Intersections: Fantasy and Science Fiction

By George E. Slusser; Eric S. Rabkin | Go to book overview

Filling the Niche: Fantasy and Science Fiction in Contemporary Horror

Michael R. Collings

In a recent interview, Whitley Strieber justified his craft by arguing that the value of horror-fantasy lies in its ability to let the reader explore the boundaries between the known and the unknown, to investigate those niches between fantasy and reality that exist within our own world:

There's this theme in my books that things are hidden in the cracks of life. When you get down into it, you find a whole other world, a complete reinterpretation of our reality.1

Strieber's attitude defines a major movement in contemporary fantasy--the increasing interaction between science fiction and fantasy. This interaction is not one-directional, of course. Novels may begin within a science-fictional world, then gradually transmute into something new, as in Stephen King The Stand ( Doubleday, 1978). The opening chapters are an exercise in science fiction: a superflu destroys 99.4 percent of the world's population, and humanity must confront the consequences of a technology turned destructive. The later chapters, however, emphasize the irrational, as characters dream and their dreams become the focus of a second crisis, one entailing fantasy rather than science fiction. The novel concludes with an almost theological apocalypse and incorporates characters largely incompatible with a science-fictional framework.2

Another possibility entails a movement from overt fantasy to something resembling science fiction. Piers Anthony's magical, fantastic Xanth, for example, lies physically embedded with the real world of Mundania; the interaction of the two realms underlies the

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