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Hard fantasy is a sub-genre of fantasy literature that strives to present stories set in (and often centered on) a rational and knowable world. Hard fantasy is similar to hard science fiction, from which it draws its name, in that both aim to build their respective worlds in a rigorous and logical manner. The two diverge in that hard science fiction uses real scientific principles as its starting point, while hard fantasy postulates starting conditions that do not, and often cannot, exist according to currently scientific understanding.
Unlike its sister genre, the definition of hard fantasy is amorphous in practice. Some instances of the genre feature alternative geography and cultures without the presence of magic, dragons, and elves stereotypically found in many other fantasy settings. Other hard-fantasy settings may feature those elements but with a more detailed explanation for their existence.
- The Incomplete Enchanter (1941) Fletcher Pratt, L. Sprague de Camp This is generally considered the prototype of the genre.
- Magic, Inc. (1941) by Robert A. Heinlein
- Three Hearts and Three Lions (1961) by Poul Andersen
- The Magic Goes Away (1976) by Larry Niven
- The Unconquered Country (1986) by Geoff Ryman
- Dragon Cauldron (1991) by Laurence Yep
- The Saga of Recluce (1991–present) by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
- The Iron Dragon's Daughter (1993) by Michael Swanwick
- Metropolitan (1995) by Walter Jon Williams
- Mistborn (2006-2008) by Brandon Sanderson
- Rivers of London (2011) by Ben Aaronovitch
- Lindskold, Jane (January 6, 2009). "Hard Fantasy". tor.com. Retrieved 2012-04-24.
- Brennan, Marie. "Hard Fantasy". swantower.com. Retrieved 2012-04-24.
- Dozois, Gardner, Modern Classics of Fantasy, page xix. St. Martin's Press, 1997.
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