Fantasy genres

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Fantasy genres

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1Kiddboyblue
sep 5, 2018, 3:33pm

Grim Dark, Traditional Quest Fantasy, Epic Fantasy....
Any thoughts on the differences? Favorite sub-genre of fantasy? Has the typical quest fantasy played out? Just curious what ya'lls thoughts are generally.

2Cecrow
Bewerkt: sep 6, 2018, 7:35am

I don't think any of these sub-genres are well-defined, just nebulous names to give a sense of what we're talking about in conversation or to explain the difference between two fantasy novels, describe a new one, etc.

Nothing is ever played out, although the more visited ones need to do more work to find something new. That said, I don't think the classic epic quest is as predominant as it was.

3Niko
Bewerkt: sep 6, 2018, 8:02am

I've really come to hate the term "Epic Fantasy". It tends to get applied to anything that can't be obviously slotted into one of the more clear-cut subgenres, to the point that it's become pretty much meaningless.

I think it still applies to the old-school series like WoT or Belgariad, but we don't get so many of those anymore (as Cecrow said), so the catch-all-ness of the term is no longer relevant.

4Cecrow
sep 6, 2018, 8:51am

If someone says "epic" now, I don't think old-school before I think "large-scale". Epic to me means armies clashing over a vast landscape for area control, while a quest or two is negotiating a path through the morass. And big stakes are likely involved, probably world-ending stuff.

5LShelby
jan 26, 2019, 7:53pm

>4 Cecrow:
This discussion leaves me wondering if I'm writing Traditional Quest Fantasy or if I'm writing Epic Fantasy. I've got the world-ending massive armies, but they don't show up until book 5. It takes me that long for my hero to work his way up from 10 personal guards.I wonder at times if I'm writing High Fantasy, but I'm not sure about what that means anymore, either. And all my other projects seem even harder to classify.

But at least its obvious that I personally don't think quests are dead. (The market may consider them dead, but I don't care. I write what I like, not what I think will sell.) :)

It might be easier to identify specific books as being a defining work than it is to actually define the genres. According to a book I read on Fuzzy Logic, that's how people's brains actually work.

Anyway using a tag serch as a crib sheet, I've found the follow potential fantasy genres. But there's also a lot of things I would consider a combination of two genres, rather than a separate genre of its own. Fantasy romance, and Fantasy mystery, for example.

Anyway, I am listing what seem to be genuinely fantasy divisions not mixed genre tags here, roughly from most popular to least, with the books that are labelled as such most often

urban fantasy - Jim Butcher's Harry Dresdin books
dark fantasy - Neverwhere by Niel Gaimen
epic fantasy - Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin (Also LotR and Wheel of Time)
high fantasy - The Lord of the Rings. (Also Game of Thrones and Wheel of Time)
historical fantasy - Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel by Susanna Clarke
modern/contemporary fantasy -- American Gods by Niel Gaiman
science fantasy -- Dragon Riders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey
heroic fantasy -- Legend, by David Gemmell, (Also, LotR and Conan)
animal fantasy -- Watership Down by Richard Adams
paranormal fantasy -- Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
low fantasy -- Harry Potter
portal fantasy -- Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
traditional fantasy -- Stone Soup retold and illustrated by Jon J. Muth
military fantasy -- The Black Company by Glen Cook
commercial fantasy -- Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan
Arthurian fantasy -- The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Celtic fantasy -- Daggerspell by Katharine Kerr
world fantasy -- Little, Big by John Crowley
otherworld fantasy -- The Lord of the Rings again, but the list is quite different from "high".
dragon fantasy -- Eragon by Christopher Paolini
fairytale fantasy -- Beauty by Robin McKinley
assassin fantasy -- Barren by Peter V. Brett

Paranormal probably would have scored higher if I wasn't grabbing it off the "fantasy" list. Most people just call it Paranormal even though they reccognize it as fantasy. I've been wondering if there are any sub-genres I've missed for similar reasons.

I left comic/humorous/light fantasy off the list, because everything in it belongs in some other fantasy sub-grouping as well. Same with gritty.

Epic and High fantasy appear to be pretty much the same thing. A lot of stuff falling into those two groupings also gets called medieval fantasy... which, very interestingly is NOT apparently a subset of historical fantasy. Stuff labeled 'medieval fantasy' seems to be mostly secondary world with a medieval-ish feel to it.

(Historical fantasy possibly counts as a cross between historical fiction and fantasy, so maybe I shouldn't have it on my list... but the historical aspect seems to be a more integral to the fantasy part of it, unlike the romance fantasy and mystery fantasy crosses, so I left it in.) Fantasy Adventure is perhaps another genre I should have left on the list? I didn't see 'Quest Fantasy'.

'Low' fantasy seems to be a catchall for stuff that isn't 'High' and as such as pretty much undefinable... Harry Potter also scores very high as Modern/contemprary fantasy (which I have combined because the lists looked so similar, and I thought I'd get less argument over that than Epic and High, whose lists were also very similar.)

Otherworld fantasy is apparently what I was taught to call 'secondary world' fantasy. :)

Traditional fantasy as a tag gets used primarily for fairytales and folktales, everything at the top of the list was a picture book.

And I didn't really recognize ANYTHING on the world fantasy list, so I have no idea why they are 'world fantasy' books. Is it something like 'world music'?

6shadrach_anki
feb 7, 2019, 2:43pm

>5 LShelby:

I'm pretty sure the "world fantasy" tag is referring to the World Fantasy awards rather than a particular sub-genre of fantasy.

7LShelby
feb 8, 2019, 1:57pm

>6 shadrach_anki:
Aha! That explains it. :)

I have thought of a couple fantasy sub-genres that wouldn't have appeared on that initial list. Sword-and-sorcery and wuxia.

I also figured out why I wanted to keep historical fantasy on the list and not adventure fantasy or fantasy romance. It's because fantasy is genre defined by its setting, and so is historical, but adventure and romance are plot defined genres. Therefore, a fantasy romance is both a romance and a fantasy, but a historical fantasy is not really a historical: because it's set in a past that not only didn't exist, but that couldn't have existed.

IMHO, YMMV, Other disclaimers as required.