The first question asked when a writer sends a manuscript to an agent, a publisher or a self publishing site, is “What genre is it?” Several Years ago, I wrote a blog defining the many Art Genres. This year, I decided to try the same with writing. I searched the internet and pulled up most of these definitions from Wikipedia, and various other internet sources who defined writing genre. It is by no means a comprehensive list, but it might help my fellow writers when asked by a publisher to define the genre of the book they have just written. There is an enormous amount of information about book genres, so I will be presenting these blogs genre by genre over the next few weeks. I limited myself to fiction. I may do a similar chart for non-fiction later though. I got the idea for the chart from a Facebook post, but I made some changes and additions to what was there. Please feel free to share or add to it.
DO YOU KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION?
Fantasy is a fiction genre set in an imaginary universe, most often without any locations, events, or people from the real world. Most fantasy uses magic or other supernatural elements as a main plot element, theme, or setting. Magic and magical creatures are common in many of these imaginary worlds. Fantasy is generally distinguished from the genres of science fiction and horror by the expectation that it will steer clear of scientific and macabre themes, though there is a great deal of overlap among the three, all of which are subgenres of speculative fiction.
Urban Fantasy: is a subgenre of fantasy defined by place; it is a fantastic narrative with an urban setting. Urban fantasy exists on one side of a spectrum opposite high fantasy, which is set in an entirely fictitious world. Many urban fantasies are set in contemporary times with supernatural elements. However, the stories can take place in historical, modern, or futuristic periods. The prerequisite is that they must be primarily set in a city.
Contemporary Fantasy: is generally distinguished from horror fiction—which also has contemporary settings and fantastic elements—by the overall tone; emphasizing joy or wonder rather than fear or dread. These are stories set in the accepted real world in contemporary times; magic and magical creatures exist but are not commonly seen or understood; either living in the crevices of our world or leaking over from alternate worlds. It has much in common with and sometimes overlaps with secret history. A work of fantasy where the magic does not remain secret, or does not have any known relationship to known history, would not fit into this subgenre.
Please see the definition of Fantasy above.
Horror: is a genre of fiction which is intended to frighten, scare, disgust, or startle their readers or viewers by inducing feelings of horror and terror. Literary historian J. A. Cuddon has defined the horror story as “a piece of fiction in prose of variable length… which shocks or even frightens the reader, or perhaps induces a feeling of repulsion or loathing”. It creates an eerie and frightening atmosphere. Horror is frequently supernatural though it can be non-supernatural. Often the central menace of a work of horror fiction can be interpreted as a metaphor for the larger fears of a society.
Historical Fantasy: This is a category of fantasy and a sub genre of historical fiction that combines fantastic elements (such as magic) into the story. There is much crossover with other subgenres of fantasy; books classed as Arthurian, Celtic, or Dark Ages could just as easily be placed in Historical Fantasy. Stories fitting this classification generally take place prior to the 20th century.
Weird Fiction: is a subgenre of speculative fiction starting in the late 19th and early 20th century. It can include ghost stories and other tales of the macabre. Weird fiction is distinguished from horror and fantasy in its blending of supernatural, mythical, and even scientific elements. British authors who have embraced this style have published their work in mainstream literary magazines. American weird fiction writers included Edgar Allan Poe, William Hope Hodgson, H. P. Lovecraft, Lord Dunsany, Arthur Machen M. R. James, and Clark Ashton Smith.
Comic Fantasy: is a subgenre of fantasy that is primarily humorous in intent and tone. Usually set in imaginary worlds, comic fantasy can spoof and parody other works of fantasy, detective fiction or other genres. It is sometimes known as Low Fantasy in contrast to High Fantasy, which is primarily serious in intent and tone. The term “low fantasy” is used to represent other types of fantasy, however, so while comic fantasies may also correctly be classified as low fantasy, many examples of low fantasy are not comic in nature. Two of the most famous examples in this genre would be the Myth Series which successfully spoofed Fantasy and the Garrett P.I. series which did a parody of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe detective series. Other writers of comic fantasy are emerging; notably Dakota Cassidy with her werewolf/witch spoofs and Amanda M. Lee’s Wicked Witches of the Midwest series.
Slipstream: Slipstream is a kind of fantastic or non-realistic fiction that crosses the traditional genre boundaries between science fiction, fantasy, and literary fiction. Slipstream falls between speculative fiction and mainstream fiction. While some slipstream novels employ elements of science fiction or fantasy, not all do. The common unifying factor of these books is some degree of the surreal, the not-entirely real, or the markedly anti-real.
Epic / High Fantasy: High Fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy, and is defined by its setting in a fictional universe or by the epic stature of its characters, themes, and plot. The term “high fantasy” was coined by Lloyd Alexander in a 1971 essay, “High Fantasy and Heroic Romance” (originally given at the New England Round Table of Children’s Librarians in October 1969). Epic Fantasy has been described as containing three elements: it must be a trilogy or longer, its time-span must encompass years or more, and it must contain a large back-story or universe setting in which the story takes place.