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).