Fantasy Subgenres

So, I found myself on a rabbit trail about fantasy subgenres and I thought I would share. Most of this is from Wikipedia, but I’ve read through them all and extracted the best definitions. They seem accurate to me and I found them fun to read about.

Click the links to read more, and get citations.

First I’ll go over the most typical ones:

High Fantasy – “set in an alternative, fictional (“secondary”) world, rather than “the real”, or “primary” world. The secondary world is usually internally consistent, but its rules differ from those of the primary world. By contrast, low fantasy is characterized by being set in the primary, or “real” world, or a rational and familiar fictional world, with the inclusion of magical elements.”

Low Fantasy – “set either in the real world or a fictional but rational world, and are contrasted with high fantasy stories, which take place in a completely fictional fantasy world setting with its own set of rules and physical laws.

Low fantasy places relatively less emphasis on typical elements associated with fantasy, setting a narrative in real-world environments with elements of the fantastical. Sometimes there are just enough fantastical elements to make ambiguous the boundary between what is real and what is purely psychological or supernatural. The word “low” refers to the level of prominence of traditional fantasy elements within the work, and is not any sort of remark on the work’s quality.”

Urban Fantasy – “defined by place; the fantastic narrative has 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 and contain supernatural elements. However, the stories can take place in historical, modern, or futuristic periods, and the settings may include fictional elements. The prerequisite is that they must be primarily set in a city.”

Heroic Fantasy – “Heroic fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy which chronicles the tales of heroes in fantasy settings.

Frequently, the protagonist is reluctant to be a champion, and/or is of low or humble origin, and may have royal ancestors or parents but does not know it. Though events are usually beyond their control, they are thrust into positions of great responsibility where their mettle is tested in a number of spiritual and physical challenges. Although it shares many of the basic themes of Sword and Sorcery, the term ‘Heroic fantasy’ is often used to avoid the garish overtones of the former.”

Dark Fantasy – “a subgenre of fantasy which can refer to literary, artistic, and cinematic works that incorporate darker and frightening themes of fantasy. It also often combines fantasy with elements of horror. The term can be used broadly to refer to fantastical works that have a gloomy, dark (or grimdark) atmosphere, or a sense of horror and dread.”

You can look at all the ones I didn’t mention by going to:

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