Building a SciFi/Fantasy Library discussion

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discussions > Low/high fantasy - are they the same genre?

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message 1: by S.A. (new)

S.A. (suerule) | 41 comments For me, low fantasy/fantasy realism sits uncomfortably in the "Fantasy" section. As someone who likes realistic fantasy, my interest is rarely held by high fantasy. Likewise, it seems unlikely that anyone who really likes high fantasy will like realistic fantasy; whereas people who read other types of fiction may find it more approachable.

What do others think?


message 2: by Werner (new)

Werner For whatever it's worth, I like both types of fantasy (and all the other types as well :-)). But then, I'm not a genre purist; I tend to read speculative fiction more than descriptive, but really I can enjoy any kind of fiction that has an absorbing story, engaging characters, and a meaningful message, and delivers these with an effective literary style.


message 3: by Bill (new)

Bill (kernos) | 117 comments How do you differentiate between low and high in this context. These are not term I use.

Bill


message 4: by S.A. (new)

S.A. (suerule) | 41 comments Kernos wrote: "How do you differentiate between low and high in this context. These are not term I use.

Bill"


Well, that's a good question. My idea is that high fantasy deals with an epic sweep of history, extraordinary heroism or superhuman feats. Low fantasy burrows down into human/animal nature and studies the individual.

I'm sure that's too simplistic. I tend to be with Werner - absorbing story, engaging characters, a good style and a meaningful message. And preferably not the same story I've read a dozen times before.


message 5: by Dave (new)

Dave (davevicks) | 8 comments What is New Age Fantasy?


message 6: by mlady_rebecca (new)

mlady_rebecca S.A. wrote: My idea is that high fantasy deals with an epic sweep of history, extraordinary heroism or superhuman feats. Low fantasy burrows down into human/animal nature and studies the individual.

Do you have a good example of a low fantasy novel? Most of the pure fantasy books I'm thinking of fall on the high fantasy side of things.

Is this division in any way linked to the plot-centric vs character-centric points of view?

Can you have a book that is both high fantasy and studies the individual? Silly question, I'm sure you can. Genres are completely muddied these days.


message 7: by Werner (new)

Werner In another recent discussion, here on Goodreads somewhere, I recall someone defining "high" and "low" fantasy in terms of the amount of magical content they each have --a lot of it, playing a central role in the plot, in the former case, and less or more muted magic, taking more of a back seat in the plot, in the latter. For me, that's as good a definition as any!

Tolkien, Terry Brooks, Raymond Feist, and Stephen Lawhead all come to mind as writers of high fantasy who pay a good deal of attention to delineating individual characters. But with the type of epic fantasy associated with these writers (which is what some people mean by high fantasy), the role of individuals is caught up as part of a bigger picture of world-shaping destiny; whereas in other types of fantasy that have less of a grand scale, it isn't.


message 8: by S.A. (new)

S.A. (suerule) | 41 comments I've found another interesting post about high/low fantasy which is along the lines that high fantasy tends towards a clear delineation of good and evil. Low fantasy characters tend to move through shades of grey.

I prefer the term fantasy realism for my own books, which are definitely low fantasy, exploring the dreams, ambitions and dilemmas of characters with and without magical powers.

I asked the question because I think low fantasy is less likely to deliver tales that unfold along familiar lines. It does not deal with what I think of as the major themes of fantasy - the quest; the Great Battle between good and evil. It can explore more subtle themes like the conflict between different cultures, different histories - which takes it closer to the realm of Science Fiction.



message 9: by mlady_rebecca (new)

mlady_rebecca S.A. wrote: "I've found another interesting post about high/low fantasy which is along the lines that high fantasy tends towards a clear delineation of good and evil. Low fantasy characters tend to move through shades of grey."

I love all the definitions, but I keep redefining my books with every new definition. One of my favorite series started out very black and white in terms of good and evil and then moved towards shades of grey. That transition also paralleled a transition from plot centric to character centric.

That series is the "Anita Blake" series by Laurell K. Hamilton, by the way. Most often called urban fantasy, it still fits the high/low fantasy definitions.


message 10: by David (new)

David (aberrant80) | 3 comments Well, not all genre definitions are exclusive. Urban fantasy is a genre that describes the setting and environment. Low/high are more related to the lore and/or focus.

I like to use the definitions found at:

http://www.cuebon.com/ewriters/genres...

Fantasy sub-genres:

http://www.cuebon.com/ewriters/Fsubge...



message 11: by Phoenixfalls (new)

Phoenixfalls | 20 comments Hmmm. . . see, I separate out high fantasy from epic/heroic fantasy, and that separation makes a lot of the distinctions you guys are talking about moot when comparing it to low fantasy. . .

High fantasy to me means any fantasy that devotes a lot of time devoted to creating a world very different from our own -- so Tolkien's fantasy is high fantasy for that reason alone. It ALSO is heroic/epic fantasy, because:

Heroic/Epic fantasy to me means any fantasy whose central plot involves the saving of the world from destruction; it is usually (though not always) also characterized by a strict delineation of good and evil, and its characters MUST have the fate of the world in their hands (which usually, but not always, makes them larger-than-life archetypes).

Low fantasy is the opposite of high fantasy, but not the opposite of heroic/epic fantasy, if that makes any sense. So. . .

Low fantasy, to me, is fantasy set in the real world, or in a rational fictional world with very few of the usual "fantastic" elements. So, for instance, all of the works I'd describe as "magical realism" fall into the "low fantasy" category; as would most of what I call urban fantasy. My definition of low fantasy has nothing to do with how realistic the characters are, the relative levels of power, the sharp delineation (or lack thereof) between good and evil; it simply describes the setting.


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