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Twilight floated a second fritter up to her mouth when she realized the first was gone. “What is in these things?” “Mostly love. Love ‘n about three sticks of butter.”

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Apr
25th
2016

Defining the Fantasy Genre · 11:27pm Apr 25th, 2016

Bad Horse posted a blog post today (the first of several on the subject,) setting the stage for an analysis of the Mystery genre. It’s fascinating and people should read it.

As part of that his introduction, he laid out what he considered a genre to be, and went on to explain what he thinks the Fantasy genre consists of. I didn’t totally agree with him, and he amended it to a degree, but we still had a disagreement about some things he didn’t feel needed to be included that I did.

That made me consider what I think a genre is, and why I think certain things belong in the Fantasy genre. This is what I came up with.

(I’m focusing on books here, because they're more directly comparable and divided by genre. I'm including YA Fantasy as Fantasy in this, in part because there’s so little distinction these days and in part because Bad Horse included C. S. Lewis in his original analysis.)



Fantasy, along with all genres, is an artificial construct designed for marketing. But that doesn’t mean the there is no definition of Fantasy, it just means that the definition of Fantasy as a genre is “Things people who like ‘Fantasy’ would like.” If you like this book, you’re more likely to also like the other books here. When there’s a clear enough understanding of that relationship, that’s what makes a genre. Bookstores would happily make a genre of “books with cats on the cover” if there were enough of them and they thought that all of those books would appeal to the same readers.

So, when it comes to Fantasy, what is that understanding? What are people looking for when they’re looking for “Fantasy” stories? Because that should logically tell us the definition of Fantasy

If you think about it, the genre is a cluttered mess. We have Tolkien and Gaiman. Harry Potter and Narnia in the same genre as the Conan and Anita Blake books. A Song of Ice and Fire and Discworld and The Dresden Files and The Last Unicorn.

If you had to name one thing these books have in common, it’s magic, but I’m not sure that’s a good test. For one thing, both Horror and magical realism are typically separated out of Fantasy, and I think for good reason: those are often not stories Fantasy readers want to read. (Edit: I do think that publishers go a little overboard with keeping out magical realism for the sake of pretending they're Serious Books about Serious Things, but there are some that legitimately don't belong.) For another thing, while all fantasy settings that I can think of contain magic, it’s entirely possible for that magic to not come into play in an individual story. And we’re using “magic” as a catch all based solely on the explanation for supernatural occurrences or lack thereof: A story about someone who can shapeshift is about magic if they get the power from a talisman, or science if they get it from genetic manipulation. Is that really all it takes for it to appeal to Fantasy fans versus Science Fiction fans?

In a way it is; Fantasy and Sci Fi are usually shelved together because authors and fans often overlap, and sufficiently advanced science is often indistinguishable from stuff no one feels like explaining. But as someone who loves Fantasy and has only bothered to touch Sci Fi in the form of the Hitchhiker books or Spider Robinson’s Callahan’s stories, I think I can go a little deeper and talk about why I’m going to buy a book about a faerie invasion of New York and leave the book about an alien invasion of New York on the shelf.

I think the Fantasy genre is a combination of four concepts. A Fantasy novel has a heavy combination of these; some may have less of one, or even ignore one entirely, but they often make up for it with more of some of the others.

Those are:

Mythic/Historic Symbolism: Swords and talismans, orcs and faeries, rituals and prophecies. These are the trappings of fantasy, it’s hard to sell a story as Fantasy without at least some hints of this. But at the same time, I don’t think it’s the raison d'etre. Instead, I think it both works in service of other thematic elements, which are the next things on the list, and as a signal to readers that those thematic elements are going to be there.

Exploration of Personal Ethics and Self-Actualization: Bad Horse argued that Fantasy (later amended to Christian-Tradition Fantasy) is about rewarding virtue exclusively. I think it’s more fair to say that exploring virtue is an important theme that interests Fantasy fans. Specifically, exploring personal virtue, and using the trappings myth and history to explore personal values in a way that symbolically affect a larger group or world.

Some authors, like Lewis or Tolkien or Rowling, come down firmly on the side of a specific set of virtues. Others like to explore it from a more complex angle, like Martin or Gaiman or Pratchett. Barrie, with Peter Pan, could be argued to be talking about the virtue of leaving childish belief systems behind, while at the same time admitting that there are ways that kinda sucks. (In fact, implications of escapism on a personal level is practically a subgenre in Fantasy, from Thomas the Rhymer to Peter Pan to Neverwhere and The Onion Girl.)

