Spock v the Sorcerers: Fantasy or Science Fiction?

These are notes from a presentation at NineWorlds. I took them last year (2014), but apparently didn’t post them. Oops.

9Worlds GeekFestSpock vs the Sorcerers: F or SF? The Genre Deathmatch Smackdown!
Anne Perry (judge, jury, executioner)
Daniel Polansky, Liz Bourke (fantasy)
Zen Cho, Geoffrey Ryman (science fiction)

Geoffrey Ryman:
write both f and sf

Liz Bourke:
Write about books on the internet

Daniel Polansky:
write fantasy as sci fi killed my parents

Anne Perry: moderator

Debate will begin with science fiction. Three minutes with Geoff. Then three minutes for Daniel. Then three minutes for Zen. Then three minutes for Liz. Then 30 seconds each for rebuttal.

Today, my yellow card is Baron Harkonen.
Red card is Hiccup that I got in Happy Meal.

Be fun and have a good time. Clap and cheer if you hear a point you agree with.

Can’t compare sff on quality. both usually terrible
embody ideas that shouldn’t be
sf is a sub-branch of fantasy, an improved sub-branch
SF is aiming at more positive and more mobile… not looking at past. Actively engaged in trying to imagine how tech is going to change us. Envisage good usages of tech. Not just necessarily to understanding the world but to changing the world.
It is acting on a more difficult task: dealing with the future and how we will deal with the future.
I was not prepared for the future which I was being given, but to the extent that I was cyberpunk helped.

That was very eloquent.
I’m going to do my best to seriously decrease the quality of the conversation.
Since time immemorial, man has looked up at the stars and seen them and thought, “Screw you.” Who would want to write about that kind of thing?
Doctor Who? more like Doctor Who Cares… (lots of laughter)
particularly profane comment
Balance of my time to read part of the script from Star Wars III: (not F)
“Oh Anakin. Thank goodness you are back.” “I’ve missed you, Padema. I’ve missed you.”
“Anakin, don’t say things like that. You are important.”
“I’ve given my life to the Jedi order, but i would only give up my life, for you.”
“Patience, my handsome jedi.”
Goes on for another 2.5 hours…

spaceship goes faster than imaginary horses
black vulcans but no black elves
pokemon and dragons in sf
All small children cover ears, …

not to praise sf, but to bury it
roots go deeper into the human psyche
around fire, monsters out there (might be sf, but I am not switching sides)
fantasy better than sf
no techno issues

interesting points


SF is for geeks.
I don’t want none of that.
I do think Zen and I are going to switch teams.
Starships are lame.
Wm Shatner was a bad actor.

shooting fish in a barrel
wave your magic wand–mind control and authoritarianism–I’m from there. Don’t want to live there.
the other become orcs–let’s not
Whorf had a life and girlfriends and friends and a job and a child. Can you name a single orc?
space ships are faster than horses

horses are friendlier than space ships
Where is the joy in the journey?
Not all who wander are lost.

Anne: I am slightly offended that you are calling Shadowfax an imaginary friend.

f is old
got old ideas
Tolkien thought he was writing about how good variety was. Fantasy establishes power through fear.
SF is trying to be new. Usually fails if muddling it up with fantasy.

Talk about Star Wars.

SF folk … anything they don’t like are “anything I don’t like” is not sf. Not hard enough.
Not a desire to fake new imaginary physics.
Pod racing… Flashbacks they were in? I have nightmares about the pod racing.
What are they going to do to fix my shattered psyche?
–in US and don’t have proper healthcare

Shouldn’t talk about it because it is so terrible.
Swept under a rug.
So much of sf and f are terrible.

Star Wars needs a trigger warning.

Star Wars is sf because it labels itself as sf.
We point to it and say “that’s sf”
Fantastical way of making a definition.
Sound dodge–SF mixed with F fails.

Anne: How does SF side feel about Star Wars?

Star Wars tries to inflate himself.
Lucas hadn’t read Joseph Campbell’s 1000 Faces.
psychological damage … read Stephen Donaldson’s first novel. Pain of growing up and alone in Texas.

Star Wars, fake Buddhism that doesn’t even work. get really angry when you don’t win.
George Lucas, be consistent.
Remedy for traumatic pod racing: diet of Octavia Butler, Ursula LeGuin.
ShadowFlax is running in this world. (F imaginary horse)
When a book blows your mind, it’s SF. Shows you the world in a new light.
Ursula LeGuin–planet with introvert… I thought cool. Can you live with that model?
What fantasy book does that?
sf will blow your mind rather than f

Hands up.
SF blow your mind–a bit more
F blow your mind–a fewer less (my perception)

rounded up–at least 3/4s of room
mind blown by fantasy
SF gets itself weighed down by plausible and technobabble…
F blows mind because ways that it approaches divinity, talks about human potential and interactions, does it in ways that speak to me in deeper ways.
F holistically is pretty much like poetry. Opens up whole levels about ways I’ve never considered before.
SF insists on only looking at life.

raise you podcasting and give you quidditch

What is sexier?

