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Old 11-16-2012, 08:12 PM   #76
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BTW how is Rose more like Superman than Conan, she probably has a similar level of strength/speed to comic Conan... it's only her damage soak that's wildly superhuman.
You answered your own question. Conan is not superhuman.
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Old 11-16-2012, 08:26 PM   #77
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But she's probably closer to Wolverine than Superman.
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Old 11-16-2012, 09:03 PM   #78
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The explanation I've given is that the universe it happens in has different laws of biology than ours.
As Richard Garfinkle pointed out very well, this statement makes no sense. Different "laws" of biology really means different laws of physics, which would affect a hell of a lot more than just a few people. The whole universe would have to be built differently. I repeat: Your examples aren't specific enough to move the discussion forward.

I think you meant your super-humans' biology is different than in humans, i.e. they're a slightly different species.

And if that's true, then your story is science fiction, not fantasy.

However, it would probably fail as science fiction too, because you clearly have only a vague understanding of the science you're relying on to act as an explanation for this phenomenon.

Better to call it superhero fiction. Your heroes seem to be some kind of ill-defined mutants, like the X-Men.
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Old 11-16-2012, 09:57 PM   #79
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But she's probably closer to Wolverine than Superman.
'Superhuman' isn't an on-off switch. There's a spectrum. Wolverine is superhuman. Professor X is superhuman. Spiderman, Daredevil, the Fantastic 4, Captain America, all superhuman one way or another. Even Aquaman, though he's superhuman in a pretty useless fashion by most superhuman standards. The Silver Surfer, Galactacus and Superman all get a bye because they never were human, but they're still superhuman in several ways.

The Punisher is not superhuman. He's just a human, and that's why he's one of my favourite characters in the Marvel universe. He doesn't even have huge amounts of wealth and a whole company dedicated to making nifty new toys to give him a superhuman edge, unlike that other human superhero, Batman. The Punisher could very easily exist in our world (and the character he was based on did).

Superhuman means extraordinary in some sense by definition, but extraordinary needn't be superhuman. In the same way, swords-and-sorcery means fantasy by definition, but fantasy is a very broad word that happens to include swords-and-sorcery along with everything else that is not reality.
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Old 11-16-2012, 10:03 PM   #80
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As Richard Garfinkle pointed out very well, this statement makes no sense. Different "laws" of biology really means different laws of physics, which would affect a hell of a lot more than just a few people. The whole universe would have to be built differently. I repeat: Your examples aren't specific enough to move the discussion forward.

I think you meant your super-humans' biology is different than in humans, i.e. they're a slightly different species.

And if that's true, then your story is science fiction, not fantasy.

However, it would probably fail as science fiction too, because you clearly have only a vague understanding of the science you're relying on to act as an explanation for this phenomenon.

Better to call it superhero fiction. Your heroes seem to be some kind of ill-defined mutants, like the X-Men.
The discussion is mostly hypothetical, the actual stuff I write is certainly fantasy as Wicked noted, with monsters and magic (um, except for the MMA and street fighting shorts which are just pulp action). But also exaggerated Beowulf-style humans, though not to the point of throwing jeeps at jets.

I think the main thing here though is that I'm thinking of it from a much more shallow perspective than you are, since I'm all about Rule of Cool and tall tale/epic hero mythology without the need for deeper explanations.

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Old 11-16-2012, 10:08 PM   #81
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'Superhuman' isn't an on-off switch. There's a spectrum. Wolverine is superhuman. Professor X is superhuman. Spiderman, Daredevil, the Fantastic 4, Captain America, all superhuman one way or another. Even Aquaman, though he's superhuman in a pretty useless fashion by most superhuman standards. The Silver Surfer, Galactacus and Superman all get a bye because they never were human, but they're still superhuman in several ways.

The Punisher is not superhuman. He's just a human, and that's why he's one of my favourite characters in the Marvel universe. He doesn't even have huge amounts of wealth and a whole company dedicated to making nifty new toys to give him a superhuman edge, unlike that other human superhero, Batman. The Punisher could very easily exist in our world (and the character he was based on did).

Superhuman means extraordinary in some sense by definition, but extraordinary needn't be superhuman. In the same way, swords-and-sorcery means fantasy by definition, but fantasy is a very broad word that happens to include swords-and-sorcery along with everything else that is not reality.
I'm not sure how any of this is supposed to be disagreeing with anything I said or saying anything I don't already know.

