SF/F Genre Glossary

This is a continuation of the Science Fiction / Fantasy Genre Glossary Project posts. For the complete genre index click here.

What is Epic Fantasy /  High Fantasy?

This is what most people associate with the term fantasy. Epic fantasy is often used interchangeably with high fantasy, but occasionally used to describe a separate sub-genre. I won’t go into the differences.

Characteristics of Epic Fantasy / High Fantasy

  • Set in a pre-industrial secondary world where magic is real.
  • The scale of the novel is grand: takes place over a long period of time, and involves multiple settings.
  • The stakes are high: failure of the protagonist will result in the death of a nation, the end of the world, or the triumph of evil over good.
  • The enemy is evil incarnate. There is no moral gray area.

Literary Example: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.


Here I’d like to propose a secondary definition:

Epic fantasy can also refer to a multi-volume continuing fantasy series. These series are by nature epic in scope: use multiple points of view, contain complex storylines, take place over long time spans. For example, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time or George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice.

As always, please feel free to add to the discussion!


The Happy Writer

I was recently chatting over Twitter with The Distracted Writer about this.

I think that as writers we’re often the worst judges of our writing. After reading and editing the same piece of work a dozen or so times, it can get tough to determine what’s good or bad, and insecurity can creep in.

I’ve stumbled across so many other writers struggling with the same insecurities, and you know, it’s a relief to know these worries are pretty normal.

I love this graph by Maureen McHugh (who’s written many novels and knows so much more than I do). I think it illustrates the writing process brilliantly.

Stages of novel writing
Stages of novel writing

Because it’s a little hard to read I’ve typed out the stages of the process here:

  1. This is the greatest idea I’ve ever had.
  2. Okay, it’s harder than I thought, but still good.
  3. This is going to take some work.
  4. This sucks and it’s boring.
  5. (Dark night of the soul)
  6. It would be good to finish it because I will learn for the next novel.
  7. Hey, I can at least finish this suckfest in just another 10,000 words.
  8. It’s done and it sucks but it’s not as bad as I thought.

When I’m having a rough time writing a story, I wonder if I’ve finally reached the dark night of the soul. It’s only up from there right?