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The Not-So-Easily Defined But Fully Fascinating Fantasy Fiction Writing Debate

Oh, fantasy fiction writing, what can we say about you?

A whole lot, actually. That’s why the next three weeks will be filled with Definitions, Challenges and Rules about the fantasy fiction writing realm. There’s just too much to discuss, starting with this kind-of sort-of overarching explanation of the genre:


This is a genre that isn’t always so easy to define. It’s generally centered around magic and myths with heavy doses of dragons, faeries, elves, witches and the like. Famous fantasy authors include C.S. Lewis, who wrote about talking animals and unicorns, and Stephanie Meyers, who made vampires glow... an odd – but allowable – choice in the wide-ranging world of fantasy.

Essentially, fantasy deals with a set range of concepts that are widely accepted as being unscientific... no matter how much truth there might actually be behind them.

If you follow Innovative Editing on Facebook, you might have caught its science-fiction post about whether Star Wars is, in fact, science-fiction or fantasy fiction writing in action. It’s a debate I was recently introduced to, and a fully fascinating one at that.

I don’t see this blog post or the general debate changing Star Wars’ official genre classification. Yet the “Star Wars is fantasy fiction crowd” still does make a really compelling argument.

Yes, that galaxy far, far away involves spaceships and alien races, two areas that science-fiction typically claim. But it’s a universe governed by the Force, which comes across as much more magical, or at least mystical, than scientific.

Nor does the “what is fantasy fiction writing really” debate stop with Star Wars. It apparently continues with Anne McCaffrey, whose Dragonriders of Pern series is labeled as fantasy fiction for its teleporting, fire-breathing dragons… no matter what its author says to the contrary.

As Innovative Editing subscriber Cathryn M. put it, “On one hand, dragons = fantasy. But there was a lot of science behind the dragons’ evolution and why they can teleport, and why and how they breathe fire.”

Thanks to Cathryn’s post about Anne McCaffrey, I had to seriously consider my own Faerietales series. I’ve always classified it as contemporary fantasy fiction writing since it’s set in the 21st century. Yet the faerie race it centers around is scientifically based. There’s not a scrap of magic in those books.

So does that make them science-fiction?

Personally, I’d argue no. Not because I have anything against that genre. It can be utterly awesome! But to paraphrase Cathryn’s succinct argument analysis, “faeries = fantasy.”

Such creatures aren’t real. They never have been real. And they never will be real.

Or am I being completely closeminded? And if faeries were proven to exist, does that mean my Faerietales books would suddenly become science-fiction? Or just plain-old fiction?

I did, after all, discover that there are certain people out there who are scientifically capable of seeing a wider range of colors than we mere masses, exactly as I allege in Not So Human and its sequals.

Despite that, I still feel "faerly" safe professing that I don’t believe in faeries (as Tinker Bell dies somewhere due to my words). But how about those dragons?

I’m not saying they were ever capable of teleporting, but over the course of my three decades of intra-genre exploration, I have come across some interesting non-fiction archaeological, Biblical and historical explanations for all the myths and legends we now have about such creatures.

So maybe they did exist in some form or another?

Regardless, this fact you can rest assured of: Throw magic into the story line, and there’s no longer a definition to debate. It’s automatically fantasy fiction writing you’ve got on your hands… pixie dust and all.

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