If anything your last point supports my argument that fantasy could arguably include universes where the main difference from ours is a difference in the way people are, rather than for example the presence of magic.

Let's say a story was set in an alternate universe where humans all resurrect one time after they die and grow wings upon their rebirth (as young but fully formed adults)... that would likely be classified as fantasy, right?
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Old 11-16-2012, 10:27 PM   #82
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Let's say a story was set in an alternate universe where humans all resurrect one time after they die and grow wings upon their rebirth (as young but fully formed adults)... that would likely be classified as fantasy, right?
It could be, sure. It could also be religious/spiritual fiction, or sci-fi. It would depend on how it was justified and presented.

The 'Rule of Cool' is nice, but it only goes so far. If you want a believable world and a book that doesn't get slung across the room, you have to put more thought into it than 'That would be cool'.

If everyone is reborn a day after death, what does that mean for the world? What happens to inheritance laws? What happens to inherited jobs? What happens when the world starts getting overcrowded? 'What if' is great, but 'what then' is where cool becomes speculative fiction.
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Old 11-16-2012, 10:48 PM   #83
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It could be, sure. It could also be religious/spiritual fiction, or sci-fi. It would depend on how it was justified and presented.
Okay sure it could be presented as religious fiction or sci-fi, but given the stipulations I put forth - secondary world, not set on a version of Earth or some named 'planet' - I daresay it would most likely be labeled fantasy. And in all these examples I'm assuming no specific explanation would be given in-story, since this would be as natural to these people as us having feet... we don't usually think about God or evolution causing us to have feet on a day to day basis, so it'd be perfectly justified not to have a reason for these phenomenon mentioned in a first or third person story (granted if they have a religion they might say (insert god) made us the way we are, but that alone without the god showing up or something is hardly a specifically fantasy element).

I also imagine the storytelling style I implied about the bear-ripping girl/jeep-throwing US soldier examples (ie. mythic hero/tall tale) would push its presentation towards being fantasy.

So would you throw a modern book written like Beowulf across the room, with no hint of an explanation of this great warrior's fantastic strength and prowess beyond the occasional mention of God? I wouldn't. I would revel in it... or get angry at having competition (jk).
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Old 11-16-2012, 11:07 PM   #84
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I also imagine the storytelling style I implied about the bear-ripping girl/jeep-throwing US soldier examples (ie. mythic hero/tall tale) would push its presentation towards being fantasy.

So would you throw a modern book written like Beowulf across the room, with no hint of an explanation of this great warrior's fantastic strength and prowess beyond the occasional mention of God? I wouldn't. I would revel in it... or get angry at having competition (jk).
There's a critical difference between these examples. The completely different world is completely different. The US soldier connects to our world in that you are using a place (the US) and tech (jeep) that anchors firmly to our world.

One can, of course, write clear fantasy set in our world (I'm doing one right now), but the fantastic elements there usually need to be emphasized as fantastic (or be clearly and obviously fantastic). The reason one needs to do this is the existence of two genres (pulp and superhero) that have people with extraordinary abilities in worlds with a strong resemblance to our world.
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Old 11-16-2012, 11:07 PM   #85
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Okay sure it could be presented as religious fiction or sci-fi, but given the stipulations I put forth - secondary world, not set on a version of Earth or some named 'planet' - I daresay it would most likely be labeled fantasy. And in all these examples I'm assuming no specific explanation would be given in-story, since this would be as natural to these people as us having feet... we don't usually think about God or evolution causing us to have feet on a day to day basis, so it'd be perfectly justified not to have a reason for these phenomenon mentioned in a first or third person story (granted if they have a religion they might say (insert god) made us the way we are, but that alone without the god showing up or something is hardly a specifically fantasy element).

I also imagine the storytelling style I implied about the bear-ripping girl/jeep-throwing US soldier examples (ie. mythic hero/tall tale) would push its presentation towards being fantasy.

So would you throw a modern book written like Beowulf across the room, with no hint of an explanation of this great warrior's fantastic strength and prowess beyond the occasional mention of God? I wouldn't. I would revel in it... or get angry at having competition (jk).
I'm finding this thread frustrating because the point of the discussion seems to be a moving target.

