?

Is it fantasy?

  1. Yes

    6 vote(s)
    50.0%
  2. No

    3 vote(s)
    25.0%
  3. Not Sure/Depends (Please Explain)

    3 vote(s)
    25.0%
  1. Enyo
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    Enyo Member

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    Fictional World = Fantasy?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Enyo, Jun 20, 2016.

    Greetings! I am about 2/3 away from finishing my fictional memoir and had a question. Is a book that takes place in a fictional land but doesn’t contain magic/supernatural elements or mythological creatures still considered a “fantasy” novel? Basically, the land is Earth and even though the world is made up, the names of their countries use real words that are common in the countries/regions from which they are based. For instance, there is a country based on Nigeria called “Ekpere” which means “prayer” in Yoruba. Just wanted advice.

    Also, is it a stereotype that men read fantasy more than women? I ask because my book is insanely girly. Not only is my main character a female, she is adopted into an upper-class family to be a companion to one of their children. They are sheltered because of their social status, so there is not much extended contact with males other than the father, an uncle who lives nearby, and the MC’s childhood friend who she met before she was sent to be a companion. I fear the fantasy label would be the wrong demographic assuming my second question is true.

    Thanks!
     
  2. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    That's a tricky one. I'm leaning towards yes, fantasy, but can you elaborate on why you've chosen a fictional world? I think that might be the deciding factor.

    Google seems full of anecdotes about fantasy demographics. I did find this survey: http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/ls_docs/lightspeed_advertising_demographics.pdf But I didn't look into how the survey was conducted and if it's likely to be representative of the wider population. It roughly says 60% male, 40% female.
     
  3. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    It sounds like it would fall into the "alternate universe" category. I would assume most of those are considered fantasy.
     
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  4. Enyo
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    Enyo Member

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    The real world is limiting, and most of the plot would not make sense (or be downright ridiculous) if I set it there. Also, I wanted to set it in the equivalent of the early 19th century because it helps support certain elements. For instance, slavery is alive and well in my novel. Not the “human trafficking” kind, but straight up ability to openly buy a person, jewelry, and some fabric within a few feet of each other. My MC was purchased by a nice man who was shopping in town. He then adopts her off to a friend of his wife’s (who is also a nice woman). Chattel slavery and large abolition movements are mainly associated with the transatlantic slave trade in the America’s, but my MC is Asian and ends up in a country that’s a hodgepodge of the Middle East and Western Europe.

    Also, if you use real , languages, and lands, you run the risk of offending people by taking liberties. By using a fictional world, I can do whatever I want. No research needed and no liability hanging over my head.
     
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  5. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Definitely fantasy. Which sub-genre, I'm not quite sure. But I think you would confuse agents/editors if you called it something else.
     
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  6. Enyo
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    Enyo Member

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    Hmm. That's too bad. To me, that means there is no point in publishing if it's going to end up being on the shelves next to books that involve dragons and demons. I can't see my targeted group browsing in that section.
     
  7. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Are there any books you'd compare it to? That's another method for helping agents/editors mentally place it on a shelf. If your comp titles/authors are in another genre, you might be able to make a case for it..?
     
  8. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    It's definitely fantasy. There are fantasy novels that get shelved in literary / general fiction instead of the SF/F section.
     
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  9. Enyo
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    Enyo Member

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    I don't read very much, and when I do, it's historical (fiction and non) and sociopolitical books.

    Cool! That's good to know. It just feels weird to be associated with a genre I don't care for at all in book form and feel neutral about in movie form.
     
  10. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    Going against the grain, I voted 'No'. IMO it's fantasy if it involves fantastical elements, which your story doesn't seem to. Everything you've mentioned has occurred at various times in our real world (and most of it continues in various locations, if I'm not mistaken).

    If I wrote historical fiction set in the USA in 1886, but then used Ctrl+F to change the country's name to 'the Unified Territories of Vespucia', I wouldn't suddenly consider it fantasy. And if I were a reader looking for such a book, I'd be irritated to find it categorised as such.

    That said, I'll give deference to @Steerpike on how the industry actually would classify it...
     
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  11. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    @Sifunkle there are some well-known fantasy authors who take real world events and peoples, essentially, rename them into fictional places and take some dramatic license. They're typically (but not always) shelved in fantasy, because it's not the real world.

    For example:

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lions_of_Al-Rassan

    That novels and others similar in style by Kay are always in Fantasy when I see them.
     
  12. Enyo
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    Enyo Member

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    Thank you for bringing a different perspective. Just for fun, after I read your post, I changed the names of a few fictional countries to their real life equivalents. If you ignore the unlikely meeting of cultures, it sounds very believable.

    I don't think my book would ever make it in the fantasy section. Not only is it girly, but there is only 1 decidedly white character. Everyone else is non-white or not described at all save something basic like brown eyes or being tall. It's pretty well-known that people of color are very rarely represented in the fantasy genre. Of course there are the people that blather on about how people should write more stories with characters of color, but never consider the fact that many publishers are not willing to give the stories a chance.
     
  13. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Doesn't sound like you are very familiar with the fantasy genre @Enyo.
     
  14. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    This is one of those annoying definitional middle grounds. I'd just use "alternate universe" instead of a broader genre name because that way it's less fiddly and confusing.
     
