♥ Welcome To Old Bat's Belfry! ♥

♦ What You'll Find. Single Fantasy book reviews, funny author and reader interviews, SFF lists, (blogs, websites, authors), articles, a fledgling discussion forum and experiments in the art of blog promotion.

♦ Purpose. This blog is a companion to Dragons, Heroes and Wizards where I do nothing but Fantasy series reviews. This blog is where I put everything else.

♦ So where should you start? Try the menu bar located at the top of the page. (Tap menu in mobile) and pick your poison from the list!

♦ Thank you for stopping by and I sincerely hope you enjoy your stay!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Trident Thursday (#1): Defining Epic Fantasy


Welcome to Trident Thursday where I ask 3 pointed questions like "What is a pointed question anyway?" No, no no! That was not the actual question! Well not this week anyway.

First a disclaimer. The following subject is not new. Like the proverbial horse it has been beat to death in many posts and articles but I have yet to find answers that satisfy me. Besides, the only opinions I care about are yours.

The Problem in a Nutshell. As some of you may or may not know I adore Epic Fantasy, High Fantasy or Sword and Sorcery with a dose of good old fashioned Dark Fantasy thrown in for giggles. But the more I read the more I am becoming confused as to what exactly those terms mean.

I frequently see Epic Fantasy also called Sword and Sorcery. I see High Fantasy called Epic Fantasy. And Dark Fantasy is showing up across all the subgenres.

In a world where writers are busy trying their best to break the mold and stand out from the crowd (don't blame them mind you), their efforts are confusing the heck out of me. It is not a huge problem really. Just a labeling/shelving/SEO nightmare. (SEO = Search Engine Optimization for you non-bloggers)

My Mission has always and will always be to read and review those three types of fantasy, though I don't mind a bit of crossover into dark, alternate history or even a tiny speck of Sci-fi. The people who share my tastes are my target audience and I want to provide them with an honest spoiler free review while adding in as many other sources of information as I can find.

But...

I frequently find myself closing the book and wondering exactly what category it falls in. How in the world am I going to label it? This leads me to go looking. What did the cover blurb accolades call it? The publisher? The author? Other reviewers? (I hate resorting to reviews, I try to avoid those at all costs so MY review remains untainted.)

And what do I find? More confusion. This one says it is the best Dark, that one the best Sword, Epic, High, Fantasy they have read in years....

Guess what else I find. Basically everything across the board is being called Epic Fantasy.

Well, my definition of Epic differs. Look at the Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks. Small cast of characters with magic and wielding sharp pointy things. Yes it is good vrs evil, but they are pretty much contained in one city at a time and not engaged in broad sweeping epic world changing conflict. And yet.... it is called Epic Fantasy. Personally I call it Sword and Sorcery but am I wrong? *Note* The conflict does broaden out by book three but that just makes it more confusing not less.

*(Not picking on you Brent, just the first example that popped into my head.)*

To Clarify. I am not asking about Urban Fantasy or Science Fiction. If the storyline crosses over into THIS world, normally I won't read it. My goal of escaping this world and my suspension of belief are both defeated if there is urban scenery in my fantasy. And the future, quite frankly, scares me. There are however, exceptions to even that rule. Pern comes to mind. Oh and I do not object quite so much if it is a part of YA Fantasy since I left that scene behind a long time ago. Confused yet? Yeah. Me too. But I digress...

Your Mission, should you choose to accept it, is three pronged. (Go ahead and roll your eyes, you know you want to.)

1. Do you have your own definition of the various sub genres of Fantasy? I know what the official explanations are and those are not helping me. I want to know what yours are.

2. Should I include them all?  If it is a broad sweeping, earth shattering, fantasy with a main hero bearing a magic sword, along with his friendly dragon and elven girlfriend, taking on a horde of blood drinking demons bent on world domination AND set in a undefined or secondary world but obviously based on Celtic history, sorta, what the heck do I call it?  A Dark Epic Sword and Sorcery Heroic High Fantasy Alternate History? (I'm out of breath now. Did I just set a record for run-on sentences?)

3. Or, what do you think about this idea? I have seen it said that if the book/series contains any combination of the elements listed above, it is Epic Fantasy. All of the other categories are sub genres. Do you agree? Maybe I should start a new trend, pick the top two and come up with my own terms. Epic High Fantasy, Epic Dark Fantasy or Epic Sword and Sorcery for example. (That would throw SEO out the window.) What do you think?

Discuss, share, tweet, comment, like, but mainly comment! I am looking for an Epic response here!

Oh and in anticipation of the ensuing deluge of opinions, THANKS!







