The publishing industry, libraries, book stores, and book advertising companies segment books by genre. It is, therefore, important as a reader to understand what gets grouped into a given genre so you may find the new books you really crave. It is also critical that authors become intimately involved with their genres in order to correctly list and advertise their new books so all of us readers can find those fabulous new works.
It makes no difference which of the book genres you like; there are no rules or limits. Many authors write books across genres. So while you might be a loyal fan of an author who writes amazing Epic Fantasies, that same author might also write Medical Thrillers which you are not remotely interested in, hence the importance of considering the genre before buying. Still, other authors create books that span genres creating unique blends such as combining Hard Science-Fiction and Urban Fantasy. If those are two genres you love, you definitely don’t want to miss a book that combines them!
New genres can be added without any warning, so both readers and authors need to keep an ear to the ground. If something new pops up, it is worthwhile to make yourself aware of what it means, especially as it might be something you can’t get enough of.
The genre categorization game all starts at the top (like a pyramid scheme, except things get more interesting the further down the structure you can navigate to). At the top, genres are split into two large categories.
- Nonfiction – books about events, people, and places which actually exist (or existed) without any made up facts or details. Examples are biographies, journals, “how-to” books, and history books. Note, not all biographies are nonfiction, most are, but there are some biographies which have been exaggerated, or spun, or are about fictional characters, even. All of those are really fictional books.
- Fiction – By far, the most commonly read books are fiction. A fiction work has elements that are made up. Not all elements are required to be from the imagination of the author. In fact, Historical Fantasy books take real places, real events, and mix in a fictional character or series of events that mingle through the real events. A Fiction book is any book which has one or more elements that have been expanded or invented and used to create the story.
The next sub-division is into general categories. For nonfiction, this means biographies, reference, cooking, etc. Fiction has many general categories; however, for the Fantasy and Science-Fiction Network purposes, we are only concerned with two:
- Fantasy – books involving fiction elements with strange or other worldly settings or characters; these stories invite readers to suspend some or all belief of reality to tell a story in which magic, alternate realms, gods, paranormal things, and other mythical elements could be real.
- Science-Fiction – books involving elements of science and technology as a basis for conflict or as the setting for a story. The science and technology are generally extrapolations of existing scientific fact, and most (though not all) science fiction stories take place in the future.
Next, the categories are divided further into story stereotypes. Again, there are hundreds of stereotypes used in book genres. For our purposes, we will limit the list to those that apply to the Fantasy and Science-Fiction network specialization areas.
There is one special decorator (or tagging) category that may be applied to any of the genres, and that is Young Adult or YA. This decorator category is used to refer to books written for young people between the ages of twelve and seventeen. As FSFNet limits all its authors, book reviews, and articles to at most a PG-13 rating, you might think this means all of the FSFNet books are YA. This is not true. G through PG-13 rated books and stories may deal with very adult issues, politics, human nature, adult level conflicts, and adult issues beyond a young reader’s experiences. YA books are carefully crafted to present topics, ideas, and subjects in a language and level of complexity, usually leaving out, or merely, hinting at some of the more adult under-currents in the plots. Many, but by no means a major-majority of YA books, deal with coming of age issues highly relevant to young people between the ages of twelve and seventeen. It is worth noting that although a book is tagged as YA, it is likely to still be a good read for adult readers.
Here is the genre list the Fantasy and Science-Fiction Network is dedicated to finding books in and promoting (so long as they meet our rating requirements as well) …
- Fantasy / General – fantasy works which use the standard tropes, without specifically falling into one of the narrower genre definitions.
- Fantasy / Collections & Anthologies – compilations of many different fantasy works.
- Fantasy / Contemporary – fantasy works written in a world equivalent to the current day, age, reality as when the author lived and wrote the story. Fantasy tropes applied to a modern world setting.
- Fantasy / Dark Fantasy – fantasy works that combine fantasy with elements of horror. This genre encompasses works that have a dark, gloomy atmosphere or a sense of horror and dread.
- Fantasy / Epic – originally a long poem or story celebrating the exploits of factual or fictitious heroes, but now applied to books in the same theme.
