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  1. #1
    Writing... Tamske's Avatar
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    Default Literature Genres

    How do you make a distinction between different genres?

    I've received a rejection slip from an editor, with comments (thank you editor). One of them is: "This isn't fantasy. You should submit it to another publisher."
    Huh? My manuscript contained lots of very small dragons, one big dragon, a wizard, a snake-lady, and some working magic. If that isn't fantasy, I don't know what is. I thought the genre was fantasy once you messed up nature's laws.
    Granted, afterwards it turns out things have been a hallucination, but does that make the whole story a realistic one? Or did the publisher expect something more grand/epic for a fantasy story?
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    The lines between genres can be very fuzzy. The thrust of Fantasy is escapism, making everything a hallucination puts a wet blanket on the reader hoping to escape.

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    Senior Member KDude's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tamske View Post
    Or did the publisher expect something more grand/epic for a fantasy story?
    In that case, it'd be a specific kind of fantasy.. High fantasy (I'm sure you know this). Maybe they specialize in that? The genre is so loaded with variations though (urban/paranormal fantasy, horror, fairy tales, sword and sorcery), so it's surprising that they'd dismiss so easily under a "blanket" fantasy term.

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    Genres seem so limiting at times. There's lots of books that cross over between these different genres as they are defined. I work in a library, and we do have special sections for certain genres. Mystery is in one area, romance in another, science fiction in another and finally we have a section for westerns. Graphic novels get their own section too even though its not a genre per se but a type of format. We have alot of books that truly cross over between genres and where to place them becomes a challenge.

    Furthermore, the library defines romance as follows:
    ROMANCE GENRE: A romance is a love story in which the central focus is on the development of the love relationship between the lead character and a love interest. The romance itself is the key element, as is the emotional engagement of the reader. The book should have a happy or satisfying ending.

    So Romeo and Juliet is not a romance because it doesn't have a happy ending? WTF.
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    Writing... Tamske's Avatar
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    For me (a wannabe fantasy/SF/... writer), it's the subgenres of fantasy/SF that get me. Come on, if there's ANY genre where you'd want to mix and match like tinkertoys, it's that, no? Why can't I set a fantasy story in a world where they do know the printing press and the scientific method, so I get an interesting mixture of science and magic? Should a fantasy world always be anti-science (like - science destroys magic, research corrupts souls,... )?
    My next big project (I'm first going to finish the current one, a clear SF story) is a SF one where teleporting allows far-away planets to have contact with each other... and on one of them, there are dragons. Is this too fantasy to fit in the SF category?

    Come on, there's so much more our imagination can do than only "high" and "urban" and I don't know what else of strictly separated categories!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tamske View Post
    For me (a wannabe fantasy/SF/... writer), it's the subgenres of fantasy/SF that get me. Come on, if there's ANY genre where you'd want to mix and match like tinkertoys, it's that, no? Why can't I set a fantasy story in a world where they do know the printing press and the scientific method, so I get an interesting mixture of science and magic? Should a fantasy world always be anti-science (like - science destroys magic, research corrupts souls,... )?
    My next big project (I'm first going to finish the current one, a clear SF story) is a SF one where teleporting allows far-away planets to have contact with each other... and on one of them, there are dragons. Is this too fantasy to fit in the SF category?

    Come on, there's so much more our imagination can do than only "high" and "urban" and I don't know what else of strictly separated categories!
    Hah, do you read a lot SF/F? There is stuff out there like that. The thing is, whatever you write has to be marketable. So a publisher may just not be interested in your vision if they can't see a place for it on the shelves for whatever specific readership they serve. It's a biz.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tamske View Post
    For me (a wannabe fantasy/SF/... writer), it's the subgenres of fantasy/SF that get me. Come on, if there's ANY genre where you'd want to mix and match like tinkertoys, it's that, no? Why can't I set a fantasy story in a world where they do know the printing press and the scientific method, so I get an interesting mixture of science and magic? Should a fantasy world always be anti-science (like - science destroys magic, research corrupts souls,... )?
    My next big project (I'm first going to finish the current one, a clear SF story) is a SF one where teleporting allows far-away planets to have contact with each other... and on one of them, there are dragons. Is this too fantasy to fit in the SF category?

    Come on, there's so much more our imagination can do than only "high" and "urban" and I don't know what else of strictly separated categories!
    Perhaps it's like erotica. Fantasy readers want certain things and put themselves into small sub-genres of fantasy. Dragons/no dragons. Gay sex/no gay sex.

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    Filthy Apes! Kalach's Avatar
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    The way I tell the difference between scifi and fantasy is in scifi the universes are somewhat independent of the author and in fantasy they aren't even a little bit independent. In scifi worlds you can extrapolate physical and maybe even moral laws and get a sense of whether or not the author has taken sufficient advantage of her story setup. In fantasy worlds.... I don't even know how it works. I assume fantasy is good if the moral or the journey is internally coherent and (somehow therefore) satisfying.

    For example, I started reading Nnedi Okorafor's Who Fears Death thinking, omg, magic realism with North African genocide as the realism AND it's post-apocalypse? How awesome is this going to be! It turned out to be a fantasy novel. I was looking for some meta in there on modern genocide, but you can't really find it unless you're tuned into the magic codes of whatever the fantasy elements really meant, and does anyone ever really know what fantasy elements mean?! No, they don't. And that's the difference between scifi and fantasy, for me.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tamske View Post
    For me (a wannabe fantasy/SF/... writer), it's the subgenres of fantasy/SF that get me. Come on, if there's ANY genre where you'd want to mix and match like tinkertoys, it's that, no? Why can't I set a fantasy story in a world where they do know the printing press and the scientific method, so I get an interesting mixture of science and magic? Should a fantasy world always be anti-science (like - science destroys magic, research corrupts souls,... )?
    My next big project (I'm first going to finish the current one, a clear SF story) is a SF one where teleporting allows far-away planets to have contact with each other... and on one of them, there are dragons. Is this too fantasy to fit in the SF category?

    Come on, there's so much more our imagination can do than only "high" and "urban" and I don't know what else of strictly separated categories!
    My library shelves the science fiction and fantasy together and so do several of the other libraries in my area. I guess they both fall under the broader category of speculative fiction but are they really that similar? Sure there are people that read both but there are also plenty who like science fiction and dislike fantasy and vice versa.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SuchIrony View Post
    Furthermore, the library defines romance as follows:
    ROMANCE GENRE: A romance is a love story in which the central focus is on the development of the love relationship between the lead character and a love interest. The romance itself is the key element, as is the emotional engagement of the reader. The book should have a happy or satisfying ending.

    So Romeo and Juliet is not a romance because it doesn't have a happy ending? WTF.
    I do not see much similarity, if any, between Shakespeare and what is currently being published under the title of "Romance Literature."

    Romance books, as far as I understand, in fact, are written very much by formula, chapter by chapter.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tamske View Post
    My next big project (I'm first going to finish the current one, a clear SF story) is a SF one where teleporting allows far-away planets to have contact with each other... and on one of them, there are dragons. Is this too fantasy to fit in the SF category?
    depending on how you treat it, yes, it could be.

    I do think categories are blurring -- look at all the speculative stuff that is showing up nowadays on the major networks on TV, that just never really took off twenty years ago when attempted -- but for readers who designate themselves as "Science Fiction," that's different than the fantasy market readership.. and then typically don't want that fantasy stuff messing up their sci-fi.

    So instead of dragons, you'd have huge flying lizards who evolved in certain ways and are being approached from a more technical POV rather than a fantasy mindset.
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