Thanks to everyone who commented. The winner of a signed copy of Song of Scarabaeus is Barbara E! Barbara, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your postal address.
As writers and readers, how do we define the difference between the science fiction and paranormal genres? Both are “unreal” (in that they are fictional) and “speculative” (in that they extrapolate from existing ideas). The paranormal by definition breaks the laws of physics, but science fiction often does too (warp speed, anyone?).
I think the difference comes in what each genre needs to explain. For example, classic vampires can’t be exposed to sunlight without terrible consequences. Readers of paranormal fiction know this fact about vampires. If the writer chooses to contradict the convention by having her vampires run around the sunny beaches of Santa Barbara, readers expect a (paranormal) explanation: that old sunlight thing is a myth, the vampire has a magic ring, or this is a tribe of new improved vampires.
On the other hand, readers of science fiction base their expectations on the natural world. If a certain creature explodes into flames in sunlight, which contradicts what we know about the natural world, the writer needs to provide a (natural) explanation: the “vampire” has a medical condition such as a total lack of melanin, or, more exotically, the vamp’s unstable atoms are prone to decay when exposed to photons of a particular wavelength.
As readers we bring a stack of wonderful knowledge with us, drawn from mythology and the real world, saving the writer from having to describe and explain everything. But when a story contradicts that knowledge, often for interesting reasons of course, we want to know why!
- Sara Creasy