Partially inspired by the high fantasy thread, but also by questions I've had swirling around in my head for a while, I thought it was about time I got a second opinion.
You see, a week or so ago while working on a "thoughts" file on the story I'm currently in the planning stage of, I asked myself whether I should include more fantasy elements to make it more squarely in the "fantasy" bracket as far as genre is concerned. See, in this WIP I have no mythical creatures, no gods outside the minds of the characters, no magic, no ancient evil beneath the ground, no ghosts, no immortals, no vampires. Nothing that does anything out of the ordinary at a full moon.
Let me describe my story. It is set in a self-governing town, Perenke, in a valley of losely affiliated self-governing towns which have recently united to fend off an attack from an island nation, and have gained a Pyrrhic victory. With almost no men under the age of 50 left in the town, the leaders of Perenke ask an allied city-state to send them men to become husbands of the town's many widows. My main character, Anse, is one of these leaders who finds herself town between two sides of a conflict which emerges as a result of idealogical and cultural differences between the town's new steward, Bardiyas, and the traditional laws and values of the town. Bardiyas seeks to impose his values upon the town, and though Anse can see the benefits and justice in many of those values, there are others she dislikes. A resistance forms, seeking to oust Bardiyas and put Perenke citizens back in charge, restoring self-determination and their own traditional, long-held values. Both sides of the conflict have their flaws, and Anse finds herself torn between them, for both moral reasons and personal, selfish reasons. Ultimately she picks what she sees as the lesser of two evils.
The story is partly about moral ambiguity, partly about adapting to change, and partly about the difficulty in finding a side which most closely matches one's views. There are, as I stated above, none of the elements most closely associated with fantasy in the wider public consciousness. But it is set in a world of my own invention, with its own myths and religions and cultures.
In the high fantasy thread, someone suggested that a fantasy containing moral ambiguity was dark fantasy. Is this the case? I always thought of what I wrote as "low" fantasy, because of the lack of the traditional fantasy elements. But what am I writing, if it had to be put in a genre or sub-genre box? And what fantasy subgenres are there? How would you define them?