Psychic abilities like telekinesis, telepathy, mind-control, clairvoyance. Basically powers involving the mind.

Abilities that let you levitate objects with your thoughts or speak to another person without uttering a word sound very much like magic - a thing of fantasy, yet is often portrayed in science fiction (sometimes explained as mutation or superhuman ability or an alien trait) Take the example of Vulcan Mind-meld from Star-Trek. A telepathic technique used by vulcans that merges the minds of the two individuals via physical contact (finger-tip points targeted at the partner's skull temples)

If Psychic powers fall under science fiction, what sets it apart from magic (fantasy) ?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Radhil, TheLethalCarrot, Bellatrix, Au101, Vanguard3000 Apr 7 at 14:58

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • One possible answer would be that if psychic powers happen in a story and setting that is otherwise science fiction (the Lensman series, Star wars, Star Trek) they make it seem a bit more like fantasy but the story is still the science fiction genre but closer to the border with fantasy than it would otherwise be. Similarly Psychic powers in a story and setting that is otherwise fantasy might move it a bit closer to the border with science fiction but it would still be fantasy. The telepathy scene in LOTR surprised me because I previously read of telepathy only in science fiction. – M. A. Golding Apr 7 at 17:31
  • Another possible answer would be that if an otherwise science fiction story has Psychic powers the main story is science fiction and the psychic powers are fantasy, thus making the story, for example, 90 percent science fiction and ten percent fantasy. – M. A. Golding Apr 7 at 17:33
up vote 4 down vote accepted

The essence of SF is that the story relies on fictional science or engineering. The essence of fantasy is that relies on fictional magic or the fictional supernatural. So whether psychic powers are SF or fantasy depends on whether they are depicted as being part of of systematic body of knowledge or "they just happen because she's special".

So, to answer the question "If Psychic powers fall under science fiction, what sets it apart from magic (fantasy)?", I'd say that while they can fall under SF and sometimes do, they default to fantasy in most people's minds because stories featuring them are usually done as fantasy.

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    I'm just gonna leave this here: Clarke's Laws (and in particular, #3...) – Steve-O Apr 7 at 14:21
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    First of thanks for that answer Second, I've found the first thing you said about the essence of science fiction very interesting. A follow-up if I may. I can't think of an example title on the fly, but say a story does involve something that would have no ground on actual science but does have its own pseudo/fictional science that explains itself, this makes it fall under the sci-fi genre, do I have this right? – mr.eaver Apr 7 at 14:28
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    Sure. The key thing that makes SF is that it the story turns on a body of knowledge which is systematic and intelligible and objective in the context of the story. Classic examples of "scientific magic" include Randall Garret's Lord Darcy series and De Camp and Pratt's Mathematics of Magic series. In neither case do they present a coherent, detailed blueprint of how to do magic -- how could they? -- but in the context of the story, magic is consistent, intelligible, and objective. And in fact, just about no SF anywhere is based only on actual science -- stories that do tend to be dull. – Mark Olson Apr 7 at 14:33
  • Thank you again! that clears up alot of the confusion I had of where exactly the line is drawn between the two genres – mr.eaver Apr 7 at 14:38
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    Huh. I'd say that while psychic powers can be fantasy and sometimes are, they're more usually science fiction. Julian May's "Saga of the Exiles" being the central example in my head. Maybe the close-voters are right. :-) (Can you provide an example of psychic powers in a work of fantasy? I can't think of one offhand, except cases like Pern that are deliberately fantasy stories told in SF settings.) – Harry Johnston Apr 7 at 23:30

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