Science fantasy is a subgenre under the umbrella of speculative fiction. If you like story with science fiction AND fantasy, science fantasy might be just what you’re looking for.
Science Fantasy Definition
Science fantasy is a genre where books may include both science fiction and fantasy elements. A book could have both unicorns and robots. Both magic and aliens. Science fantasy differs from hard science fiction. Science fantasy is slightly different from soft sci fi, but the line between them is blurred and they can often be considered the same thing.
When there are detailed and accurate explanations of science and math, the genre is called hard science fiction. When accurate and realistic science and math is used, but not necessarily explained in great detail, it’s called soft science fiction. Learn more about the difference between soft sci fi and hard sci fi.
Science fantasy is a genre where books may include both science fiction and fantasy elements. A book could have both unicorns and robots. Both magic and aliens.Click To Tweet
What Makes a Book Science Fantasy?
The most recognizable science fantasy story is Star Wars. It’s a fairy tale-type story, but it takes place in space. It has futuristic technology and alien species. But it does not include accurate or realistic science. This makes it fantasy rather than science fiction.
The main thing to remember about science fantasy is it uses science fiction elements, but not necessarily in a realistic way. In soft sci fi, there may be fantasy-type elements like dragons and queens, but the science is realistic and accurate, even if it’s not explained in great detail.
The differences between soft sci fi and science fantasy are very subtle and they probably aren’t as important as how much you enjoy the book! 🙂
Another interesting thing about science fantasy is the book may lean more toward science fiction OR it may lean more toward fantasy. It may have mostly fantasy elements, but there’s also a couple of really cool aliens. Or the book may have artificial intelligence, genetically modified humans, and robot servants, but they’re all in living in an old-timey castle.Science fantasy uses science fiction elements, but not necessarily in a realistic way. A science fantasy book may lean more toward fantasy OR it may lean more toward science fiction.Click To Tweet
Science Fantasy Characteristics
Science fantasy characteristics are simply a blend of science fiction and fantasy elements. To make things easy to visualize, I’ll share a list of science fiction elements and a list of fantasy elements. Science fantasy can include any number of characteristics from either list as long as there is at least one characteristic from each.
Science Fiction Characteristics
- Artificial Intelligence
- Dystopia or Utopia
- Genetic engineering/modification
- Other Dimensions
- Parallel Universes
- Time Travel
- Virtual Reality
- Historical dress and/or culture
- Kings and Queens
- Talking animals
- Witches and Wizards
- World that isn’t Earth
Science Fantasy Examples
A science fantasy book may include a fantastical setting like a floating island. But maybe there is a scientific explanation for why the island floats. Maybe a hermit scientist put magnets in an island then discovered a way to use the earth’s magnetic field to lift that island above the ground. Or maybe a hologram is projected that only makes it look like the island is above ground.
Maybe you have a elf prince who is the chosen one. But he dabbles in nanotechnology and uses it to trick his friends.
Maybe you have an army of aliens who believe science is the ultimate achievement of any species. They are in a century long war with sorcerers who believe that magic is all it takes to truly live.
Maybe you have a group of sword-wielding cyborgs who set off to explore the universe in their brocade dresses.
Science Fantasy Writing Prompts
If you write a story using any of these science fantasy prompts, I’d love to read it! Tag me on facebook, twitter, or instagram (@kaylmoody) or send me an email with a link to the story or the whole story (firstname.lastname@example.org).