Many Fantasy stories then use “magic” in various forms, or a Great Men view of quasi-history, to make those personal struggles affect the fate of the kingdom/society/world. But I don’t think they’re intended to be, or usually are, read literally. Frodo sparing Gollum and leading to the destruction of the One Ring wasn’t actually about the fate of nations, it was about the individual virtues of mercy and empathy, writ large to be a more exciting and complex story. You don’t use Kant to understand Fantasy, you use Bettelheim and Campbell and Jung. [1]

This, I believe, is a major difference between Fantasy and Sci Fi stories. I think when Science Fiction explores ethics, from what I’ve seen, it tends to do so in an externally focused way-- how we should interact as a society and approach the future of our civilization or world; Fantasy focuses on a personal level -- how do we resolve internal and emotional-interpersonal conflict, and where do we find meaning in our lives.

Adventure: By this I mean the ever-popular combination of exploration and fighting things. I think it’s wrong to dismiss this as a thematic element; pulp stories have had a huge impact on the genre. This is shared with some kinds of Sci Fi and other genres, but I think that once again the symbolism and trappings of Fantasy give this a twist that separates Fantasy adventure from other genres: the ability to explore and battle things that do not and could never exist. You want a city to explore under modern London? Sure, we just don’t know about it because magic. Dragons that breathe fire? Magic! A forest that no one goes into even though that’s a lot of valuable acreage and it’s full of magic items and treasure? Man, those things are chocked full of creepy magic. A race of being you can murder with impunity? Orcs are Always Evil because magic!

So yeah, the advanced handwaving capabilities of Fantasy are a natural fit for adventure, and if someone just wants some orc-stabbing, castle-storming fun then Fantasy is a good genre for them.

Speculation: Another thematic element it shares with Sci Fi (leading the the "Speculative Fiction" umbrella term) is the “What If?” factor. Once again, magic is a good way to add or change specific elements without needing to engage every logical implication. It’s also useful for exploring our human history of myths and legends that often include supernatural elements, or inserting symbolic elements (like fantasy races) into real world history or to display real world issues.


Once again, I’m not arguing that every Fantasy story contains all of those; some specifically reject or subvert some of them while adhering strongly to others. And of course there are other genres, especially Sci Fi, that play on some or all of these themes, and Fantasy novels can incorporate themes from other genres. But I think that those are the things “Fantasy” readers are looking for in a book, in various combinations depending on the individual. If you wrote a book that touches on some combination of those things, you probably want it to be shelved in Fantasy.

And since we established that the Fantasy genre is a marketing distinction reflecting “things which people who like Fantasy would like,” that would mean those things are what the Fantasy genre is.



[1] Two interesting thoughts here that I don’t have time to explore:
First, I suspect this is why “it was all a dream” (or variations like “...Or Was It?”) is somewhat less frowned upon in Fantasy-- of course it was all a dream; Fantasy as a genre is all a dream. “If we shadows have offended…”

Second, I also suspect this is why fantasy tabletop RPGs tend to be more popular; individual questions of ethics and self-advancement are easier to portray in a small group focused, largely improvised format than questions of societal ethics or advancement.

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Comments ( 32 )

While I agree that a lot of SF stories approach ethics on a societal level -- Starfleet's Non-Interference Directive comes to mind -- there are many examples out there of personal ethics driving a story. First contact stories are often a great source of these, as depictions of first contact between humans and aliens often involve a fairly small group (or even an individual) on one side, the other, or both. The best example I can think of off the top of my head is Ernest Cline's novel Armada.

Armada sets up a scenario of humans unintentionally breaking a taboo of aliens found on Jupiter's moon Europa. This turns into hostility between the two species, in the form of combat between remotely-piloted drone spacecraft. The protagonist eventually finds himself in a situation where he is the only one who can continue a last-ditch genocidal mission to wipe out the aliens for good, and he alone has to decide if that's really the proper course of action. (I would give more details, but I'm trying not to be too spoiler-riffic for people who might want to read it at some point.)

P.S. I strongly suspect your husband would enjoy Cline's other novel, Ready Player One -- assuming he isn't already a fan.

Very informative. I like this blog. So is it safe to say that without these concepts you have talked about it could make for an overall weaker fantasy novel? Would leaving any one concept out have people read and perhaps even purchase your fantasy novel or read and then drop it afterwards because it was lacking something?

