Sunday, 21 August 2011

How about SF?:I need a genre!

Now I had decided I had written a romance and, as far as I’m concerned looking back fifty years and using archives equals history, I had written an historical story.  I now had to address the main strand and have been forced back to Science Fiction – why am I so reluctant? 

I enjoy SF myself, have done since quite young although I have not read much lately.  My heyday was back in the 50s and 60s when I devoured the likes of H G Wells, Isaac Asimov, Robert A Heinlein and EE (Doc) Smith, Arthur C Clarke.  This was the age of space travel in books, hopes and dreams and by the 60s we were up there.  I think in my mind this form of storytelling remains fixed as true SF; no space travel, alien invasions or intergalactic wars, no SF.

In the 70s when I began my travels, in the days before e-readers, I took the classics on my journeys.  War and Peace in the Hindu Kush, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom
overlooking Sydney Harbour, that kind of thing.  Although large they lasted me longer and so my suitcase actually had room for a change of clothes! I did once, when stranded bookless in the outback for six weeks, read someone’s collection 30 of lurid covered science fantasy back to back, and as far as memory serves me – enjoyed them.

I discover now that the genre divides continually into more and more subgenres, and the subdivision continues as fast as do bacteria in a petri dish.  The form I read so excitedly in my far distant youth is now labelled hard SF.  This is not the Sefuty ChroniclesI went to Wikipedia, a site I have always been suspicious of but I hadn’t found my trusty Oxford dictionary up to these subdivisions. 

I was still vaguely avoiding SF as Ellen’s Tale had very little of what I would call fictional science or even speculative science; although friends point out with much eye rolling that men who are manipulated genetically does kind of suggest science!  Any science in the Chronicles is only a continuation of what is possible now and indeed has been tried in some instances.  I never counted it as fiction somehow.  Genetic manipulation has been around for decades now.

I found a new genre to me, Dystopia, with The Handmaid’s Tale mentioned.  I had read this excellent book years ago and somehow never associated Margaret Attwood with SF.  An anthropological story of the future but a very realistic one, I could see how society could evolve thus; by this time I was well into my anthropological studies.  Well, well, Attwood was writing SF?  This was more comfortable, who else and what was this Dystopia? 

It was Gulliver’s Travels, Brave New World, Animal Farm and 1984.  All of these I had read when they came onto the bookshelves but if I had labelled them at all it would have been as political satire and rages against society.  I investigated further now that I had a ‘name’ for what I was looking for.  Maybe, maybe I was writing dystopian tales.  My dystopian world though was tame in comparison to those before mentioned, it had no bite; my government might rule as a dictatorship but it genuinely has a ‘heart of gold’.  As I say, hardly political satire.

Onward and outwards.  In these explorations into Dystopia I came across another subdivision, Apocalyptic.  I was hopeful again, after all hadn’t I single-handedly destroyed 8 billion plus of the world’s population in Ellen’s Tale; this may well be the answer.  

I did have a moment’s hesitation, however, when I found that Neville Shute was supposed to have written a novel in this genre – Neville Shute?  That wonderful author of quiet splendid people in the 40s and 50s, those books that couldn’t get any quieter if one muffled them in a sand dune.  I had read them all avidly when I was younger.  On the Beach I remembered was about nuclear war, it was a idea which exercised us all a great deal post WW2 .  We had witnessed for the first time the horror that man could unleash on man at first hand.  On the Beach  had been chilling and filled with those splendid people behaving with what is best of human nature.  I had read it as a story.  I began to see my problem.  I didn’t really think in genres, a book was enjoyable for its story.  I browse bookshelves like a grazer and never stopped to question what fodder I was eating up.  My mind barely has a cubby hole for genre let alone all these subdivisions.

Margaret Attwood had more than dipped her toe into this subdivision with her Onxy and Crane and The Flood.  I discovered Maggie Gee along the way , then that the old man of fiction,J G Ballard, was known as a dystopian writer, as I say I do not seem to think in genre.  Surprises abounding I began to settle into this search.

Actually these were all post apocalyptic which would have summed up the my chronicles well, after all the Sefuty Chronicles  are set 50 and 100 years after the great climate wars that had destroyed the greater part of the population.  I had moments of doubt as I realised that many of these Post Apocalyptic novels had such as vampires zombies and werewolves in them.  Not the Sefuty Chronicles cup of tea at all so now I had to put a rider into this genre as well;

Post Apocalyptic but without vampires.  Dystopian but with a beneign dictatorship and a hopeful ending.  An historical romance but set in the future!

More reading needed into these, it seems I was following some kind of a pattern and then there was a mysterious subgenre I have found - soft SF.  Ah well, back to the research.  Somewhere, somehow I will find a place to nestle!


  1. When you asked about a genre some weeks ago I was a little puzzled and in fact wasn't sure what you were talking about. From what I had read on your blog in sounded like your novel was dystopian to me...

  2. ah yes I think it is but not the normal kind as really the government is good! is that possible? have found a dystopian niche I think that I can settle into - next week - but I still have a wish for it to be viewed as a story more upbeat than dystopian ones usually are

  3. It is frustrating to find that niche for a novel. I understand your plight, Ellen's Tale does fall into many genre files.

    Good luck with the search. :)

  4. I just don't think I would get too caught up in it. I think you could say for publishing sake that it was SF with a dystopian flare... or the opposite. SF and dystopian tend to catch similar readers...