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Genres Explained - Fantasy (And A Tiny Bit Of Sci-Fi...Tiny)

Hey guys!

Last week I talked about wanting to start a new series called Genres Explained. And that's this! Before we go any further, I know I said that I'd start with magical realism. But! I quickly realised that it'd make a ton more sense to start with the umbrella genres; fantasy, science fiction, contemporary and so on, and then talk about the smaller genres within those ones.

And today's genre is! Fantasy!

Yeah, you already knew that from the title but eh. Give me my moment, okay?

So what exactly is fantasy?

Fantasy -  as I mentioned above - is what I call an umbrella genre. That is to say that it's a big genre that a whole bunch of eeeny-bitty tiny genres come under. Let's say that it's the mother genre and all the others are its babies that it loves a lot, but honestly, sometimes they get a bit out of control.

It's the genre with magic, it's the genre without rules - unless you set them up yourself - it's kind of a giant mess, but we all love it anyway.

Fundamentally, to be a fantasy, you need one thing - something out-of-the-ordinary or unexplainable by real-world standards.

And that something can be anything. From the vague magic-tinted tips of magical realism to the vast fictional realms of epic fantasy, fantasy can be literally anything. It's like the ultimate version of play-dough.

But, I hear you asking, where does science fiction come into this? Wouldn't that come under that banner as well?'re sort of right. See, this is why I often prefer to use 'speculative-fiction' as the umbrella genre term, but for the sake of this series, I decided to split fantasy and sci-fi.

Honestly, the difference isn't huge.

You can hear the horrified gasps from the nerds in the back.

Look, just let me explain. The truth is fantasy and science fiction are too interlinked to really separate them too much. I mean, there's so much crossover. You have science-fantasy - a fantasy that uses scientific elements. You have hard fantasy - fantasy that confines itself to rules not unlike hard science fiction. You have space operas, like Star Wars, that are clearly fantastical...but they're set in space, so what gives?


But, personally, I would typically define the difference as this:

Sci-fi does its best to fit in with the world of established reality. If something couldn't happen in reality, they either don't let it happen or - in the world of softer sci-fi - they throw technobabble at you.

Fantasy takes the world of established reality...and crumples it up into a ball, lights it on fire and dances around it as its dying screams echo throughout the universe. Fantasy likes to be internally consistent. But that doesn't mean that it needs to fit in with reality.

For example, take a flying bus. Those two genres would have two different ways of explaining that. Our old buddy Fantasy - let's make her a cute twelve-year-old girl with a big sword twice her size on her back - would take one look at it and say 'Magic! Magic fuel makes it fly!' Then she'd probably come up with a whole magic system for that fuel and it'd become a big thing.

Meanwhile our other friend Science Fiction - let's make him a pretty cool guy with glasses and a mohawk - would take a look at that flying bus and then start spouting something about aerodynamics and trying to fit wings onto that thing. He'd throw all sorts of science at you and expect you to understand it.

See the difference? Both are dealing with something that - in the real world - is impossible, but they both handle explaining it in two different ways. One takes the rules and throws them out of the window, while the other does its darnedest to make that dang flying bus fit in with what could actually happen.

Got it? Good. Let's move on.

What comes under the umbrella of fantasy?

There are a lot of different genres under fantasy and I am not going to write them all down. Look it up, mate. But I'll give you a few.

  • High/Epic fantasy
  • Low fantasy 
  • Urban fantasy
  • Magical realism
  • Fairy tales
  • Steampunk fantasy
  • Historical fantasy
  • Sword and sorcery
See? There's a whole bunch and that's definitely not all of them. As mentioned at the start, I'm planning to go into more detail about these genres - or at least into my own understanding of them. But that's pretty much it for today. Just a brief overview of fantasy as a whole.

What are your thoughts on fantasy? Do you think I drew the line between sci-fi and fantasy fairly or not? Tell me in the comments below.


  1. "You can hear the horrified gasps from the nerds in the back." HAH. YES.

    I thought you did a lovely job with your contrasting of Sci-fi and Fantasy. Excited for you to get into some of the baby genres!

    1. I'm pretty sure the nerds are boycotting my blog now that I've said that.

      Thank you so much. The difference between sci-fi and fantasy is something I know people get confused about, so I thought I'd start by clearing that one up. I'm excited to get to the baby genres as well.

      Thanks for commenting.

  2. I agree with your line between fantasy and sci-fi! I always get annoyed when they're shelved together or something though?! They're SO different. I like to think sci-fi could happen. While it's probably less likely I'm going to pull a sword out of a stone.😂(ALTHOUGH I WANT TO.) hehe. Loved the post!


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