Difference between Science Fiction and Fantasy

Updated on February 24, 2018

Whether you love watching films about robots or swooning for your favorite sparkling vampire, Science Fiction and Fantasy have been a huge part of our pop culture for a long time, and continue to be especially popular nowadays. But with so many books, movies, TV series and games offered to us, do we even know what makes one different from other?


Science Fiction
“Jurassic Park” – one of the best-selling Sci-Fi films

Science Fiction, sometimes stylized to the shorter term “Sci-Fi”, is a type of speculative fiction – the characters and the world they live in are based on imagination and not on real life events – that is associated with futuristic science. Time travel, new technology, parallel universe and space travel form the basis of the common plots of this genre. Most of the laws, theories and technology used are based on partially true facts that have yet to be proven.

At the time of its release, “Jurassic Park” became one of the most iconic Sci-Fi films of all time because of its ground-breaking concept of reviving dinosaurs. Although most scientists argue that it would be impossible to genetically recreate dinosaurs, some scientists also believe that humans will have the technology to do just that in the future.

Harry Potter” – one of the best-selling Fantasy franchises

Whenever we think of magical worlds and heroes with supernatural abilities, we often think of the fiction genre called Fantasy.

Fantasy is also a subgenre of speculative fiction, and of all genres, it is often the most far-fetched when it comes to reality. The main themes tend to focus on supernatural beings and their imaginary worlds. In general, Fantasy encompasses the most popular myths and legends from ancient times, as well as modern creations. However, the medievalist form is the most predominant in pop culture.

Since Fantasy uses magic, there are almost no limitations to this genre, but the elements of magic are frequently taken from existing mythology. Throughout the years many have created their own fictional worlds and even new magical creatures. One great example of Fantasy is the “Harry Potter” book and film series which depicted a magical world hidden within the real one.

Science Fiction vs Fantasy

There is a very blurred line between Science Fiction and Fantasy, and sometimes, it becomes quite difficult to tell the two apart. Aren’t all Science Fiction works fantasy? Haven’t we seen futuristic technology in some Fantasy films? What is the difference between Science Fiction and Fantasy?

Twilight Zone writer Rod Sterling defined Science Fiction as “the improbable made possible” while Fantasy was “the impossible made probable”.

Science Fiction may deal with fictional ideas but those ideas are often based on a high rate of probability. Many works of science fiction have showcased technology not available during their time that is now actually being used by people or developed by scientists. For example, Star Trek featured plenty of examples of seemingly impossible technology, such as the communicator virtual display device. Fast forward a few decades and we are actually way past flip phones. Google glass is making waves around the world for finally giving us tiny virtual reality visual screens. These inventions were improbable in real life before, but were actually made possible in Science Fiction.

Fantasy, especially the modern form, does not follow any set of rules and even its most common source of material – myths and legends – are also highly improbable. But what makes Fantasy in fiction interesting is that it gives life to such outlandish supernatural worlds that it makes us believe they could actually exist. The Harry Potter world, for instance, wants to make audiences believe that witches and wizards co-exist among us. This fantasy world is filled with magical creatures and powerful beings that actually influence our own world. It is an impossible notion, but one made probable by this story.

Probably the easiest way to tell the two apart is through the characters. Science Fiction usually has robots, aliens, cyborgs or humans familiar with them as the characters. They conduct battles using highly advanced technology and the plot usually has something to do with saving Planet Earth. Meanwhile, Fantasy is not fantasy if there are no vampires, witches, zombies or other creatures with supernatural abilities. The plot can often be about good vs evil.

Comparison Chart

Science FictionFantasy
Futuristic ScienceMagic/Supernatural
Laws in the world are understandableLaws are often controlled by the supernatural
Robots, aliens, spaceMythical creatures or any being with unnatural powers
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