“Thoughtful Ramblings” is a feature where we discuss bookish subjects. These posts are just our own thoughts about certain topics that may get us hot under the collar and we need a good rant or just things we want to share with fellow bloggers and readers.
Confusing the Genre Out of Me
When I was a kid there were only two types of books – kids books and grownup books and when I got older I realised there were fiction and non-fiction books. Since then I think there has been a genre explosion. I recently had a discussion with another reviewing friend about the fantasy genres and didn’t know there were so many. I thought there was just urban fantasy and fantasy – what I called pure fantasy. Boy was I wrong. There are so many genres and sub-genres that it must be a librarian’s wet dream. Check out what I found out…
- Epic Fantasy – also referred to as high fantasy – typical good vs evil plot
Lord of the Rings by Tolkein and the Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson fall into this genre.
- Urban Fantasy – also referred to as contemporary fantasy (just to confuse us). Fantasy in an urban setting
The Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs are two examples of UF.
- High Fantasy – basically the same as Epic Fantasy except there is more of a magical element
TIGANA by Guy Gavriel Kay is a great example of High Fantasy (and one of my all time favourite books)
- Sword & Sorcery Fantasy – the bad guy is usually the sorcerer and there is a lot of combat
I think a lot of fantasy novels fit in this genre and fantasy tends to include some sorcery and a sword or swords. One example however, that fits perfectly in this genre is the Riyria Revelations series by Michael J Sullivan.
- Dark Fantasy – fantasy including elements of horror usually involving demons, vampires and other scary creatures
Anne Rice’s vampire novels fit well into this genre and True Blood the TV series would probably fall into this genre much better than the books with all the blood, guts and gore.
- Steampunk – where magic meets technology or Victoriana with steam based technology.
Steampunk seems to be on the rise in popularity with more and novels on the market in this genre. The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series by Philippa Ballantine and Tee Morris, as well as, GREYFRIAR by Clay Griffiths are examples of both the magical and non-magical ends of the steampunk spectrum
- Alternative Reality Fantasy – where UF or fantasy crossed with a classic alternative timeline
Two of Guy Gavriel Kay’s books fall into alternative fantasy – SONGS FOR ARBONNE and SAILING TO SARANTIUM along with JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR NORRELL by Susannah Clarke could be considered and Alternative Reality Fantasy.
- Young Adult Fantasy – fantasy with teenagers
An excellent example from this genre I just recently read was FIREBRAND by Gillian Philip although the further books of this series will need to fall into the Epic Fantasy as the hero grows up.
- Paranormal Fantasy – fantasy with werewolves, vampires, the occult and may or may not be in an urban setting.
Kim Harrison and Jim Butcher have both written a series of books that could fall into this genre although they both also fall under urban fantasy. Confused yet?
If you can believe it there are many more such as Superhero Fantasy, Cross Over Fantasy and what I think it is the oddest – Slipstream Fantasy. My list could be much longer if I included all remaining genres/subgenres and I haven’t gone anywhere near all the romance related ones!
I am always indecisive when I read a book which category it falls into. For example, what genre do NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern and THE TROUPE by Robert J Bennett fall into? Are they Fantasy, Paranormal Fantasy or Alternative Reality? Can Steampunk be Steampunk with no steam fuelled technology or are they Alternative Reality? I sometimes wonder if some of these genres haven’t been made up and results in so many books seeming to fall into multiple genres? Should there be more or less genres? Does anyone else think that there ‘genrefication’ has gone to far?
I am however, guilty myself of adding to the problem by making up my own genre called Tense Fiction. Books in this genre make you tense, you can’t put down, you bite your fingernails or you end up with a stomach ache. Of course, this genre makes total sense! I challenge you to come up with a better genre than Tense Fiction. Do you accept?
I would like to harken back to the good old days when you were a kid and it was pretty easy to figure out which books were for you. They were always the one on one side of the library – the one with the toys. Now there are so many choices that if you base your reading selection purely on the genre then you need a chart to keep them all straight. Am I the only one that gets confused? I think I will advocate that less more and keep it simple with just urban fantasy and fantasy….and my own tense fiction, of course. What do you think?