For other definitions of fantasy please see Fantasy (psychology).
In literature, fantasy is a form of fiction encompassing novels, short stories, role-playing games, and movies, that is most typically set in a world quite different from the Earth, often replete with mythical creatures and magical powers. As a genre, fantasy is both associated and contrasted with science fiction and horror fiction. All three genres feature elements of the fantastic, of making radical departures from reality or radical speculations about what reality might be like, or might have been like. "Fantasy" seems reserved for fiction that features magic, brave knights, damsels in distress, mythical beasts, and quests. As such, it has a long and distinguished history, with beginnings in Greek mythology and Roman mythology (one thinks especially of Homer's Odyssey) and other epics such as Beowulf, and a very broad basis in medieval romance. The legend of King Arthur, with its heavy dose of magic, swordplay, romance, and clear-cut moral issues, is another clear precursor of contemporary fantasy.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, much fantasy was published in the same magazines as science fiction (and written by the same authors, largely). After the phenomenal popularity, in the mid-20th century, of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, as well as of C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia and Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea series, fantasy writing received a modern rebirth, often patterned after these seminal works and, like them, borrowing elements from myth, epic, and medieval romance.
This fiction and its older predecessors in turn gave birth to fantasy role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons, which in turn spawned more fiction in the genre. Game companies have published fantasy novels set in their own fictional game universes; the Forgotten Realms and Battletech series are some of the more popular.
Similarly, series of novels based on fantasy films and TV series have found their own niche.
See list of fantasy authors for information about individual authors who write in this genre.
Since the rise of popular fantasy fiction in the Twentieth Century, the fantasy genre has subdivided into a number of branches:
- High fantasy
- Sword and sorcery
- Contemporary fantasy
- Comic fantasy
- Romantic fantasy
- Fantasy films (as distinct from science fiction films)
- Superhero fantasy - A subgenre usually closely mixed with elements of science fiction as well as other genres.