I’ve often said that Star Wars is not Science Fiction. And while I would generally use the term “Space Fantasy” as a substitution, that’s not exactly a layman’s term. Sci-Fi and Fantasy have sub-genres upon sub-genres, from as broad as “Hard Science Fiction” to as specific as “Young Adult Urban Fantasy Paranormal Vampire Romance”. Some sub-genres overlap between two main genres; where does Steampunk bridge the gap? Or Space Opera? What about Magical Realism– literary fiction, or authors refusing to say they write Fantasy? There are so many to choose from, but these sub-genres are distinguished by various elements of story all of which make up the whole. Some deal more with aesthetics (the main reason that High Fantasy and Urban Fantasy are different sub-genres), while others deal with content (the reason the Foglios are insistent that Girl Genius is Gaslamp Fantasy). To find these elements, there are five questions you must ask– Who? What? Where? Why? How?
Who? — characters, or, more importantly, the archetypes they conform to. There are genre specific character archetypes– there’s a reason you wouldn’t see a Scotty or Geordi in Middle Earth.
What? — Plot. This is actually very important when determining genre. Shakespeare set at least 13 of his plays in Italy, but that doesn’t make Romeo and Juliet the same kind of story as Much Ado About Nothing.
Where? — as alluded in the past question, setting. Keep in mind, setting is not just place, but time as well, which is why there’s no “When?” question.
Why? — Themes or messages. This is also incredibly important, partially because of its intertwining with the plot, but also because it can help determine sub-genre, especially within Sci-Fi.
How? — This is a part of genre that has recently come into prominence with the rise of the “dramedy”, as it partially deals with tone, but it’s asking how the story is told and that runs through all of the technical aspects of the story-making process. This is what most academics mean when they say “genre” — painting is a “genre”, poetry is a “genre”, prose is a “genre”. For the purposes of this blog, those are mediums, genres are genres.
With that in mind, let’s see how Star Wars stacks up.