SF in wrong way.
Women in short dresses with guns. Has Spock, which is sexy.
F has all those men in leotards.

Kirk/Spock is science fiction
SF was the place out of which grew fandom based around exploring women’s sexuality. That makes it the best.

Voyage to the Bottom of Sea far more ?slashable?

Played with Baron Harkonen. Does he sodomize people? Does he do drugs? Who made a toy for this?
SF is sexier. Want the toy.

for my personal safety I am moving to the SF side
still arguing for fantasy, think F is sexier.
Hiccup can fly. Sexy flying.

Lots of random quiet jokes that I cannot understand either because of the sound level or the accents.


fashion in sff are same thing–past is made of leather, but so is future
all for hats with feather plumes. Not really for skinny catsuit things. also a problem with chain mail bikini.
When you have the right combination and leather…
Velvet and silk in science fiction? Nope.

Alternate reality. SF.
Don’t find dinosaurs sexy.

What about werewolves and vampires in steampunk?

Apparently not.
In my imaginary world, I just dress handsomely.
Point of fantasy: can wear whatever you want.

jumpsuit that is comfortable
Future–so has figured out how to go to bathroom without taking them completely off.

ladies in scanty outfits
World’s worst costume ever is Wonder Woman’s. Ludicrous. She would wear tunics and Greek armor. Would rather see Wonder Woman in Greek armor. Is Wonder Woman SF or F? Daughter of Zeus. F. God, not an alien.

Amazons show up more often in fantasy and properly clad ones.
Some people who do fantasy actually do historical research.
Ancient Greeks for Amazons… lizard skin.

Who also wears lizard skin, Daniel?

The things that happen late at night we are not going to be taken.

SF doesn’t wear lizard skins unless they are lizard skins.
You can have sex with an alien.
But I would rather have sex with an elf, and with dwarves–since both women and men have beards.

Having fun no matter who they are having sex with, I’m okay with that.

Superheros SF or F?

We’ll take them.
We need all help we can get.


Batman might be SF or F.

quick lightning round

SF–name 2 important spaceships
F–name 2 horses

SF: Enterprise, Heart of Gold
Space Eagle, Justice of Turin, Skywalk

Hit us with some horses or dragons. Novik dragons.
F: ShadowFax, Binky, Valdemar horses–Roland, etc.
Toothless the Dragon. Temeraire.

EEDocSmith “marriage of the hero”
“He descended the staircase wearing sheer glamorette and 1000 xx rose as one”

Assumption that fantasy means medieval fantasy, but urban fantasy.

Avoiding Buffy.

who would you pick from your genre to fight and win?

Philip K. Dick because he used to take speed to help him sleep.
Octavia Butler because…

Terms of the fight determined after fighters picked.

GK Chesterton because he was 7 ft tall and carried a sword cane everywhere.
Daniel Polansky fisticuffs before the panel started, takes speed to help him sleep.

Mud wrestling with no weapons. Who wins?

One book for your corner.
Write these down.

The Time Issue. Boring choice.

prefer a female author, but Air by Geoff Ryman–about happens when internet enters head in central Asia from POV of seamstress in village. Very readable.

Lois McMaster Bujold’s XXX

Gene Wolfe’s First Book of the New Sun– first one, work of legitimate genius

which side wants to take responsibility for zardors?

Sean Connery F

Sufficiently advanced technology is magic?
SF: yes
F: yes

Could SF give us colorful, magical talking horses?
SF: yes

Liz, if you develop technology to having intelligent talking dogs, eventually somebody will do the same to cats and we will all be doomed.

Meta difference between 2 difference.

F = there’s is crappy
SF = We like to think.

F = dragons, vampires, undead, golems, gods
SF =Sometimes robots have feelings and they don’t understand. Lately what we thought were gods turn out to be aliens.

Audience Participation
SF? F?
Who makes most noise win?

Fantasy 1/5 of room
SF 1/2 of room
Rest of us didn’t get up.

SF won.

2 minutes each for rebuttals.

Love reading fantasy, even read Tolkien.
Hope you all continue to read it, but not as much as science fiction.

Be bitter. I hope no one ever reads sf.
Unless I write an sf book.

Love dragons. dragons and spaceship can almost be the same thing–have telepathy and love you the best of the world.
Everyone should read everything.

Agree with Zen.
But Geoff tried to intimidate me before hand. Now that we have a table, arm wrestling.
Liz won.
You totally let me win that one. We might not have the brains, but we have the muscles.

Notes from Anne:
Hitler elves
Star Wars sf or f?
Fantasy is old.
Star Wars needs trigger warning.
Flying is not sexy. (Baron Harkonen)
fake Buddhism
past is made of leather
What is sexier than Steampunk?

Winner is:
SF wins.

My notes:
There was very little discussion of Star Trek in this panel. I was expecting more Star Trek than Star Wars.

No one mentioned the authors I like and read. Interesting. Big names and panel names only.

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