Monday, March 4, 2019

Genre Bending?

I don't about the rest of you, but I've noticed something lately as I'm scrolling through the FB groups and book newsletters.  Genres are getting pretty warped out there.  Reverse Harem*?  Dystopian Fantasy?  Gothic SF?  As a reader, it's totally confusing.

And as a writer, I totally understand.  It's hard to make some books fit into the boxes already provided by the industry.  

Oh, you still have the usual Romance, SF/F, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller and their traditional sub-genres.  Years ago, Technothriller was coined by Michael Crichton which blew up that whole genre.  And then Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy hit the scene and became mainstream.  You have psychological thrillers and paranormal mysteries and... well, you get the gist.

Once upon a time, I tried making philosophical thriller a thing.  I felt like it described my book Fear Itself better than anything else.  Nobody agreed.  I think 'magical mystery' would fit Sleeping Ugly better, but yeah, it's not a thing. 

Seriously, though, what do you do with a supposed 'urban' fantasy that's set in the suburbs?  Or, dare I say it, a rural locale?  Or when your 'paranormal' novel isn't quite as paranormal as readers might expect?  I mean, SU has paranormal elements, but not a lot and they're more the backdrop than the main thrust.  (UatB gets more magical, but still.)

I have a friend who writes awesome books, but I have a tough time pigeonholing them into a genre when I do my 'Books Read' post.  Paranormal Romance seems so milquetoast a description for her novels.  Supernatural Romantic Suspense with military elements?  

Ugh.  But we have to find a box to put books in so the readers can find them easily, right?  SCIU is easy - suspense.  Dennis Haggarty? Mystery.  (But so not cozy.)  Then I get to Project Hermes. Umm... political suspense with medical elements?  (I shy away from 'thriller' because it doesn't seem quite thrilling enough to be a thriller, if that makes any sense.)  I keep throwing the genie books into urban fantasy, but I don't feel like they really fit there either.  And with regard to Blink and Unequal, they're in dystopian and the questionable slot of 'speculative fiction'.  But is speculative fiction even a thing anymore?  Gah.

Anyway, like I said, the genre bending I'm seeing is totally understandable.  And now that we're all out there promoting our own books - without tradpub to tell us where we have to go - it's pretty damn easy to come up with a genre of your own.  Whether the readers agree or are just confused, time and sales will tell.

Well, that a pretty rambling post there.  I hope I made some sense along the way.  What do you think when you see a genre you've never encountered before?  What are some weird ones you've seen?  Do bent genres work for you?

*I had to google that one.  It's a woman with a bunch of men and is supposed to indicate a sexual relationship between them all, but I don't think some people are using it to mean that.  Rather, they have a strong female lead with a bunch of male subordinates or a female MC with male friends.  :shrug:  I'm still avoiding that genre distinction like the plague, though, because while I think the latter examples would be cool - sort of like Ripley in Alien3 - I don't want to be reading along and have the characters get into one big orgy.  Ew.


  1. The cool thing is that we can find audiences for any sort of crazy genre mashup these days. But I think it still holds that more of a generic genre book fitting in commercial parameters finds the larger audience...which can be frustrating for writers who want to do something different. As a reader, I'm more traditional.

  2. Reverse harem is all about the sexy times. Just sayin'.

    To me, Urban Fantasy is set in the "real," contemporary world where magic, preternatural, fantasy, and/or paranormal events, characters, and settings all exist, whether out of the closet or hidden--with the idea that the hidden world can be discovered by "mundanes."

    I have more trouble with key words than anything. LOL

  3. I love reading most mashups, but choosing the right category for a book? That's HARD!

    I agree with Silver's definition of Urban Fantasy, but you're right, it doesn't really make sense.

    I read one of the early (I think) reverse harem books by Laurel Hamilton, if I remember right (too lazy to look it up). Ick.