fantasy · reading · science fiction

H is for Hard Fantasy

I may be behind the times, but I never heard of hard fantasy before. In fact, I only discovered this sub-genre on a Goodreads discussion forum. (One of those where people try to figure out what the difference is between science fiction and fantasy.)

The person provided quite a few links, including a wiki article. Wikipedia says the Recluce Saga, a Song of Ice and Fire and Magic, Inc. are examples of hard fantasy. Looking through Goodreads and LibraryThing shelves, people have also tagged Lord of the Rings, the Farseer trilogy and The Family Trade as hard fantasy.

There is an article that was posted in 2008, but I’ve never heard of hard fantasy until now. Well, shows what I know, huh?

From what I understand, hard fantasy is the fantasy where magic has rules. Truthfully, I am stunned there is even a sub-genre for this.

Though, yeah, the magical rules of most fantasy don’t have scientific rigor. Some books do treat magic just like it was a science, have schools and everything. Though truthfully, of the books I’ve listed here, only the Recluce Saga comes close to doing that. The others? I don’t know.

I haven’t read a lot of hard science fiction. Maybe that’s where my own disconnect is coming from. But most science fiction don’t have a lot of a scientific rigor, either.

But since people have tagged them as hard fantasy, I don’t think I understand what makes a book hard fantasy at all.

17 thoughts on “H is for Hard Fantasy

  1. Well, some books have magic, but they don’t really explain what the hell is going on with it other than a basic outline. Hard fantasy treats magic like it’s scientific fact and fills its book with rules and guidelines for it. I think the world of hard fantasy is centred around magic; magic matters more than anything else.

  2. It’s not too surprising given that there’s Hard SciFi. There’s an audience for SciFi that is overwhelmingly about its rules and plausibility, and so there’d be a similar audience in Fantasy. I haven’t read many stories that were better for having the Hard approach, but I’d be willing to try some out. Ironically the ones I’ve read that leveraged their hard rules were usually manga.

  3. Fascinating! I’d never heard of this! It does make sense though.. I’m thinking of His Dark Materials as another possible candidate?
    Thanks for stopping by today 🙂

  4. Hi,
    Thank you for visiting my blog. I sent you a reply to your comment. I really don’t know the difference between fantasy and hard fantasy. Sometimes I tend to think that we are so busy trying to classify something that we hinder ourselves from writing.


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