Needs Help: Supernatural Fiction

Total posts: [47]
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Raven Wilder
This trope basically seems to be the same as Urban Fantasy. It insists it's not Urban Fantasy, but the only distinctions it draws between itself and that genre, at best, don't seem trope-worthy, and, at worst, are just confusing.

Since it's a very small page with only a couple dozen wicks, does anyone have a problem with just making this a redirect to Urban Fantasy?
"It takes an idiot to do cool things, that's why it's cool" - Haruhara Haruko
2 SeptimusHeap27th Mar 2014 11:34:04 AM from Laniakea , Relationship Status: Mu
Well, I do. The page doesn't say anything about requiring a modern setting, which Urban Fantasy does, and it's a separate page on Wikipedia besides. As with many terms out in the world, it doesn't have a consistent definition.

edited 27th Mar '14 11:35:52 AM by SeptimusHeap

My question would be what makes this different from fantasy in general.

I do understand that the distinction is sometimes made, but the lines are not clear. Google search doesn't help much but it does give me the following.
Welcome, traveller, welcome to Omsk
To me, this seems like it should be a Super Trope of all types of fantasy (High Fantasy, Urban Fantasy) and horror fiction. Trying to make it just one sub-genre of fantasy doesn't suit such a broad term.
It does not matter who I am. What matters is, who will you become? - motto of Omsk Bird
Raven Wilder
OK, there's nothing that says Supernatural Fiction must be set in modern times, just that it must be set in the "real" world. In that case, wouldn't it just be collective term for the Urban Fantasy and Historical Fantasy genres?
"It takes an idiot to do cool things, that's why it's cool" - Haruhara Haruko
[up] and [up][up]I rather suspect that by taking that approach we would trying to apply rigid logical classifications based on literal meanings of word to pre-existing terms that are not quite that clear cut. I get the impression that the term Supernatural Fiction is not in general use as a superset that includes fantasy rather than as a genre that has elements of fantasy but is sometimes considered to be not quite the same thing.

That being said, neither the definition as written or the lack of explanation for any of the examples is helping make the distinctions clear.


Does this help any?

edited 27th Mar '14 4:44:10 PM by Catbert

7 Madrugada27th Mar 2014 05:03:01 PM , Relationship Status: In season
Try this:

"Supernatural Fiction is a genre that encompasses several other, more narrowly defined genres (including but not limited to Gothic Horror, Lovecraftian Horror, Fairy Tales, Ghost Stories and the subgenres of Occult Romance and Occult Mystery/Occult Detective.)

The defining aspect of a story that puts it into the Supernatural Fiction genre is that the story is set in the mundane world, but there is an acknowledged "Supernatural world" which exists alongside of it, and interaction between the two worlds or their inhabitants regularly occurs. The Supernatural world operates under different laws (for instance, time may pass at a different speed, dragons that can breathe fire and fly exist even though they violate both the square-cube law and the laws regarding wing-size to lift capacity, or magic works.).

Supernatural Fiction is not an exclusive category —-a work can easily belong to both it and to another genre or genres, and in fact, most works that fall into the Supernatural Fiction category also fall into at least one other."

edited 27th Mar '14 5:09:21 PM by Madrugada

...if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you for it.
Raven Wilder
[up][up] People might say Supernatural Fiction is distinct from Fantasy, but the Fantasy genre is defined as "stories about the supernatural". The people saying Supernatural Fiction is a different genre seem to be working from the misconception that Fantasy stories must involve a secondary world.

Can anyone give an example of a Supernatural Fiction story that doesn't fall into either the Historical Fantasy or Urban Fantasy categories? Alternatively, can anyone give an example of a Historical Fantasy or Urban Fantasy story that wouldn't count as Supernatural Fiction?
"It takes an idiot to do cool things, that's why it's cool" - Haruhara Haruko
9 SeptimusHeap27th Mar 2014 11:01:46 PM from Laniakea , Relationship Status: Mu
A ghost story? That is often too little fantasy to be that.
Raven Wilder
So a story about a ghost isn't fantasy, but stories about elves and dragons are? Why?
"It takes an idiot to do cool things, that's why it's cool" - Haruhara Haruko
11 SeptimusHeap27th Mar 2014 11:14:49 PM from Laniakea , Relationship Status: Mu
These usually have a lot of fantasy components. It's not just a matter of what, but also of how much.
Raven Wilder
I agree that, if a story has very little supernatural content, calling it a Fantasy story would be misleading. Like if an otherwise mundane drama series made occasional use of Psychic Dreams for Everyone, I wouldn't suddenly label it a fantasy series. But in a ghost story, the plot usually revolves around the ghosts; that's why it's called a ghost story. And if a story revolves around fantastical premises like ghosts, why wouldn't you call it a fantasy?

