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Supernatural vs. Fantasy
Alex Hollingshead
Posted: Monday, May 9, 2011 3:30 AM
Joined: 5/2/2011
Posts: 61


For definition's sake. Supernatural stories tend towards vampires, werewolves, ghosts, mindless zombies, etc. Fantasy stories tend towards elves, faeries, dragons, intelligent undead, etc. How do you feel about stories that mix and match these elements? Some urban fantasy I've read has a few vampires and a few elves intermingling. Rarer, but not unheard of, is the high fantasy with a zombie apocalypse or a werewolf howling at the moon.

The two have sort of been put into their own categories. The supernatural became the topic of horror, and only recently (Anne Rice, perhaps?) have they moved towards something more fantastic, with action heroines and a little romance. But they still aren't likely to be found in Mordor. What are your thoughts on mixing and matching the 'fantastic' and the 'supernatural' in both Earth settings and otherworld ones?

LeeAnna Holt
Posted: Monday, May 9, 2011 7:58 PM
Joined: 4/30/2011
Posts: 662


I agree with Mr. Cross. When mixing the elements together it must be done well. Things can go horribly wrong if you have vampire elves wielding chainsaws. (That actually sounds like a bad B movie). Blending such defined mythos together must be done with a deft hand. The elements of the supernatural and fantasy are meant to exist together, but it depends on how its presented.
Mike R
Posted: Tuesday, May 10, 2011 12:45 AM
Joined: 4/27/2011
Posts: 6


Genres get blended all the time. Someone, somewhere wrote the first paranormal romance, now there are RWA chapters devoted to it. Genres have sub-genres and of course you have cross-genres and genres with elements of other genres and...

If it occurs to you, write it. Some will love it while others hate it.

I have no problem with supernatural fantasy or any sub-genre thereof. I just want to be entertained; that's why I read.
Alex Hollingshead
Posted: Tuesday, May 10, 2011 1:00 AM
Joined: 5/2/2011
Posts: 61


@Ted, yes, it was much more common before supernatural fiction really became a 'thing', but as I don't have a tardis, I am mostly concerned with more modern works and how people, in general, feel about it - mostly for marketing purposes. Harry Potter is a great example of it on Earth, sometimes it is easy to forget how much Rowling really brings into her world. Any more modern (than Tolkien, anyway) examples you can think of that take place in another world?

@LeeAnna, Vampire elves with chainsaws? I'd read it. Well, no, probably not. But I would watch it. I love B movies.

@Mike, I write New Weird, so I know plenty about cross-genres. I've already got vampires and werewolves in my story, so I'm not particularly concerned about that. I just want to see how others feel.

I guess I can expand on it a little to get a better idea of what I am looking for. Would you read a story about a vampire or werewolf or even a zombie that ISN'T necessarily a horror story? Or, contrarily, would you read a story about an elf or a dragon that IS a horror story (at least before it is a fantasy story)? And do you consider certain creatures strictly otherworldly, or strictly Earthbound?
LeeAnna Holt
Posted: Tuesday, May 10, 2011 1:16 AM
Joined: 4/30/2011
Posts: 662


@Alex - glad you would watch a B movie about vampire elves with chainsaws. Maybe I can make a living off of bad horror films.

Reading your clarification, thats a a hard question. I could see where a good writer could write a non-horror story that involves werewolves, vampires, or zombies, but it would take some work. Vampires and werewolves would be easier than zombies that is for certain, especially if one were to look into the roots of where the myths come from and the diseases involved. You could get relatively emotional without romance. It is something I hope to do with my work in the future. Maybe I'll try doing a zombie one that isn't horror or horror-comedy.

As for making a fantasy creature like an elf or dragon horror, that would be a mighty feat for anyone who is fluent in the horror genre (I am not, but I am familiar with it). Many aspects of the horror genre would have to override the fantasy aspects. A dragon would be a terrifying thing. The closest I have seen would have to be the film Reign of Fire which places dragons in a more post-apocalyptic element than fantasy. If anyone herd elves and horror, they would most likely think of a bad Christmas movie. Horror and fantasy elements, to a modern audience, just continually makes me think of a bad, Saturday night SyFy network, made for TV movie. I don't know why. I mean, I use some horror elements in my fantasy (I got vampires!) but not to a large extent. Fantasy into horror doesn't seem to meld as smoothly, if you catch my drift.

