Are alternate realities science fiction or fantasy

Imaginary world or alternate reality?

I would appreciate some advice on the world I have spent months constructing. Personally, I see it as an alternate reality but I am unsure if that can still qualify:

What is my own - an earth with a continent that becomes colonized by humans from various cultures, living in a polytheistic society with meddling gods and magics. There are other continents that developed from a Pangea-like base, but have been settled for thousands of years longer.

What is adopted - the continent is colonized and separated into autonomous yet unified nations with cultures and features similar to our current world (Arctic Land resembles Iceland/Scandinavia, Northern Woods resembles Canada/Baltic countries, etc). The other continents previously mentioned are also similar to our world's continents. Time wise, it is also set to today's technological standards.

Based on this, is my world feasible as an alternate reality even though the topography and religious/cultural foundations are significantly changed?
So, if I'm understanding correctly, nothing about the world is really different aside from the socioeconomic, political, and cultural differences (and gods, of course)? If it's simply an alternate history but the physical features of the world are basically the same, then I would lean more towards an alternate reality. However, Alt-reality vs. Imaginary world are very close to the same thing, with slightly different spins. Either would fit, depending on how YOU view your world. Interesting, either way.
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Gods + magic = fantasy: imaginary world.
So, if I'm understanding correctly, nothing about the world is really different aside from the socioeconomic, political, and cultural differences (and gods, of course)? If it's simply an alternate history but the physical features of the world are basically the same, then I would lean more towards an alternate reality. However, Alt-reality vs. Imaginary world are very close to the same thing, with slightly different spins. Either would fit, depending on how YOU view your world. Interesting, either way.
Appreciate the feedback. Because of the topography and other points in my notes, my world seems to fit imaginary better. However, I've always viewed imaginary worlds as being Tolkien or Martin-esque, where your characters names and all are from scratch. I am concerned having a character called Edgar, who enjoys falafels and lives in a city similar to Seattle is too close to our current world is all.
Appreciate the feedback. Because of the topography and other points in my notes, my world seems to fit imaginary better. However, I've always viewed imaginary worlds as being Tolkien or Martin-esque, where your characters names and all are from scratch. I am concerned having a character called Edgar, who enjoys falafels and lives in a city similar to Seattle is too close to our current world is all.
I guess the way I see it is "Imaginary" implies fantasy, while "Alternate reality" implies sci-fi, and I was looking at your world through the lens of comic-book alternate worlds, where gods and magic can exist alongside otherwise normal, everyday things like the Internet. I agree that Imaginary brings to mind those types of tropes, which isn't a bad thing necessarily.
My understanding of alternate reality is a divergence of paths for identical worlds which run parallel in time. For example, an alternate reality to our world could be one where the dinosaurs never became extinct or where the Victorians developed fusion energy.

I agree with @RX-79G, your world appears to be imaginary.
Thanks all for the replies.

I still have trouble reconciling a constructed world featuring gods and magic with one that has a great deal of real-life adaptations, like brick manor homes or high-rise buildings, and and calling it an imaginary world. From everything I'm reading here and elsewhere, it seems as though they don't have to be such disparate concepts. I clearly have to overcome my bias that a world with gods and monsters has to look like Westeros or Narnia.
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I clearly have to overcome my bias that a world with gods and monsters has to look like Westeros or Narnia.
This is true. There is no reason ata ll that gods and magic can't coexist with technology and current/future cultures/cities etc. In the most classic sense yes, fantasy does equal Tolkien and the like, but then you have fantasy like Pratchett which incorporates more up-to-date ideas... And sub genres like urban fantasy. Was Harry potter not fantasy also?

In my opinion there isn't anything about what you've described that is alternate reality. AR to me means a branching point somewhere in the past that has changed the present (eg. nazis won WW2) and dealing with the changes that have arisen from that point onwards.

Creating your own world, landmasses, cultures, religions, (even if they're based on real world things) is fantasy for me.

You keep mentioning GRRM as a benchmark, but is Jaime not a very similar name to the real word Jamie?? And the Dothraki are extremely close in culture (as far as I know) to the Khans of the Mongolian Steppe. Borrowing names and cultures from real world is standard in fantasy, and makes it that much easier for your readers to step into your world, where some things are familiar enough to allow the easy transition.



And just to muddy my argument a little bit on the clarity between trad fantasy and AR, Even Tolkiens world eventually turned into our own, did it not?
This is true. There is no reason ata ll that gods and magic can't coexist with technology and current/future cultures/cities etc. In the most classic sense yes, fantasy does equal Tolkien and the like, but then you have fantasy like Pratchett which incorporates more up-to-date ideas... And sub genres like urban fantasy. Was Harry potter not fantasy also?

In my opinion there isn't anything about what you've described that is alternate reality. AR to me means a branching point somewhere in the past that has changed the present (eg. nazis won WW2) and dealing with the changes that have arisen from that point onwards.

