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Brandi_R
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Topic 86: Favorite Genres

We have a lot of genre fiction writers in the club and I thought we might talk a bit about our favorite genres this week. Let's start with some genre basics—in the form of a FAQs—to get us all on the same page.  

What's genre fiction?
A genre is a category of literature. Some of the more popular genres include science fiction, mystery, fantasy, and romance. Different categories of genre fiction conform to specific conventions. Some of the conventions of science fiction, for instance, include technology, other planets, or the future.

What are some other genres in fiction?
There are many. Here's a list of just some of the other genres: horror, crime, western, action adventure, historical, and thriller. Many genres even have sub-genres. There are, for example, many different kinds of thrillers, including espionage, legal, medical, and psychological thrillers.

Can you mix genres?
Sure. A romance set in the early 1900s combines both the romance genre and that of historical fiction. You might find inspiration in combining genres. What would happen in a science fiction romance? What might you write about in a historical thriller? Or a fantasy thriller?

What's the difference between fantasy and science fiction?
Fantasy usually incorporates unreal worlds with unreal characters. Magic or the supernatural world are often involved. In fantasy, the worlds, species, or abilities may be entirely outside the realm of what we know in reality. Science fiction, on the other hand, imagines a world that is an extrapolation of our own world and its scientific foundations. A science-fiction story might be set in the future, or outer space, or involve imagined technology or science such as time travel or advanced robots.

How does a writer know what conventions exist for each genre?
Read as much literature in the genre of your choice as you can. This will give you a firm grasp on just what readers expect from a given genre. Still, you want to be careful that you're creating something new and fresh. So, while a fantasy may incorporate magic, you don't want to write about or use magic in the same ways that have already been well covered. Your own spin on the conventions will be a big part of what makes your work special.

So, on to our discussion. What are your favorite genres to read? What genres do you like to write? What makes that genre so appealing to you? When you write, how do you make your work fresh, interesting, and different from other works in that genre?
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Zack_Kullis
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Re: Topic 86: Favorite Genres

This will be a fun topic!! 

 

I have a few favorite genres of fiction, whether it is reading or writing.  I would have to say that science fiction, military, paranormal, and horror are the "umbrella" genres that I like the most.  Fantasy comes in after these, and is followed by most of the rest.  I say most because I simply don't enjoy romance.  :smileytongue:  

 

Science fiction and fantasy have yanked my interest since I was a kid.  I think they are great.  Military, paranormal and horror genres caught my attention years later.  This attraction happened in part of because of various experiences. 

 

But I better pick just one genre or I will be writing here all day!!!  I will have to go with paranormal.  I really enjoy scary paranormal stuff.  I have lived in a few different countries, one of which is Brazil.  The part of Brazil I lived in had a very large population of people that practiced various forms of religion that North Americans would probably associate with voodoo.  Some of those religions are Macumba, Candomble, Santeria, Umbanda and Quimbanda.  Many of these groups use possession as a way of communication and worship.  There was a place in my neighborhood where a group of Quimbanda practitioners would meet.  Meetings available to the public were sometimes practiced during the day, but the majority of the groups private meetings happened after dark.

 

I have seen things down there that I can't explain, and witnessed things that I don't talk about after dark.  In Brazil they have a saying that says "Fala do diabo, e ele mostra seu rabo."  (Speak of the devil, and he shows his tail.  It sounds better in Portuguese because it rhymes....)

 

Anyway, reading or writing in the paranormal genre can duplicate the intense rush of emotions and adrenaline that I felt on many occasions down in Brazil.  That is why I enjoy the paranormal.

 

 

Sic volvere Parcas...
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Bonnie824
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Re: Topic 86: Favorite Genres

I like to read many genre's- historical, mystery, thriller, science fiction (light), space opera, paranormal, general fiction- but with a heavy dose of romance. I also read straight romance, but not as much. When I've tried writing it's more contemporary or sometimes historical general fiction or romance. I tried writing science fiction, but my research was sloppy and it was a lot more work than I realized. The relationships, conversation, characters, were easy enough. Worldbuilding was very labor intense though. When I try again, it will be settings I know.
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twilight_fanatic_01
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Re: Topic 86: Favorite Genres

My favorite genre...grrrrr, you're making me choose!