1.bp.blogspot.com/-26tqJXH0iTk/UzBGjQkLz0I/AAAAAAAButQ/RLw73FV1qmA/s1600/maud_pie_rockin__out__by_countschlick-d7adqjv.gif

Nail on the head Book; you hit the nail on the head with this post.

These are exactly the reasons why I read Fantasy more than any other genre. I do read science fiction, though not as much as I do Fantasy.

The two often do overlap, which is why they're lumped together in bookstores and on Amazon 'you will like' lists. There's been stories on lists of that nature that I didn't care for even though they were classified as fantasy. Of course, since I seldom read horror stories, that would be why I don't care for them.

I don't care for horror-related entertainment outside of a few games; which is really odd considering.

But you put into words the defining characteristics of what defines my favorite genre. If it was just magic, there wouldn't be enough; any good science fiction novel can blur the line reasonably well. No, it's the personal struggles that a wizard or warrior have to go through that I enjoy.

It could be broken down into simpler terms. As you stated, genre's are just marketing terms used to group books with common themes together. At the same time, every book within a genre doesn't contain one unifying theme. Instead, I think a genre is made up of a list of tropes or themes. If a publication meets enough of these, it could fit within that genre.

As a basic example, let's use Knox's 10 rules for Detective Novels and treat it like a checklist. The more checks there are, the more likely a story could be considered a Classic Detective Story.

Bad Horse argued that Fantasy (later amended to Christian-Tradition Fantasy) is about rewarding virtue exclusively.

Oh my gosh. Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser would like to have a word with him (and his wallet).

I could tell you a bunch of SF that's worth your while: mostly VERY character-driven. The Frederik Pohl 'Gateway' books come to mind. If it's thud and blunder fantasy, I'd suggest E. E. 'Doc' Smith's 'Lensman' stuff. And of course James White's 'Sector General' space-hospital books are wonderful and deeply sci-fi. Lastly, John Varley's 'Gaea' trilogy starting with 'Titan' is bloody amazing and has straight-up centaurs despite being sci-fi: never saw books that so outrageously straddled the gap between sci-fi and fantasy. :raritywink:

I feel like a piker for not contributing anything, but you state matters so concisely and lucidly that I feel there's nothing to add :twilightblush:

My own categorical separator between sci-fi and fantasy is succinct, albeit nebulous:
How did the author explain stuff.

This can and often is more subtle than plot points and character abilities being written off with words like 'magic' or 'cybernetics' but that's the gist of it.

3896445
It's absolutely true that Sci Fi and Fantasy books can switch up societal versus personal sometimes; one thing that I was considering as I wrote is that there are a handful of Discworld books that focus on the larger picture, especially the ones more focused around Ankh-Morpork and the City Watch characters.

That being said, I want to make sure I'm being clear here: I'm not saying that the typical Sci Fi won't focus on the personal ethics and decision making of a hero, I'm saying that the character's situation will be more about what's good/right/important for the world than for him personally. I haven't read the book you talk about, but deciding whether it's right to genocide a race is a firmly Sci Fi problem, even if it comes down to one man's ethics.

What confuses matters is that Fantasy hero's decisions often also have effects on their world, but my argument is that's intended to be primarily symbolic of their personal journey. When Luke turns off the radar and uses the force (because I totally agree with Bad Horse that Star Wars is Fantasy) it's not suggesting that faith is an important consideration military tactics; it's suggesting that faith in yourself is important on an internal journey towards self-actualization. The Rebels and the Death Star are just the symbols the story is using to illustrate it. (And you can agree or disagree with that, too, but reading it as an argument for how one should act, or for what is "right" in the world is missing the point entirely.)

I've been dwelling on what you've said, and I do find your insights into the various parts of genre interesting. Reading both Bad Horse's and your blog, I feel like these will be most interesting to both fans of Fantasy, and Mystery. I've not read enough books in either genre to be able to offer any insight on them. All I could think of were questions on genre itself, and the importance of it, but that gets into psychological and social implications, so I'll leave it for another time.

One thing I will say I didn't notice with the distinction of genres, but does make sense here, is the focus on the issues. Science fiction does have a more societal focus, while it makes sense that fantasy usually focuses on the personal issues. I don't know if that's a tone-setter for those two genres, but it would seem to make sense in Mystery as well, with there being a strained relationship between the society that are trying to hide their secret and the person trying to either figure out what happened, deliver karma to the wrong-doer, or both. My understanding of Fantasy in the terms you've presented gives the adventure of Bilbo, Bink and Rincewind a new sense of self-power, instead of just being an adventure through life.

