Wednesday, August 28, 2013

It is a Puzzlement: Genre Identification

Defining fantasy reminds me of that old commercial for Parkay margarine. 

Fantasy is many things.  Query Tracker has one take on the genre:
Fantasy. Fantasy stories are set on other worlds or in other realities. You can have vampires, werewolves, or fairies, but in general, fantasy creatures tend to be more…fantastic, mythological – dragons, gryphons, three-headed dog beasts. Magic is a huge element of fantasy stories. Here is a little test: if you can take away the “weird” in the story (i.e. the beasts, the magic) and the world you are left with is still not the normal, everyday world you know, it’s a fantasy story. Lord of the Rings is a fantasy. 

Urban Fantasy. This genre is actually closer to a paranormal than a fantasy. These stories deal with magical or paranormal elements in a real world, contemporary (or urban) setting. Many paranormal books could also be classified as Urban Fantasy, including Twilight, Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake and Merry Gentry series, and The Dresden Files.
In the interest of keeping my sanity, I've compiled the following: 
  • Epic or High. Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss
  • Arthurian. Mary Stewart’s The Crystal Cave
  • Swords and Sorcery. Gauntlgrim by RA Salvatore
  • Bangsian (about the afterlife). The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
The discussion is personal since my drug of choice is a sub-genre of fantasy.  That is where my confusion starts.

Wilder Mage is set in the real world about events that can’t possibly happen. So what is it?

The categories are:                                                            
  • Paranormal. Nope. The romance is a part of the canvas and not the whole paint.
  • Urban Fantasy. Trying to nail this term down has resulted in a bleeding forehead and mangled keyboard. Some say it is the modern world in a city setting, note the above QT quote. Others say it is any time period as long as it is this world.
  • Speculative Fiction. This one *really* confuses me. Since my publisher, Musa, defines Urania imprint as Spec Fic, I use the term also. But really? I mean isn't all fiction speculative?
  • Contemporary Fantasy. I like this one best. To me it says it all.

Excellent sites that helps to clear/create the fog:

SFSite. Invaluable. Definitely bookmark material.

So what genre is Wilder Mage if it is about a wizard living in Iowa?


  1. Speculative fiction is an umbrella-term typically referring to any genre that's main purpose is to ask "What if?". Fantasy, sci-fi, romance, horror, and alternate history are the main genres.

    I don't know enough about Wilder Mage to be sure, but I'd guess that Contemporary Fantasy or Urban Fantasy are the truest distinctions.

    While many consider it the same as Sword and Sorcery, you may want to consider adding Heroic Fantasy to your list of sub-genres.

  2. For the sake of argument, isn't any book speculative if it isn't non-fiction?

    I agree with the Cont Fan and UF.

    The sub-genres of fantasy are legion. Holy Cannoli!

  3. Speculative fiction covers fantasy, science fiction, horror...
    Maybe urban is closer?


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