So, I pointed Sharon Shinn to my recent post about Positive Fantasy since after all I included one of her trilogies in that post.
She said, by the way, that she had a hard time writing Dream-Maker’s Magic but, when she struck that line about kindness being magical, decided she had to finish the book. Just a nice detail.
Sharon also handed me another conception of positive fiction — this time a broader term, for fiction in general, not fantasy specifically. But wait for that just a second.
Various of your comments made me rethink my prior criteria. Sure, I like high fantasy style; yes, I like a more numinous type of magic. BUT, you’re right, those qualities aren’t required. They’re additional axes in, shall we say, an n-dimensional space of literature.
Especially since it would probably actually turn into a space more like this:
Regardless, how’s this for the truly essential criteria for positive fantasy:
- The protagonist is deeply kind
- The tone is not gritty
- The style is elevated, formal, not cutesy, not overtly self-conscious
- The characters and the world wind up in a better place at the end
What do you think?
In describing this kind of fiction, I think it’s hard to do better than Liz Bourke’s comment, which I quoted in the previous post. Here it is again, rephrased slightly to make it more generally applicable to this kind of literature:
Filled with a keen sense of kindness and empathy; a fundamentally generous story.
There you go. To me, that is the heart of this subgenre. I need to remember this exact description, because if I suggest this topic for panels at conventions, this is what I’d want in the description of the panel.
And this then leads to the term Sharon pointed out. This wasn’t coined for fantasy, which is probably why I hadn’t run across it previously. But here it is:
A newly recognized genre of literature, Up Lit focuses on human connections and life-affirming stories filled with joy, kindness, humor, heroism, hope, empathy, compassion and love. The goal here is not to bury our heads in the sand and write off our turbulent times. Up Lit is simply modern literature with the power to remind ourselves of – and celebrate! – some of the many joys to be found in our human existence.
That’s actually a pretty good term! And then it’s easy to specify UpLit SFF.
I’d take out “modern,” though. It doesn’t matter when a book was written. If you step outside of fantasy, then Little Women and A Little Princess are both going to qualify as UpLit. I’m sure plenty of other older works would also qualify.