That's what I got from it, after all.

3896453

So is it safe to say that without these concepts you have talked about it could make for an overall weaker fantasy novel? Would leaving any one concept out have people read and perhaps even purchase your fantasy novel or read and then drop it afterwards because it was lacking something?

It could lead to a weaker connection to the Fantasy genre, and a lack of popularity among certain kinds of Fantasy fans, totally. There are a few authors I love who tend to avoid the adventure aspects and go light on the fantasy trappings, and I suspect they're less well-known as a result.

But, of course, popular does not equal good, so there are plenty of novels that have all of these things in spades and are still... not good. But they are undoubtedly Fantasy.

3896713 Oh okay, I get it now. Thanks! :heart:

3896445

If one is at all an 80s pop culture/video game nerd, Ready Player One is a lovefest to that era in so many, many ways. I was born on the far tailend, but just early enough to still immerse myself in a lot of it, and that book, well, I wish it had gone on and on and on.

Okay, I have something to add:

It's been said that there are only three kinds of SF stories: "What if..." "If only..." and "If this goes on..."

"Fantasy" as a genre may then be defined negatively, as any tale of the fantastic which does not fall into one of these three categories.

Of course Tolkien defined it positively, as "any story in which magical and moral law have the same force as physical law." ("On Faerie Stories")

You could then call this a fourth category of the fantastic: "If I had my way..."

You might argue that that definition works well for certain fantasy stories, but that it doesn't fill up all the negative space in the fantastic left over by the first three definitions.

I could venture that it does, for when you use magic in a story--when you break the bonds of physical law--your only guide is your view of right and wrong, whether you mean to use it or not.

Scary thought, that: show me how magic works in your universe, and I'll show you how you think this universe should work.

Well, it'd make for a grand party game, at any rate. :pinkiecrazy:

3896814
Great, now I'm trying to figure out what my magic system says about me as a person.

Interestingly enough, my self-analysis indicates that my magical system is about what I'd expected someone with my personality to come up with. Of course, there's probably a huge amount of confirmation and other kinds of biases at work there.

I do think this could be a fun game to play, although preferably with known fictional works rather than the imagination of your friends, or else you might not have a lot of friends left by the end of the night.

The one thing they have in common is anticipation. We WANT to see what is going to happen next, we are invested in the characters and care if they get hurt and want them to succeed (or the flip side, we hate them so much we want them to die, i.e. Twilight perhaps, or Game of Thrones.)

The Redwall series is unquestionably fantasy, but it doesn't really have much magic. Several of the books had no magic that I could recall, though I suppose Martin leaving clues around the Abbey was at times seemingly magical. The stories about Martin himself didn't seem to really have magic in them.

3896692

It's absolutely true that Sci Fi and Fantasy books can switch up societal versus personal sometimes; one thing that I was considering as I wrote is that there are a handful of Discworld books that focus on the larger picture, especially the ones more focused around Ankh-Morpork and the City Watch characters.

I don't think a lot of the City Watch stories are actually fantasy stories at all, honestly. Night Watch certainly has fantastic elements, but I wouldn't really identify it as a fantasy story; it is something else with the trappings of the fantasy genre. Suggesting that it is sci-fi is an interesting idea, and I could actually buy that; a lot of Estee's stories on FIMFiction feel more like sci-fi than fantasy as well, and I suspect for much the same reasons.

3896692

I totally agree with Bad Horse that Star Wars is Fantasy

Of course it is; anyone who says otherwise isn't really paying attention. Sure, it has spaceships and robots... but those aren't anywhere near as important as elements like knights, wizards, swordfights, magic, an evil king, a princess to be rescued, and so on.

it's suggesting that faith in yourself is important on an internal journey towards self-actualization.

I suppose you have a point.

3896813
I was born in '73, and my very first videogame system was a Sears-licensed copy of the Atari VCS (Video Computer System), 'cause they didn't even have the name "Atari 2600" yet. In other words, I love, love, love that book, and I'm hoping like hell that the movie will be even half as good. (If it were anyone other than Spielberg trying to make it, I would say it couldn't be done at all.)