I mean, do you consider Bewitched a fantasy series? It certainly revolves around fantastical goings-on, with pretty much every plot being the result of one spell or another. But, most of the time, witches are the only supernatural element present in the series.

edited 28th Mar '14 12:21:53 AM by RavenWilder

"It takes an idiot to do cool things, that's why it's cool" - Haruhara Haruko
13 SeptimusHeap28th Mar 2014 12:22:18 AM from Laniakea , Relationship Status: Mu
Because it's not called fantasy regardless. Consider a supernatural horror story; they are not usually called fantasy.
Raven Wilder
Generally speaking, if something's a horror story, that's what it's going to be most prominently labelled as, even if it's also part of other genres. Like how Alien and Frankenstein are usually called horror stories, despite also being science-fiction, or how most Gothic Horror stories are also Historical Fiction. Same goes for ghost stories also being Fantasy fiction.

edited 28th Mar '14 12:41:53 AM by RavenWilder

"It takes an idiot to do cool things, that's why it's cool" - Haruhara Haruko
Raven Wilder
As I do more reading on the subject, I get the impression that Fantasy and Supernatural Fiction are like the words "religion" and "cult": they technically mean the same thing, but carry different connotations.

I do now think Supernatural Fiction should have a page on this wiki, but the decription we have now is woefully confusing. Here's how I'd describe it:

Fantasy is a very broad genre, covering all manner of stories about magic, the supernatural, and the otherworldly. However, for most people the words "fantasy fiction" are associated first and foremost with High Fantasy: epic action/adventure stories set in an imaginary world full of flying dragons, sword-wielding heroes, fireball-slinging wizards, and all that jazz. Because of this, some stories that contain one or more elements of fantasy won't be called fantasy. Instead they'll be called Supernatural Fiction, to indicate that they contain fantastical events, but aren't what people usually think of when they hear "fantasy" (not-so-coincidentally, this can also help a story avoid the Sci Fi Ghetto).

Common reasons a story might be called Supernatural Fiction (or possibly "paranormal fiction") are:

  • The setting. Stories set in a Constructed World are pretty much always called fantasy, so Supernatural Fiction is almost invariably set in the real world (though plenty of stories set in the real world are called fantasy, too).

  • The genre. If an action/adventure story has magic in it, it's usually called fantasy. If it's a tale of mystery, suspense, romance, or personal drama, it's more likely to be called Supernatural Fiction. Horror stories with supernatural elements are mostly still just called horror stories.

  • The point of view. Supernatural Fiction is often told from the Point of View of ordinary people who aren't aware of the supernatural until they encounter it during the story. If the point of view characters have been embroiled in the supernatural since before the story began, it's more likely to be called fantasy.

  • The prevalence of the supernatural. In Supernatural Fiction, there may be only one or two supernatural elements at play, rather than whole communities of supernatural beings as is common in High and Urban Fantasy.

  • The form of the supernatural. Both dragons and ghosts are supernatural beings, but stories about dragons are normally called fantasy, while stories about ghosts are normally called Supernatural Fiction (when they're not called Horror). This may be because very few people believe that dragons are real, but there are a great many people who believe that ghosts are real. In this regard, Supernatural Fiction can be seen as a counterpart to supernatural non-fiction. There are many non-fiction books containing supposedly true accounts of haunted houses, demonic possessions, and occult rituals, and Supernatural Fiction often draws inspiration from these stories, portraying their supernatural content in a way that emulates the tone, if not the details, of what real people have claimed to have experienced. (If the author claims the supernatural elements of their story actually exist, then you've entered the murky territory seperating Supernatural Fiction from Religious Fiction.) Meanwhile, if a story is called fantasy, it's more likely to craft its supernatural elements from pure imagination, with only a token resemblance to real life supernatural beliefs. Generally speaking, a witch giving someone boils by calling on pagan gods and performing an arcane ritual is likely to be Supernatural Fiction; a witch turning someone into a mouse by wiggling their nose is likely to be fantasy.

See also Gothic Horror, which Supernatural Fiction is often inspired by, and Magical Realism, another kind of fantasy-that's-not-called-fantasy.

edited 28th Mar '14 10:27:03 PM by RavenWilder

"It takes an idiot to do cool things, that's why it's cool" - Haruhara Haruko
16 shimaspawn28th Mar 2014 11:25:34 PM from Here and Now , Relationship Status: In your bunk
Raven, that's a great description, honestly.
Reality is that, which when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.

-Philip K. Dick
17 SeptimusHeap29th Mar 2014 01:11:28 AM from Laniakea , Relationship Status: Mu
Much better than what is here currently. I would start off with a sentence on what this page is, not what the Fantasy page is, though.
[up][up][up]I think that pretty much nails it.