A mysterious hermit man lives in a house on a floating island. They call him the magic man. But really he's a scientist. And he makes the island float... with magnets.Click To Tweet
A regal elf prince is destined for the crown. He has spent countless years studying the history and politics of his people. He is ready to lead... if he can stop playing around with nanotechnology.Click To Tweet
A century long war wages on. One one side: An advanced alien race who believe science is the ultimate achievement. On the other: A planet of sorcerers who believe magic is all it takes to truly live.Click To Tweet
A group of sword-wielding cyborgs set off to explore the galaxy... in their brocade dresses.Click To Tweet
A girl must choose between two dimensions. One where she has magic... and another where she's a powerful cyborg.Click To Tweet
It's 200 years in the future. Dragons, vampires, and unicorns exist... because of genetic engineering.Click To Tweet
Science Fantasy Authors
- Kay L Moody (hey, that’s me. 🙂 )
- Anne McCaffrey
- Philip Pullman
- Victoria Aveyard
- Kiera Cass
- Brandon Sanderson
- Marissa Meyer
- Amy A. Bartol
- Alexandra Bracken
- Victoria Schwab
- Holly Black
Science Fantasy Books
Enjoy these amazing books to get your science fantasy fix. And if you need to justify your intense love of fiction, send people to my post about the Benefits of Reading Fiction. You’ll get scientific explanations on how reading can improve your brain!
Truth Seer by Kay L Moody
Being a human lie detector is great… until you realize how often people lie.
Imara’s life is finally going the way she’s always dreamed. Until her sister is taken hostage by crazed fanatics, forcing her into a fight she wants no part of.
A hundred years in the future, Imara’s evolved senses as a truth seer give her an advantage over the obstacles ahead. But her gift is also a curse: years of baggage weigh heavily on her shoulders.
Imara descends into the catacombs, leading a rescue mission for her sister and the other hostages. Secrets are uncovered at every turn that threaten to tear the group apart and soon it’s not just the lives of the hostages that are at stake.
When Imara finally understands what the fanatic kidnappers are planning, she’s forced to make a choice that will change her life forever. Read for free on Kindle Unlimited!
Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey
On a beautiful world called Pern, an ancient way of life is about to come under attack. Lessa is an outcast survivor—her parents murdered, her birthright stolen—a strong young woman who has never stopped dreaming of revenge. But when an ancient threat reemerges, Lessa will rise—upon the back of a great dragon with whom she shares a telepathic bond more intimate than any human connection. Together, dragon and rider will fly, and Pern will be changed forever.
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Lyra is rushing to the cold, far North, where witch clans and armored bears rule. North, where the Gobblers take the children they steal—including her friend Roger. North, where her fearsome uncle Asriel is trying to build a bridge to a parallel world. Can one small girl make a difference in such great and terrible endeavors? This is Lyra: a savage, a schemer, a liar, and as fierce and true a champion as Roger or Asriel could want. But what Lyra doesn’t know is that to help one of them will be to betray the other…
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood.
Those with common, Red blood serve the Silver-blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own. To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard—a growing Red rebellion—even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction.
The Selection by Keira Cass
For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape a rigid caste system, live in a palace, and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon. But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her, and competing for a crown she doesn’t want.
Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
How far would you go for revenge if someone killed your father?
David Charleston will go to any lengths to stop Steelheart. But to exact revenge in Steelheart’s world, David will need the Reckoners—a shadowy group of rebels bent on maintaining justice. And it turns out that the Reckoners might just need David too.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population.
Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.
Secondborn by Amy A. Bartol
Firstborns rule society. Secondborns are the property of the government. Thirdborns are not tolerated. Long live the Fates Republic.
On Transition Day, the second child in every family is taken by the government and forced into servitude. Roselle St. Sismode’s eighteenth birthday arrives with harsh realizations: she’s to become a soldier for the Fate of Swords military arm of the Republic during the bloodiest rebellion in history, and her elite firstborn mother is happy to see her go.
The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed.
Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that got her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that killed most of America’s children, but she and the others emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control. Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones.
This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters.
Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters.
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.
Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King. To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.Love science fantasy and need a new book to get your fix? Check out these eleven science fantasy books!Click To Tweet
Science fantasy is an amazing genre that’s gaining in popularity. If you are an aspiring writer who loves science fiction and fantasy, this is a genre you should definitely explore! Be sure to check out my books or learn more about me. If you want to be involved in my writing process, check out my YOU Build the Short Story series.
Follow Kay L Moody on social media!
Want more from Kay L Moody?
Join her email list for a exclusive news and updates, a chance to join her ARC team, and for a FREE copy of her short story collection!
Do you know of any more sci fi books with strong female leads? Tell me about them in the comments!