Friday, January 2, 2009

"Fantastic Realism"

I think it's been cold enough this winter to finally freeze Hell over, because Jamie Mal over at Grognardia just posted in praise of Larry Elmore. OK, I kid, and it's a very well-written post too, but there was a little phrase contained therein that really lept out at me: "fantastic realism". The hallmark of the Silver Age of D&D (another phrase I rather like) and of fantasy imagery in the 1980s in general. He defines it thusly:

His figures looked real, as did the clothing they wore, the weapons they carried, and the environments they inhabited. He evoked an impression of "groundedness" that contrasted powerfully with the fever dream phantasmagoria of Otus and the dark density of Trampier, both of whom were examplars of an age that was passing, while Elmore was the spirit of the transition between Gold and Silver.

Considering that this is the time that I got into D&D and fantasy, it's no wonder that it's my preferred type of fantasy imagery. I like my fantasy to be grounded in reality, thank you very much. My interest in fantasy stoked an interest in medieval history, or maybe it was vice versa. When your fantasy fighters look like historical knights, it can be hard to tell sometimes what influenced what.

It's funny, because right now I'm running a game with my SO that's set in the world of Yrth, the setting developed for GURPS Fantasy. It's as grounded in fantasy realism as you could hope to get--in fact, I suspect the whole setting came about as a thought exercise of taking the tropes of Silver Age D&D and extrapolating them as realistically as possible. And I love every bit of it.

Oh sure, I've got my love of gonzo pulp fantasy as well, but that developed much later on. Fantasy realism is something I've always held dear to my heart, and I'm happy to now have a term to apply to my bizarre tastes. So here's to Fantasy Realism! May it live on in the hearts and minds of all those who would hold it dear.

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