Friday, April 8, 2011


I get this question about fantasy all the time.

What is the difference between paranormal romance, urban fantasy, steam punk, science fantasy, dark fantasy, fairytale fantasy, historical fantasy, high fantasy, contemporary fantasy?

Paranormal romance: Is a sub genre of romance. PR blends together reality with fantasy, science or horror.

Urban fantasy: A fantasy set in a urban place like a city. Instead of your heroes climbing mountains and trudging through swamps they may leap off of buildings or hide in the sewer by day.

Steam punk: Think cyber punk. This is a sub genre of Sci/Fi and often has alternate histories. Steam punk often has machines that Victorians may have envisioned as being futuristic. Often the machines are stream powered.

Science fantasy: This is not science fiction. In a Sci/Fi you have astronauts go into space and explore mars. They find an alien culture and a plot to take over earth. In a Science Fantasy you have elves go up in a space ship and explore mars. They find long lost relatives and are reunited with their Elvin kin. As Rod Serling, says "science fiction makes the implausible possible, while science fantasy makes the impossible plausible.

Dark fantasy: Think horror meets fantasy. Humans often your main character is threatened by someone or something with supernatural powers (i.e. vampires, trolls, brain eating zombies, etc.)

Fairytale fantasy: Folklore where something magical happens. Like a witch cast a sleeping spell that can only be broken by love’s first kiss. There are thousands of spin off that also fall under this category.

Historical fantasy: What I write!!!! This is a mix of Fantasy and Historical Fiction. Think fantasy with a historical backdrop.

High fantasy: A fantasy set in another world or parallel universe like “Middle Earth” from Lord of the Rings.

Contemporary fantasy: Fantasy set in the real world and in modern times.

For more fantasy genres visit:


  1. I find your post very compelling and this one was no exception,
    It's lovely to sit down and totally relax whilst reading.


  2. I am so glad you got UF and PR correct! :) I hate when people confuse those!

    You did a great job all the way around. :)

  3. Hmmm, never really thought about this before. I just love reading Fantasy, all kinds. Thanks for the information and have a nice week-end.

  4. Thanks for the information, I have been wondering lately about PR. In my day it was just horror - but you didn't try to work out your relationship problems with the monster trying to eat you. Good lesson that genres are salient and not rigid terms, perhaps we're approaching a post-genre era as the elements merge.
    Wagging Tales - Blog for Writers

  5. Thanks for explaining these so clearly!

  6. That's a good breakdown. I still think of paranormal as more horror though.

  7. Finally.

    I am glad to see Contemporary Fantasy, my drug of choice, in your line-up.

    I've seen CF, UF, and paranormal lumped together and sometimes they are indistinguishable.
    Agents don't usually list contemporary. Instead, they ask for urban.

  8. very informative and clearly written
    thank you

  9. I've always been confused between diferent genres. Thanks for clearing som cobwebs away.

  10. This is a really useful and informative list. Thank you. :)

  11. The subgenres do get confusing. Many of them overlap some. Nice definitions.

  12. I've heard these sub genres mentioned on blogs before, but I had no idea what some of them were. Thanks for clearing it up.

  13. How cool! Thanks for listing the differences between these genres. I wrote about "Genres" also for the A to Z challenge but it was on different genres of film among video game adaptations.

    The Madlab Post

  14. Nice breakdown. I only covered the main genres in mine. Lol. And you mentioned my own writing choice, paranormal romance. :D

  15. Great explanation of the different genres. Personally, I love the high fantasy. :D

  16. I think I like the urban fantasy :-)


Share |