The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction was first published in 1949 (under the title The Magazine of Fantasy no less). Does it mean that the fantasy was recognized as a distinct genre at the time already and that the word was used as the name of the genre? Or was it established later under the influence of such magazines? In short, what's the first recorded use of it as a genre?

  • The word "fantasy" was used in magazine titles as early as 1931: isfdb.org/cgi-bin/…
    – user14111
    Dec 5, 2022 at 10:20
  • The Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction is a good resource for this kind of question: sfdictionary.com/view/1013/fantasy
    – user14111
    Dec 5, 2022 at 10:24
  • @user14111, it shows "For performance reasons, Advanced Searches are currently restricted to registered users.". Anyway, can we be sure that the term was used to refer to the recognized and distinct genre?
    – catemperor
    Dec 5, 2022 at 10:29
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    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_fantasy says "It was not until 1923 that the term "fantasist" was used to describe a writer (in this case, Oscar Wilde) who wrote fantasy fiction. The name "fantasy" was not developed until later; as late as J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, the term "fairy tale" was still being used."
    – PM 2Ring
    Dec 5, 2022 at 12:29
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    @PM2Ring, good find, from the same page "Literary critics of the era began to take an interest in "fantasy" as a genre of writing, and also to argue that it was a genre worthy of serious consideration. Herbert Read devoted a chapter of his book English Prose Style (1928) to discussing "Fantasy" as an aspect of literature…". Need to comb through the sources, but we are close I think.
    – catemperor
    Dec 5, 2022 at 13:10

1 Answer 1


Use of the term "fantasy" (spelled "phantasie" at the time) for individual works goes back at least to Elizabethan times. The OED cites 1542–3 Act 34–5 Hen. VIII, c. 1 Balades, plaies, rimes, songes, and other phantasies.

I don't know what criteria would be used to say that a grouping of such individual works becomes a "genre". A noteworthy example might be the collection "Essays and Phantasies" by James Thomson (1881). This one is even listed in the Science Fiction Encyclopedia, since (news to me!) some of Thomson's work can apparently be considered as steampunk.

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    I'm not sure if it counts as a use in the sense of a literary genre. As I mentioned in the comments, it seems to me that a use of the term in discussion of classification of literary works would undoubtedly mean recognition of it as a distinct category. I hope someone more knowledgeable in literary theory can enlighten us on this matter.
    – catemperor
    Dec 6, 2022 at 6:07
  • The notion that there is some finite [fixed?] list of literary genres seems odd to me outside the context of the publishing industry. The OED definition of "genre" is "A particular style or category of works of art; esp. a type of literary work characterized by a particular form, style, or purpose". If the question is specifically about publishing practice, fair enough. In general usage, however, I think you can pick any characteristic you like and the refer to "works of that genre".
    – Ethan
    Dec 6, 2022 at 18:23

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