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  1. #211
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    I always thought the five subcategories of fantasy are: high fantasy, adventure (sword and sorcery) fantasy, fairy tale fantasy, magical realism, and dark fantasy. It's not my idea though, I read it from this book: The Writer's Guide to Fantasy Literature. The authors called it 'The Five Golden Rings of Fantasy.'

    If I was making the list, I'd add satirical fantasy in there, but then again, couldn't satirical fantasy fit it into any one of the above categories? Instead of taking itself seriously, satirical fantasy could be just high fantasy or sword and sorcery played for laughs.

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    Creator of Worlds sullivan_riyria's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wwfward View Post
    I always thought the five subcategories of fantasy are: high fantasy, adventure (sword and sorcery) fantasy, fairy tale fantasy, magical realism, and dark fantasy. It's not my idea though, I read it from this book: The Writer's Guide to Fantasy Literature. The authors called it 'The Five Golden Rings of Fantasy.'

    If I was making the list, I'd add satirical fantasy in there, but then again, couldn't satirical fantasy fit it into any one of the above categories? Instead of taking itself seriously, satirical fantasy could be just high fantasy or sword and sorcery played for laughs.
    With regards to publishing the "categories" that are most important are those that group books on site such as Amazon which includes:

    For kindles: Anthologies | Arthurian | Contemporary | Epic | Historical | Series
    For books: Alternate History | Anthologies | Arthurian | Contemporary |Epic | Historical | History & Criticism | Magic & Wizards

    and no I can't tell you why they are different.

    Other venues (such as bookstores) ibookstore, etc use BISG code (Book Industry Study Group) which breaks fantasy down into:

    FIC042080 FICTION / Christian / Fantasy
    FIC009000 FICTION / Fantasy / General
    FIC009010 FICTION / Fantasy / Contemporary
    FIC009020 FICTION / Fantasy / Epic
    FIC009030 FICTION / Fantasy / Historical
    FIC009050 FICTION / Fantasy / Paranormal
    FIC009040 FICTION / Fantasy / Short Stories
    FIC009060 FICTION / Fantasy / Urban Life
    FIC027030 FICTION / Romance / Fantasy

  3. #213
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    Quote Originally Posted by wwfward View Post
    I always thought the five subcategories of fantasy are: high fantasy, adventure (sword and sorcery) fantasy, fairy tale fantasy, magical realism, and dark fantasy. It's not my idea though, I read it from this book: The Writer's Guide to Fantasy Literature. The authors called it 'The Five Golden Rings of Fantasy.'

    If I was making the list, I'd add satirical fantasy in there, but then again, couldn't satirical fantasy fit it into any one of the above categories? Instead of taking itself seriously, satirical fantasy could be just high fantasy or sword and sorcery played for laughs.
    Interesting points. I guess my book could be considered satirical fantasy with some absurd comedy in it. But with some extreme adult themes and the "serious" elements of interweaving political, social, and racial issues within the plot, what in your opinion would that fit under?

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    Creator of Worlds sullivan_riyria's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Starchaser3000 View Post
    Interesting points. I guess my book could be considered satirical fantasy with some absurd comedy in it. But with some extreme adult themes and the "serious" elements of interweaving political, social, and racial issues within the plot, what in your opinion would that fit under?
    That description is "all over the map" which will make it more difficult from a marketing perspective. My best advice is to find a book that is "closest" to yours and categorize the way they have. There's something to be said about birds of a feather - as it will help to put you a pool of books that fans of a particlarly style will be a able to find you. Amazon's "also bought" feature is a main aspect of "discoverability.

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    All over the map?? Hell yeah!! I agree that in this day and age it would be difficult to attain respectable commercial success for a first time amateur author like me writing something like this of all things. But if I somehow became one of those avant garde authors that attained commercial notoriety long after they had died in obscurity, I would be very happy with that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Starchaser3000 View Post
    Interesting points. I guess my book could be considered satirical fantasy with some absurd comedy in it. But with some extreme adult themes and the "serious" elements of interweaving political, social, and racial issues within the plot, what in your opinion would that fit under?
    Again, it's dark satire. You're in the same neighborhood as books like Nicholls' Orcs, Mary Gentle's Grunts, Joe Hill's Horns and the like. Dark, satiric fantasy should be sufficient to communicate the book to most publishing people.