I promise to look this over later when I have more time to read it. However, I'm currently burning the midnight oil and I'd prefer to spend that time enjoying actual fantasies before I lay me down to sleep. (The last bit was meant as a turn of phrase, I feel it necessary to explain this because there are people who might not have familiarity with it, and assume it as evidence of an inability to trail a thought. I'm can assure you I'm quite lucid.) :applejackconfused:

3897170
I'd say that they vary. I think the first three (Guards! Guards!, Men at Arms, and Feet of Clay) all have pretty strong internal-focused Fantasy themes with some social commentary; there's a strong argument either way. I think when you hit Jingo and later books (plus The Truth and the Moist books) they could easily be argued as Sci Fi with Fantasy trappings.

(On the other hand, all of the Witch books (including the Tiffany Aching books) and at least Mort and Hogfather are totally Fantasy themes. The Witch books practically come out and say "These Are About Personal Struggles with Identity," that's the core of Granny's character (not to mention Magrat, Agnes, and Tiffany.))

3897325
I agree. They transition.

And yes, the witch books (and the Rincewind books, and the Death books, and pretty much all the other Discworld books I've read) are all pretty clearly fantasy books.

I like the witch books and the city watch books the best; Granny Weatherwax is my favorite Discworld character, and Nanny Ogg is probably #2.

I'm still working my way through the series, admittedly. I only started reading them after Pratchett died. Better late than never?

3897994
I kind of feel like the Watch has stronger books, but the Witches books are so directly aimed at my personal interests that it's hard for me to not prefer them. The focus on literary themes and folklore and identity is like catnip to me, and I agree that Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg are probably my favorite characters.

Oh man, I'd never thought about it before, but now I'm wondering how the ideas in the Witches books, taken as a collection, would compare to the ideas Gaiman laid out in The Sandman. If I ever have time on my hands, I'd love to do a side-by-side read-through and analysis.

Man, the more blogs I read here, the more I realize I don't read enough. :P
Losers.
Anyway, overall I've been exposed to more sci-fi than fantasy, though fantasy easily dominates in the book arena, but that isn't saying much (it's mostly Redwall novels. Good, yes, but it's only one kind of fantasy). I do hope to expand my horizons, and hanging around fimfic has caused that, because for many years I think my impressions of most fantasy novels were informed by dramatic and often outrageous covers of the bookstore dime-a-barrel paperback variety.

Even so, I believe what grips me most about fantasy (that which I've consumed) is the sense of wonder and mystique it's able to induce, which I have found in no other genre (not that I've looked). The world is magical when you're little, and I don't feel it's something we so much grow out of as the world simply stops delivering it. Also fantasy's sense of myth and legend. History in fantasy is always so fun (not that real history isn't).

What I look for in sci-fi is its scrutiny of morals (here you can tell the kind of fantasy I've digested has been the moral black and white kind, where evil is evil from the get-go, instead of something that first looks good which you later discover is evil, which often occurs in sci-fi). Also, and perhaps more so, it's ability to contrive emotionally poignant scenarios that aren't really possible outside of sci-fi, usually thanks to time-travel shenanigans. Like the ending to Interstellar.

I hesitate to argue that science fiction is an investigative medium whereas fantasy is a political one. In my opinion, while they overlap, science fiction is a genre of supernatural mystery where the motive is to quest for justice as a sovereign or something better just as fantasy stories are all thrillers of intrigue in under a just world philosophy and the quest for fairness.

Somehow, I think the motive of science fiction is not one of conquest, but rather of an outsider overcoming the need for social acceptance. Science fiction appears to be in favor of managing the self, influencing others, and manipulating the environment while accepting greed and laziness among other vices as more than just selfish mistakes. Science fiction portrays and often demonstrates the desire to play, explore, and build as the source of creativity.

In my opinion, Fantasy is more negativistic; it's about anarchy, hierarchy, and social control. To play games is a threat in fantasy, to build at all a grave sin against nature. Fantasy is a place where ignorance is bliss and where lying to children is permissible for the sake of the greater good. In fantasy, death is not the end of life but the beginning of a new adventure one where sacrificing yourself for the greater good is rewarded with power, knowledge, and influence beyond compare as opposed to science fiction where sacrifice for a just leader or a Just cause is a reward for the ones you leave behind.

