A realization hit me while writing this post. Like how the age of the main characters can dictate the demographic of a book, the setting, or at least the aesthetics of the setting, generally dictates the genre of the book. With The Matrix being used as the last example and Star Wars about to be used as the example of this one, I was beginning to think that there was little difference between science fantasy and light sci-fi. That’s when it hit me, the settings of The Matrix and Star Wars are what makes them sci-fi, where more fantasy settings based in the “science” (like my book) are what makes a story more science fantasy.
With Space Opera being the bridging genre, two popular examples of this came to mind, those being Matthew Stover’s Hero Die and Anne McGaffery’s Dragons of Pern series – particularly Dragonsdawn. Where both use space travel to another planet to get to the fantasy setting, either through a slow symbiosis of alien elements or being a tourist in an already formed fantasy world, the space travel itself is the bridging plot tool that gets the the characters to the fantasy setting. As I mentioned in my Heroes Die review, this shows a perfect example of how science fantasy can be cleanly done through world jumping, but at the same time, to make sure the setting turns out fantasy-ish, it can seem a bit contrived to make this new world be like how we imagine a fantasy setting.
To compare this to other space opera sci-fi with just made up alien planets, in the things like the Ender or Old Man’s War series, these planets don’t resemble what people would consider fantasy with characters that resemble fantasy races and fantasy plot tools. In this regard, Star Wars could be considered science fantasy, for many of the plot tools such as a Jedi and their powers are very fantasy-ish. But, as was distinguished at the beginning of this post, Star Wars has a more sci-fi setting and sci-fi looking races, thus dictating the genre that most people would identify it as (the same with The Matrix).
Because my setting is more fantasy-ee than The Matrix, Stuck in the Game will be my replacement for the last one, although I’m sure there are better examples out there, and Pern and Heroes Die for this one. If anyone can think of better examples, do tell me.