The Point of Sci-Fi and Fantasy

Imagined worlds dominate popular stories these days. Middle Earth, the Galactic Empire, Gotham City…books and movies about these are good business in the 21st century.

Dr. Joem Antonio, founder and teacher at Storywriting School, explains that the worlds depicted by science fiction and fantasy involve “technologies, systems, creatures, locations, that are beyond what we experience in everyday life, or even history.” They’re so out-of-this-world that The Guardian extends its empathy to sci-fi/fantasy fans, who aren’t viewed so favorably by many. It says of science fiction geeks: “Even though the genre has produced some of the most forward-thinking, influential and linguistically advanced literature of the past century, most people still regard it as the preserve of lonely men who know a little bit too much about computers and not quite enough about personal hygiene.” But fans of the fantasy genre have it even worse, it claims. “They are the zit-ridden little brothers of the SF geeks, whose even-less-healthy obsessions include trolls, giving Anglo-Saxon names to phallic weapons, and maidens with magical powers.”

It’s easy to think that sci-fi and fantasy, two sub-genres of speculative fiction, are all about living in your head. They’re imagined worlds, after all, right? By assuming this, we miss out on speculative fiction’s true value.

Dr. Antonio asserts, “The main point of science fiction and fantasy is to highlight human traits. And that is [where] the fantasy or the science fiction steps in: to put the human being to an extreme. And by putting them to an extreme, human qualities [get] highlighted.”

Dr. Joem Antonio teaches storywriting at Fully Booked in Bonifacio High Street

To say that sci-fi and fantasy stories are “escapist” needs to be qualified, then. They’re not an escape into imaginary worlds so that you could cease to be in the real one. They’re escapist in the sense that they allow us to momentarily forget about the next appointment, that grocery list, or the pile of laundry in order to go deeper into the reality of being human. And, in so doing, we’d be able to see the greater meaning of that appointment, grocery list, and pile of laundry.

Dr. Antonio, who holds a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from UP Diliman and is a six-time Palanca Awardee, teaches a course called How to Write Sci-fi/Fantasy Stories. It’s a three-hour crash course that guides students into building a basic story design for these genres. He notes, “keep in mind that you can fake practically anything, but you have to keep your human characters or your anthropomorphic characters still close to being humanlike.”

Dr. Antonio offers this course and more through Storywriting School, a learning community of teachers and students of storywriting. Visit www.storywritingschool.com for more information.

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