    Quote Originally Posted by wwfward
    high fantasy, adventure (sword and sorcery) fantasy, fairy tale fantasy, magical realism, and dark fantasy.
    That wouldn't really work very well for publishers. Where would you put historical fantasy? And what are you going to do with all the comic fantasies and the contemporary fantasies? I think that your book is talking about styles, rather than sub-categories, which it has given these names, which is certainly helpful for writing and may have some relevance in marketing, but mostly the system doesn't work by styles, as styles greatly vary, and instead goes by general content.

    Bookselling-wise, the industry uses very broad, basic sub-categories that are based on setting. So the main five are: secondary world fantasy (which we've been slowly using to replace the term epic fantasy,) which is set in a non-Earth world (and can be pre or post-industrial); historical fantasy, which is set in a historical or alternate historical time period of Earth; contemporary fantasy, which is set in a contemporary-ish or alternate contemporary Earth setting (if someone is calling books urban fantasy, that's usually what they are talking about comic/satiric fantasy, which is anything where the setting is designed to be humorous as a main focus of the book and which can be light-hearted romp to very black comedy; and dark fantasy, which is anything where the setting is very dark, spooky and moody (as opposed to just gritty and grim,) and can sort of overlap with horror. (For this reason, you'll often see it described as horror/dark fantasy.)

    Portal fantasies -- where the main characters pop between two worlds or between Earth and some other world -- and multiverse fantasies -- where there are many world including possibly Earth or versions of Earth that are traveled between -- were a great deal more popular up until the 1990's. Authors got more into making secondary world fantasy stories with big wars and so there were fewer of them, though still a favorite of comic fantasy, but they are popping up more and more in contemporary fantasy and we're starting to see authors play with those again in other areas too. So you could put them as separate, but often people will just stick them into one of the main five. I don't think publishers are much putting the words portal or multiverse into the marketing and on the covers right now, but if they think it will get attention, they may. If you use the words portal or multiverse with publishers, though, they will understand what you mean by them usually. Note again that these two types are setting-based -- it's the kind of universe that the story takes place in.

    Futuristic fantasies also are about setting -- ones that take place in the future, in space, etc. God's War by Kameron Hurley, Ariel and Elegy Beach by Steven R. Boyett, etc. There is more interest in doing those now too as authors seek out new worlds to play in and so they may end up a more sizable bookselling sub-category eventually, but usually they are just lumped in with contemporary fantasy. Some people mistakenly regard them as science fiction and quite often futuristic fantasies will be called "cross-overs" of SF and F, although you can't actually cross them over; you dress the story up as one or the other as the defining elements are opposites.

    We had some exposure to Amazon's categories through Laer navigating for his book. Amazon doesn't particularly seem to care about categories and will have the same title in multiple categories, which is not a big deal. Laer discovered that alternate history SF and alternate history fantasy had the exact same titles, for instance. I'm not really sure why Amazon has an Arthurian category. Maybe somebody high up there really likes King Arthur books. You will note that they have the three mains: contemporary, epic (secondary world) and historical. Comedy probably gets tagged Magic and Wizards a lot. For instance, Christopher Stasheff's famous comic novel, Her Majesty's Wizard, is classified both in epic (secondary world) and magic and wizards. (It also happens to be a portal novel.) Dark fantasy probably gets thrown into horror, which is also a category they have, or epic (secondary world) or contemporary, etc.

    Christian fantasy is a separate but interactive market put out by a whole different crop of publishers and sold in general fiction, sometimes category SFF and/or Christian fiction in bookstores. It is again setting related. Paranormal romance is a sub-category of the romance category market, not fantasy. However, there was obviously much use in overlapping in marketing and more fantasy publishers have put out paranormal romance to get that audience, so you could say that paranormal romance does dual duty in two category markets, with much connection to horror and dark fantasy for some of it. Horror is its own field and does not always have to be fantasy, but obviously there is great overlap. Horror was usually sold in general fiction, but now also has a small category market in some countries and is also sold in SFF sections.

    Magic realism is a literary movement of fantasy fiction, an actual style and approach that developed from a number of Latin American writers out of their cultural traditions. But these authors were not working in countries with category markets, they were not working with SFF publishers, and so magic realism is fantasy sold mainly in general fiction. If you expand the scope of magic realism to non-Latin American authors, which some contest, then there are titles such as The Alchemist from Paulo Coelho and works from Jonathan Carroll that are cross marketed and cross sold with the category market. And in the general fiction market, every type of fantasy is sold, sometimes cross marketed with the category market, sometimes not.

