Try giving a definition for high fantasy fiction, and you’ll get a lot of industry agreement. Try giving a definition for epic fantasy fiction, and you’ll get a lot of industry debate. Probably because the fantasy fiction crowd thrives on lively discussion (i.e., making mountains out of molehills).
That’s nothing against the fantasy fiction crowd. I’m in it both as a reader and an author. I’ve purchased vendor space at Faeriecon, immersed myself in other conventions, and strongly considered dropping thousands of bucks to attend Dragoncon down in Georgia.
Which I haven’t. Yet.
It’s probably better that way though. Fantasy fiction crowd favorite Jim Butcher often headlines there. And if I ever met him face to face, I’d make an absolute fangirl idiot of myself.
It's that very fangirl status that allows me to sidestep finessing the fantasy facts. Hardcore fantasy fiction crowd members enjoy lording opinions over each other like the feudal sovereign sorts they read about. If anything, I’m surprised that the definition of high fantasy fiction isn’t just as contentious as that of epic fantasy fiction.
It’s a fight that Innovative Editing’s Definition of the Week is going to – mostly – avoid here on the site. With that said, feel free to send me your thoughts about the topic on whatever social media platform you found this on, whether Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest. Or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’d love to hear your opinion about the working editorial definition below.
High Fantasy/Epic Fantasy
High fantasy and epic fantasy aren’t entirely synonymous terms. But they’re close enough that they don’t really warrant separate definitions in Innovative Editing’s book.
High fantasy is fantasy fiction that’s set outside our known universe. Earth doesn’t exist in these novels, and neither do its present-day norms.
Epic fantasy sees a main character set off on some immense quest with some intense purpose and some enormous challenge(s) to overcome. See the similarities?
The Lord of the Rings series falls solidly into both the high fantasy fiction and epic fantasy fiction subgenres as a result. Game of Thrones and its sequels are up for debate, I’ll admit, since it follows so many main characters instead of just one, and the “immense quest” is really quite common: to rule the land.
However, Game of Thrones is without a shadow of a doubt high fantasy fiction.
I’d love to say that epic fantasy fiction is always high fantasy fiction, but it can’t be quite that simple. A take on the legends of King Arthur, for example, would be epic fantasy fiction though not high fantasy fiction just as long as it was set in Earth’s past.
If you’re head is hurting like a pixie dust hangover after going a few rounds with a level 40 wizard, don’t worry too much. For every author who can’t quite classify between high fantasy fiction and epic fantasy fiction… there’s a million or two fantasy fiction crowd members who will happily tell you how it is.
Probably over the space of several hours. So bring snacks. Especially if you’re going to make it a fangirl or fanboy group discussion.
I.e., fight. Fight. Fight!