Thoughtful Thursday: Genre Mash-Ups

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsMy writing class is over, and I want to thank Kat for helping me with my FanLit duties. For those that wish to know, my class went well. When I began the class I was pretty sure I wanted to be a writer. Now that the class is over I am still pretty sure I want to be a writer. That’s good. I took the class with every expectation of having my writing aspirations dashed upon the rocks of academic scrutiny. That has not happened, and it gives me heart.

One thing I noticed about my writing is that I couldn’t keep the fantasy from leaking into my pieces. It made for some interesting mixes of genres, and resulted in positive comments from my professor. Little did he know that the fantasy elements were in there not because I was being super creative, but it was because I was unable to stop myself.

Which brings me to the topic for today: genre mash-ups. Fantasy has plenty of genre mixing stories. In fact, if a fantasy novel doesn’t have some mix of genres it is generally marked as “tired” or “clichéd.” Sometimes the mix is very subtle, and that often works out nicely. Our Edge of the Universe column is full of examples of those. However, it’s when an author mixes something completely unexpected into a fantasy novel that it becomes special. For example, Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union is a detective story that takes place in a alternate universe and Mark Chadbourn’s The Silver Skull was a delightful mix of Victorian Elizabethan spies and fairies. What are some genre-bending books that you’ve enjoyed? One  commenter will be chosen to receive their choice of a book from our stacks.

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JUSTIN BLAZIER (on FanLit's staff since September 2009) is a Cyber-Security Analyst/Network Engineer located in Northern Kentucky. Like many fantasy enthusiasts, Justin cut his teeth on authors like Tolkien, Anthony, and Lewis. Due to lack of space, his small public library would often give him their donated SFF books. When he is not reading books he is likely playing board games or Tabletop RPGs. Justin lives in a quiet neighborhood with his wife, their daughter, and Norman the dog.

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  1. The Yiddish Policeman’s Union is one of my favorites. A book I read recently, The Alchemist of Souls is an Elizabethan spy novel in an alternate world with an entirely alien sentient race.

  2. Mike /

    Historically, genre cross-overs were a hard sale. Asimov had a hard time talking editors into letting him write a science-fiction mystery. This is why most of his mysteries are not also science fiction. When he finally was able to do it, he produced the excellent Elijah Bailey/Daneel Olivaw robot mysteries.

    Jo Walton’s Farthing trilogy are also detective novels set in an alternate universe.

    Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next books are a complicated amalgamation of humor, science fiction, fantasy, mystery and alternate universe.

    J.D. Robb’s (Nora Roberts) In Death series are primarily detective/romances but with a good dose of science fiction mixed in.

    Horror/romance and fantasy/romance have been completely beaten to death over the last decade or so, such that the new “paranormal romance” is itself already “tired” and “cliched”.

  3. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, though it cheats a bit by separating its multiple genres (post-apoc, sci-fi dystopia, seafaring travel yarn, thriller, etc) into different sections of the book.

  4. I hate to be a stickler, but Mark Chadbourn’s “The Silver Skull” is set in Tudor, not Victorian, England.

    However, I agree with Mike, you can’t go wrong with Jasper Fforde’s books, they are all delightfull.

  5. Hmmm, it’s hard to get more cross genre hopping than jasper Fforde, he really is one of the best at this sort of thing. Bringing fantasy, SF, humour together with heady dose of the literary tradition, there’s not much that can beat his stories.
    Possibly only Robert Rankin can rival Fforde here, with his irreverent takes on various subjects, variously mashing up horror, SF, steampunk, mythology all tied together with his shaggy dog stories and insane but excellent humour.
    Also, Stephen Kings Dark Tower series combine many different elements that shouldn’t work, but somehow do (for the most part). Part fantasy, part SF, part horror and not a little western (and he even manages to throw in a little romance), it certainly seems to be his crowning achievement.

  6. I’m a Jack Chalker fan, his books tend to genre blend. Brian Lumley also does that with his necroscope series. Congrats on finishing your class! :)

  7. I think Devon Monk’s Dead Iron, classified as steampunk, is actually a fantasy Western.

  8. Richard K Morgan’s Altered Carbon is sf noir. That’s a mashup.

  9. SandyG265 /

    I like Jack Chalkers books too. You never know what he’s going to mix into a story.

  10. Paul Feeney, if you live in the USA, you win a book of your choice from our stacks. Please contact me (Tim) with your choice and a US address.

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