Tag Archives: genre definitions

The Revision Project


Heaven knows it was useful to me to update my page that gathers all the blogs for the Revision Project. Just a few holes here and there! And maybe someday I’ll get that counting thing straight …

For those of you following that, it may help you catch some you missed, and also explained some apparent non sequiturs.




Got the genres finished. Single-handed, based on a lifetime of promiscuous reading.

If you have any questions or see any holes, please feel free to use the comments sections. I’d appreciate the help polishing it up.

Back next time with actual revising work. But OMG the templates pages loom on the horizon.

Listening to the Peter Gunn OST album. Sometimes only Cool Jazz will do. I’ve been collecting lists on my 8tracks account. Dark outside the bus windows, rain spattering on them — must have smooth trap set and desperate horns.

Revision 04.1.04 — Fantasy & Science Fiction, pt. 2


The easiest way to explain the spectrum of fantasy to science fiction is to just paint it on the wall.

•    Fantasy.
•    Science Fantasy, the usual place you find Space Opera and Planet Stories.
•    Soft Science Fiction. Includes “non-magical fantasy,” and “hard fantasy.”
•    Science Fiction.
•    Hard Science Fiction.

Fantasy includes all kinds of things, and they really don’t spectrum — they’re just different settings or things to use as elements or mechanisms. It’s the science fiction folks who get fussy about how much science their stories have going.

So —
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Revision 04.1.04 — Fantasy & Science Fiction, pt. 1


Fantasy, we all ought to know, is stuff we make up so it isn’t like reality, on purpose. “Fantasy” as a genre, does not require quests, dragons, swords, or strange places. In fact, science fiction is a subset of fantasy: fantasy is the oldest form of fiction (we can track it back into mythic tales, where the tellers may have thought that stuff was real, but it appears at least in Ancient Egypt, in “The Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor”), and science fiction is a special form of it that came into existence about 1818, as a fantasy that tried to explain its non-reality in terms of postulated science rather than magic.

That’s the literary approach. In marketing terms, they both come under the 1970s term “speculative fiction,” invented to soothe the ruffled feathers of über-geeks who didn’t want their science fiction called fantasy, like it was icky Tolkien or something. Science fiction at least nods to science and makes up some good-sounding terminology to let them do whatever they need to do: the big word right now is “nanobots,” right? Anything you want to do, someone came up with some free-ranging nanobots that will provide the effect. The other big thing is wormholes, and they don’t even hold them with quantum foam. (Sometimes it’s hard to believe I was raised on Galaxy and Analog, and then again maybe that explains my attitude.) This coming up with good-sounding terms and theories is called hand-waving, smoke and mirrors, or phlebotinum, all meaning “stuff that doesn’t make hard science sense but works in the story.” Read the rest of this entry

Revision 04.1.10 — This, That, and the Other Genres


Animal Stories

These have non-human protagonists, animals that, nowadays, we don’t want to over-sentimentalize or make into humans in animal suits. Predators hunt, prey has to defend itself in any place not a zoo, and Bambi won’t have any clue as to who his father is.

Of course, children’s fantasies and humor are always another matter. In that case we may be getting into animal fables or anthropomorphized animals, where the squids and foxes are indeed humans in beast suits, acting and thinking like people in similar situations. These range from Aesop’s fables to The Lion King. “Furry fandom” is its own market, where the animals become upright and bipedal with hands and other human anatomy, though usually with fairly animal-like heads. Read the rest of this entry

Revision 04.1.06 — Thrillers & Suspense


A lot of best-sellers come out of these genres, because if you do it right, the whole idea is to keep people breathlessly turning the pages until long past bedtime. The difference between whether something is marketed as a thriller or as a suspense novel may depend on which is selling better this year: they’re very close, the way fantasy and science fiction shade over at science fantasy.

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Revision 04.1.0: Mysteries for Many


The mystery genre is determined by a template, that of the hidden thing revealed. Where or when you set it, who gets the revelation, what is revealed, levels of violence — create sub-genres, but they are all mysteries. As in any large, sub-genred field, some readers read only one sub-genre, but many read anything as long as it is a mystery.

One axis of splitting is who the detective is in the mystery. In the private eye mystery, starting back with Sherlock Holmes, the detective is a professional, dedicated to solving mysteries. Often the simple job like finding a missing sister, starts to accrue dead bodies and threats against the detective, who has to show their professional mettle facing the threats and solving the mystery anyway.

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Revision 04.1.07 Genre, Action/Adventure


Action/Adventure is often considered Men’s Fiction, like Romance is Women’s Fiction, but women like good a/a, with either gender of protagonist, just like some men like to read romances (note: the same person often enjoys both).

Action/Adventure emphasizes just that. Personal relationships are strictly optional, though men’s fiction a/a often has the sexy babe who is kind of the hero’s reward at the end, or some along the way to create rescue objects, dead ladies to avenge, or heartless Delilahs who only use the hero in order to betray him. Okay, I’m assuming all sorts of gender things. Today we all know the he’s and she’s can assort all kinds of ways. Let me stick to the traditional and, still, marketing majority of hetero male a/a, or it’ll take five times as many screens to talk about this.

By default, a/a takes place in urban or suburban places unless otherwise marked. Think Bourne. Think James Bond. There can be elements of suspense, thriller, or mysteries here, but the reader is waiting for the explosion into violence, the honed ability to rely on oneself to get through, and even save others. It’s a matter of physical as well as mental or emotional adventure.

So, as the examples tell you, this is the place for your espionage fiction.

There are some settings that are so well-used that they form subsets. These can be contemporary or historical. Remember, in fifty years your contemporary will be historical, for all purposes. Make it rely on more than the gadgets (that will be so old then) or just accept that it’s going to have a short shelf life. As well, watch your world-presentation.

Outdoor adventure moves your hero into places where people are few and far between. It may be Man vs. Nature, or he may be pursued or pursuer.

Contemporary military fiction features the modern soldiers and pilots on various missions, overt or covert. Their being military counts in the plot, as opposed to just outfitting some other sort of tough guys. Historical military fiction might be typified by the Sharps series, of an English officer in the Napoleonic Wars.

Sea Stories have a wide range of subjects, from stories about racing yachts to the equivalent of wet outdoor adventures, to naval fiction. The contemporary naval fiction takes place usually in smaller vessels: it’s hard to feel significant as one of a crew of 1200. Historical naval fiction might include WWII or even WWI, but is especially popular for the Age of Sail, whether it’s the classic Horatio Hornblower series or the more modern Aubrey and Maturin stories. Both are set during the Napoleonic Wars, but Hornblower stays closer to home, I notice, rather than sailing for the Pacific.