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TV Tropes: Science Fantasy

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What happens when you get robots in your sword and sandal epic?

Science Fantasy!

As the name implies, this trope is a deliberate mixture of elements from the fantasy and science fiction genres. Knights with magic swords hoping from one planet to the next in spaceships or robots fighting along side King Arthur against the Saxons. This trope comes in three flavors:

  • The first one falls under the Rule of Cool. It is all about style over substance. It is a good way to establish that setting is similar to but not the same as our current world.
  • The second is mechanic/thematic. The blending of tropes allows for characters and situations with different themes and abilities.
  • The third is philosophical, mainly the exploration of reality under Clarke’s Third Law, that any sufficiently advanced technology will be mistaken for magic.

World of Warcraft, one of the most popular multiplayer games in the world runs on this trope. It is generally a fantasy based universe, with orcs, trolls, humans and dwarves fighting with swords and sorcery. But technology is all over the place, from simple stone clubs to massive spaceships that cross the space between the stars. Certain races and classes can use technology such as explosives and energy rays, allowing them to stand out. This gives the player a wider variety of character choices. And the games meta story has an advance race seeding life on different planets by means of extremely powerful magictek, with emphasis on the tech.

The problem with this trope is that it tends to break suspension of disbelief at least on the fantasy side of the equation. Advance technology and scientific reasoning are seen by many as the realm of the modern age and have little place in medieval or ancient settings even though the scientific method dates back to Aristotle. Fantasy elements are more common in science fiction, especially those with a retro-futurims theme like Steampunk as a way of explaining what was once considered science fiction in eras where the technology and material sciences could not produce the expected results. Urban fantasy is not quite space fantasy, since most of the tech is of modern design even if the genre does have magic in it. It is easier for the audience to accept the blend if the elements are presented upfront rather than a one time effect that serves as a deus ex machina.


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