Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Hard Fantasy

A useful term for stories where Magic is regarded as an almost scientific force of Nature, and subject to the same sorts of rules and principles. This was the type of fantasy championed by John W Campbell Jr in Unknown – represented by stories like Robert A Heinlein's "Magic, Inc." (1941) and H L Gold's "Trouble with Water" (1939). By analogy with Science Fiction, the term HF might refer to fantasy stories equivalent to the form of hard sf known as the "scientific problem" story, where the hero must logically solve a problematic magical situation (see Quibbles). One example is Laurence Yep's Dragon Cauldron (1991), whose hero is trapped on a magic Island where all objects that attempt to float away are driven back to shore: he reasons that the Spell must make an exception for dirt (otherwise, silt from the surrounding river would eventually build a landbridge from the island to the shore), so builds a raft made of clay pots (clay being a form of dirt) and thereby escapes the trap. [GW]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.