some opinions on this article! Until then, I drop the mic and declare this argument over…

Should fantasy vs sci-fi even be a cultural debate? Which genres do you prefer even MORE than fantasy or sci-fi? If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know. Also be sure to Like this article on Facebook and share if you enjoyed!

Till next time,

Joe Morin

By Joseph Morin

Joe's passion for film and entertainment began at 7 years old when his younger brother demanded to watch Duel of the Fates every day for weeks (on DVD). Joe admired the sequence so much, he decided to dedicate his life to film-making and storytelling. He has a degree in Cinema and Media Studies from York University. Joe loves DC superheroes (especially Superman), the first six Star Wars movies, and arguing about media with anyone who will listen.

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