Creating your own world, landmasses, cultures, religions, (even if they're based on real world things) is fantasy for me.

You keep mentioning GRRM as a benchmark, but is Jaime not a very similar name to the real word Jamie?? And the Dothraki are extremely close in culture (as far as I know) to the Khans of the Mongolian Steppe. Borrowing names and cultures from real world is standard in fantasy, and makes it that much easier for your readers to step into your world, where some things are familiar enough to allow the easy transition.



And just to muddy my argument a little bit on the clarity between trad fantasy and AR, Even Tolkiens world eventually turned into our own, did it not?
Thanks for the clarification. My reasoning for categorizing my world as an alternate reality was predicated mostly on the way polytheism affected the world we recognize today. I see now that I am working fully in an imagined world, which means my logic was flawed.
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And just to muddy my argument a little bit on the clarity between trad fantasy and AR, Even Tolkiens world eventually turned into our own, did it not?
Not really. Tolkien's Middle Earth is actually flat.

The it is a common convention in fantasy writing to adopt the worldview of long dead people as "real", and then write the story around that. Tolkien takes classic mythic creatures and the kind of world birth stories that would have seemed reasonable to people living 1500 years ago and treats them as factual in his world. A world that was once lit by a tree, not a sun.

You can't get here from there.

Fantasy always involves a kind of impossibility imposed in that reality. SF maintains some sort of connection between reality and the story world - even if they are in different universes, they are in the same multiverse, as it were.
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Not really. Tolkien's Middle Earth is actually flat.

The it is a common convention in fantasy writing to adopt the worldview of long dead people as "real", and then write the story around that. Tolkien takes classic mythic creatures and the kind of world birth stories that would have seemed reasonable to people living 1500 years ago and treats them as factual in his world. A world that was once lit by a tree, not a sun.

I'm far from an expert, so I'm happy to defer, but I thought I remembered reading a Tolkien encyclopeadia when I was younger, tht stated after the events of LOTR and frodo leaving for the undying lands etc, that the fourth(?) age began and the continents all shifted to form the layout we know today, and presumably sphericalising itself. And everything inexplicable in our terms either happened in, or left to live in, the Undying Lands

But as I say, far from an expert, so I'm happy to assume I'm wrong
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Maybe I misunderstood your post. What I was getting at is that the connection between a fantasy world and ours is equally "fantastic", as there is no mechanism that could account for natural history and Tolkien history taking place on the same planet in a universe with the same physics. The connection is little different than the coat closet to Narnia.

An alternate reality doesn't negate our reality.
'Alternate reality' is a 'what if' scenario; where at some point in the past, someone or something caused the world to take a different course.

'Real' magic could never happen and so is fantasy.
'

'Real' magic could never happen and so is fantasy.
Fantasy magic (spell casters and elementals) are fantasy - for now. At least, that's what I hope. There is nothing on our earth that we've seen yet which would contribute to these themes becoming reality. However, I always wonder about the introduction of magic from outside our universe.

Allow me to speculate for a second: what if we as a species eventually become advanced enough to travel outside our galaxy. Maybe if we came upon another universe, and made contact on other planets, would our physiology behave differently and allow for feats not possible on Earth. The opposite intrigues me more - what if we were visited from outside our universe and the visitors' physiology allowed for them to do unexplained things. Hilariously, what if they looked like us in their universe, but in ours, they appeared as little green men?

Not likely, but enjoyable to speculate on.
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There are several different ways a human being could experience unprecedented "powers". Traveling to a universe with different laws is one. Remaking ourselves in this universe to be affected differently is another. Or creating another universe inside this one.

But we have been doing that all along. We can fly. We can kill someone a mile away. We can eat the foods of many lands at one sitting. And we'll just grow in our powers.
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Based on this, is my world feasible as an alternate reality even though the topography and religious/cultural foundations are significantly changed?
I think you're over-thinking the issue. Generally, fantasy worlds are simply referred to as "secondary worlds".

The term "alternative reality" usually applies when using a direct analogue of Earth at any time past - such as Le Sprague Camp often did, or Kate Elliot did more recently with her Cold Fire series.
Fantasy magic (spell casters and elementals) are fantasy - for now. At least, that's what I hope. There is nothing on our earth that we've seen yet which would contribute to these themes becoming reality. However, I always wonder about the introduction of magic from outside our universe.

Allow me to speculate for a second: what if we as a species eventually become advanced enough to travel outside our galaxy. Maybe if we came upon another universe, and made contact on other planets, would our physiology behave differently and allow for feats not possible on Earth. The opposite intrigues me more - what if we were visited from outside our universe and the visitors' physiology allowed for them to do unexplained things. Hilariously, what if they looked like us in their universe, but in ours, they appeared as little green men?

Not likely, but enjoyable to speculate on.
It would be nice to think that at some stage real magic would become possible, but I dont think that any novel featuring magic could be seen as a viable 'alternate reality' proposition at present.