High or Low Fantasy?

by A Jehrum Aranda
(Salt Lake City, USA)

Question: I read a question in this section about the differences between high and low fantasy and it's got me wondering what type of fantasy some novels I have planed to write after my first series of science fiction novels will be. I planed on writing a series that takes place on another world that is later inhabited by humans from Earth and becomes a major player in interstellar human politics in my current science fiction novels. The "fantasy" novels take place before this happens and will be connected to the overall setting, but also be stand-alone stories that don't require the reader to know anything about the science fiction series.


This "fantasy" world is inhabited by humans with medieval like technologies and politics but also something that kind of resembles magic. This "magic", however, follows very distinct and clear rules and has set boundaries that can be understood.

By the four general things that usually mark a high fantasy you mentioned earlier (apparent historical period, supernatural powers, travel between the real word and this world limited or impossible, and supernatural elements accepted as commonplace) it would seam that this story will be high fantasy, but the traditional elements that high fantasy novels usually have are missing. There are no additional sentient races, no talking animals or mythical beasts, the supernatural powers are somewhat tame, and the world itself is pretty realistic and travel to this world is more inconvenient than it is impossible.

So would these novels be classified as high fantasy, or somewhere in between high and low fantasy?

Answer: I hope I mentioned before that there is plenty of grey area between genres (that's sometimes where new genres are born or where stale genres are re-birthed into new vitality).

If the physics on your world are the same as the real universe (i.e. all apparent magic can be explained via science) then I would say you have a planetary romance - which is an adventure story set on another planet, rather like film John Carter, Warlord of Mars, which was based on the novel Princess of Mars.

I would think this is the most likely, if you are to merge this story with your science fiction later. You can't have real magic in a true SF world, because the presence of magic turns it into fantasy.

Of course, you can have advanced technology in a fantasy world, whether it operates on magic or conventional physics. I would classify Star Wars, for instance, as a mixture of fantasy and space opera because, midichlorians aside, the Force is really magic, not science (and because the series does not try to depict our future but a fantasy-galaxy located long ago and far away).

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Jul 09, 2015
The Grey Area
by: Jehrum

I am continually surprised at how quickly you respond to these questions and I am grateful for your input.

Planetary romance seams to fit, although I won't actually make it clear that it's strictly "another planet." There will be some noticeable clues, like there being no moon and instead a large and a small sun. The people in this world, however, think that their world is the only one like it and imagine the universe much like people did thousands of years ago here on Earth. The very idea of "other planets" will be completely foreign to them and the reader will see the world through their eyes as they do.

Also, the magic "can" be explained by science, but I don't actually plan on telling the reader that directly. For all intents and purposes it will be magic to the people in the setting. I will eventually connect it to the science fiction series and it will be explained, but in this series it will appear to be supernatural and seem unexplainable unless the reader pays really close attention. So maybe a fantasy-esque planetary romance? I guess this is where that grey area you mentioned comes into play.

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