A Guide to Subgenres in Fantasy Fiction

If you think that fantasy fiction is only about dragons and wizards you'll be in for a shock. The genre of fantasy is, well, fantastically diverse and all encompassing. Fantasy has always  been my favourite literary genre as it's one that's not hemmed in by reality. You can create a whole new world with new creatures and generally turn everything upside down, left and right, and back again. The fantasy writer has the greatest power to create.

Fantasy differs to its cousin genres of Horror and Science Fiction with it's absence of dark and scientific themes. Though they can and do quite often overlap such as the Alien films, with great effect.

There's so many sub genres within fantasy fiction. Some of these I've never heard of before but can't wait to explore them all.

Please note this article is a work in progress, this list is impossibly long! So it will take time, so starting at A.......

Alternative Historical Fiction

Also known as alternative reality. Alternative historical fiction can offer a different outcome of real life historical events, or a alternative reality and way of life set in the past.

Notable Authors of Alternative History

Philip K. Dick ~ The Man in the High Castle
Iain M.Banks ~ Transition

For  www.BestScienceFictionBooks.com  top 25 greatest alternative history novels click here

Notable Alternative History Websites

If you're a writer of alternative historical fiction, or would like to know more about it, there's a great website and magazine Alt Hist, http://althistfiction.com

If you would like to submit your short stories to them for consideration, you can do so  at http://althisfiction.com/submissions/

Arthurian Fantasy Fiction

This fantasy fiction subgenre is pretty straightforward and centres around the legends surrounding Camelot, King Arthur and of course, Merlin.

Notable Authors of Arthurian Fantasy Fiction

Marion Zimmer Bradley ~ The Avalon Series - The Mists of Avalon, The Forest House, Lady of Avalon.

The Avalon series is an absolute triumph and really defines the genre. It is compelling and told through the perspective of the female characters of the Arthurian Legends such as Morgan le Fey and the lady in the lake.

Mary Stewart ~ The Merlin Trilogy

This is a brilliant series which is technically a quintet if you include The Wicked Day and The Prince and the Pilgrim.
The first three novels, The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills and The Last Enchantment retell the legend from the perspective of Merlin, from his early childhood to adulthood.

Celtic Fantasy Fiction

Celtic fantasy fiction often features customs, folklore of the ancient race of celtic people who hailed from the British Isles such as Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Cornwall.

Notable Authors of Celtic Fantasy Fiction

Juliet Marillier -  An incredibly accomplished author who has written numerous books but a good place to start is The Sevenwaters Series, Daughter of the Forest, Son of the Shadows, Child of the Prophecy, Heir to Sevenwaters, Seer of Sevenwaters, Flame of Sevenwaters.

These are a series of novels set in 9th century Ireland and Britain as well as the people of the Otherworld.

To see a list of the top 20 Celtic fantasy novels as complied by www.bestfantasybooks.com click here

Notable Celtic fantasy fiction websites

Lisa.L.Spangenberg is a digital medievalist and has a fantastic website dedicated to all things Celtic. This is an incredible resource for writers of this genre and also very interesting for those who like me are fascinated by anything Celtic.

Click on the link below for book recommendations from her site


Contemporary Fantasy Fiction

Contemporary fantasy fiction is where magic and magical creatures secretly exists in our world. It differs to the horror genre as it is usually uplifting rahter than foreboding.

Notable Authors of Contemporary Fantasy Fiction

P.L.Travers - Mary Poppins
J.K.Rowling - Harry Potter
Stephenie Meyer - Twilight Series
Cassandra Clare - The Mortal Instruments

Dark Fantasy Fiction

Dark fantasy fiction is very similar to horror but will possess elements of fantasy.

Notable Authors of Dark Fantasy fiction

Mark Lawrence - The Broken Empire Trilogy - Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns, Emperor of Thorns.

This is an amazing trilogy. Dark fantasy at its darkest and not one for the fainthearted or very easily offended. Let's just say you wouldn't buy this for your Nan.

Anne Bishop - The Black Jewels Trilogy - Daughter of the Blood, Heir to the Shadows, Queen of the Darkness.

Also described as feminist fantasy fiction and centres around a powerful witch Queen who must defend her throne and herself.

Notable Dark Fantasy Fiction Websites

There's simply too many to list here, if you're a writer of dark fantasy and would like to submit your work head over to here for a huge list of magazines seeking your stories.


A fable is a tale where there is a strong moral. They usually feature animals, mythical creatures that have human like qualities such as the ability to speak.

Notable Authors of Fables

Aesop - Aesop's Fables, author of The Tortoise and the Hare
George Orwell - Animal Farm

Fairy Tales

These are sometimes very old tales that draw upon ancient folklore and legends. They usually contain elements of magic fantasy characters such as fairies, witches, goblins, giants, elves and mermaids.

Notable Authors of Fairy Tales

Brothers Grimm - Fairy Tales.

Traditionally these tales have been passed down through generations via word of mouth which is what makes them so special however the brother Grimm set about collecting these stories which they published. The tales include Hansel and Gretal, Snow White, Cinderella, Rapunzel and Rumpelstiltskin.

