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The Fantasy Prophecy

December 13, 2011

Several weeks ago I ran across an interesting post on the blog of writer A.J. Luxton.  In this post, Luxton begins a series of posts on the subject of subgenre divisions within the Fantasy genre – and some tools for approaching the tropes and themes of Fantasy – by talking about Prophecies

It was a very good article, particularly if you’re interested in writing or reading Fantasy, and I recommend it.  I had been considering writing my own essay on the topic of prophecies, signs, and portents in the context of Fantasy and speculative fiction, but this essay gets at a lot of what I might’ve said on the subject – at least for now.  What’s interesting is that Luxton divides the Fantasy genre, in this case, along the dimension of “Fate”, giving “High Fate” and “Low Fate” fantasies – i.e. stories where Fate is rigid and flows from some sort of higher power versus stories where people get a “hunch” or “intuition” or where a fortune teller just happens on that one-in-a-million where s/he is actually right, or the horoscope actually proves prescient.  And then there’s everything in between.

I like Luxton’s approach of subdividing Fantasy across multiple relevant, fantastic axes, and look forward to more entries in this series of posts.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. December 13, 2011 2:00 pm

    Ahh that was a good read. I’m partial to low-fate and prefer ambiguity 😉

    • December 13, 2011 2:12 pm

      I can take my Fate in many flavors… but I don’t think High Fate is necessarily exclusive of ambiguity. One of his examples of a “High Fate” (the Wheel of Time) leaves a good amount of room for ambiguity, since the prophecies are often of the “impenetrable allegory that only becomes clear after the fact” variety.

  2. December 13, 2011 4:40 pm

    Interesting! Thanks for sharing.

    I like how he compared prophesying to foreshadowing and how this can be done through narration; I’ve never put those two side-by-side in my mind before. And I’m like Theresa here, favoring subtle low fate, heh.

    • December 13, 2011 4:43 pm

      You’re welcome. 🙂 Ultimately, I think that’s what Prophecy does best: it’s a tool that speculative fiction authors, especially, have in their belt to do foreshadowing. It can probably also be used to touch on other themes, too, of course.

  3. December 13, 2011 11:49 pm

    Interesting post, and it had some examples I’m actually familiar with (Tolkien, Zelazny, Hambly), which helped me follow the points he was making.

    I’ve always avoided high fate. I do have a character who knows what happen in the future, but she keeps the info to herself. I also avoid the “chosen one” idea, as we’ve talked about before.

    I also have one character who gets glimpses of the future, but they do tend to be incomplete and unreliable. She mostly keeps them to herself.

    • December 14, 2011 4:50 pm

      Interesting that you have characters who can see the future, and yet hew to “low fate”. I’d be curious what the character motivation is for someone who knows they see the future to keep that knowledge private…

      • December 14, 2011 8:38 pm

        I wrote about that exact question on my blog ( It comes up from time to time, as you can imagine. There’s a link at the top to the original post about the character.

        Of course, we only have her word about the omnipotent and omniscient part, but all evidence is that she really is (I won’t go into details in case you read U-town at some point).

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