Are we discussing your book? No, just books in general, and yet somehow also this specific character from your book.

Are we discussing genre? No, just how people classify fantasy, especially this one vaguely-defined character from your book.

Are you merely interested where people draw the dividing line between fantasy and other genres? Yes, except "I daresay it would most likely be labeled fantasy" implies you already know where that line is.

Are we trying to define what makes a book fantasy? Yes, except the rule of cool apparently trumps logic and pre-existing genre conventions.

What is this thread about? What do you want here?

It seems like you keep changing the topic every time someone tries to pin you down to more closely discuss something you've said.
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Old 11-16-2012, 11:12 PM   #86
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There's a critical difference between these examples. The completely different world is completely different. The US soldier connects to our world in that you are using a place (the US) and tech (jeep) that anchors firmly to our world.

One can, of course, write clear fantasy set in our world (I'm doing one right now), but the fantastic elements there usually need to be emphasized as fantastic (or be clearly and obviously fantastic). The reason one needs to do this is the existence of two genres (pulp and superhero) that have people with extraordinary abilities in worlds with a strong resemblance to our world.
Doesn't the jeep example go well beyond pulp conventions though? I'm not sure 'superhero' is considered a separate genre than fantasy or sci-fi, I thought it fell into one of those, or both.
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Old 11-16-2012, 11:23 PM   #87
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Doesn't the jeep example go well beyond pulp conventions though? I'm not sure 'superhero' is considered a separate genre than fantasy or sci-fi, I thought it fell into one of those, or both.
Superhero fiction is most commonly an entirely separate media format compared to fantasy and sci-fi. I mean, there are some short stories and novels, but not many. And they aren't standard fantasy or sf. I mean, there's a reason media tie-ins have their own little section in whatever major section the store decides to put them.


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Old 11-16-2012, 11:25 PM   #88
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I'm finding this thread frustrating because the point of the discussion seems to be a moving target.

Are we discussing your book? No, just books in general, and yet somehow also this specific character from your book.

Are we discussing genre? No, just how people classify fantasy, especially this one vaguely-defined character from your book.

Are you merely interested where people draw the dividing line between fantasy and other genres? Yes, except "I daresay it would most likely be labeled fantasy" implies you already know where that line is.

Are we trying to define what makes a book fantasy? Yes, except the rule of cool apparently trumps logic and pre-existing genre conventions.

What is this thread about? What do you want here?

It seems like you keep changing the topic every time someone tries to pin you down to more closely discuss something you've said.
This 'specific character from my book' doesn't exist. I've never written a US soldier tossing jeeps at jets. I don't know how many times I have to restate that it's an example.

With the 'I daresay it would most likely be labeled fantasy' I was saying that an alternate world with people resurrecting and growing wings, not set on a 'planet' or version of Earth, would most likely be labeled fantasy. Does it have to be, no but I think it would likely be and I was using the example as a comparison to point out 'well what's the big difference between that difference in biology and another one?'

My statement about rule of cool has nothing to do with the defining genre argument, I have no idea how you can mix the two up. I was just saying that I don't feel everything needs to have a specifically 'pin down-able' explanation when being written in the style of tall tales or epic myth.

What is with this 'changing the topic'? I'm not actively monitoring if I'm 'changing the topic', I'm responding with my thoughts as they naturally come to me. If that's frustrating... well who's to say you're the only one frustrated? I don't find your answers to be all that 'straight' either.

Maybe another basic question relating to this topic is this: If things that are blatantly impossible in our world happen in a story with no specific explanation given for them, what genre does the story default to? One might be able to say 'speculative fiction' since that would fit whether or not the presentation was more fantasy-like or sci-fi-like. But would it at least be considered speculative fiction in that case, with the presentation (given not that many books are labeled as plain 'speculative fiction') pushing it towards being fantasy or sci-fi?
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Old 11-16-2012, 11:25 PM   #89
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Doesn't the jeep example go well beyond pulp conventions though? I'm not sure 'superhero' is considered a separate genre than fantasy or sci-fi, I thought it fell into one of those, or both.
Not really. Superhero as a genre is very casual. It has a style that emphasizes the actions of individuals over and above everything else. It allows for considerable flexibility of explanation and accommodates a number of changes from multiple sources.