    The category market exists, only in some countries, solely to funnel more books to interested readers. It has no other requirement than that the book have fantasy elements in it. It is not the sole market in which fantasy titles are sold. It is supplied when it comes to bookstores' category sections primarily by SFF specialty publishers but not limited to them, and these publishers are large, medium and small, and have a wide and changing range of what they published to maximize the number of buyers. The sub-categories are a further tool for trying to get books into the hands of interested readers, not defining or academic movements.

    It is harder for writers to know now where they fit in the market in the sense of what is like them and what is not because the market is much larger. New writers coming in don't necessarily know much about the history of SFF, about the big authors and books of the field (though quite often fans do,) and this is often the case for self-pubs, who are swimming in a sea of titles. But the reality is that unless you are doing something extremely strange with prose -- and even then sometimes -- you are writing in a tradition that already exists and has existed for some time in the field, which not only consists of thousands of novels over decades but millions of short stories and novellas as well, many of them as famous as novels. Whether you can get a publisher interested in making a license investment or readers to buy your work is another matter altogether.

    Starchaser's use of scatological humor will not please some people. But the general concept of what he's doing, again, is not avant garde. It's just satiric fantasy, a long tradition including cinematic stuff like Evil Dead and t.v. series like Krull and novels from Mention My Name in Atlantis by John Jakes to Gentle's more recent Grunts. Instead of avant garde, try edgy and black comedy.

  7. #217
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    Oh right, I think I confused style or sub-genre with marketing categories. I think sub-genre and marketing categories could overlap like urban fantasy/contemporary fantasy.

    Still, I would put futuristic fantasy as a sub-genre of science fiction (under space opera/science fantasy) rather than fantasy since they use technology and alien races as opposed to magic. My rule of thumb is if they explain the world with magic, it's fantasy, and if they use technology with the bar as low as merely calling it technology, then it's science fiction. Because then, Dune and Star Wars would be called futuristic fantasy when they've always been considered science fiction and it'd be just odd to see them as fantasy.

    @Starchaster3000, I agree that your work is satire/dark satire fantasy like Discworld only different and I assume gritty.

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    Creator of Worlds sullivan_riyria's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Starchaser3000 View Post
    All over the map?? Hell yeah!! I agree that in this day and age it would be difficult to attain respectable commercial success for a first time amateur author like me writing something like this of all things. But if I somehow became one of those avant garde authors that attained commercial notoriety long after they had died in obscurity, I would be very happy with that.
    My point wasn't for you to change the writing - simply to think about how you can position your work that is laser focused.

  9. #219
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wwfward View Post
    Oh right, I think I confused style or sub-genre with marketing categories. I think sub-genre and marketing categories could overlap like urban fantasy/contemporary fantasy.

    Still, I would put futuristic fantasy as a sub-genre of science fiction (under space opera/science fantasy) rather than fantasy since they use technology and alien races as opposed to magic. My rule of thumb is if they explain the world with magic, it's fantasy, and if they use technology with the bar as low as merely calling it technology, then it's science fiction. Because then, Dune and Star Wars would be called futuristic fantasy when they've always been considered science fiction and it'd be just odd to see them as fantasy.

    @Starchaster3000, I agree that your work is satire/dark satire fantasy like Discworld only different and I assume gritty.
    No, futuristic fantasy is futuristic fantasy. Dune is science fiction. Your rule of thumb is basically the operating structure. The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks is a futuristic post-apocalypse fantasy, though it tends to be regarded just as epic because of its place in fantasy publishing history. However, it is futuristic. Boyett's Ariel and it's much later sequel Elegy Beach are futuristic fantasy about a post-apocalypse in which tech dies and magic takes over. Patricia Kennealy-Morrison's Keltiad series is futuristic fantasy out in space. Anne McCaffrey's Pern books are science fiction with genetically engineered dragons on a planet. Hurley's God's War may be just SF. The author has gone back and forth about whether certain elements are magical or tech and I haven't read it, so I don't know. If the author has actual fantastic elements -- magical, divine, supernatural, then it's a fantasy, even if it's in space or future Earth. If they just have dubious tech, it's science fiction and usually gets dubbed space opera or adventure SF.

