92 – Fantasy in Space

The Mythcreant Podcast

While there isn’t exactly a hard line that separates science fiction from fantasy, there are elements that most people will identify with one genre or the other. Elves and wizards are considered fantasy, outer space is considered scifi. So what happens when you mix them together? That’s our topic for this week, looking at the results of putting fantasy elements in a space setting. The usual suspects make their appearances of course, with mentions of Eldar and Jedi Knights, but we also talk about the grand cosmology behind going to another planet and finding gnomes there. Listen in if you’ve ever wanted a space ship powered by wizard spells.

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Opening and closing theme: The Princess Who Saved Herself by Jonathan Coulton. Used with permission.

Show Notes:

Orks from Warhammer 40k

Warp Drives May Come With A Killer Downside

Event Horizon (1997)

Rubber-Forehead Aliens

Four Ways to Bring Swords to a Gunfight by Mike Hernandez

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  1. Tyson Adams

    Warp drive having a killer downside doesn’t have to be dark. I’ve used it as a plot point in a satirical sci-fi as a joke.

    Of course, I could just have a really dark sense of humour.

  2. Pteryx

    Red Dwarf is worth mentioning as a sci-fi universe full of “nonhumans” who are really just modified and/or genetically drifted humans.

    Pathfinder’s official universe is worth mentioning because not only are there official other planets in Golarion’s system (see the supplement Distant Worlds), but a full-on fantasy-in-space variant called Starfinder is currently in development.

  3. Fay Onyx

    I had several major thoughts after listening to this episode.

    1) Placing fantasy in outer space inherently involves science because our understanding of what outer space is comes from science.​ Ideas like the vacuum of space, the existence of solar systems, the vast distances between solar systems, galaxies, faster than light travel, etc all come from science and therefore that setting inherently invokes some level of science and thus many people will have expectations that go with that science (for example, desire for some evolutionary justification for species similarity).

    2) If you want to make a fantasy world that has the epic scale of a universe or multiverse without invoking science (and thus being able to blithely ignore exceptions that come with science such as evolution), then you could create a setting that contains other worlds that is different than outer space. For example, you could create a bunch of continents adrift in an endless ocean and only the gods know about them all or say that there are infinite bubble worlds that exist in the infinite flow of magic with magic gates between them.

    3) I agree that there is not the expectation of evolutionary understandings of magical races in fantasy. Many fantasy races are base on mythology which comes from a time before scientific perspectives and ways of thinking came about and as such they are (largely) approached differently than races in scifi.

    4) As a reminder, Star Trek The Next Generation did come up with a (somewhat shaky) justification for the similarity of all of their races (certainly a bit after the fact as it was not present until later on in the next gen). The story is that there was an ancient progenitor race that knew they were dying out and who seeded many planets with the building blocks of their type of life.

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