The general SF principle is that you get one large suspension of disbelief and any number of small ones that follow from it.

The general fantasy principle is that the whole world should hold together internally and you can't just drop new weird stuff in without showing how it fits (to avoid a train of dei ex machinae (I probably messed up the grammar there)).

In superheroics, each character in effect gets their own set of suspensions of disbelief. A new character can be introduced with an origin, background, and abilities that don't fit what anyone else has done before, and it will be accepted casually by the readership.

Superhero readers complain if characters are changed without reference to their pasts and origins, because each character is, in effect, a law, a history, and a context unto themselves.
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Old 11-16-2012, 11:25 PM   #90
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See posts above. Superhero is fantasy or sci-fi or religious or spec fic or contemporary or action-adventure or urban fantasy or erotica or whatever else it feels like being at the time.

It all depends on how things are justified and presented.
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Old 11-16-2012, 11:32 PM   #91
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My statement about rule of cool has nothing to do with the defining genre argument, I have no idea how you can mix the two up. I was just saying that I don't feel everything needs to have a specifically 'pin down-able' explanation when being written in the style of tall tales or epic myth.
Tall tales and epic myth have their own explanations built in. Demigods or artifacts or training or talent or nanotech or being the very epitome of X in that culture, whatever, there's always something.

Quote:
Maybe another basic question relating to this topic is this: If things that are blatantly impossible in our world happen in a story with no specific explanation given for them, what genre does the story default to? One might be able to say 'speculative fiction' since that would fit whether or not the presentation was more fantasy-like or sci-fi-like. But would it at least be considered speculative fiction in that case, with the presentation (given not that many books are labeled as plain 'speculative fiction') pushing it towards being fantasy or sci-fi?
There is no 'default' genre for stuff that's blatantly impossible in our world. The default genre for stuff that's blatantly impossible in our world with no specific explanation even thought about is 'crap writing' - not all of what comes out is crap, but the majority is. If you the writer haven't thought for at least three seconds to come up with a justification for why it happens, then you don't know what the implications are or what the limitations might be. Congratulations, you've just created God in your own image.
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Old 11-16-2012, 11:34 PM   #92
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Pick a goal and let us help you reach it.
My argument is basically 'at some point of unrealism without an explanation, a story crosses the line into speculative fiction.' Now, it might be not necessarily be considered fantasy or sci-fi specifically at that point, but if the characters are warriors in a pre-modern setting it might more likely be labeled as fantasy?

That's what I'm trying to have a discussion about.
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Old 11-16-2012, 11:36 PM   #93
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Tall tales and epic myth have their own explanations built in. Demigods or artifacts or training or talent or nanotech or being the very epitome of X in that culture, whatever, there's always something.
This is the type of explanation I'm talking about... when I say 'no' explanation I mean no specifically fantastic or sci-fi explanation, but a mundane one taken to unrealistic levels.

I mean, I did mention the US soldier 'worked out to get really strong' early on. On it falling into superhero fiction, maybe but as there isn't really a strong 'superhero genre' in books as Liosse mentioned, wouldn't it likely be labeled as something other than 'superhero'?

Quote:
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There is no 'default' genre for stuff that's blatantly impossible in our world. The default genre for stuff that's blatantly impossible in our world with no specific explanation even thought about is 'crap writing' - not all of what comes out is crap, but the majority is. If you the writer haven't thought for at least three seconds to come up with a justification for why it happens, then you don't know what the implications are or what the limitations might be. Congratulations, you've just created God in your own image.
Read above. And you're getting angry again.

Also if there was an explanation 'thought of' but none spelled out explicitly in the story, what then? Would you judge the story to be some form of speculation fiction at least, and then have the presentation sway you towards a more specific genre?

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Old 11-16-2012, 11:56 PM   #94
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BTW, I feel like I've had the 'goal posts' moved on me much more than I've moved them myself in this discussion. The basic question of this thread has always been 'does a certain level of unrealism turn a story into speculative fiction at some point?' All the nitpicking about it possibly being sci-fi (because I used the term 'fantasy' instead of 'speculative fiction' to start) or 'crap writing' is pretty extraneous.