    The term science fantasy was developed in the 1980's by many regarding books like McCaffrey's Pern books, but it's a misnomer. It fell out of use more and more. It has had a bit of a revival because SF is undergoing a transition as it expands again and people start searching for more new terms, often with the word "punk" in them. It's a tricky term to deal with and if you've written a Dune-like SF, you're better off just calling it space opera or if appropriate post-apocalypse SF so people know for certain what you mean.

    SF fans range from those who read a wide range of SF stories to those who feel only hard SF or specific kinds of hard SF are actual SF. These fans do regard Star Wars as fantasy and do not distinguish between actual fantastic elements and what they consider as poor or insufficiently clear science. If you, however, have outright magic, futuristic setting or no, most SF fans altogether do not regard this as science fiction. Therefore, it is not possible to lump a story like Ariel -- about a boy and his unicorn -- in with SF.

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    That makes sense, KatG, but any intrusion of magic into a futuristic world doesn't automatically render a work fantasy since science fiction should have equal claim if we're going with the magic = fantasy/tech = sci fi explanation.

    Granted, we could have a future where civilization devolves and magic somehow shows up, but if there's some technology involved (even if the lost technology was our current technology) that coincides with magic, I think that work is as much a part of science fiction as it is fantasy.

  11. #221
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    A story being fantasy has nothing to do with whether there is the presence of tech in the story or not. Tech does not negate fantasy elements and turn them into science fiction. Tech and magic can happily coincide, but the story is then a fantasy story, not science fiction, because the definition of science fiction is that everything in the story is science based -- natural -- and not due to supernatural causes and the definition of fantasy fiction is that some elements in the story (not all) are supernatural in rationale. Magic is supernatural, not science or even dubious, hand-waving science. Such supernatural elements are required for a story to be fantasy fiction. It is the opposite of the definition of science fiction. If you put magic in a story -- actual magic, not tech that seems magical to some -- then it's a fantasy story.

    That we can discuss stories in terms of both science fiction history and fantasy fiction history is a given but because supernatural is by definition things that are not natural, the mixing only goes one way: you can put science fiction elements into fantasy, but not fantasy into science fiction because then you change it to fantasy. (Think of fantasy as dye and science fiction as water. You can put water into dye and it will still be the dye color. If you put dye into water then the water is colored, no longer clear water.) The majority of folk who want to call magic science fiction are fantasy fans or SFF fans. The majority of SF fans will not agree that a science fiction story includes fantasy -- although they may not notice that the fantasy elements are in a story, depending on what they are. This is why "science fantasy" is a misnomer. It means SF stories that appear fantasy like -- similar to stories that have supernatural, divine, magical elements -- but really aren't -- the phenomena is all natural, given a science rationale.

    For many SF fans, stories which are science fiction -- have a natural, science rationale to their settings and details -- but for which rationale is considered dubious and far-fetched, are not really science fiction, but fantasy, thus clouding the argument further. But these stories do not contain any actual fantastic elements because nothing is supernaturally based. They are part of the larger frame of science fiction.

    So Terry Brooks' world in Shannara suffers a nuclear holocaust that devastates the planet. The radiation and environmental conditions over generations causes mutations in some groups of humans that then form new races that are called dwarves and gnomes, in addition to humans who are essentially still in the old human form. Additionally to that, elves and other creatures who are magical, supernatural have been in hiding all this time but appear after the devastation of man, revealing magic to the world. Some humans are able to use this magic, magic objects can be formed, etc. All of this has nothing to do with the nuclear apocalypse in Brooks' future Earth as its reason for existing. It is not natural, not science-based. In Boyett's Ariel, there is a different kind of holocaust -- all technological machines stop working on the same day, magic works and magical creatures of legend appear, including the titular unicorn. These are future visions of Earth, but of an Earth that undergoes a supernatural event, not a science one.

    When you go to pitch a book, if you feel that it is in the low country between science fiction and fantasy, it is usually a good idea to look at what rationale you've given the elements in your story. If you go to an agent or publisher with a book you say is science fiction and it has magic in it, that's going to be problematic. If you say you have a fantasy novel, and it's a planetary story about alien life forms, that may cause confusion. The divide is not a barrier, it's just a choice of direction because the two are opposite views, sometimes of the same things like zombies, vampires and psychics.