Then again, at ten years old I was more interested in Kingley's water babies than Peter Pan. I prefer science fiction to fantasy. Alien worlds with races that aren't simply mutated humans and alternate realities abound. Not to mention, I have always been more interested in an immortal life than the promise of immortality and renown after death. I'm not exactly one who wants to be reunited with the confederacy of idiots I had to prove my metal against time and again as I struggle near the bottom of the heap when I know there is something better, even if it isn't a better life, available. I've always been of the opinion God wants someone to walk beside him not behind him, and I don't mean in the sense of a poodle or spaniel heeling to it's master's beckoning and call.
https://www.gutenberg.org/files/25564/25564-h/25564-h.htm

3899773

In my opinion, Fantasy is more negativistic; it's about anarchy, hierarchy, and social control. To play games is a threat in fantasy, to build at all a grave sin against nature. Fantasy is a place where ignorance is bliss and where lying to children is permissible for the sake of the greater good. In fantasy, death is not the end of life but the beginning of a new adventure one where sacrificing yourself for the greater good is rewarded with power, knowledge, and influence beyond compare as opposed to science fiction where sacrifice for a just leader or a Just cause is a reward for the ones you leave behind.

You sound like you haven't read many of the authors I mentioned. I suggest you actually read some Barrie, Pratchett, Gaiman, G.R.R. Martin, or De Lint.

You might also want to keep in mind what I said about fantasy being symbolic of psychology, rather than prescriptive for reality.

3899779
I've read Neil Gaiman, I'm not entirely sure if that's the same one you're talking about. I'm familiar with lots of his comics, graphic novels, and I've read two of his interviews. Then again I didn't exactly __get(or very much understand)__ Coraline, which only piqued my interest becasue of a similarity in character design to a background character of mine... someone who was meant to be a generic and unimportant, but had to be there to show a relatively minor character could complete a communication circle. As for Barrie, I've seen about as many adaptations of Peter Pan as I have of A Christmas Carol.

I've never suggested any work of fiction wasn't symbolic of anything, but I was conditioned to pretend that the suspension of disbelief was necessary to find enjoyment in a story. If I don't agree with a particular philosophy, I'm not likely to enjoy a story. Because, often, it requires humoring a delusion without the payoff of daydreaming. But, I will read through it out morbid curiosity if a person I like finds it an object of fascination, or I like what it (the work) has inspired in others. Then again, I also didn't know logical fallacies and traps existed until a good year after I graduated college. So, who the hell knows what kind of psychological programing and conditioning I've been exposed to?

3899773
Could you give some more concrete examples of stories that you're using to generate this paradigm for defining characteristics of sci-fi and fantasy, and explanations of what you're reading to get that?

Basically, your comment makes very little sense to me and I want to argue the points your making—but I can't argue the points based on the material you've provided because I have absolutely no idea where you're coming from. To wit, I can't think of any science fiction stories (much less a majority) I'd describe as "supernatural myster[ies] where the motive is to quest for justice as a sovereign or something better." Similarly, while I'm better read with fantasy, I can't think of a lot of stories I'd describe as "thrillers of intrigue in under a just world philosophy and the quest for fairness." I'm also sort of suspicious of an attempt to draw a distinction here between "quest for justice" stories and "quest for fairness" stories.

Similarly, the construction of fantasy as a genre of "anarchy, hierarchy, and social control [where] to play games is a threat[,] to build at all a grave sin against nature" doesn't really make any sense to me. If we restricted the genre of fantasy to only stories written before the first World War, maybe I could see it? But Pratchett, Gaiman, and Rothfuss are all polar opposites to that, and even your traditional high fantasy works like Tolkien, Jordan, and Sanderson are fundamentally about building things.

I could go on—but like I said at the beginning, I think the real issue here is that, without some examples to look at to figure out what you're thinking, I honestly don't know how to engage in a conversation about what you're saying because none of it makes any sense to me, based on my readings in science fiction and fantasy.

3899789
I'm not suggesting that you have to like Fantasy; I don't like Science Fiction. And obviously you like some Fantasy, because you watch a show about magical talking horses, which is blatantly and totally in line with the Fantasy genre in every way.

What I am suggesting is that, like the difference between Tolkien and A Game of Thrones and MLP, Fantasy does not espouse any specific philosophy, or style of philosophy. Instead, as a genre, it's a way of looking at things. Like the way I argued that MLP is intended to be looked at; the same thinking should be applied to the philosophies in other settings: what do these symbols mean to people reading it? Suspension of disbelief is supposed to include accepting the philosophical systems that don't seem to make sense on the surface, in order to understand the deeper message.

If you can't approach things that way, you won't like Fantasy, and that's fine. But don't accuse fans of Fantasy of blindly appreciating those surface philosophies just because they are capable of it.

