Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Slick Fantasy

The subgenre of fantasy, usually in short-story form, which deals with such matters as Pacts with the Devil, Three Wishes, Identity Exchange, Answered Prayers, little Shops of the heart's desire, etc. These are described as "slick" partly because the driving engine of the story is elegant variation on a small number of set themes and partly because such tales were the sort of Genre Fantasy most likely to get into slick Magazines like the Saturday Evening Post. They also represent the type of fantasy most likely to be written by nongenre writers – e.g., P G Wodehouse's few excursions into the field. They overlap frequently with Club Stories. John Collier, notably, and Lord Dunsany often wrote such shorts. There are longer examples of the form – it might be argued that the novels of F Anstey and Thorne Smith fall within the category.

The mode can also overlap with Horror; both Clive Barker and Stephen King have made use of SF tropes – the entire premise of King's Needful Things (1991) is a combination of the Shop trope with an implicit Faustian Pact. The lightness of touch and sardonic humour standard to SF do not obviate extremes of mayhem and emotional bleakness in the deployment of the standard themes.

SF can also overlap with Heroic Fantasy; stories which deal with Delphic ambiguity or the working through of Curses and Prohibitions often tend in this direction. Specifically, the small subgenre of short stories dealing with the intrinsic and dangerous ambiguity of sexist language (> Gender) – Tanith Lee's "Northern Chess" (1979) is a good example – will always tend to inhabit both subgenres. However, the values of heroic fantasy often overwhelm and refuse an SF trope that wanders in. In Fritz Leiber's "Bazaar of the Bizarre" (1963) Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser find themselves in a Shop and manage to refuse its illusory blandishments. An SF usually works out quite simplistic moral implications to a very final end, whereas a Template heroic-fantasy character will always be needed to fight another day. [RK]

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.