  15. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    @Steerpike - I'm not questioning that it does work that way in practice, but contending that it shouldn't (which admittedly isn't helpful for Enyo). Fiction by definition is not in the real world, and I can't imagine 'whether the author pretends it is or not' being a consideration many would choose reading material by (e.g. Harry Potter would be classified as 'not fantasy' if this were the only criterion applied. Obviously that's not the only criterion, but it seems to be in Enyo's case...).

    So how best to market this to avoid it being misleadingly pigeonholed with conventional fantasy? Not my area of expertise, but Tenderiser and Steerpike's suggestions make sense to me: compare to authors in genres you feel it belongs to, or aim for a more loosely defined genre.

    I disagree with aiming for 'alternate universe', because to me that suggests that the setting is different from our universe in an important way. The issue seems to be that it's not, other than in name.
     
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  16. Enyo
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    Enyo Member

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    I have no interest in it unless it's Harry Potter or Narnia. I've yet to see a synopsis for a fantasy novel that made me consider reading it.
    I think that goes back to the fact that I don't read the type of novel that I'm writing. I have no idea what to compare it to. But I know it's not the same as dragons, witches, and hybrid creatures.
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2016
  17. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Au contraire, alternate universe is used for realistic alternates. Slavery being a thing as well as some name changes, political changes and regional changes are all alternations. I don't see why not.
     
  18. IlaridaArch
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    IlaridaArch Active Member

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    One odd sidenote that if you are in Scandinavia, you might have chances at 40%male and 60%female. At least that was the case in a finnish survey couple of years ago, and they predicted similiar results to Sweden as well.
     
  19. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    @Enyo my point being that you make broad, inaccurate assertions about the genre, which doesn't make sense if you yourself admit you're not familiar with it. Instead of assuming, erroneously, that fantasy has X or doesn't have Y, you should take more of a look at the genre. Particularly because if you get published via the traditional publishing route there's a likelihood you could end up shelved in it.

    For example, the idea that Fantasy doesn't feature characters of color is outdated. It was rare years ago; now not so much. See:

    Ursula K. LeGuin
    Octavia Butler
    Steven Erikson
    China Mieville
    Django Wexler
    Nalo Hopkinson
    Paolo Bacigalupi
    Joe Abercrombie
    Brandon Sanderson
    Jacqueline Carey
    et al.

    That's off the top of my head. And if we figure in magic realism, which is a subset of fantasy, much of it is dominated by brown-skinned characters. A similar list could be made for LGBT characters in fantasy, which was also uncommon a number of years ago and isn't.

    Most people who don't have a familiarity with the fantasy genre know Tolkien/Lord of the Rings, Narnia, Potter, and nothing else. And yes, those books are featured around white characters.

    A whole lot of fantasy also doesn't have dragons, witches, creatures, etc. There is fantasy that doesn't even have magic - novels that essentially do what you're doing. Some of that stuff, if it is deemed likely to sell better to audiences of literary fiction (for example), will end up in General Fiction at the bookstore. Most of it seems to end up in Fantasy. Depending on the work itself, there's a good chance you'll be more likely to find an audience in Fantasy as opposed to general fiction.


    In truth, if you're looking at the traditional publishing route, this isn't even worth worrying about. The publisher is going to categorize it however they think it will sell best. If they think labeling it Fantasy will move more books, then that is what they're going to call it. If you're going to self-publish, then you can put it wherever you like.
     
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  20. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, I knew what you meant :) I disagree, though. I think it is, by definition, fantasy. One can argue that all fiction is "fantasy," by a broad definition of that term, however I think that when you set a book in the real world, even though you are using made up characters and events, that's different from setting the book in a fictional world that doesn't exist to begin with. The latter is a hallmark of the fantasy genre.
     
  21. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    I agree with everything you said except this, because one needs to accurately assign a genre in order to sell a novel--generally speaking. If Enyo pitches this as general fiction, literary, whatever, but her query/pitch clearly shows it's fantasy, that's a red flag.

    Unless you're saying she should stop worrying about where it's going to end up shelved, rather than what to call it? In that case, I agree. It's out of her hands.
     
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  22. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, thanks for the distinction @Tenderiser. I was talking about the eventual shelving, but you're right - when you're pitching the novel you have to be able to select agents/publishers who handle that type of fiction. I suppose one might look at similar novels that do end up in general fiction and make a list of agents who represented those works. Honestly, I can think of a number of such examples on the shelves in Fantasy. None are coming to mind that I see exclusively in general fiction, though I'd guess there are some. I think a fantasy audience might be more likely to buy something like this, which is why publishers like to put this sort of thing in fantasy.
     
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  23. Enyo
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    Enyo Member

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  24. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Perhaps speculative fiction? I've heard that name tossed around a lot but I'm not quite sure if there's a real definition.
     
  25. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    @Enyo there are plenty of fantasy books with no magic. A book doesn't have to have magic to be shelved in fantasy. You will find books in the fantasy section that are basically real-world historical stories, but with names changed and the setting turned into a fictional place heavily based on the real world. Others are in an entirely fictional world, but still happen to have no magic or supernatural elements.
     

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