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Thread: Non-fantastic fantasy

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    Non-fantastic fantasy

    Would you consider stories that have no obviously supernatural or magical elements, but whose world follows somewhat different rules than our own, to qualify as fantasy?

    Specifically, stories about normal sized women who can trade all-out punches with large male professional fighters, not get badly hurt, and win.

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    The Crazy Man in the Sun. Feel me. WillSauger's Avatar
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    Well... what else are you going to call it?

    There's many different flavors of Fantasy, and they don't have to involve dragons and magic.



    Thinking here... it's going to be hard to persuade me that any person, pro fighter or not, is going to walk away from a fight with a pro without getting badly hurt.
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    Quote Originally Posted by WillSauger View Post
    Well... what else are you going to call it?

    There's many different flavors of Fantasy, and they don't have to involve dragons and magic.



    Thinking here... it's going to be hard to persuade me that any person, pro fighter or not, is going to walk away from a fight with a pro without getting badly hurt.
    'Not get badly hurt' as in 'not get put in the hospital or killed' not 'take no damage'.

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    Psychopompous AW Moderator RichardGarfinkle's Avatar
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    My first published novel was described as Alternate Science since it was a completely different world that worked by scientific method but the underlying rules were different from ours. Technically, fantasy but non-fantastic.

    The story description given sounds like low powered superheroes rather than fantasy.
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    Who rules?! Hyrules! Liosse de Velishaf's Avatar
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    Well, are there any other fantastic elements?

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    Quote Originally Posted by RichardGarfinkle View Post
    My first published novel was described as Alternate Science since it was a completely different world that worked by scientific method but the underlying rules were different from ours. Technically, fantasy but non-fantastic.

    The story description given sounds like low powered superheroes rather than fantasy.
    Aren't superheroes with powers either fantasy or sci-fi depending on their origin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Liosse de Velishaf View Post
    Well, are there any other fantastic elements?
    In two of the stories I refer to, no, just the unrealism of the heroines' damage soak.

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    Quote Originally Posted by glutton View Post
    Would you consider stories that have no obviously supernatural or magical elements, but whose world follows somewhat different rules than our own, to qualify as fantasy?

    Specifically, stories about normal sized women who can trade all-out punches with large male professional fighters, not get badly hurt, and win.
    Fantasy??? I know a lot of women like this! One of them was named Sunday. Met her in college. Oh, she was beautiful! But don't mess with her

    ANYHOW.... I suppose it would be considered fantasy if ALL the women were like that.

    Sounds like a terrific story. Love to read it.

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    Who rules?! Hyrules! Liosse de Velishaf's Avatar
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    Is this a story about a fighter? 'Cause then I wouldn't call it fantasy. If she's a superhero or something, it's probably still not fantasy or sci-fi, honestly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Liosse de Velishaf View Post
    Is this a story about a fighter? 'Cause then I wouldn't call it fantasy. If she's a superhero or something, it's probably still not fantasy or sci-fi, honestly.
    The first point might be fair, but how would superheroes not be considered sci-fi or fantasy? I'm pretty sure the Wonder Woman novel I saw was shelved as sci-fi/fantasy.

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    Who rules?! Hyrules! Liosse de Velishaf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by glutton View Post
    The first point might be fair, but how would superheroes not be considered sci-fi or fantasy? I'm pretty sure the Wonder Woman novel I saw was shelved as sci-fi/fantasy.

    Not superheroes in general. Just this one specifically.

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    here and there again fadeaccompli's Avatar
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    There are a lot of fuzzy lines between what's fantastic and what's merely genre convention.

    For example, there are all sorts of books and movies in which someone can be bonked on the head to render them unconscious--for more than a few seconds, mind--without any serious after-effects. This is wildly unrealistic, but we generally don't call it a mark of "fantasy"; it's just genre convention.

    Action movies where a car is shot, and then suddenly explodes into a billowing column of glorious flame? We don't call it fantasy. Romance movies where stalking someone brings you true love instead of a restraining order? Not called fantasy. Historical movies with major factual errors? It's not called fantasy.

