Thursday, February 12, 2009

Fantasy Genres

I was just getting ready to exercise when something popped into my mind (doesn't that happen to all of us the moment we don our sweats?) I was thinking about the article I referenced, The Fantasy Novelist's Exam, in my last note. Michelle Gregory had posted about this also.

I was thinking that many of the characteristics of fantasy fiction that the authors of that scathingly humorous (or not so humorous, depending on the day you're having) article were making fun of, have to do with the distinction between the different subgenres in fantasy fiction. They are seemingly mocking so-called 'High Fantasy' in which the fate of the whole world is in the balance, as well as "Sword and Sorcery" which tends to focus on the baser pursuits of wandering heroes.

I had done some research when beginning my own book, and found some very good articles on Wikipedia on Fantasy Fiction and Subgenres of Fantasy Fiction. Here are a couple of tidbits that others might find interesting:

"The term High Fantasy (also Epic Fantasy) generally refers to fantasy that depicts an epic struggle between good and evil in a fantasy world, parallel to ours...

The moral tone and high stakes — usually world-shaking — separates this genre from Sword and Sorcery, while the degree to which the world is not based on a real-world history separates it from Historical Fantasy."

Kristal Shaff's book The Emissary is probably in the High Fantasy category, though it could also be considered Heroic Fantasy.

Heroic Fantasy
is described as "A subgenre touching high fantasy on one hand and sword-and-sorcery on the other. A hero is usually the main character, and is usually on a quest, and often is carrying one or more magical items."

Sword and sorcery (S&S) "is a fantasy subgenre generally characterized by swashbuckling heroes engaged in exciting and violent conflicts. An element of romance is often present, as is an element of magic and the supernatural. Unlike works of high fantasy, the tales, though dramatic, focus mainly on personal battles rather than world-endangering matters."

Michelle Gregory's book Eldala would probably be considered Romantic Fantasy,as would mine. (Ouch! That is definitely not what I was going for.)

Here is a summary description from Wikipedia.

"Characters may start as solitary wanderers in romantic fantasy, but they never remain that way for long. One of the key features of romantic fantasy involves the focus on social, and to a lesser extent, political relationships. The characters all find close friends, lovers, and other companions with whom they either live or travel, as well as a larger social circle where they all belong. In addition, many character have significant ties with the larger world. Many of these characters have noble titles, or a sworn duty to their kingdom. The rootless travelers of sword and sorcery novels are rarely found in romantic fantasy..."

"Attitudes toward magic in Romantic Fantasy are usually very different from that expressed in most high fantasy or sword and sorcery. Rather than representing an alien and corrupting force that destroys its practitioners, or a complex, secretive body of lore that isolates magicians from normal society via long study and seclusion, magic typically takes the form of innate abilities that are natural and simple to use...Magic is thus presented in the narrative as an innate and positive part of someone's nature, and by extension a "natural" part of the world."

According to the article, one of the typical plot archetypes is this: The hero(ine)..." saves her kingdom from outside invasion. Such characters are rarely warriors, and normally uncover the plots through a combination of intrigue, luck, and use of their powers. In the course of this adventure, the character typically falls in love and, by the end of the novel or at least by the end of the series, her lover becomes their life-partner. The complexities of this romance form a significant focus in these novels."

I'd say that pretty accurately describes The Golden Gryphon. However, the story does roughly fit the Heroic Fantasy description as well, as far as the heroine being the main character who possesses magical items and is on a quest, although in Marenya's case her quest is mainly to protect those she loves. The same could also be said of Eldala. Clearly these subgenres overlap quite a bit.

As far as the publishing niche for this type of fiction, according to the Wikipedia article,

"Romantic fantasy has been published by both fantasy lines and romance lines.

"Some publishers distinguish between 'romantic fantasy' where the romance is most important and 'fantasy romance' where the fantasy elements are most important. Others say that 'the borderline between fantasy romance and romantic fantasy has essentially ceased to exist, or if it's still there, it's moving back and forth constantly'."

Interesting to know!

Here are the links:
Fantasy Subgenres
Romantic Fantasy

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