RBE publishes works among the following genres (definitions mostly provided by Wikipedia with elaborations below):
- Action & Adventure Fantasy
- Dark Fantasy (more fantasy than horror)
- Epic/High Fantasy
- Heroic Fantasy
- Historical Adventure Fiction & Fantasy (not alternative speculation)
- Low Fantasy (fantasy that tries not to emphasize magic)
- Space Opera
- Superhero fiction
- Swashbuckling Adventure
- Sword & Planet
- Sword & Six-gun (RBE’s own genre definition below)
- Sword & Sorcery (RBE’s S&S Attitude)
- Sword & Sandal
- Sword & Soul
- Weird Western fiction
RBE’s genre elaborations*:
Epic/High Fantasy: This type of fantasy revolves around a quest of large magnitude. Typically, the hero must save the world, rescue an important person, or perform some other daunting task at great personal risk. Failing to complete the quest usually results in horrible consequences for a major group of people. The hero may have associates along to help, but the quest can only be completed if the hero is involved at the end, and he usually has to give up something of personal value to succeed. JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is the most enduring example of an epic quest. George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire is an example of a grittier-yet-still epic fantasy saga.
Hardboiled/Noir: Closely related crime/mystery/dramatic thriller genres featuring tough, cynical characters; bleak (dark), urban settings; earthy writing; snappy pace and dialogue; and filled with sex, crime, and violence. The protagonist does not have to be a detective, but is typically a self-destructive, unsentimental realist dealing with systemic social corruption no less his/her foe than the perpetrator. If you’re thinking Cornell Woolrich, Dashiell Hammett, or Mickey Spillane, you are heading in the correct direction. Channel a little Alex Bledsoe or Scott Lynch, and you’re dead-on. The noir link directs you to an excellent exposition about the distinction of the form from Eddie Duggan.
Heroic Fantasy: This is the fantastical root of and father to all that RBE is interested in. Heroic Fantasy incorporates the epic/high fantasy tale on one hand and the sword & sorcery/low fantasy tale on the other. It is a strictly heroic tale written in favor of neither one side nor the other. Its story often appears to be of a lesser magnitude than that of the epic tale, while its protagonist sometimes appears to have a higher purpose than that of the usual sword & sorcery character. David Gemmell’s novels are great examples of heroic fantasy.
Historical Adventure: Fictional adventures in real world, historical settings. Typically, such tales are set in specified historical periods or locales and have some sort of fantasy element added, such as mythical creatures or the use of magic. Authors should note that it is important to make sure all information portrayed as facts is accurate. Michael Ehart’s The Servant of the Manthycore is a prime example of two genres: historical fantasy adventure and Sword & Sandal.
Sword & Planet (S&P): Sword & Planet is very similar to Sword & Sorcery. It may have magic or technological leftovers from a remote, absent, dead, or dying race of advanced beings—so advanced that their technology might as well be magic. These various powers (e.g., psionics, telepathy) should be either somewhat rare, or difficult to use, with most survival dependent upon more mundane skills. The ability to cast even a minor spell or to use a bit of psi should set that character apart. It might get that character lynched as some sort of evil spirit or worshiped as a god. The protagonists of S&P, like those of S&S, are outcasts and foreigners, dropped in to strange lands (often by accident). They might be explorers from advanced civilizations, only carrying a single beam weapon with but a few shots left and a handful of survival gismos. More often a S&P protagonist has to make do with his wits and the sword he wrested from the planet’s primitive culture. S/he faces obstacles very similar to those faced by S&S heroes. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom and John Norman’s Gor series are examples of S&P adventure. Howard Andrew Jones and John O’Neill define Sword & Planet as “a field of unfettered imagination [that] mixes the best of science fiction and fantasy.”
Sword & Six-gun: Sword & Six-gun is Sword & Sorcery-toned heroic adventure fiction in the vein of Robert E. Howard’s El Borak, or even Solomon Kane with an upgraded pistol. It’s swashbuckling historical fantasy adventure à la Zorro, Indiana Jones, Errol Flynn, Captain Nemo, Allan Quatermain, Rafael Sabatini, and Alexandre Dumas. Think Shanghai Noon/Knights if Jackie carried a Fu or Jian (and with far less-slapstick) or Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven with some edged weaponry.
Sword & Sorcery (S&S): Most Sword & Sorcery is fiction set in a land different from our own, where technology is relatively primitive, allowing the protagonists to overcome their martial obstacles face-to-face. Magic works, but seldom at the behest of the genre’s heroes. More often sorcery is just one more obstacle used against them and is usually wielded by villains or monsters. The landscape is exotic; either a different world, or far corners of our own. That’s the setting and a bit of the atmosphere of most S&S. The heroes of S&S live by their cunning or brawn, frequently both. They are often strangers or outcasts, rebels imposing their own justice on the wilds or the strange and decadent civilizations which they encounter. They are usually commoners or barbarians; should they hail from the higher ranks of society, they are discredited, disinherited, or from the lowest rungs of nobility. The protagonists of S&S must best fantastic dangers, monstrous horrors, and dark sorcery to earn riches, astonishing treasure, the love of dazzling beings, or the right to live another day. Most important of all, S&S moves at a headlong pace and overflows with action and thrilling adventure. RBE believes S&S is an attitude that can be delivered in a multitude of genres. We do not believe the setting, atmosphere, or even the accoutrements, determine a story is Sword & Sorcery. Sure, all that described above makes for quite the exciting and entertaining story…that could be S&S. However, it is the attitude of the protagonist(s) — and even the storyteller — that determines that. The S&S Attitude requires only that our protagonist have (1) an indomitable, passionate will to live in the face of any and all odds (LIVE!ism**) and (2) a nonchalant mercenary motivation by which s/he reward themselves wherein typically they willingly sacrifice any other gain in the pursuit of additional, further, more difficult, more dangerous, personal challenge. Robert E. Howard’s Conan is the most famous of the S&S protagonists. Many others epitomize the S&S Attitude, such as William King’s Kormak, Steve Goble’s Calthus, and Eric Turowski’s Irons.
Sword & Soul: Sword & Soul is also very similar to Sword & Sorcery, for it is heroic fiction and epic fantasy based on African traditions, cultures and history. The works of Charles Saunders (Imaro) and Milton J. Davis (Meji) epitomize the heart of Sword & Soul. The link connects you to an excellent description by Milton Davis.
Swashbuckling Adventure: Swashbuckler is a term that originated in the 16th century due to the popularity of a fighting style of using in the off-hand a side-sword with a buckler which was filled with much “swashing and making a noise.” The term became synonymous with rough, noisy and boastful swordsmen. Swashbucklers are similar in tone to both Sword & Sorcery and Sword & Planet tales, though swashbuckling historicals are adventures rooted in the past of planet Earth. Pirate tales traditionally fit within this category. A supernatural element is NOT required, but action and excitement is. Think Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers or Rafael Sabatini’s Captain Blood.
*Many of these genre elaborations have been slightly modified from those originally drafted by the renowned Howard Andrew Jones
**LIVE!ism is an unquenchable zest for life! The indomitable will to live every single moment deeply until suddenly one cannot! It is “I think of Life!” Conan roared (Robert E. Howard, “The Pool of the Black One”).