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Don’t confuse science fiction with fantasy

Published 9:19am Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Column: Pothole Prairie, by Tim Engstrom

Too often people categorize science fiction as merely movies that happen in space or the future or both, but the genre can be set wherever, including right here on good-old Mother Earth today.

The key element is the device of speculative scientific developments to advance a plot. Sometimes it is time or space travel, and sometimes it is playing on biological or technological fears. The ideas run the gamut.

I bring up science fiction for two reasons.

First, too frequently I encounter it being confused with fantasy. The genre of fantasy is not science fiction, and vice versa. Fantasy uses supernatural phenomenon as its plot device, often in imaginary worlds.

“Lord of the Rings” is fantasy. “The Matrix” is science fiction. “Harry Potter” is fantasy. “Avatar” is science fiction. Even “The Incredible Shrinking Man” is science fiction.

I know, I know. Sometimes, it can be hard to tell the difference. “Star Wars” is considered science fiction but sure is set in an imaginary galaxy and features supernatural powers such as The Force and strange creatures such as wookies. I’d say “Star Wars” is fantasy science fiction. It blends both.

Secondly, nerds everywhere will be happy to learn that a campaign is underway to create the Museum of Science Fiction. USA Today on Nov. 4 had a story saying organizers hope to raise $166,000 for a preview museum in Washington, D.C., which will help raise the money for a full museum later.

If the District of Columbia had a science fiction museum, I would be there. What self-respecting member of Generation X wouldn’t?

So with that, I wanted to share my 10 favorite science fiction films or series of films.

10. “Inception”

9. “Wall-E”

6. “Blade Runner”

7. “The Terminator”

6. “Back to the Future”

5. “Star Trek”

4. “The Matrix”

3. “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”

2. “Predator”

1. “Star Wars”

As you can tell, I am somewhat biased toward the movies that were popular when I was a kid in the 1970s and 1980s.

Three more modern movies deserve honorable mention: “Prometheus,” “Contagion” and “Avatar.”

 

Tribune Managing Editor Tim Engstrom’s column appears every Tuesday.