Introduction: Defining High Fantasy
So before I dive into this, let’s begin with a quick and dirty definition of High Fantasy. HF is what we traditionally call to mind when thinking of the fantasy genre altogether. It usually involves an invented fantasy world populated by humans but also fantasy races. The traditional ones are elves, dwarves, halflings (hobbits), dragons, goblins, and some sort of evil adversary that may be just magically twisted versions of a core race or it may be its own thing altogether. There are generally magic users who’re more powerful than anyone else in the world, and either have little involvement in the story as a result or are involved in a minor way so as not to take care of all the main character’s problems at the drop of a hat. The world is usually portrayed as being incredibly old, but technologically underdeveloped compared to modern standards–there’s a lot of pseudo-medieval influence on High Fantasy clothing, talk, and technology.
- I enjoy a lot of traditional fantasy elements from HF such as dragons, elvish communities, and magic wielders
- I’m always down for an unusual spin on the traditional HF world
- when the characters are well written I find them incredibly compelling
- magic systems that are complex or interesting always appeal to me
- I like when the author implies the fantasy world actually sprang out of our own in a weird post-apocalyptic future
- male fantasy authors; you know the type
- a lot of HF stories tend to have super clear cut black and white moral dilemmas that I just don’t agree with
- there’s some racial coding issues in fantasy we shouldn’t be glossing over
- there’s some misogynistic tendencies in fantasy we shouldn’t be glossing over
- there’s some ablest tendencies in fantasy we shouldn’t be glossing over
- (seeing a pattern there?)
- I am very tired of unnecessary rape, coerced marriages, gratuitous torture of women, and all the shit that comes with those
Fantasy has a very special place in my heart. But unfortunately, High Fantasy has long since lost is appeal to me. I generally avoid High Fantasy unless something in particular has called me to a book–such as an author of color, or a unique approach to world building. The rest of the fantasy genre has its issues too, but as a whole High Fantasy has been stuck in a Tolkein-inspired fever dream of strict rules and specific morals. Today it is also partially dominated by the desire to be “the next GRRM” which is a misguided desire at best. I find that the majority of new ideas, interesting storylines, and well written worlds come from outside the parameters of High Fantasy. There are absolutely elements of the subgenre I love to see, and I wish I could just take those things sometimes and give them to another genre.
Do you read High Fanasy novels? If so, let me know in the comments some of the things you love and some of the things you’re frustrated with!