Thursday, October 13, 2005

WTF is "hard fantasy"?

Just when I thought I'd heard it all...

6 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Sort of like hard Bop w/o the groove. [See: Art Blakey]. I suspect though it's just a description that includes more 'adult themes' as in even more sex and violence. I think you're already there, (leading the trends already). I hope and pray that it does not mean more of this Anime crap about the dismembered teeny boppers with all the blood and guts spilling out all over the damn place. Not much lit in that, right? Cheers & Good Luck, 'VJ' 

Posted by VJ

Patrick said...

Huh, I was actually coming at it from a different angle. I assumed that "Hard Fantasy" was like "Hard SF" (as opposed to Soft SF or Social SF or Space Opera) in that Hard Fantasy let you get under the hood and figure out the rules of how the magic worked to a greater degree, stripping away a lot of the sense of wonder but giving you a better understanding of what it could and couldn't do.

For example, I'd argue that Tolkien, Goodkind, and Eddings write Soft Fantasy -- magic can't do ANYTHING, but what it can do is pretty heavily dependent upon the needs of the plot. What rules there are are fairly simple, and you couldn't really extrapolate what someone could or couldn't do with the magic. Maybe everything, maybe nothing. This isn't good or bad in and of itself -- done well, it creates a sense of wonder and a really strong magical feel. Done badly, it's clear that the author is using magic to drag a weak plot along.

On the other hand, folks like Modessit and Jordan explain enough of the rules of their magic that after awhile it's no more sense-of-wonder inspiring than a laser pistol or starship sensor. It does cool stuff, and the cool stuff might be awe-inspiring, but it could just as well be a renaissance-tech-level world with psychic powers and mutations coming from radiation -- historical science fiction rather than fantasy, given the extent to which the rules of what it can and can't do are clearly laid out. Again, this could be good, or it could be bad. It depends on what the author does with it.

That's the definition I thought of, anyway.


Posted by Patrick

Meghan said...

Yeah, generally the whole point of the thread is we have no idea either. 

Posted by Meghan

Kameron Hurley said...

Totally. It's a really interesting thread, cause I'd never seen the term before. Like, ever.

Patrick - you'd seen this term before? 

Posted by Kameron Hurley

Patrick said...

Er, no. Well, yes.

I sort of thought I'd come up with it myself.

But since I'm not famous, and since I doubt any memes I've memed have been memeographed out to the masses, it could just be somebody else making the same logical leap I did (Hard SF = SF in which you explain the science really well, so Hard Fantasy = Fantasy in which you explain the magic really well).

Or they could mean something totally different. It could, as VJ suggested, mean EXTREME fantasy, with grittiness and swearing and dirt and unlikeable characters!!!

Or it could mean something totally different.


Posted by Patrick

Anonymous said...

and again... WTF ??? 

Posted by kramer