"Write what you know."
We've all heard that one, right? Well...
I submitted four flash stories in the past three months through Duotrope, and wondered every time if I was choosing the proper subgenre category they belonged in. Subgenres? Isn't fantasy just fantasy? Dream-like lands with funky beings that can fly or chant magical spells? I mean, what the heck is Steampunk? An 80's band with rockin' hair? And, Dystopian? Is that some sort of lost Tokien language?
I started looking up the subgenres in the drop down box. Wow. Was I ever behind the times.
If I am going to write fantasy - which I've been doing for years - then I ought to know the genre inside and out. God forbid I write a query letter a year from now and categorize my epic fantasy novel as magic realism.
So, here's the list I compiled. I hope it helps if you are even half as confused as I was.
Epic - A book or series that revolves around a quest. The first example that comes to mind is Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. In my opinion it doesn't get any better than that.
High - Set in parallel worlds wth magical creatures or elements. Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series is by far my favorite, although Goodkind's Sword of Truth series runs a close second. These stories are oftentimes limited to one character's viewpoint ie R.A. Salvatore's The Legend of Drizzt.
Sword & Sorcery - This genre focuses more on personal battles than world endangering matters like Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian stories.
Heroic - Tales of heros in imaginary lands that tend to have intricate plots involving many people, nations, and lands. HBO's A Game of Thrones has brought George RR Martin's heroic series to life.
Dark - I found two different explanations for this one. First, supernatural horror - told from a monster's viewpoint ie Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles. Second, it could be a story that has is anti-heroic or has a protag with no clear morals.
Magic Realism - A story where magical elements are depicted as normal or reliable occurrences / presents the fantastic as mundane instead of with a sense of wonder. The films Being John Malkovich and Edward Scissorhands are excellent examples.
Urban Fantasy - Takes place in an urban setting and has aspects of fantasy, ie Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere and Cynthia Hand's Unearthly.
Contemporary - Modern fantasy set in real-world, present-day with magic or magical creatures leaking into it, like Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files.
Dystopian - A futuristic setting where society has degraded and lives repressed in a controlled state, charactereized by authoritarian or totalitarian governments. Remember Lord of the Flies by William Golding or The Running Man by Stephen King?
Steampunk - A re-imagined past in which modern technology developed earlier in history. Moore & O'Neill's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, or the film Wild Wild West are great examples.
Paranormal Romance - A romance with fantasy elements - usually has a modern setting involving humans or other fantasy species. Need I say Twilight? We have Stephanie Meyer to thank for this media craze.
Low - Typically takes place in real world settings with less emphasis on the fantasy element, ie Stephen King's The Green Mile.
Historical - Generally takes place before the 20th century with contrived plots based loosly on historical events, mythology, or legends. Think Susanne Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.
Comic - Fantasy stories primarily humorous in intent and tone.
Medieval - A medieval era high fantasy, not necessarily in a real world setting, ieTerry Brooks' Shannara Series.
Many of these overlap - some have subgenre after subgenre. What is your favorite to read and write? And have I missed any?