Wednesday, September 17, 2008

There's fantasy. And then there's fantasy. And . . .

Long ago and far away, a man named Carl Linnaeus created a a system of taxonomy for classifying all living creatures. Remember it from your biology courses? The "kingdom, phylum, class, genus, species" -- and then some -- breakdown? Well, modern popular fiction has a taxonomy of its own. For example, there's no such thing as plain old fantasy anymore. I'm afraid I don't have the time to be as meticulous about categorization as Linnaeus was, but here are some distinctions I've noticed.

  • Earthbound fantasy, historical. It takes place in the past, usually the distant (Arthurian or medieval) past, on our own planet.

  • Otherworld fantasy, historical. It takes place in an alternate or parallel world, very much like earth, in a place and/or time period that has a feel similar to those on earth.

  • Earthbound fantasy, contemporary, usually urban

  • Otherworld fantasy, contemporary, usually urban

  • Earthbound fantasy, futuristic, urban and/or interstellar

  • Otherworld fantasy, futuristic, urban and/or interstellar

  • Fantasies with and without epic battles

  • Fantasies with and without female "heroes"

  • Fantasies with and without dragons, faeries, elves, etc.

  • Steampunk
Okay, I'm already tired. So which do you like best? I'm torn.

As I wrote my Galdeshian fantasies for Ellora's Cave -- Wing and Tongue, Cauldron of Keridwen, and Prince of Glacier Glas, I became immersed in the world. Even my authorial voice shifted, as if it had an automatic transmission, to reflect that world. These stories fall into the second category above, and they all have dragons. I adore writing about this "other-place" and its unusual society and inhabitants.

But when I wrote Hoochie Coochie Man, in the contemporary-urban category, I loved it, too. And I love InDescent, a work-in-progress, passionately.

But wait, there's more! Now I'm creating a futuristic urban fantasy series for Loose Id. The first volume, Looking for Some Touch, will be released in early November. And it features men with men, yet another sub-category of fantasy that's only recently begun to shine. Am I crazy about this series? Well, take a guess.

So, I repeat: Which type of fantasy do you prefer? Can you come up with other classifications?


flchen1 said...

How fun, K.Z.! I haven't read tons of fantasy yet, but have run across some of what you mentioned! I admit getting kind of confused sometimes when the subcategories overlap (what about otherworld fantasy with dragons, or earthbound historical fantasy complete with epic battles, or...) Also, I find that sometimes fantasy overlaps with what's typically considered science fiction--especially the whole otherworld fantasy category...

As for choosing a favorite, I'm not sure I can! So far I've mainly read historical or futuristic fantasy, both earthbound and otherworld--those have all had some terrific offerings. But I don't want to say I don't like the others because the next time I turn around, I'll probably stumble over a new-to-me category that's fabulous!

Sorry for the long cop-out answer ;)

Mindy said...

I LOVE Otherworld/Arthurian fantasies with STRONG women.
Nothing turns me off more than a female character who can't stand up to her Alpha male when necessary.

Caffey said...

This is fascinating KZ! I forgot all this stuff from many years ago but too seems I appreciate learning it more now. I enjoy alot of the historical settings which would be both Earthbound and Otherworld Fantasy. I especially enjoy the medieval settings. Just something about picturing the castles and the like that I've always enjoyed reading. I too read alot of Urban Fantasy series that set in contemp time. Most I've read were with a female leader. And of course a strong romance in them. Neat on the futuristic one you are working on too!

Caffey said...

By the way, I haven't read much Arthurian and want to so I can understand this. I've only read little of it and want to read one with a strong romance in it too. I think thats because I really enjoy having the romance within the stories (I used to read straight suspense and got burned out on it).

Anything in the future from you in the Arthurian?

Dani said...

I love fantasy books period. Like flchen1, I've read a few books that have overlapping subcatagories, but they were great.

I have to say that my personal favorites are Fantasies with and without dragons, faeries, elves, etc., earthbound fantasy, otherworld fantasy and Fantasies with and without epic battles.

Yeah, I'm confusing sometimes. LOL!

K. Z. Snow said...

Hi, guys!

Phrew! Those List Mom Days can be exhausting. And now I'm facing a Featured Author day tomorrow at the Romance Excerpts Only (REO) chat loop. EEK.

Fedora, paranormal often overlaps fantasy, too -- especially urban. And you're right about sci fi elements. Therefore, your answer is no cop-out. I sure as heck have difficulty choosing. That's why I've been swimming in all these waters except super-duper epic fantasy (I don't know how well I'd do with battles) and hardcore futuristic/sci fi (ditto for advanced technologies).

Absolutely agree, Mindy. I hate wimpy heroines. Seramar in Prince of Glacier Glas might be a princess, but she sure doesn't act like one!

Caffey, there is something magical about Arthurian romance. That's why I began writing this whole Galdeshian fantasy cycle. Although it's a "parallel" world, it does have that Arthurian flavor. But instead of knights figuring prominently into the action, it's the men (and, now, some women) in the dragon-related Orders -- the Callers, Riders, Healers, Armorers, etc.

Dani, how nice to see you here! Why am I not surprised you like fantasy? ;-)

Danielle said...

OOHHH Good Question K.Z. I, of course was scratching my head and thinking, "What Do I like Best?" I have to agree with Dani on this one, and no it has nothing to do with her name, lol. But at the same time, I have to agree with Mindy. One of my biggest pet peeves is whining simpering women. I love strong women who can stand nose to nose with an alpha male in and out of the bedroom. For me though, the dragons and werewolves and vampires just does something for me. I love it.

Danielle said...

Now, I will finish, lol. At the same time, I usually do not like futuristic writings because I seem to get lost in translation. However, I read a series of Johanna Lindsay books that take place in the future and loved them. Sometimes it has nothing to do with the genre and everything to do with the author!

K. Z. Snow said...

You know, Danielle, I never delved into futuristic fiction, either, because I always equated it with sci fi. Then I had one of those forehead-slapping moments and thought, Futuristic tales don't have to read like traditional science-fiction. The future presents way more possibilities than those having to do with space travel and intergalactic warfare.

You're right. Enjoying most any genre depends largely on the writer's skill and personal vision. The kind of world and characters and conflicts she or he creates can make or break a book.