“A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far, Far, Away”: A Discussion of How Fantasy intersects with Science Fiction…

Warning! Warning! This following discussion contains extensive reference to Star Wars, Time Bandits, DC Comics and Samuri Jack along with related material and so contains minor spoilers. Read ahead at your own risk…

So this topic is slightly late this week but I needed sometime off to relax without writing for a bit. I probably don’t need to clarify but hey, I’m writing this for you people like me that love Science and Science Fiction, no matter if you are here in a few days after me writing this or years later. As the end of the year approaches, we’re talking more mystical aspects that are interweaved into science fiction, when fantasy meets Science and how they intersect. There’s no better time to do that than “the most wonderful time of the year”. So settle by the fire, listen to some soothing music and let’s jump into my least Sci-Fi topic so far and have a Great New Year so far.

There’s always been some form of intersection between Science Fiction and Fantasy. Elements that are real and entirely fictionized, sometimes it can be fantasy with elements of Science spliced in there for good measure. This is what I mean by Space Fantasy, something that takes many elements of Science Fiction such as space, aliens and spaceships but is more common to traditional or high concept fantasy. They are only partially grounded in our world’s rules but acts basically as a fantasy film set in a place where technology is highly advanced from our own. It combines an essence of magic, an essence of prochecy and just a tad of intergalactic mischeif and you get Space Fantasy.

It’s a genre that isn’t set in stone but allows many elements of the sci-fi genre to bleed in from the edges, case in point Star Wars, the franchise set a long time ago in a galaxy far far away. You know the story, the light versus the dark, the Jedi against the Sith. It’s something that is embodied more by Fantasy and pulp serials like Flash Gordon. It has elements of samurai honor, prophecy and war. The main thing that differentiates it from usual science fiction is that there is no subtext of the what if, Star Wars is in its own cyclical universe where there must always be a balance between the dark side and the light.

It’s pretty much a totally different universe with its own set of rules and planets within it. The universe is focused more on the waging war between this two metaphysical forces rather than a reflection of our own. That’s the great thing about it though, it’s more of a Harry Potter in space rather than something that is meant to develop a meaning or subtext for our own lives. It’s true escapist fantasy, even when some of the movies or stories haven’t been great much like the Prequels but I won’t jump down that rabbit-hole. Star Wars is pure blockbuster entertainment but in the best way, it’s more a story of great action in space and characters than its story even with a long detailed expanded mythology.

Another space fantasy story I would like to talk about is that of the great animated show from the 21st Century, Samurai Jack. You may be asking how this ties in with space fantasy…well, that’s just my general term for the weird hybrid genre of fantasy and sci-fi. Samurai Jack is, however, a great example of how to bring Science Fiction concepts into a fantasy story. Taking place across four seasons on Cartoon Network and a fifth on Adult Swim, the show involves a Japanese Samurai being launched into the future by the embodiment of darkness, Aku who then conquers the world as he is sent into the future trying to find his way back. In this way, the show mixes many fantasy forms of storytelling and style with Sci-Fi plot.

The main plot then involves him trying to find a way back to the past to try to beat Aku and save the world from his control whilst beating robot beetles and monsters much like a traditional fantasy animated show in the process of trying to reach that goal. For the most part it’s a very good show for the first four seasons as we build this futuristic fantasy world and meet fun and interesting characters and villians, where the show really hits its stride is in the fantastic fifth season. It acts as a sort of soft reboot in a way to try and finish the main story after being cancelled 10 years earlier.

What we get is a grim but mature animated show which tackles a broken hero who can never age in a world that is repressed under the reign of evil. It has those great elements of sci-fi in its setting and use of the time travel concept but the fantasy elements and whimsy of the story are the main parts that make up the show. It is in that way exactly what I was talking about with this post. The show tackles chracters rather than the world and a moral question of where are world is headed much like Star Wars. But I’ll leave talking about Samuari Jack with this great scene here and if you haven’t yet watched it, please check out atleast the fifth season, it’s truely worth the watch especially if you want a more mature animated series.

The next of these examples is that of DC Comics or even comics in general such as Dark Horse’s Hellboy series. Much like Marvel, the world is often pretty fantastical even in its modern day setting. The main aspect of them is they are Gods becoming human and so that will include many Science Fiction elements along with that. Magic plays a huge part into the universe such as through Solomon Grundy (an undead Batman villian), Sandman or Constantine but you still have futuristic elements much like the Bat Cave or even in Superman and Flash’s origins. It focuses more on mythology and the supernatural rather than Marvel who focus on human characters with baggage. DC just flips that round in a great way. They create something we inspire to be rather than people we can directly relate to. Much like Marvel it’s not based in Sci-Fi but has fantasy elements.