- Fantasy / Historical – a fantasy story set in a recognizable period of history. As well as telling the stories of ordinary people’s lives, Historical Fantasy will often involve political or social events of the time with the addition of Fantasy elements, such as magic and mystical creatures.
- Fantasy / Paranormal – works that mix standard fantasy tropes with a subset of psychic forces to enrich the story environment with unique phenomena outside the bounds of established science. Psychic forces include extrasensory perception (ESP), telekinesis, ghosts, poltergeists, life after death, reincarnation, faith healing, human auras, cryptids, and so forth.
- Fantasy / Sword & Sorcery (S&S) – works that use sword fighting and high fantasy magical elements as key elements that revolve around individual character stories. Generally works in this category have many swashbuckling scenes involving exciting and violent conflicts. Many, but not all, works also include romance elements as well as a small number of supernatural elements.
- Fantasy / Urban – fantasy works where the majority of the story takes place in metropolitan locations such as large cities or arrays of towns interconnected by a form of rapid transportation, such as rivers or paved roads with reasonable municipal works like bridges and ferries.
- Science-Fiction / General – works which realistically describe possible future events and technologies without specifically falling into one of the narrower genre definitions.
- Science-Fiction / Action & Adventure – sci-fi works in which action is the key element, overshadowing characters, theme and setting. The conflict in an adventure story is often man against nature, meaning things are out of the control of other characters in the book.
- Science-Fiction / Alien Contact – sci-fi works that deal with initial contact with a new alien species, without any requirement that the narrative universe, as is, doesn’t already have known alien life forms.
- Science-Fiction / Apocalyptic & Post-Apocalyptic – sci-fi works that describe the end of civilization through any number of catastrophes such as nuclear warfare, pandemic, extraterrestrial attack, impact event, cybernetic revolt, dysgenics, divine judgment, runaway climate change, resource depletion, ecological collapse, or some other general disasters. Post-Apocalyptic works are set in a world or civilization after such a disaster.
- Science-Fiction / Alternative History – sci-fi works set in a parallel world from the exiting timeline created by a change in a historical event that produced a series of changes yielding a new current modern day.
- Science-Fiction / Collections & Anthologies – compilations of many different sci-fi works.
- Science-Fiction / Cyberpunk – sci-fi works that describe a future of “high tech and low life,” expressing the standard, often dark, tropes of the negative impact of technology on humanity, the fusion of man and machine, the corporate control over society. Cyberpunk stories often focus on an underground group or hero working as a mercenary for using advanced computer systems to steal valuable data from extremely large “mega” multi-national companies in the near future.
- Science-Fiction / Genetic Engineering – sci-fi works that deal with a future where science has gained the ability to modify the genetics. These works normally deal with the negative impact of genetically altering humanity.
- Science-Fiction / Hard Science-Fiction – sci-fi works that emphasize actual science and technical details. The science behind the high technology is described in detail, and the author provides significant technical detail and scientific accuracy.
- Science-Fiction / Military – sci-fi works that deal with a military force, usually from a soldier’s point of view. Military Science-Fiction places emphasis on military maneuvers and command structure accuracy.
- Science-Fiction / Space Opera – sci-fi works that emphasizes melodramatic adventure, often with some romance, often set completely in outer space, and usually involving conflict between opponents possessing advanced technologies.
- Science-Fiction / Steampunk – sci-fi works featuring advanced machines and other technology powered by steam. The setting is usually roughly the Victorian era, 19th century with cities and culture recognizably based on Earth’s Western societies.
- Science-Fiction / Time Travel – sci-fi works set in almost any time period often mixed with either Hard Science-Fiction and historically accurate settings where the characters have the ability to move through time. The works usually deal with the morality issues caused by the ability to travel in time.
Now you know the genres FSFNet promotes; you can continue exploring and learning about all of them. Who knows, you may find a new favorite!
Leeland Artra is a two year top 100 best selling Fantasy and Sci-Fi author, and the founder of the Fantasy and Science-Fiction Network. If you haven’t read any of his books, you can see for yourself why his books are regularly bestsellers by reading book one of Leeland’s #1 fantasy/sci-fi trilogy Thread Slivers!
“Would you look at that! I’m a fantasy/sci-fi bestselling author on Amazon. Come and read all my books at http://amzn.to/16fsOUI“
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