Sub-genre of the Week:
Last week I talked about Dystopian Fiction. This week, I’m going to look at another venerable subgenre: Portal Fantasy.
Portal Fantasy is a sub-genre of fantasy where the protagonist goes through a portal from the real world into the fantastic.
Lewis Carroll wrote Alice’s Adventures in Widerland in 1865 as a favor to the daughter of a friend, after she loved his story of Alice and her adventures during a float trip up the Isis, a nickname for part of the River Thames. Lord Dunsany published The King of Elfland’s Daughter in 1924, though it’s brilliance was only recognized after the re-publication by Ballantine Books in 1969. And in 1950, C.S. Lewis began publishing The Chronicles of Narnia, based on an image of a faun carrying an umbrella and parcels through a snowy wood he had when he was 16. And the genre took off from there.
Common Tropes and Conventions
All you need is a portal and a fantasy world on the other side of it. Generally, the protagonist is also treated as a savior or Chosen One in the other world.
Portal Fantasy often crosses over with High Fantasy, as most of the worlds on the other side of the portal conform fairly solidly to High Fantasy tropes and conventions. Some anime and manga uses Epic Fantasy worlds as their targets.
Alice and Narnia have both gotten several big movies, though there are no original film stories in the genre that I know of. Anime and manga are chock full of portal fantasy, including the ever-popular Inuyasha. And obviously print is full of it, or I couldn’t have written this post.
There’s plenty of new Portal Fantasy being published these days. It’s always been popular, and it likely always will be. This interesting article on Making Light contradicts me a bit here, but I think it’s a bit pessimistic.
Perhaps a new style of portal fantasy will change the game. I think I’ll get on that.
10. Anime: Arata Kangatari
Goodreads list of Portal Fantasy
Check in next time for a discussion of Near-future SF.