Fantasy Genres and the Bad Rap

Blogging might take a break, but my writing never does. Great Christmas. Hopefully great New Year. Hopefully great next year.

Project Count (active): 6 (IGMAN, Proofing IPD, Burden, Proofing DaHS, DecChriWriMo, and RWB)

Okay. Wife and I had a conversation yesterday about “genre” and fiction. She went to the local B&N and looked for a specific book (book two of the Rothfuss series, if you simply must know). She commented how she hates that scifi and fantasy are on the same shelves.

I told her it’s like “religious study” containing Christian and Buddhist works. They’re cut from the same cloth. She disagreed. She said fantasy is 100% different than scifi AND other fiction, and says it’s an insult to bunch scifi and fantasy together.

In fact, she feels all fantasy should be categorized into 5 subgenres.

1) Romantic Fantasy- sparkly vampires, sultry ghosts and misunderstood werewolves fall into this category.
2) High Fantasy – Swords, Sorcery, Elves, and Magic Missiles abound.
3) Modern/Urban Fantasy – de Lint’s work, alternative worlds/portals, Saving Boston from Voldemort, etc.
4) Historical Fantasy – Alternative reality, Edwardian/Victorian fantasy with steampunky vibes, etc. Also includes classics like Shelley’s Frankenstein and Slaughterhouse 5. I think Vonnegut’s in the fantasy section. Maybe not. Maybe he’s in the nonexistent “satire” section.
5) ________ Fantasy – strong focus on established magical practices, generally dark or gothic in nature, or spiritualistic and religious.

Let’s talk about the last one, because she feels it’s not defined. She feels that’s where she falls. I agree. I write this kind of fantasy. For the past two days I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it, because it’s true: I don’t know a name for it. A lot of people tend to call it Dark Fantasy, or Gothic Fantasy, or even Religious Fantasy, but I disagree. It isn’t. The connotations lean toward horror, or the macabre, or the holy (which, up until 200 years ago, weren’t exclusive of each other).

And, after all this “deep” thought, I’ve come up with what I’m trying to name: Fantastic Realism, or the dedication to the process of magic as it pertains to a person psychologically, physically, and spiritually. Not just “I know a spell see and I gotta wand so I can make it be, see?” magic and not just “I got a special book o magic ta teach me see?” and definitely not “I’m a dark creature due to magic see?” Dream magic. Symbol magic… And not just, “I gotta crystal ball so I know you’re the Mare seeking a Spider and my Tarot deck says the Hanged Man’s gonna come see you.”

After all that, after reading people like Guy Gavriel Kay’s psychic warfare, and Robin Hobb’s debut series, and Simmons’ “horror,” I’ve found a name for it: Meta Fantasy.

Meta. And the thing is, this stuff is hardly fantasy at all. It’s Stephenson’s Anathem, but without the soft science. It’s Magic Theory. It’s… Academic Magic. It’s established itself in the minds and hearts of millions.

All this fits into its own category, and it’s hard to find. As hard to find as good historical fiction. As hard to find as good satire, or good philosophical debate. It’s hard to find without reading through a book of alternative vocabulary like “The Whole Self” and “The Infinite You” and all that redefinition.

Then I think about Lovecraft’s “Weird Fiction” and, well, deduce it falls under Meta. So is Poe. So is most good “horror,” because the best horror is psychological at its core.

Now I want to read more Simmons.

Anyway, I agree with the wife: fantasy is multifaceted. Scifi has similar facets. I’m certain all genres have subgenres.

But now I know where my people are. Now I know where I belong.

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