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Old 12th January 2012, 09:06 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Low Fantasy

I'm under the impression there's a subgenre called "low fantasy" where you have your classic ancient/mediaeval-style world, but the use of magic is very limited - as opposed to "high fantasy" where magic drives everything.

So far Guy Gavriel Kay's works seem to fit this bill.

However, am looking out for suggestions of anything else that might fit this, too.
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Old 12th January 2012, 09:13 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Low Fantasy

Quote:
Originally Posted by I, Brian View Post
I'm under the impression there's a subgenre called "low fantasy" where you have your classic ancient/mediaeval-style world, but the use of magic is very limited - as opposed to "high fantasy" where magic drives everything.

So far Guy Gavriel Kay's works seem to fit this bill.

However, am looking out for suggestions of anything else that might fit this, too.
Fletcher Pratt's The Well of the Unicorn, if my memories from reading it so long ago are correct, would fit the bill, although I don't remember ever seeing it referred to as a work of "low fantasy."

Btw, it was paperbacked by Lancer in the Sixties as being "Tolkienian."

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Old 12th January 2012, 09:18 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Low Fantasy

Would Indian in the Cupboard count? I am useless when it comes to fantasy sub-genres.
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Old 12th January 2012, 09:20 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Low Fantasy

Ellen Kushner's Riverside books (Swordspoint, The Privilege of the Sword) are low fantasy, in fact they have no magic at all!

The first book in my own trilogy is pretty low fantasy as well - there's some magic going on, but most of what the characters think is magic is actually fairly advanced technology
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Old 13th January 2012, 01:41 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Low Fantasy

Pretty much anything by K.J.Parker. Magic has a very low profile in her books.
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Old 13th January 2012, 01:55 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Low Fantasy

Or his. The jury is still out
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Old 13th January 2012, 02:01 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Low Fantasy

Hi,

I wasn't aware that there was such a genre. I thought, and I could well be wrong, that high fantasy was the Tolkein style stuff. Elves, dwarves, magic and epic quests. So logically low fantasy would be the fantasy that doesn't take this road. But equally this could be traditional fantasy and non-traditional.

Cheers, Greg.
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Old 13th January 2012, 02:40 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Low Fantasy

Wikipedia says low fantasy is fantasy that involves the real world.

It also said Indian in the Cupboard was an example, so I guess that answers Anya's question.
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Old 13th January 2012, 05:29 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: Low Fantasy

Low fantasy is just not my thing. If the magic/fantasy aspects of the story don't drive the plot I don't see the point.
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Old 13th January 2012, 05:39 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Re: Low Fantasy

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Originally Posted by Moggle View Post
If the magic/fantasy aspects of the story don't drive the plot I don't see the point.
Even in low fantasy, it's very likely that what magic there is will drive the plot. If it didn't, I agree, it would be a bit pointless it being a fantasy.
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Old 13th January 2012, 07:10 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Re: Low Fantasy

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Low fantasy is just not my thing. If the magic/fantasy aspects of the story don't drive the plot I don't see the point.
Some writers are drawn to fantasy because it allows them to play at worldbuilding pre-industrial cultures similar to historical ones but not constrained by historical reality. A story like that doesn't need magic. The first volume of A Song of Ice and Fire has practically no overt magic in it*, and it's one of the most popular fantasy books of the last couple of decades.

I get that it isn't everyone's cup of tea, but as someone who grew up on soft SF I actually prefer low fantasy to the fireballs'n'dragons school of high fantasy - which is one of the reasons I've delayed reading the rest of ASOIAF

* Except the prologue and the last few chapters
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Old 13th January 2012, 07:19 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Re: Low Fantasy

I agree with Anne.

I clicked on this thread thinking that low fantasy would be about people who weren't mighty nobles doing stuff that didn't involve saving/conquering the world, but if it just means "not much magic" then I'm happy with that. After all, not every crime drama includes machine guns, and it doesn't have to in order to be good.
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Old 13th January 2012, 07:41 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Re: Low Fantasy

Quote:
Originally Posted by I, Brian View Post
I'm under the impression there's a subgenre called "low fantasy" where you have your classic ancient/mediaeval-style world, but the use of magic is very limited - as opposed to "high fantasy" where magic drives everything.

Man, and I was hoping for some kind of Tolkien-meets-Bukowski kind of thing.

Going by your definition, have you checked out Iain M. Banks' Inversions. Absolutely no magic in that one. Sort of. But the 'magic' isn't really magic...
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Old 13th January 2012, 08:59 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Re: Low Fantasy

Aye, I agree with Miss Lyle as well.

Incidentally, Miss Lyle, what sort of tech level does your first book have?
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Old 13th January 2012, 09:23 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Re: Low Fantasy

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Originally Posted by thaddeus6th View Post
Aye, I agree with Miss Lyle as well.

Incidentally, Miss Lyle, what sort of tech level does your first book have?
That's Mrs Lyle to you, sonny!

The humans have the level of technology you'd expect for the late 16th century. The skraylings have an aptitude for chemistry and pharmacology that gives them some highly advanced technology such as chemoluminescents, but in other respects they are at a similar tech level to the most advanced Native American civilisations who are their neighbours (basically Neolithic verging on Bronze Age). I was partially inspired in this by the Ancient Egyptians, who had some surprisingly sophisticated skills (faking precious metals and gems) early in the Bronze Age.

I admit there's a certain amount of handwaving on the tech side - but that's one of the reasons it's fantasy, not SF. I try to make it believable but I don't poke into the scientific detail too much. I'm writing for fun!
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