    So the initial post--which frankly comes across as trolling, but I'll take it as if it's serious--wherein "normal sized women who can trade all-out punches with large male professional fighters, not get badly hurt, and win" barely even pings the meter for what's accepted as a story that's not labeled fantasy. That's far, far lower on the scale of breaks from reality than "We'll just bop the guard over the head to get past him, and that's safe! It's not like we've just caused permanent long-term brain damage to an innocent man, just because he's still shown to be unconscious from head trauma several minutes later!"

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    is watching you via her avatar jjdebenedictis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by glutton View Post
    The first point might be fair, but how would superheroes not be considered sci-fi or fantasy? I'm pretty sure the Wonder Woman novel I saw was shelved as sci-fi/fantasy.
    This might sound weird, but genre labels are not intended to accurately classify books.

    Genre labels are intended to funnel people who like those sorts of books to the correct shelf in the bookstore.

    The question you need to ask yourself is not, "Is my book most accurately described as fantasy?" but rather, "Will people who love fantasy books be pissed off to find my book contains so little fantasy?"

    If the answer is yes to that second question, your book needs a different label.

    That is to say, if you've written the world's best horror novel, but try to sell it as a romance, you'll find that instead of reaching the large audience your book deserves, you'll only succeed in pissing off romance readers and generating negative word-of-mouth about your book.
    Last edited by jjdebenedictis; 11-12-2012 at 07:32 AM.
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    The only other options I can think are 'Action-Adventure' (which will be one of its two categories on Amazon), 'Sports', and 'General Fiction'.

    Maybe I should go with the latter!

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    Who rules?! Hyrules! Liosse de Velishaf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fadeaccompli View Post
    There are a lot of fuzzy lines between what's fantastic and what's merely genre convention.

    For example, there are all sorts of books and movies in which someone can be bonked on the head to render them unconscious--for more than a few seconds, mind--without any serious after-effects. This is wildly unrealistic, but we generally don't call it a mark of "fantasy"; it's just genre convention.

    Action movies where a car is shot, and then suddenly explodes into a billowing column of glorious flame? We don't call it fantasy. Romance movies where stalking someone brings you true love instead of a restraining order? Not called fantasy. Historical movies with major factual errors? It's not called fantasy.

    So the initial post--which frankly comes across as trolling, but I'll take it as if it's serious--wherein "normal sized women who can trade all-out punches with large male professional fighters, not get badly hurt, and win" barely even pings the meter for what's accepted as a story that's not labeled fantasy. That's far, far lower on the scale of breaks from reality than "We'll just bop the guard over the head to get past him, and that's safe! It's not like we've just caused permanent long-term brain damage to an innocent man, just because he's still shown to be unconscious from head trauma several minutes later!"
    Quote Originally Posted by jjdebenedictis View Post
    This might sound weird, but genre labels are not intended to accurately classify books.

    Genre labels are intended to funnel people who like those sorts of books to the correct shelf in the bookstore.

    The question you need to ask yourself is not, "Is my book most accurately described as fantasy?" but rather, "Will people who love fantasy books be pissed off to find my book contains so little fantasy?"

    If the answer is yes to that second question, your book needs a different label.

    Fantastic points from the two posters quoted above.

    Honestly, this only pinged my fantasy radar because your post suggested that it should. Lots of fighting movies, shows, books are wildly unrealistic, and this doesn't even go that far.


    jj basically said what I was trying to say. People who read fantasy are not going to be your target market for this book as much as I can tell from your post. It sounds like completely mainstream/action fiction.

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    Ah okay, so 'unrealism' is not the same as fantastic. Got it.

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    New Member Ian Isaro's Avatar
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    One more vote in the genre conventions category: unrealistic damage soaking is a common trope. Action heroes are forever taking bullets to the shoulder that make them grimace but don't substantially inhibit their abilities or require months of recovery.

