Crossing the streams of genre

Okay, crossing the streams is an obvious image to use when talking about crossing anything, especially with any kind of an SF/F background (or an ’80s movie background). But it’s a bad analogy, because crossing genres is a good thing, if done well.

Take a hard-boiled private investigator à la Chandler or Hammett and make him a wizard fighting the forces of darkness — and you have the Dresden Files, a series currently on book 13 in a series of roughly 20 (per the FAQ on Jim Butcher’s site).

Take that same hard-boiled private investigator type and stick him in a heroic fantasy setting looking to retrieve a missing princess in return for a pile of gold — and you have Eddie LaCrosse, sword jockey with a somewhat shady past.

Then you have Sherlock Holmes in space, science-fiction thrillers, and romance in everything. (Tired of the “secret baby” formula in romance books? I’ve seen it done well in at least one SF book and one fantasy book.)

Obviously, I’m a big fan of mixed genres. The obvious question, then, is do I mix genres myself, and if so, how?

I do, but I don’t set out to do so. My imagination has simply been cross-pollinated by my reading and viewing habits. So I wind up with “Being Green,” science fiction where Charly talks like Bogey in The Big Sleep while wondering about who’s setting her up in a somewhat post-apocalyptic city, and “Matchmaker,” whose protagonist worries about politics and implants and alien relations while her mother is as fixated on marriage as any Regency mama.

Another example is my novella Dreampunk. Again, I didn’t sit down and say, hmmm . . . I want science fiction, mystery, thriller, and a dash of romance. According to Alex Fayle’s review, though, that’s what came out, and I couldn’t be happier.

So for me, it’s never intentional (at least, so far — who knows about what’s coming up, though?) but rather something I discover after the fact. I was startled just this week, actually, to discover that Touching Time (my Mayan work-in-progress) is paranormal with strong overtones of romantic suspense. (Yes, those who’ve read some of it may laugh at my utter cluelessness now.) Understanding that may help as I finish writing, allowing me to draw on the strengths of both genres. At least, I hope so.

That’s the ultimate goal of crossing genres: building strength upon strength to create a better story. And I think this is a good thing.

Do you have any favorite cross-genre tales?

Today’s post was inspired by the topic “Genre-bending (crossing genre lines)”– the third topic in the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour — an ongoing tour where you, the reader, travel around the world from author’s blog to author’s blog. We have all sorts of writers at all stages in their writing career, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy. The next post in the tour will be on the 4th, by D. M. Bonanno. Be sure to check it out.

If you want to get to know nearly twenty other writers and find out their thoughts on crossing genre lines, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. You can find links to all of the posts on the tour by checking out the group site. Read and enjoy!

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  1. I hadn’t realized so much of your own was crossed-genre, or mine eitiher, now that I think about it. It’s a tricky beast, though tasty when done right. 🙂

    • I hadn’t, either.

      I think the wider we read, the easier cross-genre is to do. Well, inasmuch as any writing is easy. 😉

  2. I do a lot of genre-crossing in my own work – the trilogy I’m writing at the moment is technically fantasy and is marketed as such, but a lot of the worldbuilding has its roots in the soft sciences – biology, psychology, anthropology – and I like to steal plot ideas from SF to add freshness to the genre.

    I seem to be reading a lot of cross-genre fantasy as well: Mark Chadbourn’s Swords of Albion series is basically “James-Bond-esque Elizabethan spy vs evil fairies”, whilst Aliette de Bodard’s Obsidian and Blood books are crime novels set in a fantasy version of pre-conquest Mexico.

    • I haven’t read more than the first couple pages of Servant of the Underworld, but I do want to read the whole series — very engaging. I just seem to have bit off a bit much with my Wednesday A to Z blogs. (Speaking of which, I’m really bummed that your book isn’t out yet, so I can’t do that this month!)

      Hooray for moving SF tropes to fantasy! That sounds excellent to me.

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