fantasy n. 1

a genre of fiction which contains elements of magic or the supernatural, frequently set in a world other than our own

In early use sometimes in the broader sense imaginative fiction.

SF Encyclopedia

SF Criticism


  • 1931 (title) page image

    Miracle Science & Fantasy Stories.

  • 1932 F. J. Ackerman Letter in Astounding Stories Nov. 282/2 page image Forrest J. Ackerman

    All lovers of the diverse forms of fantasy are invited. (This goes for you Strange Tales readers, too!)

  • 1934 P. Enever in Wonder Stories Feb. 793/2 page image

    Fantasy or pure science, let ’em all come. But don’t attempt to camouflage either way. Mr. Smith was at his best when he wrote the ‘Singing Flame’ stories, and they were undoubtedly fantasy. But if he had tried to suggest that the science contained therein materially added to the interest he would have been quite wrong. Read as fantasies, Mr. Smith’s stories are wonderful. Treat them as having a real scientific basis and they flop.

  • 1939 C. Hornig Letter in Science Fiction Oct. 119/1 page image Charles D. Hornig

    So if you like a variety of good stories, I don’t think you’ll ever get tired of reading SCIENCE FICTION—because I try to get as much variety into one issue as possible, without passing out of the realm of fantasy. Not all interplanetaries—not all laboratory yarns—not all world dooms, but a generous sprinkling of all types.

  • 1940 Thrilling Wonder Stories Mar. 117/2

    Raymond Z. Gallun’s absorbing scientale, Renegade from Saturn, featured in this issue and illustrated on the cover, offers something different in the way of suspense to fantasy fans. In Gallun’s story the hero is faced with a serious problem. He has to decide which one of the three transparent cases shown on the cover houses the menace from Saturn.

  • 1941 Thrilling Wonder Stories Feb. 119/2 page image

    You’re not a full-fledged scientifiction fan unless you own a membership card in the Science Fiction League. Thousands of science-fictioneers the world over belong to this active, international organization devoted to fantasy fans’ fraternization.

  • 1942 R. Rands Letter in Astounding Science Fiction June 111/2 page image Rosella Rands bibliography

    Then there’s that weak-minded mug who calls ‘There Shall Be Darkness’ fantasy. It had a depth and beauty of setting that is a little more common to fantasy fiction, perhaps, but the story was really science-fiction.

  • 1969 R. H. Eney Swords & Sorcery in L. S. de Camp & G. H. Scithers Conan Swordbook (1969) x Dick Eney

    Directly, Amra’s articles deal with what we call Heroic Fantasy, or sword-and-sorcery fiction—that kind of story in which heroes and villains may cast a spell or wield a blade with equal propriety, according to the terrain and the tactical situation: in a general sense, stories with pre-gunpowder technology in which magic works. In addition to their basic devotion, they touch on other heroes created by Howard; some other Conan-like heroic heroes written of by different authors; and people in sword-and-sorcery settings who are principal characters without being exactly heroic about it.

  • 1979 G. Rahman in Dragon Nov. 27/1

    A player may portray either a Warrior, a Priest or a Magic User. This is irrespective of the fact that the typical adventurer of heroic fantasy is not precisely any of these three professions.

  • 1980 D. Bachmann in Dragon Aug. 50/1

    We might note that games which are limited to the acquisition of power are of the ‘sword & sorcery’ variety; those games which also include nobler objectives are, at least, moving toward High Fantasy.

  • 1980 M. Z. Bradley Darkover Retrospective in Planet Savers/Sword of Aldones (1982) 304 Marion Zimmer Bradley bibliography

    Donald A. Wollheim…has done more to encourage fantasy and science-fantasy in this country during the lean years before ‘adult fantasy’ became respectable.

  • 1986 G. K. Wolfe Critical Terms for Science Fiction & Fantasy 52 Gary K. Wolfe bibliography

    Heroic fantasy, often commercially applied to Sword and Sorcery tales featuring muscular barbarian heroes, but sometimes to any variety of Epic or Quest fantasy, particularly those that derive from specific heroic tradition, such as Arthurian tales.

  • 1986 G. K. Wolfe Critical Terms for Science Fiction & Fantasy 52 Gary K. Wolfe bibliography

    High fantasy, fantasy set in a fully imagined Secondary World, according to Boyer and Zahorski, as opposed to Low Fantasy which concerns supernatural intrusions into the ‘real’ world.

  • 1992 Science Fiction Age Nov. 8/2

    Fantasy was considered a subset of s.f. for many decades before it began being marketed as its own genre.

  • 1993 Science Fiction Age Jan. 8/2

    Yet you’re planning to feature fantasy also. Mistake—S.F. fans don’t really want fantasy, or else they’d request it.

  • 2007 M. K. Speller in Interzone (#210) June 70/1 page image Maureen Kincaid Speller

    Whether through choice or publishing stricture, the authors have chosen to categorise Le Guin’s novels as either SF or fantasy, and to discuss the two sets of books almost entirely independently of one another.

  • 2020 N. K. Jemisin Foreword in Steven Universe: End of an Era 11/1 N. K. Jemisin

    See, what a lot of people don’t get about fantasy is that one of its purposes is to mirror the self. Technically, all fiction does this! But fantasy in particular highlights the myths that undergird our culture and personal histories, as well as those that outline the agency we’re permitted. Basically, fantasy teaches us who can be a hero and how heroism works.

Research requirements

antedating 1932

Earliest cite

Forrest J. Ackerman, in Astounding.

Research History
Jeff Prucher submitted a 1939 cite from a letter by Martin Alger to Thrilling Wonder Stories.
Jeff Prucher submitted a 1934 cite from a letter by P. Enever in Wonder Stories.
Jeff Prucher submitted a 2002 cite from a blurb by John Kessel in Polyphony 1.
Jeff Prucher submitted a 1939 cite from a letter by Martin Alger to Thrilling Wonder Stories.
Mike Christie submitted a 1942 cite from a letter by Rosella Rands in Astounding.
Fred Galvin submitted a 1939 cite from editorial material by Charles Hornig in the magazine Science Fiction.
Jesse Sheidlower submitted a 1932 cite from Forrest J. Ackerman in Astounding.
Ben Ostrowsky submitted a 2020 cite from N.K. Jemisin.
Fred Galvin submitted a 1931 cite as the title of Miracle Science and Fantasy Stories.

Earliest cite in the OED: 1949.

Last modified 2022-12-19 18:06:24
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.