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Is there a name for fantasy without fantastic elements? (1 Viewer)

Gamer_2k4

WF Veterans
I'm starting a novel whose setting draws inspiration from Viking culture. It's not historical fiction, as the tribes/nations/cities/whatever are all technically unique to my story, but there are also no fantastic elements like magic or dragons. It's just humans doing human things. Is this still considered "fantasy," and, if not, what is it called? Simply "fiction"?
 

Travalgar

Senior Member
By "Fantasy", people usually expect something that is fantastical, something which doesn't or can't exist in our real world, but does in the fiction's world.

I'm intrigued by your novel idea. It's like a mix of historical fiction and fantasy, but without any fantastical elements, huh? What is the main draw of it? Surely there must be something that is unique to your world, which is usually fantastical in nature. I would say it's a bit like low fantasy, but then even that requires some degree of fantastical elements....
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
If you have some magic from the culture then it could be considered Historical Fantasy (a newer genre... there's really only a few authors). Historical Fantasy draws on the mythology and/or religion of that culture. I write about Vikings myself, and I use their beliefs and mythology in the same context that I see that they write about it. Let me give you an example, they believe in witches/sorceresses, volvas, etc and my character spends part of her life as a witch or sorceress, part of her life as a volva and part of her life as a shield maiden, all were considered magical professions on some level and we have lots of poetry and also archeology to help establish these real professions with their equipment and their rituals. I am using a real legendary/partially historical person.

Some of the Historical Fantasy writers who I think of take their magic a step further, for instance British culture in the year 866 and a fairy is an actual character--- this is from Guy Gaveral Kay's book that is based around the cultures around King Alfred and the Great Heathen Army plus what was going on in Wales at the time.
Jules Watson writes about ancient Celtic culture and often Shamanism/Druidism is able to perform some magic, although I would say much closer to how that culture might have actually viewed it and experienced it. She is a really good researcher of ancient texts, better than Kay is in that way, although he is also a really good researcher. Kay has written alternative timelines or used an actual historical culture for the base of each of his books. I think just this part of his books might have a name... maybe just historical alternative reality, or just alternative reality? Probably that is what people would call your book since the emphasis isn't on religion/magic from that era?

Since my book doesn't push over the line of what was considered true magic for the culture, then I think of mine as just Historical Fiction, but I think there might be a blurred line there depending on how I treat the experience of religion/magic for my characters. If what I write could be a part of Historical Fantasy, I think this cool genre would be a great badge to wear.
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
I wanted to double-check what I said with what wikipedia has. There is something called "secret history" that they alluded to. It sounds closer to what you are doing.
Actually the wikipedia article didn't really cover how I see Historical Fantasy where it's more like Magical Realism except placed in a real past culture and also sometimes (but sometimes not and going further) sticking to the way the culture's belief system would have viewed the supernatural.

So Fictional Secret History, maybe. There are so many choices and these articles go over a bunch of choices. Alternative History is probably the umbrella term.
 
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piperofyork

Friends of WF
What @Non Serviam said - speculative fiction. If the only thing different from human history are the names of places and tribes, etc., it would likely confuse readers (and agents and editors) to describe it as part of the fantasy genre. A bit of magic and monsters, etc., seem part and parcel of fantasy.
 

Earp

Senior Member
Just semantics, maybe, but I would classify books like The Invisible Man as fantasy. I usually describe such stories as 'fantasy, but not sword-and-sorcerer'.
 

Lawless

Senior Member
inspiration from Viking culture. [---] the tribes/nations/cities/whatever are all technically unique to my story, but there are also no fantastic elements like magic or dragons. It's just humans doing human things.

Could it be "alternative history"? I'd call it fantasy, though, if it has nonexisting peoples in the Viking era. Never mind magic and dragons.

I'm writing a novel where there are two invented human cultures and largely nonexisting plants and animals on a planet similar to Earth. The stand of technology is around real world AD 1900. I've always thought of it as science fiction, because in spite of everything the planet is not Earth.
 

Gamer_2k4

WF Veterans
I'm intrigued by your novel idea. It's like a mix of historical fiction and fantasy, but without any fantastical elements, huh? What is the main draw of it? Surely there must be something that is unique to your world, which is usually fantastical in nature. I would say it's a bit like low fantasy, but then even that requires some degree of fantastical elements....

The setting is just something I found appealing; it by itself won't drive the story. The draw of the novel is (hopefully) going to be the story itself - the initial conflict and the character/plot development that occurs as a result. But, it's the sort of story that wouldn't work in a world of computers and airplanes, which is why the technology level is what it is and the people are who they are.

Could it be "alternative history"? I'd call it fantasy, though, if it has nonexisting peoples in the Viking era. Never mind magic and dragons.

I'm writing a novel where there are two invented human cultures and largely nonexisting plants and animals on a planet similar to Earth. The stand of technology is around real world AD 1900. I've always thought of it as science fiction, because in spite of everything the planet is not Earth.

I know different people have different definitions of what makes something science fiction, but for me, personally, it's whether or not the story could exist without advanced technology somewhere along the line. My second completed novel COULD have been fantasy - half the story is "mundane," and the other half has elements that, due to the protagonists' unfamiliarity with them, could be considered magical. But it's just advanced technology, so I consider it science fiction.
 

bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
I say it's still fantasy. As I recall, Legend by David Gemmell is sort of like this. I don't think there is much by way of non-humans or magic. But it's absolutely a key part of the fantasy canon. Even Name of the Wind has quite a thinned-out magic system, which seemed similar to some religious beliefs, and only one wild beasty type thing iirc.
 
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