Entry updated 30 October 2015. Tagged: Theme.
In the Terminology of sf/fantasy readers, this term began in the late 1970s to overtake Sword and Sorcery as the name of the subgenre which we choose – perhaps arbitrarily – to discuss under the latter head. The two terms (which both continue in common but diminished usage) are close but not identical in meaning. However, the nuances that distinguish them differ according to the writer (or blurb-writer) who uses them, though perhaps "Heroic Fantasy" comprehends a greater range of possible fictions. There is probably no argument about the twin poles of Heroic Fantasy (or Sword and Sorcery) being the gentlemanly works of J R R Tolkien and the far-from-gentlemanly works of Robert E Howard, especially his Conan series. Other terms applied both critically and commercially to fantasy have proliferated; they include Adult Fantasy, High Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Quest Fantasy and Science Fantasy, but none are susceptible to any rigorous definition that would correspond to the variations in actual usage. By the 1990s the compulsion felt by publishers to label their books generically had slackened – it may have proved counterproductive – and many works of Heroic Fantasy now have merely the word Fantasy on the cover, or no descriptive word at all. [PN]
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