As book genres go, Fantasy has been stereotyped and misunderstood more than most. Some readers dismiss it as pointless dribble, with little to offer to them or to the literary community at large. Many hear the term Fantasy and assume that the work is filled with fire-breathing dragons and wizards with pointed hats.
So what defines the Fantasy genre? Here is a generic definition:
Fantasy is a genre of fiction that uses magic or other supernatural elements as a main plot element, theme, or setting.
If the story revolves around elements that are deemed supernatural by the reality that we know, it's considered Fantasy. If you think that you’d never be interested in something like that, you should stop watching The Walking Dead. Until you can prove to me that zombies exist, you’re hooked on a Fantasy TV series.
This begins to show the breadth that the genre now encompasses. Yes, you will still find Tolkienesque books that are filled with dragons, wizards, elves, and other elements that fit the stereotype. However, you also can find Contemporary Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, and others. The most classic sub-genre is High Fantasy, which takes the reader into another world, often one of incredible depth and complexities. Taking it a step further, the author can add Epic Fantasy plot-lines, which place the protagonists in the midst of a struggle that has world-changing repercussions. The Lord of the Rings is the best-known example of a High Fantasy tale with Epic scope.
While my books veer in the direction of High Fantasy, I strive to ground them with a sense of familiarity in hopes of making the story approachable and the world believable. However, the background behind this approach will have to wait for a future blog post.
Fantasy has emerged from the dark corner your local bookstore, moving into mainstream thanks to the geek expansion into pop culture. The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Divergent, The Lord of the Rings, and just about every Marvel movie that exists are on-screen representations of the genre and attract fans by the millions. If you’ve enjoyed watching any of those titles, or anything similar, perhaps it’s time for you to set your mystery or thriller novels aside and consider dipping your toe into a new pool. All I ask is that you investigate some popular titles in the genre, check out some reviews, and consider each book by the context of the story, not by the genre that defines it.