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April 6, 2008: ‘Fantasy’ Baseball

I recently found my notes from a panel discussion I did a few years ago on the subject of baseball at a science fiction convention.

Why, you may wonder, were they having a panel at a science fiction convention about baseball?

Well, first of all, have you ever noticed how many of the great baseball novels have an element of the supernatural, fantastical, or unexplained about them? There are some ways in which baseball literature can be said to be a sub-genre or offshoot of fantasy. (And you should know that “science fiction” in the common vernacular encompasses not just space opera and cyberpunk, but things that have no science in them at all, like high fantasy, vampire fiction, and so on. Why fantasy and science fiction are one genre in the bookstore is a topic for some other journal.)

Second, there’s the simple fact that many hardcore fans of science fiction and fantasy are also fans of baseball. On the panel with me were noted writers like Shane Tourtellotte and comic book creator Ken Gale. Since then I’ve done similar panels including noted figures like Eric Van, who both works for the Red Sox as a stat-head and is an organizer of the annual Readercon sf/f literary convention.

Anyway, on this particular panel, we came up with the Ten Reasons Why Baseball Is Like Fantasy.

1. It’s something you get hooked on as a ten-year-old.
2. The movies are adapted from books.
3. The books are better.
4. Everyone complains about how much better it used to be in the old days.
5. Involves a system of rules that seem like magic to the casual observer.
6. Current stars often seem to imitate previous stars.
7. There are always moments of comedy and drama, and sometimes you don’t know if you’re headed for tragedy or triumph.
8. An appreciation of history can increase one’s appreciation of it.
9. If you like one, you’ll probably like the sequel.
10. Some people just don’t get it.

This led to a discussion about how fantasy baseball and Dungeons & Dragons are similar. A closer analogy is Strat-o-matic baseball and D&D, which both rely on the statistical probability of events occurring to determine the outcome. And how wiffle ball is the equivalent of baseball boffer fighting.

But if I try to explain what boffer fighting is, I’ll be here all day. Hm, although I suppose if I say “it’s the wiffle ball equivalent of sword fighting,” people might get what I mean.

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