 

I'm definitely with Zach when it comes to science fiction and fantasy. You can incorporate different forms of creativity and use the imagination in ways that its limited with genres such as historical fiction and mystery (which, by the way, are my two least favorites xD). And what's more is that you can mix the genres...an example of this is Kelly Armstrong's "The Summoning" and its sequel "The Awakening". I myself have written a book (and am hoping to one day publish!!!) that is a combination of the fantasy and realistic fiction genres, with very good results.

 

But if I had to choose between books such as James Patterson's "Maximum Ride" or J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter", I think I'd probably choose fantasy over any sci-fi novel. Although my love for both of them is intense, I think that when you write fantasy you can be the most inventive, and there's a lesser risk that you'll cliche the cliched.

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marilynpsychic
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Re: Topic 86: Favorite Genres

Interesting topic, Brandi.  And thanks for taking the time to put together that lengthy intro, just so we'd all be on the same page.

 

I love science fiction and "Twilight Zone" type of distorted-possibilities fiction. (I don't know if there is a genre for "distorted-possibilities" fiction, but I love it when I can find it.)

 

I write character-driven soft science fiction.  I try to stretch the boundaries of science as it's known today.  Both to keep myself interested in "possbilities", and because sci fi writers who have deliberately "rode the crest" of a new scientific discovery have sometimes crashed and burned when that "new discovery" was proven false.

 

And a quick note to Zack, and his adrenaline-pumping scarey fiction:  I heard a Horror Writer at a Con one time, who said that the appeal of Horror is that it is a "natural high".  You get shocked and scared, the adrenaline starts pumping, and suddenly your heart is beating faster, and you haven't a clue whether fight-or-flight is the proper action to take!

"I'm a writer. I give the truth scope." Chaucer (character) in movie "A Knight's Tale"
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Capuchin
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Re: Topic 86: Favorite Genres

Trying to draw a line between fantasy and science fiction is always going to end in failure. Is an invisibility cloak magic or an extension of current research into meta-materials? What's the difference between a wizard seeing events far away by looking into a crystal ball and someone flipping open their cell phone to watch the latest news video of an earthquake half a world away? There's even some scientific debate on the plausibility of dragons.

 

I like to think that I enjoy reading any genre as long as it's well written, but I do tend to look first at soft-sf and fantasy since those are the fields that can still surprise me.

 

In my writing, I tend towards fantasy simply because of the freedom. Although nothing is completely without restraint (for example: if the magic doesn't have a firm set of rules, the story falls apart), the range of basic concepts available in fantasy is, almost by definition, the widest of any genre.

 

Does your story require a little boy to be afraid of worms? That's easy to arrange -- have him remember the time he picked up a dwarf dragon and it scorched his fingers.

 

Need a girl who never hangs out with her friends? Simple -- her mother is a witch and put a spell on her to go straight home after school.

 

Is one of your characters a weakling who has to travel in dangerous circles? No problem -- have a wizard cast a spell so it seems that his frailness is only a disguise.

 

Of course, every such solution creates an entirely new set of problems, so there's no end to the trouble they can get into. :smileyhappy:

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Brandi_R
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Re: Topic 86: Favorite Genres


Zack_Kullis wrote:

. . . Anyway, reading or writing in the paranormal genre can duplicate the intense rush of emotions and adrenaline that I felt on many occasions down in Brazil.  That is why I enjoy the paranormal.

 

 


Ooohh . . . paranormal, that's a good one. And what a great connection to your own experiences in Brazil. Seeking out books that recreate a “sense” or feeling from real experience can be an evocative way to choose what's next on the "to read" list! What are some of your favorite titles in this genre? Have you written about any of your experiences in Brazil?

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Brandi_R
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Re: Topic 86: Favorite Genres


Bonnie824 wrote:
. . . I tried writing science fiction, but my research was sloppy and it was a lot more work than I realized. The relationships, conversation, characters, were easy enough. Worldbuilding was very labor intense though. When I try again, it will be settings I know.
That's so true. A lot of writers assume there's something easier about it as you are inventing the world. It's an exciting part of the process, but not necessarily an easy one. It's also important to maintain the continuity of the world you create. You don’t want to contradict the very elements you imagined and brought to life.

