I admit, I am a bit obsessed with categorizations. I love learning about new sub-genres in fiction, and seeing different flavors of fantasy, sci-fi and horror pop up over the years. Sci-fi for example, has gone from planetary romance a la John Carter, to the space opera of Flash Gordon, Isaac Asimov’s hard sci-fi, William Gibson’s cyberpunk, and the new wave of self and trad pub military space opera.
Fantasy too, is going through some very cool changes. What used to be a fairly straightforward genre of elves, dwarves and drow is rapidly ballooning into several unique and interesting sub-genres. And one of my all-time favorite fantasy subgenre, the subgenre that I personally write in…doesn’t have a name. You can look for it on Worlds Without End, but it’s not on there. And thus, in lieu of finding a genre category that these stories fit, I decided to name my own. North American Fantasy, or “Northam” for short.
“But hey!” I hear you say…”Isn’t that just Weird Western?” And to that I say no. There’s a lot of difference between the two, and here’s why, as well as my thoughts on this emerging sub-genre. My two cents on that below:
There was a conversation a few weeks ago on a Facebook group I frequent called Grimdark Fiction Readers & Writers. On it, there was a very interesting discussion about what constitutes “grimdark” as a sub-genre. This topic tends to pop up here and there, and after thinking about it for some time, I decided to try and give some categorizations a go.
Grimdark, for those of you who aren’t aware, is a term used to denote settings that are gritty and violent, or have a lingering, visceral sense of dread and horror. It’s different from Gothic Horror (stuff like Dracula) in that there’s not usually a sense of beauty and prose to counterbalance the darkness. Movies like Final Destination or Friday the 13th aren’t grimdark either, because they often have very cheesy acting or so-bad-its-good humor that might be “scary” but lacks the looming dread and grimness of a grimdark piece of media.
In the Genre Giants series, we look at book settings and series old and new, from historic franchises to new series with massive potential! Today, something wicked this way comes. Fantasy’s original dark antihero Elric of Melnibone steps into the spotlight!
“Edgy” is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days, usually in a mocking way. These days, self-aware snark is in, largely thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and cult films like Scott Pilgrim that defined modern millennial culture. It also doesn’t help that the early 2000s were filled with unbearably cringy things attempting to be “dark,” which came across more like the Goth Kids from South Park than today’s subject.
And let’s not beat around the bush here…Elric is really edgy, but in a good way. It is at its core, a critique of the classic Tolkienesque good/evil dichotomy that’s dominated the genre for ages. And it’s thanks in large part to Michael Moorcock’s epic that we have books like A Song of Ice and Fire and Black Company taking up space next to Wheel of Time and Lord of the Rings.
In the Genre Giants series, we look at book settings and series old and new, from historic franchises to series with massive potential! Today we venture forth into the grim and wild world of Hyperborea, and meet its most famous and savage inhabitant….
King, Conqueror, Pirate, Warrior…Barbarian.
Conan is all these things, and a bad-ass character to boot. His world and setting are a rare sort these days, a bronze-age, sword-and-sandal affair. Though less common in the modern fantasy landscape, the Hyperborean world remains iconic and enduring in our pop culture. Games like Conan Exiles and movies like 2011’s Conan the Barbarian (as well as comics, tabletop games, etc) have kept the flame of this seasoned IP alive, even amongst shinier and newer peers like Warcraft and Sanderson’s Cosmere.
I’m a huge lover of all things genre pulp (especially H.P. Lovecraft’s Mythos), and Conan is no exception. It has however, dropped off in popularity recently, as have other sword-and-sorcery fantasy IPs. So I’m here today to try and convince the discerning reader that yes, these shorts are awesome. And here’s why:
Welcome to the Worldbuildbulding Series! This collection of posts discusses the art of SFF world-building, from armor, to culture to creatures. In this installment, we look at the more “cosmic” end of fantasy creature/race design. For those of you who like your fantasy races on the weird and wild side, this guide is for you!
While this might seem like a really weird idea at first, really stop to think about it. While we mostly consider aliens as strictly sci-fi fare, quite a bit of UFO lore focuses on ancient civilizations, and the occult. Psychics, ancient magical technology, and all sorts of crazy and decidedly non-scientific ideas have been associated with aliens for decades now. To a point where I almost think many alien archetypes actually fit better in a fantasy setting.