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New (name for a) fantasy subgenre

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Fantasy has many subgenres.

For example, there's High Fantasy, full of epic quests and forsooths and the Fae. There's Urban Fantasy, where magic and today's gritty streets meet. There's Sword and Sorcery, featuring barbarians and thieves and ancient evil wizards in tall black towers. There's a great deal of argument over whether Magical Realism counts as fantasy or not, but I do count it. There's Generic Fantasy, a.k.a. Gen-Fan, with humanoid races and landscapes ripped straight from a D&D game. There's Fairytale Fantasy, reworkings of traditional folktales. There's Dark Fantasy, which is the label I apply to horror that I like. There's Meta-Fantasy, which explores and deconstructs the tropes of other kinds of fantasy. And so on.

I'm exaggerating and caricaturing those subgenres, but that's okay because I have no interest in actually discussing any of them right now. No, what I'm here to talk about today is a fantasy subgenre that I've been aware of for a long time but didn't get around to naming for a while:

I call it Wacky Fantasy.

Some Wacky Fantasy stories that are submitted to us want to have been written by Terry Pratchett; some by Douglas Adams; some by Piers Anthony. (But that's more a matter of comic style than of setting or characters or plots; the stories I'm talking about don't really resemble those authors' works much overall, and I'm not saying that those authors write Wacky Fantasy per se.) Some want to be screwball comedies. Most of them are set, more or less, in generic D&Dland, or sometimes darkest Tolkienclonia. Most of them feature at least one comic Dwarf character; many feature at least one comic wizard. Many of them feature exaggerated versions of modern bureaucracy and/or other features of modern life transplanted into a fantasy world. Many feature comic names for people, races, or places, usually repurposed modern English words. All of them feature attempts at comic situations. And we see quite a few of them.

And I'm sorry to say that most of them fall flat, for me. Which really mostly means that they don't fit my sense of humor.

I'm not usually fond of really goofy or wacky humor in general. There are exceptions, and there are certainly some forms of fun silliness that appeal to me in some contexts, but when you mix it with D&D races and situations, the chances of my liking that kind of thing are very slim.

This is just a description of my own tastes, not a knock on a story's Objective Quality. There are many fine comic works, in all sorts of genres and media, that are widely admired that don't fit my sense of humor, from Bringing Up Baby to The Simpsons. Senses of humor are notoriously idiosyncratic, and it can be hard for a writer to find an editor whose sense of humor matches theirs.

But SH, alas, isn't really a good market for this kind of story.

(Wrote this in October 2007, but somehow never got around to posting it.)

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