Ranting Dragon’s Favorite Speculative Subgenre

Speculative fiction isn’t an old genre. While its subgenres have been around forever, they have only recently been grouped as speculative genres. Yet, it’s a perfect invention. After all, most of us geeks who love one of those subgenres like the others as well. Every geek has his favorite genre, as does the Ranting Dragon staff.

This week, our team looks at speculative subgenres. Here are our favorites:


By Stephan
I usually read epic fantasy. However, there is one genre that intrigues me more: steampunk. There’s just something about it that makes my geek heart sing. While I haven’t read many steampunk books—though I adored the ones I did read—but I have seen a lot of steampunk-esque films and series. I mean, just think of the awesomeness that is Legend of Korra, for example! Or Sucker Punch! Steampunk all the way, especially if it has airships and other cool inventions.
High or Epic Fantasy
By Janea
I love High Fantasy/Epic Fantasy, which isn’t surprising since my introduction to fantasy in general was C.S. Lewis’s Narnia and Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness. I enjoy original worlds, mythical creatures, and magic that doesn’t have to be hidden behind the everyday. There’s something about a pre-industrial monarchical society that captures the imagination: Just ask anyone who’s ever read G.R.R. Martin, Mercedes Lackey, or Robin Hobb.
Hard Science Fiction
By Dan
While it’s tempting to talk about Epic Fantasy, I’m going to have to come down on the side of Hard Science-Fiction. Hard sci-fi is different from general sci-fi in that it’s concerned with accurate portrayal of the “Hard” sciences of physics, chemistry, astronomy, etc. It requires a serious attempt to make the science of the sci-fi plausible, and, when done well, makes a futuristic world seem much more real. While I won’t always necessarily be able to grasp some of the science at play, the fact that the writer put a lot of thought into it and isn’t just writing “fantasy in the future” where the science is basically magic with lots of LEDs really sits well with me.
Urban Fantasy
By Garrett
Urban Fantasy. I mean, COME ON. Just go look at the list of reviews I’ve written and my list of books read this year, already!


What’s your favorite subgenre? Let us know in the comments below!

About Stephan van Velzen

Stephan van Velzen
A 29 year-old Communications student, Stephan loves publicity and design, particularly web design. When he’s not designing websites, he’s busy being a total geek for fantasy. In The Ranting Dragon, he has found a way to combine these passions and discover a new love for writing too. Most of all, though, Stephan is just a crazy Dutch guy who enjoys doing things that people don’t expect.

View all articles written by Stephan van Velzen.


  1. I Love the Pulp Fiction Adventures, IE David C. Smith, Joe Bonadonna…

  2. I read a lot of UF. Very little steampunk and some of the various fantasy. I’ve kind of timed-out on epic fantasy because they tend to be more than one book to get the whole story. But every now and then I still read it. I’ll read some of the pulp fiction stuff too (assuming Dawn is referring to the UF pulp). I dabble.

  3. Oh–you did leave off perhaps my favorite fantasy sub-genre–that of humor fantasy. Books like Unicorn on Speed Dial, Frank Tuttle’s stuff (which ranges from UF to Steampunk, but has a lot of wry humor). Jim Hine’s goblin series, which applies a lot of juvenile humor–they’re all kind of an “escapade” or “caper” type reading. I LOVE a good zany caper and if you throw magic in there, it’s some of my favorite stuff ever!

    • Forgot to mention Holly Lisle’s early stuff. Some of that was hilarious and so much fun!

      • I have always been reading humor fantasy now and then and I enjoy it considerably. I really like Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams and Robert Asprin but the latest one I read, “Expecting someone taller” by Tom Holt was a big miss and disappointment with me for many reasons. If you have read more from Holt, do you think it would be worthwhile to try another? What about Anthony Piers, are his books any good? Oh and I intend to give Hine’s Goblin Quest a try soon.

        • I liked early Anthony Piers Xanth series, but I read them when I was a teen–there’s a lot of puns and I’m not sure he’s quite as clever as Pratchett…the humor is not as polished. That said, it is worth it to read the first in the Xanth or the first few, if for no other reason that comparison to Pratchett who is a master of turning phrases. I’d say Xanth is more juvenile humor by comparison. Hine’s Goblin quest is a fun adventure and nothing like those other two; it has more of a young adult adventure. The thing that drew me to it most is the tale of the underdog and the zaniness of the adventures. I haven’t read Holt, but I have read Asprin.

          • I’ve tried a couple of Holt’s books and I did not find them to be funny or interesting enough to read others.
            You could try Christopher Moore, his humor is hit or miss for me but I liked it much better than Holt’s.
            Some of the older fantasists from the 80’s like L. Sprague de Camp, Craig Shaw Gardner, John de Chancie, Rick Cook or Lawrence Watt Evans might work out for you if you can find them as most are no longer in print and haven’t been converted to ebook as yet.
            You could also try Unicorn on Speed Dial by Jeanette Cotrell, The Dragons of Wendal by Maria Schneider or All the Paths of Shadow by Frank Tuttle.
            Piers Anthony Xanth books are decent, if quite silly with the punning and geared to a middle grade audience.
            Aspirin’s Myth books are good as well as the Phule books, though those are more scifi than fantasy. If you like scifi, Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat and Galactic Hero are both funny and well written.

          • Great replies! Thanks everyone!

        • You might find Robert Kroese’s Mercury Falls and Mercury Rises entertaining. No, he’s not Terry Pratchett, but then, who is?

  4. I like it all. Well, not horror so much (even though you didn’t add that one in, I personally consider it a subgenre of fantasy) but I love the wealth of worldbuilding and magic in epic fantasy. I love the ‘it could be possible’ of urban fantasy. I love the imaginative sciences and Victorian sensibilities of steampunk. I like the future possibilities of science fiction.
    Mostly I just like stories. Stories that make me laugh or give me that ‘bad guy loses, good guy wins’ feel-good feeling that I can rarely get in real life are my favorites.

  5. Epic Fantasy
    Sword and Sorcery
    Space Opera

    Really, my favorite is the neglected subgenre of Multiverse Fantasy…

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