What is Fantasy


January, 2014



A few days ago, I read a comment on Facebook in which a person said that Fantasy was not something that she normally read. She was surprised that a Fantasy book she had won in a giveaway wasn’t at all what she had expected, and she really enjoyed it. As a writer of Fantasy, Science Fiction, and sometimes Paranormal works, I began to wonder what people may imagine when they think of Fantasy.

One simple explanation of the Fantasy genre, which I have pieced together from multiple definitions found on the internet (1)(2), is that Fantasy involves a plot that could not happen in the real world as we know it. The plot often involves magic, witchcraft, or supernatural powers. Given this definition, you can see that a Fantasy story could also be considered Paranormal, or possibly even Science Fiction.

The important thing is that Fantasy is not simply about magic rings, enchanted swords, wizards, and dragons. Take a story that would be considered General Fiction, add a little magic or supernatural power, and it becomes Fantasy or Paranormal. Or, instead, add some imagined high tech component that does not exist yet, and it becomes Science Fiction.

My novel, The Last Steward, is Fantasy. The plot involves supernatural powers on an imaginary world with an imaginary race of people. There is a minor romance sub-plot that feeds the main plot. However, it definitely is not a Romance story. In The Lord of the Rings, the romance between Aragorn and Arwen is a sub-plot that feeds another larger sub-plot. The romance between Faramir and Eowyn is another example. Even the romance between Samwise and Rosey feeds another sub-plot. Yet nobody would classify The Lord of the Rings as Romance.

What point am I trying to make? Simply that I think too often people pass over Fantasy novels because they don’t really understand the genre and what it includes. Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Paranormal stories share a lot of common elements, and many stories blur the lines of distinction between these genres. They all share elements of General Fiction. As with any genre, romance can be a sub-plot. Comedy can be a sub-plot, as well. A great example would be the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe. It’s a brilliant piece of Science Fiction that is hilarious from cover to cover. Someone who does not care for SciFi might love it.

Spread your wings. Read the blurbs and reviews of some highly rated books and reach beyond your comfort genre. There are some gems out there that you are missing simply because it is in the Fantasy or Science Fiction or Paranormal section of the book store.

(1) Wikipedia entry for Fantasy
(2) Cliffnotes web page definition of Fantasy