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    Quote Originally Posted by glutton View Post
    Would you consider stories that have no obviously supernatural or magical elements, but whose world follows somewhat different rules than our own, to qualify as fantasy?
    Yes. This is pretty much what Lord Dunsany's work is like (well, maybe not specifically the fighting part), and he's one of the godfathers of modern fantasy fiction. There are others. Likewise the earlier, and excellent, George MacDonald. Far too few current aspiring Fantasy writers know anything about these guys.

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    Sounds to me like action-adventure is the right category.

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    Related question - but what if there are no other fantastic elements, but characters (or a character) can survive gruesome life-threatening injuries like impalements and keep carrying on like it's a flesh wound? Is that unrealistic enough to be considered fantasy?

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    here and there again fadeaccompli's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by glutton View Post
    Related question - but what if there are no other fantastic elements, but characters (or a character) can survive gruesome life-threatening injuries like impalements and keep carrying on like it's a flesh wound? Is that unrealistic enough to be considered fantasy?
    When someone gets impaled and then carries on, is there sparkly magical effects indicating it's MAGIC that makes this possible?

    Or is there teeth-gritting and sweat and furrowed brows indicating it's ACTION ADVENTURE that makes this possible?

    Unless it's the former, it's not going to be considered fantasy. As a marketing category, people generally don't pick up a novel labeled Fantasy and expect to find a perfectly standard action-adventure story, except for the characters being able to shrug off wounds the way action heroes do in the movies. Not unless someone goes "My god, you survived that impalement? MAGIC!" or the like in the process.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fadeaccompli View Post
    When someone gets impaled and then carries on, is there sparkly magical effects indicating it's MAGIC that makes this possible?

    Or is there teeth-gritting and sweat and furrowed brows indicating it's ACTION ADVENTURE that makes this possible?

    Unless it's the former, it's not going to be considered fantasy. As a marketing category, people generally don't pick up a novel labeled Fantasy and expect to find a perfectly standard action-adventure story, except for the characters being able to shrug off wounds the way action heroes do in the movies. Not unless someone goes "My god, you survived that impalement? MAGIC!" or the like in the process.
    How far would you say then you would have to go before it's considered fantastic? If the rules of the world are clearly different then our own - say, someone stitches her guts back in and survives because 'she's a great warrior' and a few chapters later rips apart a bear's jaws because 'she's a great warrior' would that level of unrealism propel it into fantasy territory?

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    is watching you via her avatar jjdebenedictis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by glutton View Post
    How far would you say then you would have to go before it's considered fantastic? If the rules of the world are clearly different then our own - say, someone stitches her guts back in and survives because 'she's a great warrior' and a few chapters later rips apart a bear's jaws because 'she's a great warrior' would that level of unrealism propel it into fantasy territory?
    I'd say you're getting close, at that point.

    However, the important question is still whether your book would appeal to readers who like fantasy novels.

    Would it? You seem to be avoiding that question. It's really not important whether the book is fantastical--you're trying to determine who your target audience is.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jjdebenedictis View Post
    I'd say you're getting close, at that point.

    However, the important question is still whether your book would appeal to readers who like fantasy novels.

    Would it? You seem to be avoiding that question. It's really not important whether the book is fantastical--you're trying to determine who your target audience is.
    The new question isn't about a particular story I've written, it's hypothetical... mainly because most of my stories do have other fantastic elements.
    Last edited by glutton; 11-14-2012 at 07:19 AM.

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    It occurs to me that the two movies 'Kickass' and 'Scott Pilgrim' fall into this zone - their universes obviously work a little bit different than ours, but we still recognize the settings and most of the physical laws.
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    Is there an explanation for the warrior's super strength other than "because she's a great warrior"? (Radioactive spills/bites blah blah blah, a world where super strength exists in a few people, pain killers, an amazing childhood spent training with super sekrit monks etc)

    The explanation behind the MC's amazing strength might give an insight to the book's genre.
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