Wyrd & Wonder: Is Star Wars Fantasy or Sci-Fi?

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Is Star Wars Sci Fi or Fantasy?

Spoiler: I think its both, but there are strong arguments for both sides.

I’m not the first person to ask this and I certainly won’t be the last, but here are some opinions for each side:

Arguments for Sci Fi:

It seems to me that Star Wars is generally accepted as Sci Fi. If you look on Goodreads this is certainly the case:

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Megan Leigh @ Pop Verse argues that Star Wars is 100% Science Fiction

Star Wars is all science fiction. Next time you have someone dismissively tell you it’s more fantasy than scifi, ask them to back up their claim with a decent argument.

She does admit that it has fantasy-like qualities

Star Wars is science fiction, though admittedly it has some aspects that could appear in fantasy (remember that both genres are sub-genres of the large ‘speculative fiction’ genre and have a great deal of overlap at the best of times).

But she believes that Star Wars is a Space Opera, which is a sub-genre of Science Fiction.

Star Wars is a prime example of the sub-sub-genre (speculative fiction > science fiction > space opera), space opera (that’s right, we’re getting right down into the nitty-gritty)

Arguments for Fantasy:

On the other end of the spectrum we have Dirk Hooper @ Media Cake who argues that Star Wars is Fantasy

Star Wars is a fantasy set in space.

Star Wars is, and always has been, a fantasy tale.

He points out that the bare bones of Star Wars is a fantasy book

We could also look at Star Wars from a dispassionate distance. There are knights, and princesses, and wizards. A farm boy leaves to save the princess from the evil Lord’s castle. Along the way, there are sword-fights, and rope-swings across chasms, and weird creatures, and adventure.

His biggest argument is that Star Wars creator George Lucas himself called Star Wars Fantasy

I just wanted to forget science.

I didn’t want to make a 2001, I wanted to make a space fantasy that was more in the genre of Edgar Rice Burroughs; that whole other end of space fantasy that was there before science took it over in the Fifties.

Arguments for Both:

Amelia Hill @ LiveAboutDotCom wrote an article on why she thinks its both.

The best answer to whether Star Wars is sci-fi or fantasy is that it’s a little bit of both. Calling Star Wars “sci-fi” ignores its fantasy elements, such as the Force; but calling Star Wars “fantasy” ignores its interplanetary setting and sci-fi feel.

She calls it “Science Fantasy” which I think is perfect!

My Thoughts:

All three articles are interesting reads, so if you have the time I highly suggest reading them!

Personally I think Star Wars is a mix of both Science Fiction and Fantasy. Its got the classic Sci-Fi space elements with light speed and droids.  But it also has a lot of classic Fantasy aspects too, like alien races and Jedi Magic (cuz even if it has a basis in science, not everyone can use the force so its still just a complicated magic system)

Also it never made sense to me that unicorns are fantasy while aliens are sci fi? To me they are both made up creatures so they should both be fantasy!  Yes its possible that aliens exist, but the chances of them being like the aliens in our sci fi stories are practically zero.

What do you think Star Wars is? Sci Fi or Fantasy?

41 comments

  1. I like science fantasy. That fits. And like you, I can see & accept it as both.

    But I do think it is more fantasy than SciFi mainly because I view SciFi has being more techy. At its core, Star Wars has little to do with space. Sure there are spacecraft and blasters (which are just fancy guns). But it doesn’t get into the technical side of space or astronaut/space traveler like Becky Chambers’s A Long Way To A Small Angry Planet or Andy Weir’s The Martian or even Star Trek. Star Wars is a fantasy story where the fantasy universe just happens to be “a galaxy far, far away” instead of Middle Earth or Hogwarts.

    I think it’s also fun to note that Lucas wrote the story for Willow. Look at the comparisons—evil sorcesses/evil emperor, princess/princess, unlikely hero/unlikely hero, rouge pilot/rouge swordsman, small funny creatures (Ewoks)/small funny creature (Brownies). I could go on but . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. haha If you made me pick one I would say Star Wars is fantasy too, but I did like Science Fantasy, and think it fits better than trying to pigeon hole it into one or the other. Like you said, it doesn’t have the super technical side and a lot of the science stuff is wrong anyway 😀 And Hogwarts is solid fantasy even thought it is set in the real muggle world! So thats a great comparison. Just because Star Wars is set in real space doesn’t mean its a real place haha. I didn’t know Lucas wrote Willow! I’ve never watched it but knowing that makes me want to watch it! Thanks!

