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Sword and sorcery (S&S) or heroic fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy characterized by sword-wielding heroes engaged in exciting and violent adventures. Elements of romance, magic, and the supernatural are also often present. Unlike works of high fantasy, the tales, though dramatic, focus on personal battles rather than world-endangering matters. Sword and sorcery commonly overlaps with heroic fantasy. The genre originated from the early-1930s works of Robert E. Howard. The term "sword and sorcery" was coined by Fritz Leiber in the May 1961 issue of the fantasy fanzine Amra, to describe Howard and the stories that were influenced by his works. In parallel with "sword and sorcery", the term "heroic fantasy" is used, although it is a more loosely defined genre.
Sword and sorcery tales eschew overarching themes of 'good vs evil' in favor of situational conflicts that often pit morally gray characters against one another to enrich themselves, or to defy tyranny.
Sword and sorcery is grounded in real-world social and societal hierarchies, and is grittier, darker, and more violent, with elements of cosmic, often Lovecraftian creatures that aren't a staple of mainstream fantasy. The main character is often a barbarian with antihero traits.
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