I'm curious to hear more about space opera. Can you elaborate on that one? 
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Brandi_R
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Re: Topic 86: Favorite Genres


twilight_fanatic_01 wrote:

My favorite genre...grrrrr, you're making me choose!

 


I didn't realize how cruel that question could be for some! But you make some interesting distinctions as to what draws you to fantasy and sci-fi.

 

Would you tell us more about your combination of fantasy and realistic fiction? Is it based in the real world with small touches of fantasy? That reminds me of "magic realism" which is situated in reality as we know it, but includes other worldly events or moments. For example, an angel falls from the sky during a storm in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings.” 

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Brandi_R
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Re: Topic 86: Favorite Genres


marilynpsychic wrote:
. . . I write character-driven soft science fiction.  I try to stretch the boundaries of science as it's known today.  Both to keep myself interested in "possbilities", and because sci fi writers who have deliberately "rode the crest" of a new scientific discovery have sometimes crashed and burned when that "new discovery" was proven false . . .

Intriguing! Can you give us an example of this? Do you stay pretty close to reality but exaggerate or extrapolate on one “sci-fi” element?

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Brandi_R
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Re: Topic 86: Favorite Genres


Capuchin wrote:

Trying to draw a line between fantasy and science fiction is always going to end in failure. Is an invisibility cloak magic or an extension of current research into meta-materials? What's the difference between a wizard seeing events far away by looking into a crystal ball and someone flipping open their cell phone to watch the latest news video of an earthquake half a world away? There's even some scientific debate on the plausibility of dragons . . .


You’re right, there’s certainly some overlapping area in these two. It might be interesting for us to talk about that a bit. How do you all define the difference between sci-fi and fantasy? What conventions exist in each that distinguish them from one another? What published books do you think exemplify each? Can you think of a book that uses elements of both that make it impossible to categorize it as one over the other?

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Zack_Kullis
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Re: Topic 86: Favorite Genres

I think it is a good one too Brandi!!!!!

 

Some of my favorite titles in this genre?  That is a tough question!!!!  There are some authors that have put out enough GREAT stuff that it is hard to single out a few of the best.  I might have to pick a few.

 

Stephen King is great.  One of his books that I enjoyed was "Salem's Lot".  I think stories about vampires should be like chocolate; very dark!!  :smileywink:

 

Vicki Pettersson, "The Scent of Shadows".  Oh yeah.....  I don't know what more to say there.  It's like trying to describe what salt tastes like to somebody that hasn't read her stuff, and those that have know what I am talking about.

 

H. P. Lovecraft has some great stuff, although I don't like all of it.  He has a story called "The Outsider" that is fantastic.

 

As far as writing about my experiences in Brazil, I have not yet.  I plan on it, but I wanted to get more practiced with producing a novel before I work on that one.

 

 

Sic volvere Parcas...
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Capuchin
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Re: Topic 86: Favorite Genres


Brandi_R wrote:

It might be interesting for us to talk about that a bit. How do you all define the difference between sci-fi and fantasy? What conventions exist in each that distinguish them from one another?

 


There was a thread on this last year (August?) in the F&SF Book Club.

 

What I think it boils down to is what the author intends, if anything -- Orson Scott Card, Harlan Ellison, and many others don't really seem to care whether it's fantasy or science fiction as long as it belongs in the story.

 

It's also very subjective. Does the reader believe that a particular action/beastie/power has any basis in scientific fact? By this measure, some fantasy stories of the 50s would now be considered science fiction.

 

Also blurring the lines is that many science fiction plots demand a bit of expediency which is outside the realm of possibility. Most people assume that it's science fiction if there are human clones walking around, but the storyline can easily slip, virtually unnoticed, into fantasy if the clones are fully adult even though they were created only a few months before. That's pure fantasy, on a par with Frankenstein's monster or golems.

 

I hope to one day keep the line blurred. In my wsip ("work supposedly in progress"), wizards have paintings that talk, invisibility cloaks, amulets which let them communicate  over long distances, and a variety of other magical tropes. But that's all science fiction -- the portraits are the user interfaces for an aritifical intelligence, the cloaks are metamaterials, and the amulets are voice-activated cell phones.

 

The backstory is that it's a post-armageddon world rebuilt to a medieval level, and the wizards are using the ancient devices which survived through the centuries. (I won't, of course, bother letting the reader know that.)