Mulluane is a 54 year old, proud grandmother who is passionate about her pets, blogging, traditional fantasy, and tinkering with webdesign. You can also find her on:

Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Dragons, Heroes and Wizards

2 comments :

  1. "1. Do you have your own definition of the various sub genres of Fantasy?"

    "Epic Fantasy"


    I haven't found this to be a useful term when classifying fantasy. I haven't found enough publishers and reviewers who use the term in similar enough ways for it have a real meaning. {lop-sided smile}

    "High Fantasy"

    To me, this takes place in an alternate world minimally linked to ours. I don't include "alternate" worlds with recognizable cities or countries like England or New York. I do include Lloyd Alexander's Westmark trilogy, which has no magic and early firearms, as well as Tolkien's Middle Earth, with some magic, no firearms, and advanced timekeeping. I'm permanently on the fence about books where a person from our world goes thru a gate to a world that otherwise fits that standard, like almost half of Andre Norton's Witch World novels. Usually I decide by how much is set in our world, and how much in the other.

    "Sword and Sorcery"

    Pre-modern iron age. Or to be more specific, iron and steel are common, magic is more-or-less common, but firearms are unknown. The best personal weapons are the sword, the bow and arrow, and the magical spell. Likewise, the best large scale weapons are the catapult, trebuchet, battering ram, and magical spell. Okay, I won't disqualify a series because they include a crossbow, but I will point out that I don't think it's quite period. {Smile}

    "Dark Fantasy" Leans towards horror in attitude and or outcome. This can mean a grim tone, often pushed by pessimistic characters and/or cultures. It often includes murky outcomes that leave me doubting how much the good guys really won. {lop-sided smile}

    "2. Should I include them all?"

    Well, I'd find that helpful. I do like high fantasy and sword and sorcery. I'm not fond of most dark fantasy, and I can't say much about epic fantasy when I'm still puzzling out what it is. {Smile}

    3. Or, what do you think about this idea?"

    So far, so good. I can always ignore any part that doesn't turn out to be helpful. It might help someone else a lot more. {Smile}

    "I have seen it said that if the book/series contains any combination of the elements listed above, it is Epic Fantasy. All of the other categories are sub genres. Do you agree?"

    {PAUSE} The only way I can make that idea make sense is if the real and true name of the genre we normally call "fantasy" is properly "Epic Fantasy." I've read high fantasy, sword and sorcery, and epic fantasy which never went beyond a small cast of characters in a small village with strictly local concerns, and nothing else I could detect to call "epic." Most of those were short stories, but I can even think of at least one novel that fit both "high" and "sword and sorcery" without having any reason I could see to add "epic."

    I lean towards keeping individual tags simple, and adding several if they all fit. So your "Dark Epic Sword and Sorcery Heroic High Fantasy Alternate History?" might have these tags: "Dark Fantasy," "Epic Fantasy," "Sword and Sorcery," "Heroic Fantasy," "High Fantasy," and "Alternate History." (Naomi Novik's current project, by any chance?) That's easier to search, according to my cataloguing professor in library school. {SMILE}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anne says:

    "Epic Fantasy"

    I haven't found this to be a useful term when classifying fantasy. I haven't found enough publishers and reviewers who use the term in similar enough ways for it have a real meaning. {lop-sided smile}


    This is at the very heart of my problem. I used to know what Epic Fantasy meant but now it has become an ambiguous catch all term with little or no meaning.

    Anne says:

    {PAUSE} The only way I can make that idea make sense is if the real and true name of the genre we normally call "fantasy" is properly "Epic Fantasy." I've read high fantasy, sword and sorcery, and epic fantasy which never went beyond a small cast of characters in a small village with strictly local concerns, and nothing else I could detect to call "epic." Most of those were short stories, but I can even think of at least one novel that fit both "high" and "sword and sorcery" without having any reason I could see to add "epic."

    And again, I totally agree and it is giving me headaches.

    Anne says:

    I lean towards keeping individual tags simple, and adding several if they all fit. So your "Dark Epic Sword and Sorcery Heroic High Fantasy Alternate History?" might have these tags: "Dark Fantasy," "Epic Fantasy," "Sword and Sorcery," "Heroic Fantasy," "High Fantasy," and "Alternate History." (Naomi Novik's current project, by any chance?) That's easier to search, according to my cataloguing professor in library school. {SMILE}

    Makes sense to keep it simple but where exactly do you shelf a book if it combines multiple tags? I have a feeling that challenge is what has ultimately led to Epic Fantasy being a catch all phrase.

    And my definitions differ from yours but I am going to refrain from posting those until I see if anybody else chimes in...

    ReplyDelete

I LOVE comments! Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...