Ah, the genres. I’m preparing a batch of new stories and the long planned Moon Road novel, “A Patch of Cool” for e-publication, and that brings up the issue of keywords, search terms, niches, genres and the like – all designed to help readers find what they’re looking for.
Figuring out just where your book fits in the catalog can be a bit of a challenge when it crosses genres, or mashes them up in a new way. And as I expand the backstory of that odd living highway that connects worlds and dimensions, I’m coming to realise that the Moon Road’s original niche of urban fantasy no longer really applies. So I’m looking for another way to describe these books, so that readers can find them.
Speculative Fiction: The Big Umbrella
If you’re writing about anything that runs counter to absolute physical reality of the kind we live every day, your work would broadly be called “speculative fiction” – a term coined, some say, by science fiction author Robert Heinlein to describe fiction that has some element that’s counter to reality as we know it. That might be a bit of magic, or a spacecraft, or even a technology that doesn’t exist now – but could. Alternate histories fit here, and so do historical fictions that feature magic or supernatural elements.
Many “mainstream” fiction authors play with reality enough that at least some of their works could fit in this umbrella category. It overlaps – sort of – with another genre, “magical realism,” made popular by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and other Latin American writers, as well as others as diverse as Salman Rushdie and Alice Hoffman.
Huddling under the Spec-Fic umbrella are a host of other subgenres, including not just the usual fantasy, science fiction and horror, but also niches sliced as thinly as “western werewolf gay romance” and “fat chicks space opera.” The list of variations is long, and it’s getting longer all the time. Each has its own mythos and themes, and readers expect to see them every time they pick up a book.
Science Fantasy: Mix and Match
Science Fantasy is a hybrid of fantasy and science fiction. There can be elements of hard science, space travel and the usual icons of “hard” science fiction alongside themes and elements from horror, fantasy of various kinds, steampunk and historical fiction too. This kind of fiction sidesteps the rigors of true science fiction, which is often but not always an extrapolation of existing science in some way. But it also avoids the tropes of true fantasy, with its emphasis on creatures and themes from myth and legend, whatever time period they might inhabit. Like crows gathering collections of random pretty things, science fantasy authors steal shamelessly from whatever genre has the stuff they need to tell the story.
As more and more works with elements of both science fiction and fantasy hit bookshelves both virtual and “real,” the label Science Fantasy seems to be gaining traction. It’s a place where you can have vampires and space travel, magic and machines in the Civil War (the Office of Extraordinary Phenomena is grateful) and – a space faring road that makes pit stops at places of power on earth and other worlds.
Making of the Moon Road
So since the Moon Road universe is evolving determinedly in the direction of the ages old Shadow War and the Runners who are trying to stop the Shadows from seizing the Road and all the worlds it touches, I’ve been reworking the flash fictions and the longer works to accommodate a few more sci fi aspects of the Moon Road world.
That side of the Moon Road universe showed up most clearly in “Claudia’s Law,” which introduced you to the Runners, the War and Claudia’s cohorts led by the mysterious Major Flesher. But on our Earth, Soledad City where the Moon Road runs is still the place where Mama Silva, Nettie Chubai and their kind keep the power humming along. But the Shadows are no strangers to this old Earth, and upcoming books and stories will do more to explore the way those characters and agendas cross and collide.
As I build the larger mythos that drives the Moon Road stories, I’ll be mixing up all these elements even more. New stories are popping up and old characters are getting ready to take a turn in the spotlight too. And who knows, there’s probably a western werewolf gay romance in there too. Yeah, I know there is.**
Stay tuned. And I’d love to hear any story ideas from you, dear readers!
** “Bridie’s Song” and its forthcoming sequel “Longman’s Ride”