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Fantasy Faction: The Genre Divide

Posted on: 03/16/2015 · Estimated reading time: 1 minutes to read

Aaron Miles writes for Fantasy Faction about hybrid fiction.

As long as there have been books there have been categories for them, Fantasy-Faction itself is a site dedicated to a particular form of literature. But in recent years more and more novels are scraping at the borders of their neat genre boxes, they’re breaking out and twisting into new shapes, new stories. This brand of so called “hybrid fiction” includes matches like steampunk mysteries, western fantasy, paranormal romance, and scores of other combinations. They are the result of writers taking elements and ideas from different stories and combining them into something new. And for all this talk about creating hybrid books, haven’t writers always done that?

It isn’t a new phenomenon; science fantasy has been around long enough that Michael Moorcock was writing Elric stories for Science Fantasy magazine in the 1960s. Hell, it’s older than that; what do you think Catherine L. Moore was doing when she wrote stories like “Shambleau” and “Black Thirst”?

Stephen King blended the Western and fantasy in The Dark Tower. The late Terry Pratchett made a fusion of comedy, satire, and fantasy his stock in trade starting with The Colour of Magic in 1983. C. J. Cherryh turned science fiction into fantasy by making her narrator a man who could only make sense of his experiences by thinking in terms of magic in her Morgaine Cycle, and C. S. Friedman set her Coldfire Trilogy on a planet where magic is a force of nature deadly to humans.

Now genre-blending is becoming trendy again. I’ve seen S. A. Hunt write Weird West in his (three books and counting) dark science fantasy series The Outlaw King, and it’s damn good stuff. There’s Rick Wayne, whose Fantasmagoria is a dozen different kinds of weird. And let’s not forget Sally Wiener Grotta’s The Winter Boy, which starts out as straight fantasy in the Le Guin tradition and becomes something far more as the story develops.

I’m glad for this resurgence of hybrid fiction, or genre-bending, or outright genre busting, for reasons of my own that I promised myself I wouldn’t discuss on The Black Sword because this blog isn’t about me. Who needs straight fantasy when you can go for gonzo?