 

The reason for this approach is simple: I'm lazy. For any system of magic to be believable, it has to follow a rigid set of rules. Rather than working out an entirely new canon, I'm simply wrapping technology in a shroud of mysticism, elitism, and heresy. If some power/capability/device isn't already on some scientist's drawing board, I can't use it.

 

I'm far from the first to mix fantasy and science this way. The 'advanced science is seen as magic' motif has a long and noble history in science fiction and has many variants.

 

Rather than trying to explain, define, or defend what is fantasy and what is science fiction, I usually take the easy way out and say it all falls into the category of Speculative Fiction.

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holyboy
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Re: Topic 86: Favorite Genres

Favorite genre to read: since sixth grade, Science Fiction.

 

I'm currently working on a science fiction novel.

 

To your question, "When you write, how do you make your work fresh, interesting, and different from other works in that genre"?

 

For the science fiction genre, especially what's called "hard" science fiction, that's the challenge, because what is required is originality of concept. Too much of what I come across in workshops and other writing venues from peers is really some other genre (mystery, for example) dressed up as science fiction by adding aliens, planets, spaceships and the like. But if you plopped the plot into contemporary times, it would be mystery, not sf.

 

Originality or creativity is based on combining things in new ways. In my opinion, good science fiction calls for such originality. Capuchin's is a fine example of a solid science fiction plot. The story takes place in the future, there's been a calamity, there are some scientific devices left, only now they are considered magical. Some award winning works in a simialr vein would be Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz  and Wolfe's Books of the New Sun. Capuchin's idea has the originality that makes for good science fiction. 

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Bonnie824
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Re: Topic 86: Favorite Genres


Brandi_R wrote:

That's so true. A lot of writers assume there's something easier about it as you are inventing the world. It's an exciting part of the process, but not necessarily an easy one. It's also important to maintain the continuity of the world you create. You don’t want to contradict the very elements you imagined and brought to life.

I'm curious to hear more about space opera. Can you elaborate on that one? 

I heard it in reference to Lois B McMaster's Miles K series. It was a saga/drama that had lots of action but also an ongoing romance/family/friendships storyline. I guess it means like a soap opera set in space?

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Capuchin
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Re: Topic 86: Favorite Genres


Bonnie824 wrote:

Brandi_R wrote:

I'm curious to hear more about space opera. Can you elaborate on that one? 

I heard it in reference to Lois B McMaster's Miles K series. It was a saga/drama that had lots of action but also an ongoing romance/family/friendships storyline. I guess it means like a soap opera set in space?


It's derived from horse opera, i.e. westerns.

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holyboy
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Definitions of "Space Opera"

[ Edited ]

Wikipedia has a definitive article on the evolution of the term, "Space Opera."

 

I'll quote a bit:

 

Early in its history, the term space opera was a pejorative term for the worst, "really bad" SF, and this definition of space opera remained in force till about the 1970s. In 1941,  science fiction fan Bob Tucker (who was also science fiction writer Wilson Tucker) coined the term "space opera" (by analogy to "horse opera" and "soap opera") to describe what he characterized as "the hacky, grinding, stinking, outworn space-ship yarn, or world-saving [story] for that matter." In other words, many works that today would be termed "space operas", would not have been called by that name originally.

 

Beginning in the 1960s, and widely accepted by the 1970s, the space opera was redefined, following Brian Aldiss' definition in Space Opera (1974) as "the good old stuff": adventure stories set in space. Yet soon after his redefinition, it begun to be challenged, by writers such as Leigh Brackett, Lester del Rey and Judy-Lynn del Rey. In particular, they disputed the claims that space operas were obsolete. By early 1980s, space operas—adventure stories set in space—were redefined, and the label attached to major popculture works such as Star Wars. It was only in the early 1990s that the term space opera begun to be universally recognized as a legitimate genre of science fiction. As Hartwell and Cramer note, since then, space opera means "colorful, dramatic, large-scale science fiction adventure, competently and sometimes beautifully written, usually focused on a sympathetic, heroic central character and plot action and usually set in the relatively distant future and in space or on other worlds characteristically optimistic in tone. It often deals with war, piracy, military virtues and very large-scale action, large stakes."

 

 

Message Edited by holyboy on 07-27-2009 10:32 AM