A 'yes, at some point it becomes speculative fiction (but not necessarily fantasy', if you felt the need to clear that up) or 'no, at no point does unrealism alone make a story anything' would have sufficed, especially for those whose other alternative seems to be getting enraged.
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Old 11-17-2012, 12:07 AM   #95
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The basic question of this thread has always been 'does a certain level of unrealism turn a story into speculative fiction at some point?'
You got the answer to that question, early on.

The answer is: "Maybe. It depends."

You just didn't seem to like that answer.

This is not a question that has a yes/no answer or a quantifiable answer.

The answer is a subjective one, because stories aren't widgets. They're all different.
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Old 11-17-2012, 12:16 AM   #96
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Originally Posted by amergina View Post
You got the answer to that question, early on.

The answer is: "Maybe. It depends."

You just didn't seem to like that answer.

This is not a question that has a yes/no answer or a quantifiable answer.

The answer is a subjective one, because stories aren't widgets. They're all different.
It doesn't need to be quantified specifically 'how much unrealism makes it spec fic' but the question I was trying to ask is 'does some level of unrealism push a story into the realm of the fantastic/spec fic to you'?

And I know it's subjective hence why I clarified I was only asking people to answer for themselves as individuals not give a universal answer that applies to all readers.

And for all that, still it's all wishy washy answers? I'm probably just as 'frustrated' as jjdebenedictis. 'Yes' and 'no' are both valid answers but gosh, can no one judge if there is some point when they personally would feel something has to be speculative fiction of some kind?
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Old 11-17-2012, 12:18 AM   #97
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Read above. And you're getting angry again.
If you think this is me getting angry, I'd hate to see what I look like when incensed. I mean, I haven't even broken out the alliteration yet.

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Also if there was an explanation 'thought of' but none spelled out explicitly in the story, what then? Would you judge the story to be some form of speculation fiction at least, and then have the presentation sway you towards a more specific genre?
It... would depend on what you did with the story. Some people write the Onset of Life on Earth as fantasy, some write it as sci-fi, some as history, some as myth, some as urban legend and some as a complete accident that happened when a time-travelling Wizzard took a bite out of a sandwich and dropped the rest at the edge of the ocean.

There is no one true 'what is this genre' answer of which all other answers are but shadows. The quest for such an answer will ultimately lead you unto the mirror, and either the realisation that the answer lies within one's own self, or a lot of blood and sharp edges.
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Old 11-17-2012, 12:26 AM   #98
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Originally Posted by ClareGreen View Post
It... would depend on what you did with the story. Some people write the Onset of Life on Earth as fantasy, some write it as sci-fi, some as history, some as myth, some as urban legend and some as a complete accident that happened when a time-travelling Wizzard took a bite out of a sandwich and dropped the rest at the edge of the ocean.
I already acknowledged the presentation part and that it wouldn't necessarily be part of the fantasy genre per say... but if something unrealistic to the point of being completely impossible is happening in a story, would you intuitively think it likely to be some kind of spec fic (whether fantasy, sci-fi, superhero, etc. and regardless of how bad)?

This really should have been a poll but too late I guess... if you had to vote and you would get a $10,000,000 book contract regardless of the answer you gave, yes or no?
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Old 11-17-2012, 12:27 AM   #99
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Originally Posted by glutton View Post
And for all that, still it's all wishy washy answers? I'm probably just as 'frustrated' as jjdebenedictis. 'Yes' and 'no' are both valid answers but gosh, can no one judge if there is some point when they personally would feel something has to be speculative fiction of some kind?
For me, that point will depend on the individual work. Generally, it's when a work contains something that is highly unlikely to occur in our world.

But then you have things like Mayberry's Patient Zero, which has a lot of basis in the real-world, but no one has made zombies yet. And is that spec-fic (due to the horror elements) or suspense, since it's a kind of special-forces novel?

Now-a-days, I could argue that the unreality in the Blues Brothers might make it an American version of magical realism. But it's a comedy movie.

So what pops it over into speculative fiction for me? It depends on the piece.
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Old 11-17-2012, 12:32 AM   #100
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It depends on the piece.
Okay it depends on the piece but in essence the answer you gave is yes, at some point in a given piece, a certain level of unreality will make you consider it spec fic.

Thank you, that is what I wanted to know.
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