Paranormal Romance genre might be worth mentioning in the "see also" category.

I recently picked up a book series that so far (still haven't finished the first book) I would probably consider a "Supernatural" rather than a Urban Fantasy book, because the only magical elements are two cats with limited magical abilities (one can walk through solid doors and the other can turn invisible), and because the library puts it in the Mystery section whereas The Dresden Files (which at least starts out in the Detective Fiction category) is in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section.

edited 29th Mar '14 3:10:12 AM by Catbert

19 Madrugada29th Mar 2014 04:14:28 AM , Relationship Status: In season
Raven;'s suggestion is pretty good, but it focuses too much on what Supernatural Fiction isn't. Almost every point starts out with what Fantasy is, then says "and this is what makes Supernatural Fiction Different..."
...if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you for it.
Raven Wilder
Well, they are fundamentally the same thing; they're just used in different situations. If the description focused on what Supernatural Fiction is, it'd mostly be a copy of Fantasy's description.

Would it be enough to simply switch around the order of the sentences? Like "Supernatural Fiction is almost invariably set in the real world, since stories set in a Constructed World are pretty much always called fantasy (though plenty of stories set in the real world are called fantasy, too)."?

edited 29th Mar '14 10:43:23 AM by RavenWilder

"It takes an idiot to do cool things, that's why it's cool" - Haruhara Haruko
Walking the Earth
I don't agree with the second point. There are plenty of unquestionably fantastic stories that are about mystery, romance, personal drama, etc., especially with more "literary" fantasy.

I'm not to keen about the whole "some people believe in it" idea either. Most "non-fiction" about haunted houses is prety much made to describe scary experiences anyway, so it's fictional counterpart would be the typical ghost story, which is horror.

I also don't think that it should be considered separate from fantasy, because, technically, to even qualify it would have to be some sort of fantasy. I honestly can't think of anything with that description that wouldn't either fit into horror, urban fantasy, magic realism or paranormal romance. As for stories about ghosts and such that don't properly fit into horror or fantasy, maybe we could come up with a better name for them.

On the discussion page I suggested that it should be about stories that feature horror elements but without the intention to scare, and very little, if any, magic usage, but now I'm not sure about that either, otherwise we'd have to include a shit ton of horror comedies and cartoons as well.

edited 30th Mar '14 5:10:40 PM by supergod

For we shall slay evil with logic...
22 Madrugada29th Mar 2014 06:46:24 PM , Relationship Status: In season
It's a subcategory of Fantasy. It can't be made into (or treated like) something completely separate. Genres nest, the same way tropes do, in a progression from "most inclusive" (Romance, Suspense, Mystery, Fantasy, Science Fiction) to "narrower" (Gothic Romance, Harlequin Romance, Thriller, Horror, Whodunnit, High Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Space Opera) to "narrower still" (Bodice Ripper, Political Thriller, Spy Story, Lovecraftian Horror, Ghost Story, Magical Realism, Fair-play Mystery, Amateur Detective, Quest, Alien Attack, Colonize the Stars...).

As to coming up with our own term for it, WHY? It's a term that already in use outside of this wiki. And the definition is not as fuzzy as you're making it sound.

edited 29th Mar '14 6:56:10 PM by Madrugada

...if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you for it.
Raven Wilder
The only hard criteria for either Fantasy or Supernatural Fiction is that the story contains supernatural or otherworldly events. Beyond that, the only real rule seems to be that, if people call it Supernatural Fiction, then it is Supernatural Fiction, and if people call it Fantasy, then it is fantasy.

All those things I listed are the common traits of Supernatural Fiction, but they're not defining traits. A story with those traits is more likely to be called Supernatural Fiction, but a story could have all those traits and still be called Fantasy, while another story could have none of those traits and still be called Supernatural Fiction. And, of course, many stories will be called both, depending on who you ask about it.

Now, that's a pretty sloppy way to use terminology, which is why I wanted to turn Supernatural Fiction into a redirect when I started this thread, but that was before I realized that Supernatural Fiction is a pre-existing term. When a term is used outside this wiki, we can no longer control what it means; all we can do is look at how people use it, and adjust our description of the term to match.
"It takes an idiot to do cool things, that's why it's cool" - Haruhara Haruko
24 SeptimusHeap30th Mar 2014 01:10:05 AM from Laniakea , Relationship Status: Mu
Generally speaking, while Fantasy is a fairly broad label, I don't see it being used for horror and the like frequently.
Raven Wilder
Which is weird, because there are all these subgenres of horror, but supernatural/fantasy horror (probably the most common subgenre by far) is usually just called horror. Or maybe that happens because it's the most common subgenre by far.
"It takes an idiot to do cool things, that's why it's cool" - Haruhara Haruko

Total posts: 47
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