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Author Topic: What makes Fantasy fantasy
Intelligence3
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Years ago, on Usenet, I read and participated in a discussion with many fantasy authors (published and not) wherein the general consensus seemed to be that in order for a novel to be fantasy, it had to have magic. I was not convinced, and several of us were quite adamant that magic was not the necessary element.

What do Hatrackers think of that? I have a couple novel ideas that are essentially "meideval political" stories that don't exist in the real world. Both have some low-level magic, mainly things that would resemble the magic people used to believe in (curses, seers, trolls, etc.), but the gist of the argument was that fantasy was more fantastic than that.

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Scott R
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Leggy dames.
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Intelligence3
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Don;t forget the chainmail bikini, Scott.
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Xaposert
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It has to be about a setting/world that readers believe could not really exist outside of imagination.
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Scott R
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What about alternate histories, Xap?
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AmkaProblemka
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That is why we have this all encompassing label called "speculative fiction". Because lots of books that simply can't be mainstream because they either never could happen in our universe, or on a large scale didn't happen in our past, simply aren't either fantasy or science fiction.
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Xaposert
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Alternate histories normally cannot exist outside our imaginations, can they?

Now, if it's a historical book that readers might be inclined to think may have actually happened, then it's not fantasy - it's historical fiction.

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Noemon
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No, magic isn't the key; if Martin had chosen to refrain completely from incorporating magic as a real force in his A Song of Ice and Fire series, it would still, very clearly in my eyes, be fantasy.

The reason that "what makes fantasy fantasy", or "what makes SF SF" are such difficult questions to answer, I think, it that the labels are attempts to impose a certain level of order over fiction for marketing purposes. The line between the two is so fuzzy as to be non-existant, and when you really look closely, it's pretty tough to differentiate between what is thought of as speculative fiction and the rest of the fiction world too. It's kind of like China Mieville says at the beginning of The Scar

quote:
[The Sea] has been given many names. Each inlet and bay and stream has been classified as if it were discrete. But it is one thing, where borders are absurd.

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Samuel Bush
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It has to have the art work of Boris Vallejo on the cover.
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aspectre
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In fantasy, people are born and not made, eg: Arthur is born, therefore he can pull the Sword out of the Stone; LukeSkywalker is born, therefore he has the Force; BruceBanner is born, therefore he can survive a nuclear explosion and become the Hulk; etc. And without that accident of being born correctly, one cannot gain an Ability or Talent no matter what the training.

In real life, most of us share the same abilities and talents. And most of the differences arise from nutrition, personal interest, and training. ie While only some people can run the 100metres in under 10seconds, nearly everyone can run.

In fantasy, there exists unique objects of power. Girl stumbles over a rock/gem/talisman, and voila becomes The Firestarter.

In real life, there is nothing which is particularly unique, at least no more unique than everything else.
Girl stumbles over rock, notices that it sparked, plays with it for a while, accidentally catches a spark on a bit of dry moss which in turn smolders. After some experimentation she can start fires. And after watching her for a while, other folks figure out which rocks spark and learn to make their own fires.

In fantasy, capabilities are used randomly. eg Some people can teleport/fly/etc easily, yet use horses for normal everyday transportation.

In real life, capabilities are used based on ease of access. eg Folks with access to faster modes of transportation just hop into a car/subway/plane/etc. And horses are pets used for recreation.

[ October 21, 2004, 02:13 PM: Message edited by: aspectre ]

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Teshi
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I have written fantasy without magic. It's merely not in "our world", it's basically history without a historical context.
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