I would also still recommend actually reading some of Gaiman's adult books like American Gods or Neverwhere (though if you've read all nine volumes of The Sandman, that's totally valid,) as well as actually reading Peter Pan, which is a totally different experience, and some other adult oriented Fantasy.

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I understand some of what I'm saying makes no sense to you, but if I were to provide examples I'd have to use film or graphic novels as examples as I sincerely doubt I'm part of the mainstream when it comes to other reading materials (i'm not even entirely sure I'm exposed to the same national and international news). I've read folklore from around the globe, but that has more to do with urban legends, the supernatural, and horror. Collections of things like Grimm's fairy tails and Edgar Allen Poe have been read, but I couldn't tell you which version of it nor could I argue I've read them all. I've also read excerpts of the bible, I own several versions of it not including the dozens of children's bibles I like to pick up for review, art, and opinions.

The other problem with film as an example is that even things which are based on a true stories or which are inspired by actual events are fictionalized and altered from the source to a ridiculous degree. Take Moby Dick as an example, there was an actual whale IRL called Mocha Dick and some of the actual events parallel the events mirrored in the written word, but Moby Dick remains a work of fiction and Mocha Dick exists as reports and hearsay. I like to read and watch multiple versions or adaptations of the same story whenever possible to figure out which elements are universal and carry over. But, I'm not entirely certain a change in theme, texture, tone, and environment is the same as the superficial cosmetic changes they make to software when discussing something like a GUI update where the only thing that really changes is appearance.

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I'll admit I've watched a handful of episodes of MLP:FIM more than once, but no more than half a dozen. I actually like the fan based parodies, and I probably wouldn't have watched the series at all if it wasn't for the mentally advanced series. It wasn't my intention to accuse fans of blindly adhering to certain dogmatic philosophies, it just seems like as a whole the fantasy genre takes more from a just world philosophy than actual justice...

Sabrina the teenage witch, for example, implied that it was perfectly acceptable to use her powers to remove (or if you prefer knock out) all of a security guard's teeth. His crime, other than doing his job, was to tell her that she needed permission to be there and that he couldn't allow her access to the person she wanted to see without verbal or written consent. And, you know, they don't exactly portray guards in the Archie universe as the sharpest tools in the crayon box. Plus, this horrific thing was supposed to be funny because he deserved it. not funny in the animaniacs sense.

I found this interesting, because I hadn't previously considered what you're making out to be the major distinction between Sci-Fi and fantasy, namely, being fundamentally either social commentary versus an exploration of personal values.

I often see "Star Wars" referred to as "Science Fantasy" instead of Sci Fi, and I had previously assumed this was basically because it had Magic (the Force) and didn't pay too much mind to whether the technology of the setting was really feasible. This was kind of a flimsy explanation though, since there is plenty of nominally Sci Fi stuff that doesn't bother much with the latter. The fact that it is really at it's core a personal, inwardly focused adventure of self-discovery with some pretty heavy moralizing on the part of its universe is a much clearer and better distinction that relies less on surface details.

This, I believe, is a major difference between Fantasy and Sci Fi stories. I think when Science Fiction explores ethics, from what I’ve seen, it tends to do so in an externally focused way-- how we should interact as a society and approach the future of our civilization or world; Fantasy focuses on a personal level -- how do we resolve internal and emotional-interpersonal conflict, and where do we find meaning in our lives.

That's very interesting. It sounds good, though I don't think Tolkien could distinguish the personal level from the social level. Being a Catholic, he would say the way society should operate is for everybody to do the right thing on the personal level, and doing the right thing on the personal level is largely a matter of observing the tradition, hierarchy, and morals of your (Catholic) society. CS Lewis, Chesterton too, probably George MacDonald tho it's been a long time since I read him. Tolkien was not just about personal morality; he had lots and lots of social commentary, and so did CS Lewis. Chesterton probably couldn't ask for directions without making (scathing) social commentary.

There's probably a huge swath of fantasy written by Christians that is about refuting the idea that different rules apply at the personal and social levels.

I might even rephrase your statement as saying that science fiction posits that society needs a separate level of ethical analysis, while fantasy insists that it does not, making it compatible with my and Tolkien's definitions of fantasy.

Would you expect a gender bias based on this? It seems to me guys are more interested in analyzing society as a big clockwork, while women would be more drawn to applying personal relationships on a broader scale.

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