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I think I'm confused-What is considered Fantasy?

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Ok, I think I'm confused. I consider myself really good at looking at a publisher's site to see what they publish and if my manuscript would be appropriate. I've seen a couple that don't accept Fantasy, so I sent my picture book because I didn't think it was Fantasy. I always thought Fantasy was a genre that included mystical, magical places and stories line. Something like Lord of the Rings. Am I wrong?

Is Fantasy really just anything that is not feasible in the real world like a talking cookie?

#1 - January 10, 2008, 05:33 PM
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Talking cookies (consider the Ginger Bread Man) are fantasy. If you have a rational, scientific explanation for that cookie talking, then it might be science fiction. If your cookie is speaking because it is the possessed by the haunting soul of the woman who used to own the oven in which it was made, then it would be horror. There are many sub-species of the fantastic, but if any natural law of the universe is broken in your book, then it is a fantasy.

#2 - January 10, 2008, 05:54 PM

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Fantasy can be more than "Lord of the Rings" type stories...they can be set in the here and now, but have other paranormal elements (ex. urban fantasy is one type) or in a real historical period but with fantastical elements (historical fantasy)'s a broad genre.   :)
#3 - January 10, 2008, 05:55 PM
The Leland Sisters series: Courtship and Curses, Bewitching Season, Betraying Season (Holt BYR/Macmillan)

Thanks so much for the clarification. That's a great way to describe it and I'm clear now.  :bangbreak
#4 - January 10, 2008, 07:50 PM
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Thanks for the concise explanation Blythe.  I too had been wondering where to draw the line between sci-fi and fantasy.
#5 - January 10, 2008, 11:55 PM

Great explanation that is very clear and helpful, but now I want cookies! Maybe M&Ms doing the wave will do.

#6 - January 11, 2008, 09:51 AM


Now, see, I *wouldn't* consider a pb with a talking cookie as the narrator fantasy, if that's the only thing that sets it apart from real life.  Sandra Boynton's MONSTERS SAY GOODNIGHT?  Not really fantasy.  I don't know how you *would* label all those stories for wee little kids that have inanimate objects or anthropomorphised animals in them, but to me, that's not enough to make a story fantasy.  For example, I don't consider THE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIANS by Dodie Smith to be fantasy--it's a mainstream/adventure novel from the POV of dogs.  That's all.  MRS. FRISBY AND THE RATS OF N.I.M.H. is science fiction--but because of the experiments done at N.I.M.H. and their effect on the rats and mice... NOT because the book is from the POV of rats and mice.

David Petersen's MOUSE GUARD graphic novels, though--absolutely fantasy, but because of the themes and the storyline, not because they're about mice.

So Mermaid, I'm with you: that would have confused me, too.
#7 - January 11, 2008, 02:03 PM


Me three.
I understand the explanation, but I've certainly never considered PBs like that to be fantasy.
#8 - January 11, 2008, 03:38 PM


Quick and dirty explanations are always limited, but another thing to consider is this:

When a house that publishes picture books specifies that it isn't interested in "fantasy" it may mean that they don't consider personification or anthropomorphism. That means they aren't interested in rabbits with clothes on, and they aren't interested in talking cars (or other inanimate objects) either.

The reason for this isn't necessarily prejudicial. It's just hard to compete with the geniuses who have already put clothes on rabbits to such good effect. Ditto talking teapots.

#9 - January 11, 2008, 06:50 PM

That is pretty much what happened. I e-mailed a submission to a publisher whose website clearly said they didn't want fantasy. I didn't consider my PB a fantasy, so I submitted it. I got an extremely nice rejection back with more of an explanation of what they were looking for. Like ECB, I don't consider something like 101 Dalmations a fantasy story. The editor's explanation was that they were interested in something more like creative non-ficiton. The story had to be plausible in the real world. That got me thinking, then I got confused about the definition of fantasy.   :stars
#10 - January 11, 2008, 07:15 PM
Unraveled, Evernight Teen, Spring 2013
Uncovered, Evernight Teen, Aug 2014

Quick and dirty explanations are always limited

I liked your first explanation (very helpful since I was wondering if my WIP was sci-fi or fantasy), so I guess this means I like things quick and dirty.   :shock :-X
#11 - January 12, 2008, 01:07 PM


It's interesting that you say a publisher didn't want a PB fantasy. I have to admit that I usually assume "no fantasy or science fiction" in a publisher's guidelines to be more aimed at the upper age groups, MG and YA, since so many pb's are exaggerated and/ or have talking animal characters. I've also developed that bias partly from looking at the list of picture books that the publisher has sold, and in many cases that includes stories that seem to fit into a "fantastic" category, if not pure fantasy. So interesting to hear your feedback from the editor that it was intended to cover the spectrum...
#12 - January 14, 2008, 05:17 AM

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I define fantasy as anything that can not happen in the real world.  If the story is about things that can't happen yet, but can happen with new invention, then the fantasy is science fiction.  If there are predominantly talking animals then it becomes animal fantasy.  High-fantasy takes place in a completely imagined world.  Realistic fantasy takes place in this world but something "fantastic" happens to the characters.  You can continue to narrow it down into different categories.  I actually just read a cross between a high-fantasy and sports fiction called Blood Bowl by Matt Forbeck which takes fantasy down a completely different path.

There is a great article on fantasy called Beyond the Wizards Wand.  Here is the link:

Hope that helps,
#13 - January 14, 2008, 06:22 AM
Stacy Barnett Mozer
NE-SCBWI Critique Group Coordinator


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