Why do we need another fantasy genre?
When fantasy was first identified as a genre, all fantasy novels were simply called fantasy. No problems there because, at that time, most of it was Lord of the Rings style. We now call that epic fantasy or sword and sorcery. Sword and sorcery isn’t necessarily epic—huge battles and long series—but it is always set on a different, usually medieval, and magical world. When fantasy set in our real, though slightly different, world appeared, a different name was required. The term used was urban fantasy, and vampire, werewolf and witch stories became paranormal fantasy.
The lines between urban and paranormal fantasy are sometimes blurry, because urban fantasy pretty much always includes paranormals. Paranormal fantasy basically refers to books with vampires and werewolves in them, but urban fantasy has further distinctions. These are
- kick arse heroines
- a mix of magical species such as fairies, trolls, pixies, imps, demons, vampires, werewolves, witches, norse gods, roman gods etc etc whatever you can come up with.
- gritty stories
Now we also have contemporary fantasy. Why do we need another subgenre? Because new kinds of fantasy have emerged, fantasy that doesn’t fit what readers have come to expect from urban and paranormal fantasy.
Contemporary fantasy is
- set in our time
- is either set on or starts on our world
- includes other realities within our world or connected to our world. This could be dream states or altered states of consciousness.
- doesn’t have vampires or werewolves, or at least not as the primary focus.
- isn’t completely set in an urban environment
- has characters with some kind of magic or mental powers
- may have metaphysical elements or a strong conceptual basis.
How would you feel if you woke up from what you thought was a dream and discovered your mother missing, bruises on your neck and the creature from your dream hiding in a photo? Maybe it wasn’t a dream after all. Maybe you really do have to follow your mother into a hidden realm to rescue her from the shadow demons.
But how do you kill a demon that feeds on fear? This is the problem that the main character, Ariel has to solve. Obviously, she has to get a handle on her fear first, and that means developing her mental powers. These are powers that everyone has, the hidden realm just happens to make them stronger. It also makes the demons solid. Yeah, it’s tricky, but she’s modern girl, she’ll get a handle on it.
Do you agree with my understanding of the different fantasy sub-genres?
Thanks for stopping by, Tahlia!
This guest post is by Tahlia Newland, author of the YA contemporary fantasy, Lethal Inheritance and the acclaimed, You Can’t Shatter Me, a YA novel about inspiring and empowering ways to deal with bullying.
If last night was real, Ariel should be dead. She’s not, but her mother has disappeared, there are bruises on her neck and the hideous beast in the photo looks frighteningly familiar.
You can’t send police into a tunnel that doesn’t exist after a villain they can’t see, so when shadow demons kidnap her mother, Ariel has to mount the rescue mission herself. Hot on the trail, she enters a hidden layer of reality only to find that the demons are hunting her, and they feed on fear. Ariel must defeat them before they kill her and enslave her mother. But how do you kill terrifying demons when your fear makes them stronger?
A quirky old guide teaches her how to locate and unleash her inner power, and while battling hallucinogenic mist, treacherous terrain, murderous earth spirits and self-doubt, she falls in love with Nick, a Warrior whose power is more than either of them can handle.
Ariel’s journey challenges her perception, tests her awareness and takes her deep into her heart and mind to confront, and ultimately transcend, her fear and anger.
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