Welcome to our Frequently Asked Questions section, where
we can hopefully illuminate some of the more common enquiries we receive
– sometimes we forget that not everyone is familiar with terms we use
regularly, so hopefully this will help fill in any gaps. If you don’t
see the answer to your own particular question here then please feel
contact us and we’ll do our best to answer it. For regular updates
of new and forthcoming releases, reviews and interviews don’t forget to
check out our
What is SF&F?
SF&F is a
shorthand term often used among genre fans and is basically a quicker way of
saying Science Fiction and Fantasy; it is most commonly used in the context
of novels. The terms ‘SF’ or ‘Sci-Fi’ are also often used, but many fans
find the term ‘Sci-Fi’ to be a little insulting and juvenile, while ‘SF’
doesn’t adequately describe a novel which may be predominantly Fantasy,
hence SF&F becoming more common as a handy, catch-all short description for
fantastic fiction. The term ‘speculative fiction’ is also becoming more
common and tends to be applied to fiction which may have some fantastical
elements but is not entirely SF&F. The excellent 2006 Scottish anthology
Nova Scotia is a good example of speculative fiction.
difference between SF and Fantasy then?
Ah, glad you
asked me that… Many books – often the best ones – defy easy categorising.
For example Shakespeare uses magic in A Midsummer Night’s Dream –
does that make it a part of the Fantasy genre? Actually Neil Gaiman explored
that idea in his Sandman collection, mixing Shakespeare and his play with a
‘real’ Titania and Oberon watching his performance in the
Dream Country collection.
Take that in
mind any definitions here are very loose, but at the most basic level the SF
side of the genre deals mostly with technology and science – computers going
mad like HAL 9000 in 2001 or spacecraft landing to invade as in
War of the Worlds are SF, for example. Some SF will be very solidly
based on real science with a little extrapolation added in, with Arthur C
Clarke being the most famous example of this. This is often referred to as
Other SF may use
purely imaginary technology and this is common is a lot of ‘space opera’ SF
where the writer creates fantastic technology well beyond anything that can
be realistically based on our current science, although it will normally
still follow logical rules because, imaginary or not, it is technology and
Iain M Banks is a great example of this.
Fantasy tends to
deal more with magic and myth – Tolkien would be a prime example of the
Fantasy writer, as would the Harry Potter novels. There is not attempt to
explain the fantastical elements in terms of science, with powers or amazing
creatures such as dragons, being simply presented as part of the world being
described. Of course, neither category is set in stone and authors can and
do borrow elements from both sides of the fence with Anne McCaffrey’s
Dragons of Pern series using motifs from both fantasy and SF.
To add further
complexity more mainstream authors may appropriate some small elements of SF
or Fantasy into their work, such as Margaret Atwood, Kafka or
Alasdair Gray – whether this then makes their work SF&F is highly
debated. As with any artistic label they are only loosely defined and
applied – good writing crosses all confinements and you should only use the
categories as a rough guide to let you know where to find a book. At the end
of the day, any good writer in any genre, SF&F or otherwise, uses the props
of their tale, be they warp drives, intelligent computers, warlocks or
dragons, to advance a story about people.
difference between your SF&F novels and your Tie-in novels?
difference is that the books we list in our SF&F section are usually
original works with original characters. The Tie-in novels, such as our
Stargate range, are also original works by authors but using
pre-existing characters and scenarios, often from a TV show or film. For
Star Trek novel may be an original storyline but the characters –
Kirk, Spock etc – and the setting – the 23rd century with the
Federation – are drawn from an existing scenario.
Some readers can
be very snobbish about Tie-ins, seeing them as a lesser relative to ‘proper’
novels, but for many fans they provide a way to continue the adventures of
beloved characters. A sub-set of the Tie-in book is the Novelization, which
is literally (no pun intended) a prose novel interpretation of an existing
work, usually a film (for example, a novel version of the
V For Vendetta film).
Are there awards for
A great many –
with mainstream literary awards generally snubbing genre fiction such as
SF&F, horror or crime, awards have sprung up dedicated to them. In Britain
the two most prestigious are the
BSFA (British Science Fiction Association) and the
Arthur C Clarke Awards. There are many other awards from around the
world, including the
Aurealis Awards in Australia, the World Fantasy awards, the
Philip K Dick award and the internationally respected
Hugo and Nebula awards.
This is not
counting awards selected by readers of genre journals and magazines, such as
Locus or SFX. With the international nature of modern
publishing it is common to see overseas editions of books appearing on other
awards shortlists some time after their UK publication (and vice versa).