The confrontation happened in the library, as you would expect. The library, however, was configured in a way that you might not expect. It is the Protolibrary, the Library Prime. Nothing like Borges' Babel. Probably not even anything like the great Library of Alexandria, though who can say for certain, since that magnificent edifice burned centuries ago, and all that we knew, or thought that we knew, was lost.


This library has the aspect of a gladiatorial arena. For what are books but ideas, and what are ideas but champions who must battle and war for supremacy? Here the weak do not survive, and the strong hold sway over empires. But what of truth, you ask. Surely truth matters more than might, more than fighting prowess? The Librarians would laugh, and say, Library Prime is no Children's Library. Here memes are born to propagate and flourish, or to die and be forgotten.

Into this arena presently came the avatars of two antagonistic Genera. In the Linnaean system of binomial nomenclature you might be familiar with, a genus is a useful category, albeit rather low down on the classification hierarchy. But at Library Prime Genera take precedent. Perhaps our bastardized word "genre" derives from these great entities. But if so, the word is a mere shadow, for such words and names have no power to encompass the fullness of what Genera represent.

Ah. One of the many dangers of browsing Library Prime is that ideas and knowledge are always trying to escape. No more memesplaining! Time to fight.

Our combatants face each other across the bloody sand of the arena. Already epic contests had been waged during this long day but this was the climactic finale that the Librarians were eager to observe. Of course the gladiators' names could not adequately be expressed in our vulgar vernacular, but we may call them Athenotype and the Archetecht. Crudely put, at its most reductionist, the question would be tested: which is superior, fantasy or science fiction? The LibrarianPrime stands, and the gladiators bow to her hooded figure. She raises her hand, and drops it, and battle is joined.

Athenotype crouches in Classical hoplite style, Pallasian in her golden armour, vision protected from the setting sun underneath her helmet's eye slits. Across from her the Archetecht had the aspect of a great warbot, all chrome and shiny black sharp edges and sundry exotic particle weapons.

Athenotype struck first, her spear thrown true and exploiting a vulnerability in the Archetecht's carapace. He merely phased it out of this space/time continuum and responded with a veritable rainbow of radiation. He spoke. *You like that? I call it my LPMTQ Pride attack.*

"Yes, you make that joke every time," Athenotype said as she absorbed all the energy with her shield. "What is it again, lasers phasers masers and potaters?"

*Quasars. You know, quarks. I just shot quarks at you. You could at least smile while I kill you.*

By now they had joined in hand-to-hand combat, Athenotype striking with her sword forged from the diamond blood of frost giants. The Archetecht parried and feinted and lunged, with his own blade edged with neutronium. The sparks that flew from their clashing weapons formed stars in adjacent universes.

For an hour they fought, seemingly at a stalemate. Neither grew tired, though the speed of their strikes couldn't be measured by mortal eyes. Finally Athenotype slipped on the heart of a dead idea, and the Archetecht disarmed her. He raised his arms for the killing blow but she leaped up and grabbed his wrist, twisting it and flipping him over her shoulder, while taking his sword from him. Tables turned, she stepped on his neck and was about to sever it when a remote command from the Archetecht activated the failsafe protocol in his sword, which dissolved into a billion nanites that swarmed over her body, smothering it and altering it on a molecular level.

She was in a bad way. But she gestured, there was a palpable pulse, and the nanites fell inert to the sand. The Archetecht gasped and was rendered immobile.

*EMP. Kind of cheating, don't you think? That's more in my wheelhouse than yours.*

"Maybe, but do you know anyone who can generate an electromagnetic pulse by twitching her fingers? It's called Magic, asshole."

*Well, if you can bend the rules...* The Archetecht, with visible effort, pressed a button on his wrist, and his robotic exoskeleton fell away to reveal an improbably perfect male form wearing some sort of colorful skintight suit. He rose to his feet and . . . kept rising. He could fly now.

"Superheroes are their own Generus," Athenotype protested.

*Nah, this guy is totally scientifically plausible. Uh, so long as you postulate slightly different laws of physics and, um, keep it logically consistent, you know. As much as possible, anyway. Close enough!*

The Archetecht dove and tackled Athenotype, delivering a mighty punch that sent her crashing through the upper walls of the Library, and into orbit, and then she crashed down into the sand at the Archetecht's feet. She was defeated.

The Archetecht gloated and grandstanded. The crowd cheered.

Athenotype said, "Enjoy your Pyrrhic victory."

The Archetecht scoffed. *Nothing Pyrrhic about it baby, I won and to me go the spoils of war and to the loser goes, like death or whatever. Bye!*

"Excuse me, I misspoke. I meant to say Vampiric Victory." As Athenotype died she had the satisfaction of watching the sun set, and from the sand a thousand undead bloodsuckers rose from their graves and set upon the Archetecht, who in his present form was very vulnerable to vampires.

Horror hath ever been a close ally unto fantasy.

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Nathan Waddell is a writer living in Edmonton, Alberta. He was a coal miner for many years but is happy to now be able to focus more on writing. He has just released a chapbook called The Ursus Verses and can be found at his rather ancient blog