The Fantasy Continuum

As some of you may recall, I wrote a Suvudu column a while back in which I discussed the definition–such as it is–of Sword & Sorcery fantasy, as opposed to Epic Fantasy (or other fantasy). You can see it here, if you want to review (or if you didn’t catch it the first time around).

Why do I bring it up now? Well, thanks to another Suvudu column–this one by Matt Staggs–the question of an S&S resurgence is being discussed on numerous forums. And in the process of one such discussion on Absolute Write Water Cooler, I made the following assertion. I’d like to share this particular thought beyond the confines of just that one forum, and see what everyone else thinks of it. Said post was sparked by a comment on whether something "blurred the line" between S&S and other fantasy.

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Oh, certainly. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

In fact, I’m not convinced the line ever really existed. Like so much else, I think it’s always really been a continuum, rather than a binary status. Sure, you have fantasy that’s almost entirely on the S&S side of the spectrum–Conan, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, etc.–and then you have fantasy that’s almost entirely on the epic side of the spectrum–Lord of the Rings, The Belgariad, etc. But the vast majority of fantasy falls somewhere on a long line between the two.

That’s why I maintain that there are certain tendencies that S&S stories have, and if a single story has enough of them, it probably qualifies–but there’s no hard-and-fast, yes-or-no determining factor. Ultimately, it’s simply a matter of where on said continuum a given person, or the market at any given time, chooses to draw the line and say "Left of this point is S&S, right is fantasy." The precise position of that line’s going to be different for different people and different periods.

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So what do you folks think? Do you agree with that way of looking at it? Or do you see the question as far more binary than I do?