So what is Fantasy exactly?

senior hands on a bible

So what is Fantasy exactly? These genres confuse an old lady mightily. Books I was brought up on, which just seemed like exciting /interesting tales have to be split into genre’s? Genre, being a subject there seems to be much debate about because, of course, stories do not like being confined by boundaries, so no sooner than it is decided what consists a particular genre, than sub divisions and alternatives creep out from under the fence and leap to freedom, to divide and multiply as they should.

There are purists who firmly draw lines under the boundary fences, and the other free’er spirits who chase after the new, hearts pounding in excitement at the novelty.

So what is fantasy when it is at home?

Fiction, with no doubt, is the first and most fantastical of all. Authors create worlds, people them with non existent characters and spin a tale of pure imagination around them.

I’m afraid though that the individual levels of genre I am easily confused and often impatient at the necessity to name stories so. Since writing my own books I have had to struggle with genre, it taking years before I was anywhere near finding one that suited. But, I have discovered that many of the books I have enjoyed reading in the past come under the title of magic realism.


Well magic accepted as everyday aspects, needing little or no explanation, okay I understand that – just – however, what basically is the difference between that and a fantasy story which is set in the real world and has magic in it? ‘Tis a difference of only one or two degrees. In the first, magic mustn’t be the main aspect (sorry in The Particular Sadness of Lemons, the magic of knowing what others were feeling and experiencing and where it happened when a particular food was made, is kind of the whole point of the story. Yet despite magic being a central part it is magic realism not fantasy.

Ah well, booksellers must have their way I suppose, it has meant the reading challenges I entered have become all the harder, as I have to search to find out what genre exactly I am reading, when it comes to all things fantastical. Fairy tale /legend/myth or fantasy/sci fi or magic realism or. . or. . .or. . .

I am getting there,but only by researching, it is not really apparent with many of them. After all shouldn’t fairy tales come under fantasy, shouldn’t myth and legend? And what to do about ghosts, are they ghost stories or fantasy?Or werewolves and angels, should they not be paranormal or are they fantasy? Does it depend on whether the reader believes in an after life? If a murder is solved using magic, is it a murder mystery, a fantasy or a fairy tale?

I need to separate my reading challenge books into fantasy and also into fairy/myth. The lines blur dreadfully but am slowly sorting it out. Why, oh why, can we not just have, BOOKS.

I can hear you devotees of labels stirring impatiently so I will cease my rambles and confess to having found that I enjoy two genres I knew nothing about, magic realism and urban fantasy (well specifically London urban fantasy, as all those I enjoy are set in the city of my birth.

I am putting them into my fantasy challenge collection which means it is now burgeoning out of control as it was already full of traditional fantasy – dragons, imaginary kingdoms and the like. Who would have an old lady such as moi, cynic as I am would fall into the genre trap:)


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