Tag Archives: genre-bending

Genre-Bending: Just Barely Speculative Fiction

I’m fascinated by edge cases — genre-bending, cross-genre fiction, works that don’t fit neatly into categories. Today I’d like to talk about fiction that, for one reason or another, just barely qualifies as speculative fiction. Doesn’t mean it’s bad — often quite the opposite. It’s just doing something different.

First of all, I don’t mean literary fiction using genre tropes. That’s a whole ‘nother animal (one that I also enjoy). Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife, for example, obviously uses the convention of time travel, but it doesn’t read like a genre work — it reads like women’s fiction or literary fiction, and it’s interested in the same sorts of ideas and themes. It’s using time travel to speak a non-genre language. Same for Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake or Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go.

What I’m interested in today is the reverse. What happens when a book is “speaking” speculative fiction, but it doesn’t use much or any technology that we don’t have today, or employ magic, or use any settings in imaginary worlds?

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Books: Exploring Science Fantasy

Dragonflight by Anne McCaffreyAs a reader, I’m all over the spectrum of speculative fiction. I’ve been known to enjoy everything from hard science fiction, like Peter Watts‘s Blindsight, to epic fantasy, like George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. (I’ve written a pretty big variety of stuff, too. I also read and occasionally write outside speculative fiction, but that’s beyond the scope of this post.)

One thing that has always fascinated me is the way subgenres nudge up against one another, how the lines are drawn, where they grow fuzzy. Is a zombie story science fiction or horror? What about a time travel story or a superhero story? How about things like Star Wars, whose genre classification depends on whether you prioritize scientific accuracy over the presence of spaceships? Today I’m looking at one of my favourite areas of genre-bending — science fantasy and variations thereof.

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