There’s beauty in any genre a writer can choose to write. But I find Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and Horror to be the most beautiful of all. Vibrant and alive with a sea of possibilities for both writers and readers, and overlapping with almost any other genre out there. That’s why I’ve decided to write a series of posts about them detailing what each share that makes them so great, and what is unique to them.
First up in this three part series is Fantasy.
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Fantasy, like it’s sibling Sci-Fi (Science Fiction), is a genre of what ifs. What if someone was prophesied to save their village and defeat a dragon? What if the Princess fell in love with the Dragon and ran away? What if magical creatures were real and lived alongside us etc.
I think of it as the genre of dreamers, because there’s no need for science to be involved as in Sci-Fi. All that’s needed is a strong and logical imagination so the things a writer comes up with don’t throw readers out of the story.
Out of all the things that can be praised about Fantasy as a genre, the chance to build new and exciting worlds is my personal favorite. It’s not only fun but allows a writer to let their imagination soar. Do you want to examine gender roles in a desert culture? Do you want to examine race through the use of human-orc conflict? Create a world or magical species where being LGBT is perfectly normal and not even commented on? Maybe write a romance between an Elven Prince and one of his royal guards?
All those things are possible as long as they’re built into the fabric of the world. The more expansive the world you build, the more chances you have to go back and expand on little things to create entirely new stories. Yes, it can be exhausting. I don’t recommend writing Fantasy for anyone who doesn’t wish to do any worldbuilding in their writing. But for those who do, the reward is well worth the effort. Regardless of how fantastical or realistic the world is.
Any Subject or Setting
While worldbuilding may be my favorite part of writing Fantasy, it’s the vastness of setting within the genre and the chance to tackle any subject I wish that keeps me coming back to write more.
I’m partial to Historical and Secondary or made up worlds for my settings. Anything based on the 1920s, American Revolutionary War, and various other interests I’ve had since I was a kid are my favorite. However, I don’t shy away from setting things in our own world and time like J.K. Rowling did with Harry Potter or as is often used in Paranormal Romance. Another writer may prefer Secondary World Fantasy with your typical pseudo-Medieval or Early Modern setting. There’s room for both, a market for both. Find the setting or settings that draw you to Fantasy and stick with them. Don’t be afraid to branch out if you wish to, but don’t force yourself to write in a setting you don’t find appealing. We are our own first readers, and fighting our personal tastes makes writing just that much harder.
In addition to being partial to writing in certain settings, I’ve found that I greatly enjoy writing about certain subjects. My own stories often deal with the subjects of race, gender, and sexual orientation. And while not easy subjects to tackle, I find them rewarding ones to write about with a vast amount of room for exploration. Fantasy allows me to write about a world where being LGBT is perfectly fine, or a story where a female dragon and Princess fall in love. Or any other idea that comes to my mind. Find your own pet subjects and you too will likely find that you never tire of exploring them through the realm of writing Fantasy. That instead of narrow concepts, they become a sea of possibilities.
Both the fun of worldbuilding and the vastness of setting and subject matter are things Fantasy shares with Sci-Fi. And while they’re both great reasons for writing it on their own, Hard Fantasy, in my view, the most unique thing about Fantasy. Hard Fantasy being the Fantasy sibling to Hard Science Fiction.
Noted author of the Lady Trent series, Marie Brennan has described the essence of both as being “how stuff works and why.1” And I agree with her. Out of all the articles and blog posts I’ve read trying to piece the best definition for Hard Fantasy, her definition is the one that resonates with me the most. That speaks to my own experiences as a reader.
Take, for example, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings. It is without a doubt a quintessential Epic Fantasy tale. There’s a quest to save the world and good vs evil at its core, along with friendship. But Tolkien put a lot of effort into describing how and why certain things were the way they were in Middle Earth. It is a form of Hard Fantasy among other things.For the logically minded, Hard Fantasy is sure to be a draw.
For the logically minded, Hard Fantasy is sure to be something which draws them to the genre. A logical and pleasing escape for a mind that desires to read and write stories with a solid internal logic.
Hard Fantasy, the vastness of subject and setting, and worldbuilding. Those are the aspects of Fantasy I personally feel exemplify the beauty of Fantasy as a genre. With that in mind, I would recommend the following books for those who want to further explore Fantasy:
A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan is a great Fantasy Memoir set in a secondary world that is based roughly on the Victorian period in Earth’s history. It’s is the first in a series, and has kept my attention from start to finish each time I’ve read it. Brennan shows a great attention to deal and how things work that borders on Hard Fantasy.
The Golem & The Jinni by Helene Wecker is a Historical Fantasy story set in New York City at the turn of the 20th century. The details are so sharp it is as you were there with the characters and the story so expansive it sweeps you away. An immigration story, it exemplifies how any subject can be written about in a Fantasy novel.
Valiant by Holly Black is the first in the Modern Faerie Tales series. A tale of love and coming of age, it’s a great example of how to worldbuild a story set in the modern world and a great read for anyone who prefers modern settings.
What do you find beautiful about the Fantasy genre?