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Hard fantasy is a subgenre 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 current scientific understanding.
Unlike that of 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 or supernatural creatures (such as dragons and elves), typically found in other fantasy settings. Other hard-fantasy settings may feature those elements but with a detailed and plausible explanation for their existence.
The hard aspect of hard fantasy can refer to different elements. It can refer to a consistent history and folklore, as we see from Lord of the Rings, well-defined magic systems as seen in Mistborn or The Name of the Wind, and is sometimes also applied to A Song of Ice and Fire for its detailed political setting, and hard consequences for protagonists' mistakes.
- The Incomplete Enchanter (1941) by 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 Anderson
- The Magic Goes Away (1976) by Larry Niven
- Master of the Five Magics (1980) by Lyndon Hardy
- The Unconquered Country (1986) by Geoff Ryman
- Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn (1988–1993) by Tad Williams
- 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
- The Kingkiller Chronicle (2007–present) by Patrick Rothfuss
- The Stormlight Archive (2010–present) by Brandon Sanderson
- Rivers of London (2011) by Ben Aaronovitch
- Dragon's Trail (2016) by Joseph Malik
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- Brennan, Marie. "Hard Fantasy". swantower.com. Retrieved 2012-04-24.
- "Hard Fantasy". bestfantasybooks.com. Retrieved 17 January 2016.
- Dozois, Gardner, Modern Classics of Fantasy, page xix. St. Martin's Press, 1997.
- OLAF KEITH (22 September 2016). "Not too much longer now…".
- "Annotation Mistborn Chapter Thirteen".
- "Dragon's Trail". Oxblood Books. 30 September 2016 – via Amazon.
- Hard fantasy, sfnovelists.com, 2008