Has Fantasy Lost its Hallmark?

Has Fantasy Lost its Hallmark?

Fantasy isn’t just castles, dragons, and wizards anymore.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you stumble upon a Fantasy book? Most people think of elements of folklore and mythology like castles, dragons, kings and queens, ghosts, wizards, and curses. Am I close?

Fantasy is a broad label—one that’s moved away from the stereotypical wizards-castles-dragons model of the past. Today, Fantasy encompasses many other genres and subgenres, including horror, sci-fi and everything in between. If there’s a fiction I.P. that doesn’t easily fit into the Historical, Romance, Thriller or Horror genres, you can be sure to find it in the Fantasy section. Some bookstores have expanded their Fantasy sections to include subcategories like Supernatural Fantasy or Historical Fantasy — neither of which have Fantasy’s hallmark mythology/folklore streak. Maybe it’s not a hallmark anymore.

Fantasy has become extremely popular as it has grown to encompass different kinds of fiction. Fans enjoy it because it gives them the opportunity to explore beyond the realm of reality. Fantasy fiction shows us the unreal and the real—things that don’t exist in our world as well as common, everyday things embellished by a setting that allows them to grow into something more.

I embrace the broad new definition of Fantasy. Perhaps I’ve been exposed to too much genre-bending fiction. I prefer not to put books into restrictive, premade boxes anyway. For me, Fantasy isn’t necessarily attached to myths or ancient folklore. I define it as any fiction that has something special or otherworldly.

When I pick up a Fantasy book, I know what to expect before I even read anything about it. I know that it will feature something out of the ordinary, even if it is set in my own time and space. I expect a change, for something more to happen — something that transcends the everyday. This is fantasy’s true hallmark: That shift away from normal that transforms the reading experience—and let’s be honest, the immersion in a book’s universe — into an experience full of discovery and wonder.

S.G.

4 comments

i agree, i don’t mind genre-bending as it is called. what i do mind is the fact that it seems in todays stories/films/whatever that a saturation point is over reached. if you will when you pick up a new book or see a new film, it seems as tho everyone is ‘something’. in other words in a vampire movie you just aren’t dealing with one vampire or monster, but you end up dealing with everyone being a vampire. the saturation point is too high, again it seems to me. kind of like it used to be people wanted to feel different so they maybe got a tattoo…..now it seems everyone has a tattoo so now no one is different or special. you can’t get a tattoo to be a rebel, when everyone rebel or not has a tattoo…… so if everyone in a book or movie is a vampire or werewolf, then who is supposed to be the monster. i know that idea isn’t very clear, or maybe i didn’t explain it well…… but think about it. the sense of wonder or awe is gone when you go past the saturation point.

I believe I get your point about saturation, Tom.
I mean, I don’t mind if the universe of the story I’m following is spent in a monsters’ only community where the “Bad Guys” will either be one of the monsters themselves or another “Thing” that appears.
I do however feel the saturation point on a more global basis: not only inside a specific work but in what is now transformed into trends. Something that could be a little bit edgier, that has a spark of originality quickly gets sucked into the system, catalogued as a standard and redone far past exhaustion. So yes, suddenly everyone is a vampire/ a wizard / a demon / an angel, and the special elements, that sense of wonder you speak about, those are completely annihilated.
Thanks for the comment, Tom!

This article touches on something I’ve always believed about the term “fantasy.” It was never meant to be pigeonholed into genre fiction that only dealt in castles, dragons and wizards, but over the years that’s just what general audiences have labeled it. How, or when, did it become so limited? I’ve always thought that science-fiction, fairy tale, horror, and even superheroes were sub-genres of Fantasy. Yet audiences and retailers alike seem to define Science-Fiction as the broader term going so far as to mislabel certain properties “science-fiction” instead of “fantasy” (e.g. Star Wars). To me, fantasy has always been all-encompassing term for “extraordinary fiction,” or making the impossible plausible.

Good article.

Absolutely, Shannon. I think many subgenres that should be under the Fantasy Umbrella get mistakenly known as Sci-fi IPs. I’m not sure if that’s just something that happened naturally over time or if it was a convenience move from brands. I think that somehow, they face sci-fi as a more sellable genre nowadays.
I couldn’t agree more with your last sentence: I believe that’s exactly what Fantasy is.
Thanks for joining us!

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