If anyone can think of such a thing, now I would like to know.
Velveteclipse
Posted: Tuesday, May 10, 2011 2:14 AM
Joined: 4/29/2011
Posts: 4


Jim Butcher has dragons and fairies in the Dresden files. In a lot of the Urban fantasy I have seen fairies right along with vampires and werewolves.

If written well i can see dragons and fairies being really scary. Dragons in D&D have fear factor for a reason. Originally most fairies were dark and frightening. People gave them gifts to appease them.

Imagine a town on the brink of panic. People have been snatched from their homes without a trace left behind.The monster is a demon of a vampire, it's a dragon masquerading as a human. It's shape shifting ability allows it to change into whomever it wants. If written well this could be just as scary as many vampire horrors.
Robert C Roman
Posted: Tuesday, May 10, 2011 11:47 AM
Joined: 3/12/2011
Posts: 383


@Alex - examples I've read:

UF / PR in a modern, earth setting with Horror / Supernatural and Fantasy elements, including using Fae as horrific elements - Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series.

UF / PR in a post-disaster earth setting with Horror / Supernatural and Fantasy elements, this time using Sidhe as mythical and otherworldly - Kim Harrison's Rachel Morgan series.

And to go the OTHER way, fantasy elements used like most people use horror tropes, all set *inside a military fiction novel*, Mary Gentle's "Grunts". The 'Chainsaw Weilding Vampire Elf' brought that one to mind. If I recall correctly, there are chainsaws, zombies, elves, huey helicopters and machine guns all in one scene, and the novel isn't set on Earth.

Honestly, now I'm tempted to WRITE a chainsaw weilding vampire elf. I'm already in the middle of a rewrite of a pocket picking werecamel stripper who fights demons. Did I really *need* a chainsaw weilding vampire elf? I think not. My muses hate me.
Joe Selby
Posted: Tuesday, May 10, 2011 4:01 PM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 30


The proposition goes a little astray because you compare a genre with a subgenre. It would be better to compare supernatural to contemporary fantasy or urban fantasy, where those lines blend. But at the same time, subgenre lines can blend because they're a subset of a larger style of writing. It really only matters when you're trying to sell your idea to someone that likes a particular subset (or for placement in a bookstore if they divide to that level degree).

I consider supernatural a subgenre of fantasy. You could also call it contemporary fantasy or urban fantasy and get away with it, though sticklers might challenge you on the latter. (I probably would. *stickle, stickle, stickle*)
Alex Hollingshead
Posted: Tuesday, May 10, 2011 5:30 PM
Joined: 5/2/2011
Posts: 61


@Joe, I've seen faeries and werewolves in UF mixed and matched enough times to presume most people don't care; as someone who writes high fantasy, though, I am more interested in stories that mix paranormal with high fantasy. I merely bring up urban fantasy because it is a genre where they can be mixed and people don't mind as much, so it almost acts as a bridge.

@Roman, I will have to check "Grunts" out, then. Thanks!
Robert C Roman
Posted: Friday, May 13, 2011 1:47 PM
Joined: 3/12/2011
Posts: 383


@Alex - in case you didn't see me dancing in the streets in the main forum, dropping in here to tell you that your offhand comment about fae inspired a horror short. Posted up here, let me know what you think.
Velveteclipse
Posted: Saturday, May 14, 2011 10:05 AM
Joined: 4/29/2011
Posts: 4


@Alex - For another horror inspired tale, try Faerie Tale by Raymond E. Feist. It may be a little older than what you are looking for, but it's still a great story that puts the dark back into Fae.
Danielle S
Posted: Thursday, May 19, 2011 3:07 PM
Joined: 3/15/2011
Posts: 6


In my personal reading I'm rather a purist when it comes to mixing high fantasy elements with supernatural entities, but I have come to accept it in my editorial life as something here to stay. I completely agree with earlier comments: ultimately whether it works or not is dependent on strong writing. I would add, though, that it's more successful when it is built into the world from the beginning. Adding a vampire character to book four of a series about a family of selkies in Seattle could seem like tossing in the kitchen sink if the possibility of vampires existing hasn't been broached in the first three books. Having a clear understanding going in of how different types of fantastic creatures co-exist in the world you've created will make the transition more natural for the reader.

Also remember, though, that the (fantasy) world is your oyster. To go back to the selkie example, there is no reason why an Irish vampire-like creature, like a tall, broody, handsome Dearg-due, couldn't do the same job as a plain old vampire. (Who cares if they are supposed to be female!) But however you decide to introduce new elements, make sure they feel organic to your world.
 

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