Hans Christian Andersen - Fairy Tales

Hans Christian Andersen wrote his fairy tales but they do draw upon old European folkore and legends, his book contains some very well known tales such as The Little Mermaid, The Red Shoes, The Emperor's New Clothes and Thimbelina

Gaslamp Fantasy Fiction

This is a subgenre of fantasy fiction that has a Victorian or Edwardian setting. Gaslamp is different to steampunk fantasy which combines the modern age with the past. The term was coined in 2006 by Kaja Foglio author of comic series, Girl Genius

Notable authors of Gaslamp fantasy fiction

Kaja Foglio - Girl Genius series
Phillip Pullman - His Dark Materials Trilogy
Susanna Clarke - Jonathan Strange & Mr Strange, you can read my book review here

Grimdark Fantasy Fiction

This is a subgenre of fantasy fiction where the theme is dark and usually features a  lot of violence and lack of morals. It is a moving away of traditional fantasy works which depict medieval life as quaint to how it really was; brutal and unforgiving.

Notable Grimdark Authors

George R.R.Martin - The Game of Thrones series
Joe Abercrombie - The First Law

Notable Grimdark fiction magazines


Grimdark Magazine is dedicated to all grimdark fiction, films games and everything in between. They are also looking for your short stories.

Heroic Fantasy Fiction

Heroic fantasy fiction, as you may have already guessed features tales involving a hero, usually on a quest.

Notable Heroic Fantasy Authors

Raymond E. Feist - Magician
Tad Williams - The Dragonbone Chair

Notable Heroic Fantasy Magazines


This is an online magazine that is dedicated to the cause of bringing back the golden age of storytelling by promoting short works of heroic fantasy.

High Fantasy Fiction

The sub genre of high fantasy fiction is pretty much owned by J.R.R.Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. High fantasy fiction is almost always set in an alternative world and was first coined by Lloyd Alexander in his 1971 essay, "High Fantasy and Heroic Romance." High fantasy fiction usually has underlying themes of good vs evil. There's sure to be magic elements and lots of mythical creatures thrown in for good measure.

Notable High Fantasy Authors

J.R.R.Tolkien - The Lord of the Rings
C.S.Lewis - The Chronicles of Narnia

Notable High FantasyMagazines


A brilliant website that features all things dedicated to fantasy, science fiction and horror.


This is an online magazine that features the very best in fantasy and science fiction short stories

Historical Fantasy Fiction

This is a branch of fantasy fiction that is set in this world but within a specific time period and will usually incorporate magical elements. This is a very broad genre that often crosses into other fantasy genres such as Celtic fantasy fiction, alternative historical fantasy.

Notable Historical Fantasy Authors

Diana Gabaldon - Outlander
Deborah Harkness - A Discovery of Witches

Lovecraftian Fantasy Fiction

Not many authors can boast of having a subgenre named after them in honour of their work. As yu may have guessed this is named after H.P.Lovecraft who tragically rose to literary fame posthumously. This subgenre strongly overlaps with horror and draws upon the psychological fear of the unknown. This genre also feature strnage creatures strange worlds with dark despairing undertones.

Notable Lovecraftian Authors


Notable Lovecraftian Magazines


A site dedicated to all things H.P.Lovecraft.

Medieval Fantasy Fiction

This subgenre apart from being set in medieval times is also usually heavily dominated with witches, wizards, dragons and knights.

Notable Medieval Fantasy Authors

Tamora Pierce - Alanna: The First Adventure
Brent Weeks - The Way of Shadows

Slipstream Fantasy Fiction

This is best described as non-realistic fiction and the term was first coined by author Bruce Sterling. It is described as "the fiction of strangeness." This particular genre borrows from other genres including science fiction and fantasy.

Notable Slipstream Authors

David Mitchell - Cloud Atlas
Neil Gaiman - Neverwhere

Steampunk Fantasy Fiction

Steampunk fantasy fiction is often set in Victorian era England where steam power is widely used technology. Hmmm I'm also a bit confused on what steampunk is. This genre also overlaos with science fiction elements.

Notable Steampunk Authors

Gail Carriger - Soulless
Scott Westerfield - Leviathan

Urban Fantasy Fiction

These are fantasy stories set in a modern urban environment.

Notable Urban Fantasy Authors

Jim Butcher - The Dresden Files
Patricia Briggs - Mercy Thompson

About the Author

S.J.Budd is a writer of all things weird and creepy. Previously her tales have been featured on Deandman's Tome,  Sanitarium Magazine, Dark Gothic Resurrected, Liquid Imagination, Aphotic Realm, Aurora Wolf, Aphelion, Blood Moon Rising Magazine, The Wild Hunt, Danse Macabre, Shadows at the Door, Inner Sins, Bewildering Stories, Siren's Call and many more.
She lives at www.sjbudd.co.uk  and  @sjbuddj 
Spells and Persuasions, her debut collection of short stories of horror and dark fantasy is available now in paperback and kindle from Amazon


Popular posts from this blog

The Stone Road by G.R.Matthews

Reluctant Immortals by Gwendolyn Kiste

Terror Forming by P.A.Sheppard