October 24th, 2008, 04:07 AM
... And I post unto thee
Is there a name for this sub-genre?
Can anyone tell me whether there is a specific name given to a story in which a character from the real world travels (usually via some kind of portal, I guess, but this isn't essential) to an alternative fantasy realm?
I'm pretty sure that there is no name for this sub-genre. It would probably just be classed as a type of High Fantasy (depending on the exact nature of the fantasy realm). But I could be wrong about this. Does anybody know?
October 24th, 2008, 07:02 AM
Hmmm, not that I can think of. I think it could fall under a variety of sub-genres depending, as you say, on the nature of the fantasy realm.
Wikipedia has a good Fantasy sub-genres page that you should check out anyway.
October 24th, 2008, 07:20 AM
Farah Mendelsohn calls this sub-genre for "portal-quest fantasy" in her excellent The Rhetorics of Fantasy.
Originally Posted by J-Strike
October 24th, 2008, 09:10 AM
Yes, it has several different names, as sub-genres are wont to do. It was one of the most popular types of fantasy stories in the 1980's. It's been called alternate universe fantasy, cross-dimensional fantasy, portal fantasy, etc. Cross-dimensional is the most commonly used term. Cross-dimensional fantasy is often classified together with time travel fantasy, post-apocalypse fantasy and alternate history fantasy. Cross-dimensional fantasy is often also associated with secondary world fantasy, since the people on Earth go to a secondary world, one that is often pre-industrial in nature.
While it's a sub-genre, it's a term of use rather than an official market sub-genre, like fantasy of manners, New Weird and other terms that fans, critics and others use in talking about fantasy fiction. The five official sub-genres have remained pretty constant, though occasionally the names change: secondary world fantasy, contemporary fantasy, historical fantasy, satirical (comic) fantasy, and dark fantasy/horror. Three setting-based, two tone-based. Everything pretty much falls into those five.
Are you looking for recommendations or examples of cross-dimensional fantasy?
October 24th, 2008, 04:01 PM
Originally Posted by KatG
wouldn't "high fantasy" or "epic fantasy" be considered subgenres, too? Or are they simply accounted for under the main heading of "general fantasy?"
October 24th, 2008, 04:10 PM
"High fantasy, or epic fantasy, is a subgenre of fantasy fiction that is set in invented or parallel worlds. Built upon the platform of a diverse body of works in the already very popular fantasy genre, high fantasy came to fruition through the work of authors such as C. S. Lewis and, foremost, J. R. R. Tolkien, whose major fantasy works were published in the 1950s. While it is far from being the oldest fantasy subgenre, high fantasy, along with sword and sorcery, has become one of the two genres most commonly associated with the general term fantasy."
Originally Posted by Whiskeyjack
Last edited by Monty Mike; October 24th, 2008 at 04:21 PM.
October 25th, 2008, 02:11 AM
High fantasy is what we used to call secondary world fantasy and many people still often do. Sword and sorcery was also used and still is as a term for secondary world fantasy. High fantasy was supposed to be the sweeping war stories and S&S the quest adventures. To some, high fantasy was the high-brow literary stuff while S&S was the low-brow game-related stuff. But the problem was that deciding who was who became an unmanageable proposition, given that elements listed as their definitions were often both present in the same novel, and that it depended on who you asked. And the Sword & Sorcery fans got real tired of being told they were the bargain-basement sub-genre of fantasy anyway (and they're still tired of it today.) Then there was also the fact that you could call a historical fantasy novel a high fantasy or a sword & sorcery story, etc., and some people wanted to differentiate historical fantasy from secondary world fantasy.
So the term "epic" began to get used more and more for secondary world fantasy stories, whether or not they were also called high or S&S. And epic became the major term. But, the problem is that epic also has meaning as the word epic, which confuses a lot of new fans and leads to arguments like can a contemporary fantasy be epic or not, etc. So in recent years, various substitutes have been bandied about for those stories that take place in a non-Earth, non-alternate Earth, imaginary world. Secondary world seems to be working best, though epic is frequently still used and secondary world as a phrase is a tad awkward. I don't know if it will stick, but for now, that's what I've been using, what a lot of other people seem to be using at least part of the time, and people seem to get what it means.
Secondary worlds can be pre-industrial or post-industrial. It doesn't matter. But a lot of people get confused and think that secondary world only refers to pre-industrial imaginary realms. Cross-dimensional fantasy, which takes Earthlings to a secondary world, obviously is part of the spectrum of the secondary world sub-genre. Nine times out of ten, the secondary world the Earthlings go to is going to be pre-industrial, as is the case in much, but not all, of secondary world fantasy. But it doesn't have to be.
Whether a cross-dimensional fantasy gets called high or sword & sorcery, if it gets called either, again depends on who you talk to. There are also cross-dimensional fantasy stories where Earth is not involved, but instead other worlds, dimensions that you can travel from one to another. Basically, cross-dimensional fantasy is a type of secondary world fantasy, but one with a distinct structure. And if a cross-dimensional fantasy is very dark and horrific in approach, tone and style, then it will be considered a dark fantasy (Stephen King's Gunslinger series,) and if it is satirical and humorous in approach, tone and style, it will be considered a comic fantasy (George Alec Effinger's Maureen Birnbaum, Barbarian Swordsperson.)
So since it crosses, cross-dimensional is not a rigid, market sub-genre, but a term of use that can be of interest in talking about different approaches and structures in fantasy fiction and in how say one author chose to go about a cross-dimensional premise versus how another author chose.
I don't use the terms high fantasy and sword & sorcery myself anymore. It's not that I personally object to them, but that their definitions are so vague and variable, and at this point so loaded with prejudicial baggage from fans that they are no longer very useful terms in my eyes. But you can use them. It's just a good idea to define what you mean by them when you do. It is also probably a good idea to define epic if you are using it as epic and not as meaning secondary world fantasy.
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