Then there’s Hellboy which is more like Samuari Jack in the way it tackles its mythology and sci-fi elements. Many of the forces in the world are based entirely from fantasy. Elves, fish men, goblins, large monsters and even the main character who is a literal hell spawn. The world is attacked by evil monsters from Hell whilst combining a top secret association named the BPRD behind the scenes which combines many sci-fi and steampunk elements to the comics and story. The comics themselves act more as monster movies in the modern day but still explore old caverns and castles as we beat monsters with modern technology. It’s more about the fantasy elements meeting more of a futuristic modern day setting. There are many cyberpunk and horror elements in there as well with sci-fi as a very small part of that. In many ways Men in Black is similar but in a more sci-fi based way, fighting aliens to prevent the destruction of the world.

Now that I’ve brought up a few high concept forms of space fantasy, I would like to look at one final movie that illustrates perfectly this weird hybrid genre I’ve been talking about this week (well in this post anyway), that movie being the swashbuckling Terry Gilliam movie known as Time Bandits. A movie of a battle against evil, dreams and time travelling dwarfs.Whilst Star Wars might be a great example of Space fantasy and the use of sci-fi iconography in the form of a good versus evil grandious Space Opera like Flash Gordon, Time Bandis shows perfectly how to combine Science Fiction concepts such as Time Travel and the meaning of our existence with fantasy elements such as evil demons, magic and fairy tail like story which combines many elements of what makes the director’s (Terry Gilliam’s) work and even high concept Sci-Fi great.

The film’s plot is pretty simple, much like a time travel themed fairy tail, following a boy who is taken on a journey with a bunch of dwarfs across important eras across history. This is often played more for comedic effect as they meet and steal treasure from many important historical figures such as Napolean and Julius Caesar with a scroll that helps them navigate through the fabric of reality. On their tail however is their employer, an intergalactic being representing God and the embodiment of evil who wishes to capture the scroll for well…evil purposes, as you would guess. Much of the plot is fixed on traveling throughout time trying to collect gold as they whisk a boy on an adventure as they flee from a Surpreme Being, also known as their master/God. Upon this they must also confront Evil and his henchman who wants to use the scroll to warp reality much like the dwarf’s master, the supreme being.

 The twist is that the supreme being actually created Evil to create a balance to itself which like good sci-fi should poses an interest question of what it means to have free-will and whether we are just being controlled. Their master actually suspected they would steal the scroll and didn’t stop them all to allow them to do a job they can’t, kill the embodiment of evil. He predicted this would happen and still doesn’t stop them from messing up time, the supreme being manipulates them for this purpose, uncaring of the changes in time that may have been caused in the process. This is a theme of sci-fi that is usually seen in bad leaders such as in the texts of 1984 and V for Vendetta but whilst conspiracy and revolution against our oppresors is the main story of those, Time Bandits is still a swashbuckling adventure.

In conclusion, there are many forms of entertainment that mix fantasy storylines with science fiction themes and thematic depth. Often the Sci-Fi aspects are small elements of that world like Star Wars and DC Universe where the stories are mainly fantastical and very otherworldly whilst you have stories such as the Samurai Jack, parts of Hellboy’s mythos and Time Bandits which heavily touch on Sci-Fi themes as a big part of the story rather than just iconography and a way of progressing the story. Whilst it’s a great mix of the two genres, its sometimes hard to determine when one of these genres is more prevalent then the other which is why I created this post here. It was great to be able to talk about this niche hybrid genre and some of these texts I probably wouldn’t be able to talk about here using here on the Galaxy Wide Sci-Fi Guide.

And with that note, it’s best to leave this post on Space Fantasy here. It’s great to bring up this hybrid genre of Sci-Fi and Fantasy and some of the great series and movies I won’t usually bring up on the Galaxy Wide Sci-Fi Guide. There are many fun elements that you can combine to make a great story with a high-concept story that can also be very deep and nuanced. Anyway, I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic down in the below fellow future thinkers. Is there anything I missed, is there any text you would have wanted me to discuss, any book, series or movie from the genre I should have brought up? Let me know in the comments below…

Sometime next week…or this week, due to the reupload, won’t you come, wash away the rain and crank up the volume as we discuss the presentation of Science Fiction themes with music of Radiohead, Muse, Daft Punk, ELO and many other great musicians. Along with this, I will be finally posting my full review of Akira in the next day or two. Stay tuned for that later this week fellow future thinkers and until next time…

Michael McGrady, Signing Off.

8 thoughts on ““A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far, Far, Away”: A Discussion of How Fantasy intersects with Science Fiction…

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