“but what strikes you at this first reading is the disparity between her tone of comfortable and sedate fabulism and the shocking alterity she depicts. No matter how rumpty-tum her diction, nothing can domesticate the freakish Land of Topsy-Turvy, dilute the glacial awe of the Land of Ice and Snow, or still the fear invoked by the fucking Land of Smack—an entire world whose quiddity is pain. The weirdness of these settings makes Blyton indelibly part of the speculative-fiction tradition, and it’s through them that you’ll first start to realize that writers aren’t in full control of their creations.”
This also has been done to death. Virtually every answer you give will fail to clearly indicate which category a large number of books belong to. Familiar books mentioned that test the boundary conditions include Anne McCaffrey's "Dragon" series, Piers Anthony's "Apprentice Adept" series, STAR WARS, and anything that uses FTL. The most concise definition I've heard was given by John Clute in a radio broadcast 22 March 1997: " "Science fiction: the model is that it is a kind of story which argues from this world a kind of possible outcome. It's possibly an improbable outcome, but it is arguable. Fantasy essentially, as I have been seeing it, is a series of stories, self-coherent stories (a term we use, kind of a bad neologism to describe stories which as [it] were understand themselves as stories; they're told stories), that are set in worlds that are technically impossible, that we can't argue. We may believe in them, but we can't argue them."
A more complete listing of the borderline cases includes:
* Poul Anderson's "Operation" stories, in OPERATION CHAOS
* Piers Anthony's "Apprentice Adept" series
* James Blaylock's "Elfin Ship"
* Marion Zimmer Bradley's "Darkover" series
* David Brin's PRACTICE EFFECT
* Rick Cook's "Wizard's Bane" series
* L. Sprague de Camp & Fletcher Pratt"s "Incomplete Enchanter" series
* Charles de Lint's SVAHA
* C. S. Friedman's "Coldfire" series
* Lyndon Hardy's "Master of the Five Magics" series
* Robert A. Heinlein's MAGIC, INC.
* Rosemary Kirstein's STEERSWOMAN and THE OUTSKIRTER'S SECRET
* Julian May's "Pliocene Exile" series
* Anne McCaffrey's "Dragonrider" series
* Walter M. Miller's CANTICLE FOR LEIBOVITZ
* James Morrow's THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS
* Kristine Kathryn Rusch's ALIEN INFLUENCES
* Robert Silverberg's "Majipoor" series
* Christopher Stasheff's "Warlock" series
* Michael Swanwick's IRON DRAGON'S DAUGHTER
* Sheri Tepper's "The World of the True Game" books
* Lawrence Watt-Evans's "Three Worlds" series
* Lawrence Watt-Evans's CYBORG AND THE SORCERERS and THE WIZARD AND THE WAR MACHINE
* Walter Jon Williams's METROPOLITAN and CITY ON FIRE
* Gene Wolfe's "Book of the New Sun"
* Roger Zelazny's LORD OF LIGHT
* (anything with faster-than-light (FTL) travel, time travel, parallel worlds/universes, psionics, or shoddy science)
(Often someone suggests that fantasy and science fiction can be easily divided and this list is brought up, the original poster responds by saying they haven't read any of these so they can't say which category they go in. This is not likely to convince people that such a division is possible. :-) )
It's Science Fiction, if, presuming technical competence on the part of the writer, he genuinely believes it could happen. Otherwise, it's FANTASY.
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