On cataloguing books (was Re: Obscure Childhood favorites)

Jon Noble jon_p_noble at yahoo.com
Tue Feb 11 15:18:34 EST 2003

--- Melissa Proffitt <Melissa at Proffitt.com> wrote:

> Here's a question for the list, not that we need
> more volume: 

What the heck, I don't really need to waste time on
mundane matters like working or sleeping, lets crank
up the volume a bit more..

 What kinds of
> subgenres do you perceive in fantasy and science
> fiction?  It's not a
> terribly useful question if you're going for exact
> classifications, since we
> can argue about what urban fantasy is or whether
> Tolkien is high fantasy or
> heroic fantasy or epic fantasy.  But all I really
> want is a quick-and-dirty
> assessment so I can fill in both Category and
> Subcategory in my little
> program.  I have a bunch of unclassified books and
> I've run out of ideas.

OK lets try out a few; some books fit into more than
one category, these are in no particular order and
i'll probably think of more later

animal fantasy; wind in the willows, watership down,

epic; definitions for this one vary, I use to term to
mean those multi-volume sagas, if it's less than three
volumes it doesn't qualify (and to me Ash is only one

magic-realism; not usually genre fantasy, books that
endow the everyday with a magical quality, the recent
movie (and book) Chocolat is an example

mythological; books based on a particular mythology,
with sub-categories for which - fantasy novels set in
a particular historic culture should be included in
this category even when they don't actually refer to
the mythology much.

Historical; fantasies involving retellings of history,
Ford's "The dragon waiting" is an example, as is
Thomas Harlan's "Oath of Empire" series

Detective; apart from Randy Garrett's Lord Darcy
stories i can't think of another example - no wait a
minute, I think I've read a couple by lackey.

Science Fantasy; That crossover with science fiction -
there are two strands here, one in which that fantasy
has a scientific element - Stasheff's warlock books,
and another in which magic and technology merge -
Swanick's "Iron dragon's daughter"

Horror; not all horror is fantasy, but the
supernatural stuff qualifies - sub categories for
vampire, ghost, werewolf etc (not all vampire, ghost
whatever stories are horror - but I'd lump them all
here for convenience)

Dark fantasy; horror fantasy stories without vampires
ghosts or whatever as the main plot element - Clive
barker belongs here on the horror side, plus there is
quite a bit on the fantasy side.

Urban; far too much of this now in my opinion, but
there is some very good stuff. i loved Mark Helperin's
book about New York

Swords and Sorcery; Conan and his mates

Dungeons and Dragons; and other RPG oriented stuff,
usually this is also Swords and sorcery, although I
supose Feist is also Epic (on length grounds - but no

Time fantasy; fantasy stories involving time travel,
usually into a character's own past or their
ancestors. Books like Red Shift also fit in here

Humour - Pratchet and many others (some even good)

Gothic; probably a historical category now - either
horror or dark

Low fantasy; not a good name, but this term has been
used to categorise those stories which contain a
crossover between our world and a fantasy world,
Narnia and the early Alan Garner's are good examples
(and not "low" at all)

Masterworks; those Great Works of Fantasy, they would
all fit into some other category as well and veryone's
list would differ

Occult; fantasy stories involving ceremonial magic,
goddess worshipping witches and such, often painfully
New Age and best avoided, although there are a few
good examples

Fairy stories; here we have the traditional originals,
recent new fairy stories aimed at children and
retellings of traditionals aimed at adults.

I'm going to have to leave off this now, but I haven't
run out of categories (I wouldn't put much of DWJ into
any of the above) so I'll be back with more later- and
then there's SF


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