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  2. I mean it’s literally fantasy because there’s zero scientific basis for anything (force aside, there’s no sound in space lol), and I’m a science nerd so that’s how I think of it, but since it seems the whole world equates space with Sci-Fi it’s gotten that label haha

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    1. That’s fair! I know the sound thing is wrong, but is most of the other stuff wrong too? What about Hyperspeed? And are other SciFi books all technically accurate? Haha I’m just playing the Devil’s advocate but its fun to thing about!

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  3. Ha! Good question. I’d say sci fi more than fantasy as the evolution on other planets could give you other form and characteristics.

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    1. But wouldn’t that be fantasy because we are creating creatures that probably don’t exist? Why are aliens SciFi but unicorns fantasy? I’ve always wondered that but there doesn’t seem to be a good answer 🤣

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  4. Great post! I agree with you, I think it’s a mix of both: sci-fantasy. I think that’s probably the reason I enjoyed the films so much when I was younger – I’m not as much of a Star Wars fan now, but I will always love Leia – because I wasn’t as familiar with sci-fi then, but Star Wars but very common fantasy tropes in a sci-fi setting and it helped me dip my toes into sci-fi. 🙂

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  5. See, I think Star Wars is a space opera, but I don’t personally consider space opera to be a sub-genre of sci-fi. I tend to think of space opera as being a sub-genre of speculative fiction, without necessarily being tied to either sci-fi or fantasy. Sure, space operas are usually sci-fi because they are set in space and usually space books are sci-fi. However, there are some fantasies set in space. (I would call Margaret Weis’ “Star of the Guardians” and Anne McCaffrey’s “Acorna” series both space fantasies, and Nnedi Okorafor’s “Binti” trilogy is a possiblility, too.)

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    1. AAAAH Star of the Guardians (aka Reverse Star Wars) – such a guilty pleasure and very definitely fantasy that happens to be set in space. Love that it got a shout out 🙂

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    2. Ooh I like that answer a lot! I have always hear of Space Operas being a sub-genre of SciFi, but it makes so much more sense to make it its own sub-genre of Spec Fic. That way we don’t try to pigeon hole space books into either Sci Fi or Fantasy! I like that 😀

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    1. I do agree its a Space Opera, I guess I just don’t agree that Space Opera is a sub genre of Sci Fi. (which is a new thought for me haha, I just stole it from Nicole @ BookWyrmKnits in her earlier comment 😉 )

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  6. The eternal question! My coworker and I both got into a really huge argument over this because I said it was fantasy since it follows all the fantasy tropes and also ‘the force’ and Jedi are essentially a space wizard. He argued because they use technology like FTL travel and space ships it’s science fiction. I tried to compromise and say it’s both but he wouldn’t have it LOL.

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  7. I did not know this was a debate that existed! As someone who has only seen one Star Wars film… I think it’s scifi haha. There are more obviously scifi elements than obviously fantasy elements, imo (which no one should care about given my lack of Star Wars knowledge :P). But I see now how you could go round in circles arguing for each (fantasy, scifi, or mix of both).

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    1. Haha I always assumed it was Sci Fi too because space and stuff, but after hearing so many arguments for Fantasy I have been converted 🤣 And I love that you pointed out your lack of SW knowledge. I totally care about your opinion, but I always appreciate it when people are willing to admit they may not actually know what they are talking about ❤ (I rarely ever know what I'm talking about)

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    1. I like the Space Opera answer!! Someone earlier brought up the point that they thought Space Opera should be its own sub genre of Speculative fiction and not a sub genre of Sci Fi, which I thought was super interesting 😀 And I agree the Force is more of a complicated magic system but its still got the space aspect which kind of makes it both Fantasy and Sci Fi 😀

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  8. I’ve always categorized Star Wars as science fiction, although I agree it can be both since it has the elements of both. Oftentimes science fiction books night have more traits of one genre but a few traits of another, so science fantasy fits! (But I’ve never seen Star Wars so who am I to talk other than whatever I’ve seen across the webs?)

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    1. Haha I think SW is broadly classified as SciFi because someone just made a random decision sometime, because they had to put it somewhere 🤣🤣 So thats were I had always classified it too, without really thinking about it. And you haven’t seen Star Wars?!?! “The only people in the universe who have never seen Star Wars are the characters in Star Wars and that’s cause they lived them Ted, that’s cause they lived the Star Wars.” (I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to use this How I Met Your Mother Quote haha, I’m not actually judging you for not having seen them!)

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  9. I have to say I always thought of Star Wars as sci-fi, but now that I read your post, it’s true that there are a lot of fantasy elements in it as well. So a science fantasy sounds pretty good! (And now I want to go rewatch the movies haha)

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  10. I love this post and I’m with you on considering Star Wars both science fiction and fantasy. It definitely fits into the space opera category on many levels, but for me, everything about the force and the characters’ quests to master it says fantasy to me.

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