Finding My Fantasy Identity

August 27, 2012

Finding my Fantasy Identity

After reading a few posts by fellow fantasy authors Jeremy Rodden and Jonathan Gould, this post came to mind a few months ago. They were trying to figure out where their fantasy books fell in the large and exceedingly complicated fantasy realm.

Another couple things they have done that has made their classifications more difficult: splicing and/or stepping away from the stereotypes. I did it too.

What are the first things that come to mind when you think about fantasy? I’ll wait. *tapping foot, whistling, and looks watch*.

I’m pretty sure you thought of stuff like this: Tolkien, Martin, Lewis LOTR, Narnia, dragons, elves, dwarves, fairies, farmboy to king, Dungeons and Dragons, etc, etc.

All this stuff is wonderful fun and vastly popular even still, but what happens to some of us who want to explore the realm beyond the stereotypical fantasy?

  1. We don’t know our own identity
  2. Sometimes you don’t know what type of fantasy to label it because it doesn’t fit what is typically known as _____
  3. Readers don’t where or what you are either even if they love your story

One of the most annoying things I find when I talk to readers offline is when I say I write fantasy. The first thing they ask is “Does it have dragons (or other stereotypical creature) in it?”


The answer is no and sometimes it’s a pro/con thing. No ill will toward the reader at all, but it seems the stereotypes have blocked out the light from way beyond. Sometimes a reader won’t even give me a chance. Some have a look of absolute surprise and may be interested. Some view it as a breath of fresh air.

The fantasy genre has so much more to offer. Some of us are pioneers here and so we also feel a little bit lost in the wilderness beyond the fantasy city in the great beyond.

When finding my fantasy identity I couldn’t go by the stereotypes alone. I had to go back to the roots of some kinds of fantasy. Of course, to make matters worse some kinds of fantasy have subdivisions on subdivisions. *sigh*

Needless to say, when I sat down at the computer for the first time at age 16, I didn’t have this stuff in mind either. I wanted to take a little of this and that and make my own story–one that I haven’t seen anywhere yet. Of course, I never contemplated publishing either for years. You could almost say that the whole outcome was sort of an unplanned freak accident.

What the Saga is NOT

I know for a fact that is it not a pure form of anything. It may have touches of this and that from the progression of time that it spans (i.e. historical, near-future, or speculative) distant past to distant future. There will be some occurrences of brief dystopia where order must be reinstated to avoid disaster, but it is not a cut-dry dystopian fantasy. It is not a paranormal romance or a paranormal fantasy even though there are paranormal elements. There is some romance, but it is not the main focus of the story, but it may drive the action or make a character do certain things. It’s not an urban fantasy for sure. It’s not steampunk or cyberpunk.

Here’s where I am getting warmer, but it is not cut and dry. It has high fantasy and low fantasy attributes, but it is not purely either one. We have touches of sword and sorcery and epic, but again not in the purest of forms. I would give it’s shade a medium. Not all dark, but not all light either.

So we have a splice–I seem to have this hybrid thing going on, and it’s really unplanned.  No wonder I don’t have a definitive identity as simple as “epic fantasy”. Period. It’s like the mule asking if it’s a horse or a donkey. It’s both and neither one at the same time. I think I would have to build a taxonomic tree for myself, but I don’t know how to do that on a blog ;).

That’s what some of us fantasy authors are doing, stepping away from the stereotypes and blending things together and further adding things into the fantasy package. You can add thriller grade suspense to the fantasy, but you can’t add the fantasy to the thriller unless you are referring to the psychosis of the unsub.

I had the other parts of the classification figured out, but not specifically the “fantasy” part of the equation hence the idea for this post. Just like I said, I know of some friends who had to find their fantasy identities. I’m doing the same and sharing it.

Let’s take a look at the Low/High, Epic/S&S, medium (between light and dark) parts of the fantasy. I’ll not discuss the other pieces of the taxonomy.

high and low fantasy

High and Low

Disregarding the stereotypes let’s deconstruct what high and low fantasy actually are and splice!

High Fantasy: usually takes place in a completely imagined world. Civilizations, language, astrology, etc, etc are built from the ground up.

Low Fantasy: The opposite of high fantasy. It takes place in the natural world as we know it. There are subdivisions to this though which I am bringing up: magical realism, the fantasy happening within the natural world, or world within a world. You’ll see why I italicized this in a sec.

The splice: We have a world within a world for the low aspect as well as interaction with the natural world where the fantasy takes place via existing people and places. Hawote exists within the US, Canada, and Mexico for most of the start of the saga, but as the time progresses, we begin to speculate into the distant future of both the high and low fantasy parts. The Five Lands brings us the high fantasy part–a completely built fantastical world, but this is only the first footsteps into a whole new universe. For book 2, we have this world within a world cause a travel in time to a real historical place with real historical people using the magic from the high fantasy world.


S&S: Apart from the sword wielding heroes we deal with elements of magic and the supernatural. A lot of time personal battles rage just as much as the battles around them.

Epic: This is more outward battles and such. This is the “save the world” concept. Of course, this can involve magic and the supernatural.

The Splice: On the low side: Well even though Hawote coexists with the modern world, guns ablazing all the time would alert American authorities, right? They do use guns, but battles are fought with Native American weapons, and not out of stone. The bad guys have titanium armor made of a super hard alloy simply known as titanium. On the high side, the Five Lands are pretty medieval, but there is also laser technology and rockets available to some specific groups (a little sci-fi anyone?). Internal issues can affect the outcomes of the battle around them, and we are also still trying to save the world or sometimes worlds. This covers the paranormal and mythological aspects of the mix. Not everyone is mortal, and not everyone is human or entirely human…

light and dark fantasy

Medium or Gray?

Medium falls between light and dark. White and black make gray. Light fantasy is pretty rosy, things get rocky, and things back rosy again. Not too scary. Dark is the opposite and it can almost be like reading a horror, but with fantasy at the same time. Sometimes the hero can do bad things for the right reason.

In the middle again. Some characters are outright scary and/or nasty. That was the point. When beginning my writing at a young age my mother tried to make me change the scary characters. Don’t think so! On the lighter side we have the heroine and/or heroes trying to save the world from world or universal domination. Some people’s very souls are threatened and threatened with unhappily ever after. Even Chosen Ones need help from friends and strangers… Flawed characters create decision making that can lead to trouble, but then we can fix it–maybe.

So I have–short answer: YA/MG fantasy action adventure with a touch of sci-fi, mystery, and thriller. Long answer: MG/YA epic/S&S/high/low/medium fantasy action adventure with a touch of sci-fi, mystery, and thriller. *gasp*

I had fun finding my fantasy identity, lol.

Have any thoughts?

AK Taylor

About the Author

AK Taylor

AK Taylor is an award winning YA author who has been writing novels since age 16. Beekeeper, outdoor sportsman, avid adventurer, and animal lover. Taylor lives in the backwoods of Middle GA where she continues to write stories.

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