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A fictional universe, but no fantasy elements


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#1 Monks

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Posted 24 February 2017 - 04:41 PM

I'm having trouble pinning down the genre for my novel. As the title states, it's set in a fictional universe that is entirely without fantastical elements. The world is very grounded and somewhat resembles the mid 19th century in terms of technological and cultural development. I actually originally envisioned the novel as historical fiction from that time period, but as development went on, it made sense to move to an entirely fictional universe for various reasons. The plot is a little bit mystery (there's a murder, and a good chunk of the book deals with solving it), a little bit high-stakes thriller (an occupied nation beginning a revolution).

 

But the fictional universe aspect of it is giving me hang ups in terms of genre. Maybe it's just me, but I always assume a book labeled as thriller or mystery (or even action/adventure, in most cases) takes place in the real world (with embellishments). But calling this fantasy doesn't feel right either. The best I can come up with is speculative fiction, which is obviously a pretty vague and useless genre term. Any ideas? I've included the hook paragraph from the query letter I'm working on below, if that helps you get a better idea of the feel. Thanks for the help!

 

Nasira Laxmi has spent her life fighting to free her home, the island city-state Avak, from Masozi occupation. Her husband, Hakan Bhaskar, a Masozi soldier who never believed in his country's imperialism, thinks she just sells tea. But when a member of Avak's underworld and Hakan's best friend is executed, the first casualty of an impending revolution, Hakan vows to find the killer. And Nasira vows to help him.
 
Until she realizes she has been framed for the murder, and her sister is kidnapped in retaliation. Now Nasira must track down the real killer to save her sister's life, while staying one step ahead of her husband -- and trying to discover why someone is pushing Avak, her home, towards a war it cannot win.

 


Would greatly appreciate critiques of my synopsis!

#2 SRPasternack

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Posted 25 February 2017 - 05:22 AM

It's a fantasy.

 

The fictional world itself is a fantasy element. Works classified in the fantasy genre don't have to have magic or elves or whatnot in order to be considered fantasy.

 

According to the Wikipedia entry on the fantasy genre: "The identifying trait of fantasy is the author's reliance on imagination to create narrative elements that do not have to rely on history or nature to be coherent."

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fantasy


My Pitch--My Query--My Synopsis--My 250

 

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#3 Monks

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Posted 25 February 2017 - 10:10 AM

It's a fantasy.

 

The fictional world itself is a fantasy element. Works classified in the fantasy genre don't have to have magic or elves or whatnot in order to be considered fantasy.

 

According to the Wikipedia entry on the fantasy genre: "The identifying trait of fantasy is the author's reliance on imagination to create narrative elements that do not have to rely on history or nature to be coherent."

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fantasy

Okay, I can work with that. A lot of my other novels have fantasy elements in them, so I was intending to look for an agent that represented fantasy regardless. This makes it easier. Thanks! On a related note, are you (or is anyone) aware of a sub-genre that identifies books with no magic or fantastical creatures or things like that? I'm thinking of identifying this as low fantasy in the pitch, which is about the closest I can come up with.


Would greatly appreciate critiques of my synopsis!

#4 KitCampbell

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Posted 27 February 2017 - 06:51 PM

There are fifty million fantasy subgenres, but most of them are pretty niche-y and unknown, so I think going with low fantasy would probably be good. The one thing I would caution about low fantasy is that low fantasy tends to be fairly personal in its stakes, so if you've got an epic revolution storyline, it might still fall under epic or high fantasy even with the lack of magic.



#5 Blueberry Tide

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Posted 27 February 2017 - 07:15 PM

Yes; fantasy does equal magic. You can write contemporary fantasy, or epic fantasy without magic or dragons. It's kind of like how sci-fi doesn't mean a story is set in space. People just assume. 



#6 Monks

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Posted 01 March 2017 - 01:37 PM

Thanks for the clarification, everyone. And KitCampbell, I'll keep the personal stakes vs epic in mind. The revolution storyline is a big part of the plot, obviously, but it's only a very small island state rebelling and doesn't have much of a world-wide impact (and that impact is not explored in the novel). The plot hinges much more on how the rebellion affects the characters rather than the other way around. So I think I'm in the right spot with low fantasy, but I'll certainly keep thinking about it. On the other hand, I might just end up querying as fantasy. Seems like a safe bet, so long as I avoid agents that explicitly say they're looking for swords and sorcery.


Would greatly appreciate critiques of my synopsis!

#7 kailam

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Posted 28 April 2017 - 05:48 AM

I’m having a similar problem - a fictional medieval world, but no magic, and revolution and civil war but filtered via very personal stakes for the MC. So far, I’ve just been calling mine historical fantasy, so stumbling across this thread and the comments on low fantasy was really interesting. Sounds like a good fit for what you’re writing, Monks!

Good luck with your MS!






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