This is by way of a rambling chat – it isn’t an introduction. This is more the kind of thing you’d chat about with a mate who likes reading Fantasy novels, or one who might be interested…. I can’t give you a definitive answer as to what Fantasy fiction is, I think it’s too broad for that. If you want an proper answer go check the Encyclopedia of fantasy1 on your phone, or even better the book version. What this is – is what I feel Fantasy fiction is. It’ll be very biased, I’m gonna miss out loads of worthy stuff that you ought to read (emphasis on Ought) and instead tell you about all the cool stuff you are going to love to read instead. I think so anyway, feel free to disagree..
When I grew up, loads of people told me about great books to read, I guess I want to pass that on, not just the old stuff , the new stuff too. I went for a drink with a pal who’d never heard of Fafhrd or the Gray Mouser and it got me thinking, what if there’s other people missing out on these great stories, and what if there are great stories that I’m missing out on too? I’m going to upset publishers now by saying I don’t like the words Urban fantasy and Epic fantasy, on the back of book,s because they seem a bit narrow. So these are how I think stories ought to be described, more by the type of story they are, than by an attempt to market them.
These are the old ways….
Urban Fantasy / Our world fantasy e.g.Neverwhere
Epic Fantasy / Other world fantasy e.g. Lord of the Rings
But what about Traveller Fantasy
This is the stuff where you get to go back and forward between the real world and the fantasy one. Some examples? Chronicles of Narnia, Lord Foul’s Bane, even Harry Potter, because if you think about it Hogwarts has very little to do with our world (especially in the early novels.)
So what about stories where there isn’t one hero, there’s a real sense of politics and power. What about Steampunk, or fantasy horror, like Unicorn Tapestry or the Interview with the Vampire. Anne Rice isn’t really Horror, it’s brilliant stuff but apart from the word Vampire, is it scary? Does it make you shudder like HP Lovecraft or Steven King?
What about tales where you follow a few characters throughout the story, where you know who the heroes are and follow them through the story?
James Barclay and George R Martin, and Stella Gemmell write great stories but they aren’t the same as Thieves’ world or Waylander or Broken Sword. Maybe they don’t need a separate genre but I’d like to know that one set of stories were Epic, and one were Adventure/Heroic. Maybe this isn’t genre, maybe this is story type. Elric of Melnibone and Dakeyras have more in common with Richard Mayhew (from Neverwhere) than they do with Tyrion from Game Of Thrones. Because they are quest/hero stories,
Story Types (not Genre)
- James Barclay
- George R Martin
- Stella Gemmell
Adventure/Heroic (character fantasy)
- Dragonbone chair
- Broken Sword (Northern Fantasy)
- Wizard of Earthsea
- The Way of Wyrd
and this isn’t perfect, because what about Tigana, Flatland or Seventh Son
Styles of fantasy
Here then are my fave styles of Fantasy and this cuts it up differently
- Magic and Magicians: (Rhialto the Marvellous, Harry Potter, Books of Magic
- Elves and Goblins: (Dragonlance, Lord of the Rings)
- Swords and Demons: ( Gemmell, Moorcock, Robert E Howard, Poul Anderson)
- Tales of Fear and Wonder: (Lovecraft and MR James)
- Thieves and Rogues: (Lankmar, Thieve’s World, The Gentleman Bastard)
- People: (Daggerspell, Anything by Anne McCaffrey)
So that’s my take on it, what do you think?