‘Legion’ And The Veil Between Fantasy And Sci-Fi

by Frank Martin

They say magic is just science that hasn’t been understood yet. The same could be said for storytelling genres. The barrier between science fiction and fantasy is often clearly defined. Something like The Lord of the Rings is considered fantasy while Star Trek is sci-fi. But the lines can also be blurred. Even though it is filled with space travel and robots, Star Wars is truly a space fantasy. But such a genre doesn’t really exist in the broadest of terms. I often go by the “Blockbuster rule” — meaning a story is basically classified as to where it would be found in Blockbuster. They had a horror section and a fantasy section, but something that isn’t clearly defined by either is thrown into sci-fi. And that’s where Star Wars would be found.

Then there are works that are clearly in one camp or the other but a singular aspect leans so heavily in one direction that it borrows elements from the other side. A clear example of this is the film Interstellar. The movie is often rooted in hard sci-fi terms, but when the main character enters a black hole, all bets are off. The science behind black holes is still largely in the dark (no pun intended), so the story took large liberties in what happened next. Although its basis was in science, the story became so out there, one could easily take it for fantasy.

Probably no story highlights the ridiculous veil between the two more than the TV show Legion. Technically, the show should be considered sci-fi. The premise is that genetic mutations allow people to have special abilities. In the case of several characters in the series, these mutations are so strong they can pretty much do whatever they want to reality. The show does an excellent job taking this power to an extreme. Although the reality-warping ability comes from a loose scientific explanation, the powers manifest almost like magic. It truly transports the show into a surreal, supernatural and fantastical setting.

Of course, none of the classification particularly matters. Genre is largely a commercial construct to fit stories into certain boxes. Salesmen do this in order to plan marketing and cover demographics, but in the grand scheme of things, it shouldn’t matter to a storyteller. And maybe this is why we see these lines blurred so often. When a writer is telling a story, they don’t necessarily care to paint within the lines. They want to tell the story they want to tell, and this often means mixing genres to their heart’s content.

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