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Gunpowder Fantasy

What is Gunpowder Fantasy?

Gunpowder Fantasy is part of the modern fantasy trend. It occupies a space that is neither medieval nor urban. Steampunk is Gunpowder Fantasy's cousin, but doesn't have the fantastic inventions that Steampunk is known for. Magic, fantastical creatures, and other tropes of fantasy are still present in Gunpowder Fantasy, but guns and cannons are also a part of the world. The sub-genre is still evolving and being defined, but it opens up new and exciting areas for fantasy writers to explore.

In many ways, Gunpowder Fantasy is derived from Epic Fantasy and it is an attempt by modern writers of the fantasy genre to reinvigorate the genre. Sure there are the classic epic fantasies that defined a genre—they're wonderful reads. But what was once exciting about them has, over the years, become a bit overdone, a bit tired. Gunpowder is an evolution of Epic Fantasy—it is industrialized fantasy, it is exciting, it is fresh, it is a sub-genre that is changing and still being defined. Authors are taking up the gunpowder element and creating all new worlds and demonstrating the diversity of the fantasy genre.


 MORE THAN A GAME

There are strong feelings about the inclusion of gunpowder in the Fantasy genre, but it isn't actually a new addition. Gunpowder appears in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and even references it in The Hobbit. In Terry Pratchett's Discworld series there is a gonne—a dangerous weapon with a firework mechanism. What Gunpowder Fantasy does differently is make gunpowder central to the story and an important component of world-building.

 

Other Features of Gunpowder Fantasy

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  • Level of Magic

    Moderate-High. Generally, magic is very well developed and is almost always used in interesting ways. What is unique to this sub-genre is the relationship between magic and technology (specifically weapons technology). How magic and gunpowder interact is an important part of the world-building within the sub-genre.

  • Level of Grand Ideas/Social Implications

    Moderate-High. Gunpowder Fantasy is a modern sub-genre of fantasy and it tends to have themes related to industrialization and revolution. Much like our own history, introducing gunpowder into a fantasy world changes everything, warfare being the most obvious change. The innovation of gunpowder coincides with other technological advancements, which had significant impacts on society. The relationships that change and develop as technology changes is a big question that Gunpowder Fantasy deals with—as technology changes so too does magic and the world itself.

  • Level of Characterization

    Moderate-High. Gunpowder Fantasy, like other modern fantasy stories, places an importance on characters. Characters tend to be dynamic and engaging. But, there isn't really a specific type of character to discuss here, partly because the sub-genre is still being defined and partly because modern fantasy has a tendency for multi-dimensional characters that are wholly individual.

  • Level of Plot Complexity

    High. Flintlock Fantasy doesn't get as bogged down in world-building as other sub-genres (like Epic Fantasy) because it can draw on the reader's historical knowledge of the time period. World-building of course is still important as these are alternate world stories, but having this basis for the world means there's more room for plot development. There is room for different types of stories and plots in the sub-genre, but Flintlock does tend to more military inspired plots, with action packed scenes and epic battles, which often make for a more linear plot. This makes for a high momentum story, the plot is always marching forward. However, because the sub-genre is still evolving and being defined, it is difficult to characterize a typical plot.

  • Level of Violence

    Moderate-High. This is a sub-genre defined by the use of weapons technology—there will definitely be violence. The violence is militaristic in nature.

Related Fantasy Subgenres

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    Historical Fantasy. Gunpowder Fantasy takes many cues from Historical Fantasy by using a period in time ripe with historical significance. Gunpowder Fantasy sets the story in a period where the technology of gunpowder is prevalent or just coming into usage.

  • Flintlock Fantasy. Flintlock and Gunpowder are very similar, so similar that the terms are often used interchangeably (also Muskets and Magic).

  • Steampunk. Cousins of a sort, both sub-genres incorporate technology. However, Gunpowder Fantasy uses real world technology, not the fantastical devices and gadgets of Steampunk.

  • Epic Fantasy. Many stories of Gunpowder Fantasy have the same elements of Epic fantasy—but with the addition of guns and the resulting change to battle tactics.

  • Military Fantasy. Gunpowder being a weapon, there are obvious ties to military-focused stories.

Gunpowder Fantasy isn't for you if...

If you're a fantasy purist. Some critics of the sub-genre think the addition of gunpowder changes the feeling readers get from a fantasy tale. Indeed, an epic tale feels very different when the characters are fighting with swords and arrows, than when they're fighting with guns and cannons. It's a significant change to the genre and it doesn't appeal to everyone.

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