Over the years, I’ve had a hard time categorizing what I write. It has elements of the supernatural, science-fiction, history, and fantasy. I’ve always tried to pigeonhole it by crossing television programs. The triad I like to use is The 4400, Stranger Things, and Fringe. My writing doesn’t fit nicely into just one genre. If you mash all of those together, it’s what I write. So, some sci-fi, supernatural, action, thriller, superheroish, fantasy, paranormal, historical-type fiction.
Oh, Mylanta. You can see why I may have a hard time with genres.
For example, the Poltergeist Files is a series that might fit into science-fiction because the main character is a preternatural fighting machine who can turn invisible at will. It may even lean more towards the superheroic. But it is not that, strictly. I’m a comic book fan. I’ve been collecting comics since the 80s. I know these things.
When I go to categorize a new novel I’ve written, they never do not fit snug into one genre. I do not write to market. I write to taste. My taste. I must be a fan of what I write. I may not think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread, but I do enjoy the subject matter. I enjoy how I wrote it and what I touch on in my novels as well as the elements I use to tell the stories. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Recently, I did a search about different genres, something I do from time to time since my material bounces around all over the place. But it tends to stay in certain areas. I came across a section of an article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia I feel best describes what I write.
An excerpt of the article defines speculative fiction as:
The term “speculative fiction” has three historically located meanings: a subgenre of science fiction that deals with human rather than technological problems, a genre distinct from and opposite to science fiction in its exclusive focus on possible futures, and a super category for all genres that deliberately depart from imitating “consensus reality” of everyday experience. In this latter sense, speculative fiction includes fantasy, science fiction, and horror, but also their derivatives, hybrids, and cognate genres like the gothic, dystopia, weird fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, ghost stories, superhero tales, alternate history, steampunk, slipstream, magic realism, fractured fairy tales, and more.Oxford Research Encyclopedia
The last definition would be where my novels fit. The article is some high-brow stuff (and long), but it hits the nail on the head in terms of what I write. I’m sure this in not what Robert Heinlein had in mind when he coined the phrase back in 1941. He had looked at it more of a sub-genre of science-fiction and some of my material fits there to a degree — but not strictly. That same article expands on the definition as it has expanded to take on new meaning.
… a fuzzy set is a category defined not by clear boundaries but by resemblance to prototypical examples and degrees of membership: from being exactly like to being somewhat or marginally like.Oxford Research Encyclopedia
There it is. This is the best definition of what I write. This is the RIU. It is not exactly like, but somewhat like. Some stories may be more somewhat than others.
Unlike what you may hear in indie author circles today who tell you to “write to market” or “make sure you’re hitting the main tropes”, I don’t do that. My goal is to tell the story I want to tell, tell it well, and tell it how I want to tell it. That’s the long and the short of it.
However, this becomes a problem when you want to list your novel in a certain category at an online retailer and only have so many to choose from. Amazon has the most with a million sub-genres. However, you have to jump over some hurdles in order to get them listed in those genres since they only give you two when you post the novel. When your stories involve a little bit of everything, it presents the problem of knowing where to put it (see above).
I no longer focus on that much anymore. I try to nail it in the description so the reader will get a sense of where the story will take them and what it will fall into in terms of genre. In addition, there is no “speculative fiction” category. So you just have to get as close as you can with the ones that are available. Some retailers are more sparse in their genre listings than others.
If I were to coin a phrase to describe what I write, I would call it fantastical fiction. It includes the potential elements of wonder and strangeness in and of the real world, remixed in and through my imagination.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — every writer is a preacher. No writer ever strictly entertains. Ever. That’s a myth, and they’re just playing a Jedi mind trick on themselves. Writers put a piece of themselves out there every time they write a story; their likes, dislikes, ideology, philosophy, worldview, dreams, and desires. It’s inevitable. There is no hiding it. You couldn’t if you tried. Though we may mask it in and through our characters and their narratives, it’s there. So we all have the job of nailing down the genre we’re using as a vehicle for our preaching so that the people who read it may not only be entertained but enlightened, encouraged, and edified.
So this is what I write. Speculative fiction in the broad use of the term. Fantastical fiction which often ignores the boundaries of genre and tells the story they way it’s screaming to be told. This is what you can expect from me from now until the Lord tells me it’s time to leave this world. I like it that way because there’s a certain amount of freedom you feel from not being pigeon-holed and just being able to tell the story no matter where it goes. Quite frankly, if the story is good enough, genre doesn’t matter all that much. Or it shouldn’t, if it’s about reading a good story.