The Lost Genre Guild on Tour, Day 3

As the third part of the CSFF Blog Tour featuring the Lost Genre Guild, I decided to continue the discussion of terms, specifically Biblical or Christian speculative fiction—with an emphasis on the speculative side of things—which makes up the lost genre at the center of the Guild.

For one thing, on a page defining terms LGG includes a list of subgenres I found interesting:

    Alternative History
    Apocalypse or Holocaust
    Coming of Age
    Contemporary Fantasy
    Dark Fantasy or Horror
    First Contact
    Genetic Engineering
    Hard Science Fiction
    Light Fantasy
    Light Science Fiction
    Military Science Fiction
    Post-Apocalyptic or Post-Holocaust
    Social Science Fiction
    Space Opera
    Traditional Fantasy

As noted below the list, the source for this information is one D. D. Shades who wrote an extensive article entitled “What Is Speculative Fiction?” Relying on material from an Orson Scott Card’s book, How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, (Writer’s Digest Books, 1990), Shade defines the term as “all stories that take place in a setting contrary to known reality.”

My first thought as I looked over the list was, Where is the supernatural suspense? These are books that would include works by Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti. There is nothing of the intent to frighten as the core purpose, so books like House and The Oath don’t seem to fit the traditional definition of horror. Works like Tosca Lee’s Demon: A Memoir and Miles Owens’ Daughter of Prophecy also have supernatural elements that put these books in a category other than those listed. Some would add in Jerry Jenkins’ Left Behind books, for certainly they speculate about the fulfillment of prophecy but don’t quite fit with Post-Apocalyptic or Post-Holocaust novels.

The second thing I noticed was that allegory isn’t on the list. True, there are few actual allegories, and most today can be categorized in one of the other sub-genres, so perhaps that isn’t a significant omission.

Next I noted “Coming of Age” as a speculative category. That’s one I would leave off, for certainly many contemporary and historical novels are coming of age stories. It could be that this coming of age has a different meaning, as in the coming of age of a planet or a world or a species rather than of a single character. Still, it surprised me that it merited a category all its own.

While all this naming is interesting (at least to me 😉 ), I think it probably doesn’t play a big role in anything but marketing. The thing is, some of these categories are highly specialized, and it would seem to me that books in those areas would then have a slim niche readership they are aiming for. This seems to me to be both a strength and a weakness of “speculative fiction.”

The strength would seem to be that those readers and writers of speculative fiction have a place to go where their work is accepted and made available. The weakness seems to me to be that an impression is formed in the minds of general readers that only the niche readers will find anything to their liking in the speculative category.

Tolkien and Lewis faced some disdain for their “fairy stories,” for example. How sad if those classic works had been left to languish in a section of the bookstore reserved for “books like that” (of which none existed).

It’s a dilemma, I think. Can speculative fiction break out and become widely popular? Well, silly me, I forgot for the briefest moment a children’s series that recently seemed to do quite well—some stories by a J. K. Rowling!

Take some time to see what others on the tour have to say about the Lost Genre Guild and its many services. I especially recommend Tim Hicks’ Monday post in which he asked Frank Creed some thought-provoking questions.

Published in: on December 31, 2008 at 12:12 pm  Comments (3)  
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