Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #3: Fantasy Sub-Genres

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: sub-genres of fantasy.

I did mean to post this one last week, but as I have proven in the past couple of weeks, I’m really good at double-booking myself and actually posted my Spooky Songs playlist for Horror October instead.

Fantasy isn’t all just witches and wizards. There are many different types of fantasy, for all different kinds of people. I’ve tried to sort them into sub-genres but some cross over into other genres, and you’re more than welcome to debate with me about it!

High or epic fantasy

e.g. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, The Demon Cycle series by Peter V. Brett

High or epic fantasy typically takes place in a completely different world from our own, and the author has often created new languages, a new religion and a whole new completely different way of life for the characters. Different races are often present, as well as monsters, e.g. hobbits in Tolkien’s work, or dragons in George R.R. Martin’s work.

Contemporary & urban fantasy

e.g. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan, The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Contemporary and urban fantasy tend to be set in our own world, but with added fantastical elements – the most popular example is probably Harry Potter. The books are set in the UK during the 1980s and 1990s, but there is another side to our own world within the books. As with Percy Jackson, where the Olympian gods are real and ancient places are connected to modern day landmarks in the USA. Urban fantasy often includes more paranormal elements, such as vampires and werewolves.

Science fiction fantasy

e.g. John Carter of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe, The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks, The Queen of Air and Darkness by Poul Anderson

Science fantasy is typically fiction that is a bit of a mix of the science fiction and fantasy genres. It often gives ‘realism’ (in a sense) to things that could not really happen in our world, through sense. It is sometimes used to describe post-apocalyptic fiction.

Mythology based fantasy

e.g. The Dragon Queen by Alice Borchardt, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Helen of Troy by Margaret George, Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock

Mythology based fantasy is pretty much as it sounds – fantasy novels based on myths and legends. Some books stick to the legends, whereas others play off of the well-known stories. Common stories covered by these sorts of books are the legends of King Arthur, and the Trojan War – as both are possible historical fact, but there is no definite proof.

Historical fantasy

e.g. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn, Lion of Macedon by David Gemmell and The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson

Again, just as it sounds, historical fantasy is fantasy based on real historical periods, with a twist. Often elements such as magic are added to the story, or the world that the story is based in is clearly our own with some differences. Popular periods of history are the Viking age or feudal Japan, as well as Victorian England.

Dark fantasy

e.g. The Gunslinger by Stephen King, The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie, Beyond the Shadows by Brent Weeks, Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Dark fantasy can be interpreted in a couple of ways. It can be used to describe fantasy novels where the main characters are anti-heroes or have questionable morals, such as Jorg in Prince of Thorns. He is part of a group of thieves and bandits, who rape and pillage others. It has also been used to describe horror fantasy, for example Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.

Of course, there are so many different sub-genres, some books fit into several – there are lots of different ways of looking at it! Are there any books that you would define as a definite genre? What do you think about the way I have categorised these examples?

Recap

Cheltenham Literature Festival: Days 1 & 2

So instead of my usual features, I thought I’d post about the Cheltenham Literature Festival for the next two weeks, as I’m working there, and a round up post at the end would be far too long! If you want to know more about the festival, click the logo above to visit the website.


I was so excited when I found out I’d gotten a job working at the festival – and right in the Waterstones tent where all the action happens! I’m working as a bookseller, which is self-explanatory, but we also help out with queue management and chat to people queuing for events, keep the tent looking tidy, set up for events and signings, etc. I’ve already seen some interesting people!

Yay! Waterstones jumper!

We started setting up on Monday, but yesterday was the first official day of the festival. There are events spread out in various venues, and the tent I’m in is often used for book signings, meaning I get the chance to see some exciting people! Events didn’t start until 12pm, and combined with the fact that it was a weekday, it was a little calmer. The tent is heaving just before and after events – you can always tell when someone big is talking, because it’s like a ghost town for a while and then absolutely packed! 

The first person I saw yesterday was Will Gompertz, the BBC Arts Editor and former Tate Gallery director, who has recently written a volume on the history of modern art. He was doing a signing but we had a slight problem – a large amount of the stock was faulty, the second lot of photo inserts being upside down and back to front! Luckily this was soon sorted out by the editor, who offered to send a free second (and correct) copy to anyone who bought the faulty one, and Will signed bookplates for those who got faulty copies to place in the corrected ones. It was a bit of a scare, with it being the first event but I was really impressed with how easily it was handled and actually how the customers didn’t even seem to mind too much – a lot of them saw it as a bit of a novelty, actually.

Later in the afternoon, Sebastian Faulks was giving a talk as well as signing copies of his new book, A Possible Life. I managed to see him, but didn’t get to snap a photo! Paul Auster was also signing at the same time. Other guests at the festival that day that I didn’t get the opportunity to see included Salman Rushdie, Tom Holland, Pat Barker, Anthony Horowitz, Kofi Annan, Jon Ronson and Peter Serafinowicz.

Today, being a Saturday, was much busier. Michael Frayn did a signing in the morning, though I actually didn’t get a chance to catch a glimpse of him – I remember all my friends doing A Level English (which I regret not doing) having to read Spies. Later in the afternoon, Sean Borodale, Ann Gray and Adam Horovitz were all signing, after doing a panel together. I was at the tills with a colleague, who normally works in a Waterstones elsewhere, and this woman came over asking if we had Jack Straw‘s books out. We both assumed that she was asking where they were because she wanted one signed, and then Jack Straw practically materialised next to her – she was actually his publicist!

Now for the exciting bit – the big event of the day (at least where I was): Philip Pullman:


There was a HUGE queue for him, here’s just a little part of it:


And bless him, a lot of authors set a limit on how much they sign or how long they’re there for, but Philip said he would sign for everyone waiting. He was still signing when I left (stupid bus service only running until 6.45pm…). The queue snaked all through the tent and for ages down the path through the park. Luckily the Bookshop Band were there to keep customers entertained (and they’re great – check their website out!)


There were (and still are, the day isn’t over yet!) so many exciting people at the festival today that I didn’t get a chance to see: Alexander McCall Smith, J.K. Rowling, Michael Palin, Roger Moore, Benedict Cumberbatch, Iain Banks, Jung Chang and more. 

Mary Beard is there tomorrow, and I love her but I’m going to miss her event so I’ve reserved a book for her to sign for me, which I can pick up. Exciting! My next post will be on Tuesday evening, covering tomorrow and Tuesday (as Monday is my day off).