Friday, January 4, 2013

Genre Savvy: Introduction

Getting Guild Wars 2 is an interesting experience for me because, well, I've never played a traditional fantasy MMO before.  Hell, the last fantasy game I played was Final Fantasy 6, so it shows how long it's been.  That said, it did bring up the issue of genre, the category into which a story, game, or in this case, comic is set into.  There are a LOT of genres nowadays, more seem to be created every year, so the real trial is narrowing them down into a few categories.

Which is what I'm going to do.  Another series of articles going into the details of what an author/artist should be trying to emphasize if they're building a particular genre piece.  The first step, however, is defining these various genres I'll be covering.  As I said, there's a lot of them out there, but we'll focus on a few.

Now these are generalized genres, so one term can, and will, cover a great deal of territory.  As such I'll be covering only 6 genres total, and there's a bit of wiggle room on what goes where.  In fact, 3 of these "genres" are so broad as to actually cover the other 3 all on their own.  But for the sake of sanity, I'll leave them separate.  Each genre has a particular tone, mood or series of ideals they need to follow in order to to fulfill the requirements of the genre.  What those are, we'll get to in the next few weeks, but for now, let's just get some rough definitions.

High Fantasy - My inspiration for this was Guild Wars 2, which is a member of this genre, but the real "root" of the genre is J.R.R. Tolkien.  His main books (The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings) are the backbone of the High Fantasy genre.  Everything from Dungeons and Dragons to, well, Guild Wars, finds it's source with Tolkien.  So much so, the term "fantasy" is almost synonymous with his work.  We'll get into what this actually means next week.

Urban Fantasy - The first two things that come to mind when I think "urban fantasy" are Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Harry Potter.  The core here is taking many of the High Fantasy elements (magic and monsters typically) and translating them to a contemporary world.  "Urban" would seem to indicate city, but here it's just a reference to our more modern world, nothing more.  True, Harry Potter doesn't run around with a cellphone, but he COULD have one with it really being an issue.

Science Fantasy - Okay, I know:  "don't you mean science FICTION?"  Well, no.  Science fiction falls UNDER the umbrella of science fantasy because this covers a lot more ground that standard sci fi.  As a kind of spoiler (depending on your definition of spoiler), Girl Genius, the steam punk inspired comic, falls into the Science Fantasy category, but wouldn't necessarily be considered science fiction.  Star Wars is famously described as Science Fantasy, and while they try to find roots in actual scientific knowledge, Star Trek often just makes stuff up that sounds cool.  All three are about fancy technology, but go about it in different ways.

Horror - Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, even many slasher flicks come with this genre.  This is one of the 3 "over genres," whose power is so great that the others COULD fall under it given the right circumstances.  Buffy could EASILY end up here, if it was actually scary.  Fear and suspense are the core ideas here and while they can influence or seep into other genres, the really scary stuff is reserved for horror.

Drama - This one is a touch harder to nail down because as an over genre, it is the most over of them all.  Everything except the last one (Humor) falls under genre at some point in its life.  And that's really what drama is about, life.  Everyday life across social standing and gender, country and religion.  It's so large a topic that when the Greeks were writing their plays, they were either Dramas or Comedies.  There was nothing in between.

Humor - Speaking of comedy, I call this Humor because, um, because I've used the term enough when talking about comics.  From sit-coms to parodies, humor is the last over genre that can have it's influence felt throughout.  It follows the "rule of funny," also known as if it's funny, it happens.  Potent, nonsensical, and completely subjective, it is also the one I think I will have the hardest time writing about.  We'll see.

That's a start.  Next week, we'll go into what makes High Fantasy, well, High Fantasy and seek out a few comics that follow this genre.  Until next time kiddies.

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