May 20th, 2014

the shifting waters of sub-genres

I love fantasy... pretty much ALL kinds of fantasy (hence the Fantasy Friday posts) ... but of late I have been puzzled a bit by what seem to be shifts in the descriptions and boundaries of different sub-genres within fantasy.

For example... Lord of the Rings is generally conceded to be the grandfather of modern epic fantasy.  Yet Tolkien himself described his works as "mythopoeia"... in that they are deeply evocative of humanity's deepest mythologies...which means perhaps he viewed his work as mythic fantasy.  And GRRM's wildly popular novels (not to mention the tv series) are listed, depending on the source, as epic fantasy...not epic fantasy...Court Intrigue...political fantasy...

Not completely sure it matters.  Shoot! I even saw it pop up on one list of romantic fantasy!

What does any of this have to do with anything? Well, I have been searching for books to ongoing pleasure and frustration.  Sub-genres can help in that search.  Everyone says epic fantasy is the most popular and widely published of all the sub-genres, and yet I seldom find new titles in that sub-genre that match what I, personally, feel is an epic fantasy.  So I wondered where the books I thought were epic fantasy actually fall in the spectrum.

The issue remains unresolved.  I would love to know... what do YOU consider to be the qualities of a good epic fantasy?