  12. #222
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    I still disagree, KatG. Even if you think 'science fantasy' is a misnomer, the term does still exist, and works can be categorized under a sub-genre called science fantasy. How would you categorize something like the D&D-like role playing game Shadowrun?

    I think it's more like a continuum where those that fall more into fantasy would be considered futuristic fantasy (like Shannara or the one that you mentioned Ariel) while those that more resembles science fiction go into science fantasy (like Shadowrun). Maybe it's a 'know it when I see it' type of thing, but 'science fantasy' can't just be ignored and forgotten while futuristic fantasy gets called a legitimate sub-genre.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wwfward View Post
    I still disagree, KatG. Even if you think 'science fantasy' is a misnomer, the term does still exist, and works can be categorized under a sub-genre called science fantasy....Maybe it's a 'know it when I see it' type of thing, but 'science fantasy' can't just be ignored and forgotten while futuristic fantasy gets called a legitimate sub-genre.
    It's not a matter of legitimacy or non-legitimacy. There is no SFF legitimacy police (though there are people who like to anoint themselves as such from time to time. ) These terms are descriptors, not barriers. It's a matter of whether people will understand clearly enough what you're talking about in using a term, particularly publishing people re the conversation. Publishing people will mostly know what you mean when you say science fantasy because it was a term that developed and was used for science fiction stories (no magic) where the story appears fantasy-like (such as genetically engineered dragons, etc.) The term developed from the really old stories in the early 20th century like John Carter on Mars. But if you use the term science fantasy to a publishing person and you are actually doing a fantasy story with magic, then you may possibly confuse them. And this is one of the reasons that people stopped using the term science fantasy as much as they did in the late 80's and early 1990's and used other terms for fantasy-like but not fantasy SF. Instead, they are more likely to use the terms space opera, SF adventure, speculative fiction or scifi, which is the term that developed for film, t.v. (and games) SF and fantasy stories.

    The term futuristic fantasy also does exist and if you use it with publishing people, they will understand what you are talking about -- a story set in a futuristic setting, usually future of Earth, with fantastic elements -- supernatural -- such as actual magic. (Not tech that looks like magic.) So if you are doing that sort of story, then that term is very clear and would probably make better sense to use it than the term science fantasy.

    How would you categorize something like the D&D-like role playing game Shadowrun?
    I wouldn't categorize games according to terms used for written fiction because they are different areas that tend to have their own systems. And under those systems, the game would probably just be called sci fi. But if I had to do so along written fiction lines, it would be a futuristic fantasy RP game and it sounds fun. If the magic is there in the story, the magic is there and calling it science fiction is likely to confuse folk. You cannot put cyberpunk elements into a fantasy story and have that negate the fantasy elements and turn it into science fiction because science fiction deals solely with the non-supernatural.

    But these are certainly concepts that people can argue about and do. When you are trying to pitch the book to publishing people, however, they do need to know whether they are dealing with a supernatural story or not. And as science fantasy is less and less used as a term by everyone, its ability to clearly communicate as a description decreases.

    What we call these stories does not change the actual stories. The terms are simply shortcuts, providing information about what's in the stories quickly. Some of the terms change over time because people like to reinvent them or bring them back into use and because publishers will use terms to market works (that's how we got the word technothriller.) In fantasy, the use of supernatural elements is a given, so the question is usually what sort of setting does the supernatural elements take place in and that's where the sub-category terms come in. In SF, the use of non-supernatural, non-real and often but not exclusively futuristic elements is a given, so SF sub-categories concentrate on a combo of setting and what type of science is involved -- military SF, cyberpunk, steampunk SF, hard SF, sociological SF, etc.

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    We Read for Light Window Bar's Avatar
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    In the eBook world (maybe in paper-'n-ink as well) we can use both a primary categorization and a secondary categorization. I've used both sci-fi and fantasy, and have found the book listed under both headings in various eBook lists.

    Now in the middle of another project, I find myself more concerned about writing a better story more than about the details of categorization.

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    While we call them categories, again, it's not categorization. You don't go into one "category" and that's it. You always have the opportunity to appealing to multiple reading audiences of varied demographics. This is again about communicating quickly some of what is in a story that makes up its main set-up.

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