Defining my genre

24 March 2011 11:40

** This post may contain spoilers ** I’ve been wondering for some time how to exactly define the genre I am currently writing in. I generally just say I write fantasy, but fantasy is a rather broad genre. It can include anything from Elves to vampires to spaceships, or in some cases [ie=UTF8qid=1300952587sr=1-1]vampires in space]([#amp) (by the way, if anyone wants to use this last sentence to make a book about Elven vampires in space, feel free to). As such, there are many stories that are considered fantasy, but a lot of them probably aren’t quite the same genre as my stories, while many others probably are.

I run into this problem whenever the topic of my books comes up. The conversation usually follows along the following pattern:

Jeroen: You know, I’m currently writing a book. Two of them actually, I’m revising one and writing its sequel. Listener: Great, so what kind of books are they. Jeroen: Fantasy Listener: You mean with Elves and Dragons? Jeroen: No, only humans actually. Well, mostly. Listener: So what’s it about? Jeroen delivers elevator pitch Listener: Sounds interesting enough

It gets even more interesting when the person I’m having the conversation with actually knows a bit about the genre, as they start naming books they’ve read that they think falls in the same category. I tend to go with "Fantasy Adventure" as a clarification, though according to Wikipedia this is not an actual subgenre of fantasy, and I can’t recall ever seeing a section in a bookstore (both online and brick and mortar) that says "Fantasy Adventure" either. So what subgenres could be used to describe my work? Obviously, my works are not in the "swords and sorcery" genre, and since they take place in another world (and probably another universe as well) I’m not going to make a case for urban fantasy either. But there are a number of fantasy�subgenres�that match.

The first and most obvious descriptor is high fantasy, as this is defined as fantasy that takes place in an alternate world/universe where magic exists and a struggle between good and evil takes place. The description epic fantasy may also apply, though it’s often considered more or less the same as high fantasy. I usually distinguish the two by reserving the term epic fantasy for works that span lots of volumes that all involve the same story arch with many of the same characters, such as Wheel of Time (14 books once it’s done), the Stormlight Archive (10 books planned), A Song of Fire and Ice (7 books planned) and the Inheritance Cycle (4 books). My works do not fall in that category - there is a grand story arch connecting it to its two planned sequels, but it isn’t quite as connected as these series are.�In a way, my works also have elements of dark fantasy, though these are less obvious.

Finally, both Revenant Rising and its sequel have (post-)apocalyptic themes. The world it takes place in is doomed to die, which is revealed through visions of the future. As such, parts of my books contain descriptions of the post-apocalyptic world, and how its inhabitants respond to this.

Anyway, I guess I’ll simply keep on referring to my genre as just "fantasy".

Post scriptum

Some of my more regular visitors will have noticed that I’ve taken down the weekly progress meters for my work in progress novel. I found them to be too much of a hassle to keep up with, requiring me to replace the widget titles every week and constantly calculating the goal for each week. While I will still strive to make my 5000 words a week goal, I will not be tracking it so rigorously. Instead, I’ve replaced the counters with a progress counter for Revenant Rising revisions, as well as an overall word counter for its sequel. These are a lot more meaningful, and far less of a hassle to keep up with.