SHELFARI Generic Genre Questions: Fantasy / Science Fiction
1. Questions about setting (time and place)
a. “Science fiction, fantasy and/or fairy tales all ‘take place’. They occur in, are derived from or are reflective of actual geographic space or place” (Kennedy). What actual geographic place is suggested by your book?
b. “The landscape, the ugly reality that the hero or heroine must struggle through, with, or overcome, can be seen as an antagonist” (Kennedy). This is the classic “man vs nature” conflict.
In what senses is the landscape an obstacle to the hero?
c. Wilderness, Village, City:
i. Wilderness may be either a dangerous place with formidable creatures, or a romantic place free from the evils of society.
Which is true for your book? If dangerous, what makes it dangerous? If romantic, what qualities are idyllic?
ii. The Village is most often idealized and is a safe place of refuge, while the City is most oftendemonized and is threatening.
How is each depicted in your book? How is the city an “urban jungle” if it seems like one? Remember that natural wilderness is rare.
d. “One of the unknowns which has always fascinated readers and writers of science fiction is time…. As we venture into fantasy and science fiction, we are freed from time.” (L’Engle). How is time treated in your book?
2. Questions about characters
a. The main character in fantasy or science fiction is often an outcast from society. How is the main character in your novel different from most of his or her contemporaries?
b. Science fiction and fantasy often pattern a hero after a mythological character (L’Engle). Do you recognize any mythological characters in your tale?
c. “There is something of the fantasy or science fiction monster in all of us, but mostly we are afraid to admit it” (L’Engle). What elements of the monster in your book might we see in ourselves?
d. “What more compelling fantasy for a blocky, bulky, solid, organic creature such as us than suddenly to become ethereal and unseeable, merged with the air, able to do all sorts of things yet never called to account…” (Barash). What special powers do the characters in your tale exhibit?
e. “Like Harry Potter and his fellow wizards in training, we might imagine ourselves possessing special knowledge” (Barash). What special knowledge does your main character have?
f. “…so much fantasy literature presents its protagonist as the equivalent of a modern-day horse-whisperer….Not surprisingly, many yearn to “talk with the animals” (Barash). What role do animals play in your story?
3. Questions about plot
a. “It is common for great adventures to be thrust upon one, willy-nilly, without expectation, and often, it seems, without special merit…[like] Dorothy, transported from Kansas to Oz” (Barash). How does the main character become enmeshed in a great adventure?
b. The main character is often “on an assignment of redemption, to save earth from destruction” (Kennedy). What task that will aid others is undertaken by your main character?
c. “In a (fantasy or science fiction) story it is usually an ordinary boy or girl who must confront power, take risks, and stand courageous against fear…. The protagonist must always choose, and to choose is to risk. Failure often occurs….there is death and tragedy as well as heroism and chivalry” (L’Engle). What power does your main character face? What choice does your main character make? What makes this risk successful, or why does this fail?
4. Questions about theme
a. “Consider this oft-encountered theme: the unraveling of a secret. The basic pattern here is that as a novel or play unfolds, the reader/audience discovers that underneath a facade of seeming normalcy or even admirable virtue, there lurks something darker” (Barash). What secret(s) are revealed over the course of the novel? What is the author telling us?
b. “ [Fantasy and science fiction incorporate] ghosts that return to haunt the living….We are stuck with our past” (Barash). To what extent do ghosts from the past figure in your book? What point is made by this?
c. “[Fantasy and science fiction] give us an opportunity to immerse ourselves [in] social puzzles likely to hold our attention: competition, cooperation, success, and failure” (Barash) Where and how is competition emphasized? Cooperation?