Writing on Genre

A bit of a rant about Genre

As a participant in some online critiquing networks I come across a fair amount of unpublished stories written by authors, like myself, who want to get publish. These networks tend to be genre orientated – so for fantasy and science fiction for instance.

I hope I’m not slagging off other people’s work by saying this, but it is surprising how much work is written as fantasy or science fiction, but could be easily transposed to another genre or non-genre with little difficulty. So for instance the basic ingredients of the story and character can stand-alone of fantastical elements or a science fiction theme.

Science Fiction that’s Science Fiction!

Perhaps the best way of describing what I mean is by briefly mentioning a story that is integrated with it’s genre. The example is Old Man’s War by John Scalzi. In this book the premise is that old people can be rejuvenated and made young again, but only if they enlist into the military and go to fight aliens. You couldn’t have this story without the science fiction element of being able to turn back the ageing clock, therefore it’s definitely on message as far as its genre is concerned.

Any Story Any Genre

What you often find with stories that aren’t really integrated with their genre is that the narrative is basically a detective story, or a rites of passage, or a tale of life on the frontier. Rather than the conflict being with the Injuns, it’s with the aliens, or with the Evil Lord’s minions.

Magic as Heavy Artillery

Is this really what fantasy and science fiction should be about? What defines the fantasy genre? It’s surely not about magic as just a better form of firepower, is it?

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