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Books and Reading: Fantasy Fiction

An exploration of the fantasy fiction genre past, present and future. Enjoy!

The Northfield Public Library

Fantasy Fiction Characteristics

"The core of fantasy is about creating an ideal world in which a reader can explore and adventure with their heroes".


The origins of fantasy fiction predate that of science fiction to a time when people viewed the natural world as confusing and frightening.  Myths, folktales, and stories featuring fairies, goblins, and other such folk are some of the oldest works of fantasy. Fantasy fiction frequently takes a familiar story, legend, or myth and adds a twist such that it presents a new way of looking at things that bring life to it again.

Characteristics of fantasy fiction

1.       Embraces the basic assumption that magic exists in whatever world the author has decided to set the story.  The magic is mysterious and not      explained.

2.       Is based on a storyline that draws on everyday fears.

3.       Has a romantic tone.

4.       Takes an intuitive approach to the world.

5.       Creates worlds that most people believe could never be and deals with an otherness of time and place.  These environments and their histories are dependent upon magic

6.       Creates specific landscapes that require the author to skillfully create a magical world populated by characters readers can relate to.

7.       Consists of realms and creatures that are larger than life, and not of this world.

Areas of enduring interest

Works of the big three in fantasy literature including L. Frank Baum, C.S. Lewis and, J.R.R. Tolkien.  The Northfield Library will endeavor to provide access to their signature works.

Fantasy fiction subgenres are all of enduring interest.  The Northfield Library endeavors to will maintain a collection that provides representative works from all these subgenres, including:

1.       Arthurian Legend

2.       Classic fantasy ( Books that have literary merit and continued popularity)

3.       Crossing over to the other side

4.       Dark fantasy

5.       Demons (Urban fantasy)

6.       Cats, elves, dragons and mythological beasts

7.       Dungeons and dragons

8.       Epic fantasy

9.       Fairy tales

10.   General fantasy

11.   Legends and myths

12.   Historical fantasy

13.   Magic and music

14.   Quest fantasy

15.   Sword and sorcery

16.   Vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and zombies (Urban fantasy)

Current issues

Fantasy writers are co-opting other genres to create fantasy genre “mashups”.  These genre blenders combine fantasy with hard-boiled detective stories, murder mysteries, erotica, inspirational fiction, westerns, historical fiction, and science fiction space opera, among others. Steampunk is a fantasy subgenre which melds Victorian history and fantasy and is representative of an increased interest by fantasy readers for historical novels with a fantasy element.

Hot topic:  Urban fantasy is a sub-genre of fantasy defined by an urban setting. . Many urban fantasies are set in contemporary times and contain supernatural elements.  These stories can take place in historical, modern, or futuristic periods, as well as fictional settings. The prerequisite is that they must be primarily set in a city.


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