6.10.2006

What do I call this?

Hello Miss Snark:

How would you categorize a novel that takes place in the future and focuses on how society has changed (e.g. 1984), yet technology/science have nothing to do with the story. Some people say anything that takes place in the future is science fiction, but that is incorrect, unless the plot cannot exist with science aspects.

Extrapolative fiction maybe? Do agents even recognize that as a genre? Or if I'm writing a social satire should I just leave it at that?


Satire works. I've seen "speculative fiction" and "dystopic fiction" too.
When in doubt "commercial page turner" always works!

21 comments:

Bibliophile Bitch said...

How about "Not full of cliches"? This is why I avoid the section in the the bookstore that touts itself as "Literature" with a capitol "L". Why not just call a book what it is? "I'd like to introduce a slightly pretentious, adverb filled page turner with enough fodder for other writers to shred for the next few weeks."
Oh wait! That's Dan Brown, isn't it? What is he? Oh right. Fiction.

Chixulub said...

'Page turner' seems like something that would backfire. It's a term that kind of spooks me when I see it on dust jacket copy. It seems vague and somehow unlikely.

Maybe I'm jaded because of how rare a truly 'thrilling' thriller is; even rarer are 'horror' novels that actual give me the willies; 'humor' books with actual comedic content; etc.

As cynical as that sounds, it's born of spending $25 on hardbacks that weren't worth my time.

I'd expect a literary agent to be way more skeptical than a bookstore customer. The buying public knows their choices have been vetted by agents and editors. If it's bad, at least a couple of pros had to believe in it, right?

I guess cover letters baffle me a bit. I tend to distrust dust jacket blurbs, preferring to read the opening pages to see if it grabs me. I envision an agent or editor going through the slushpile, only really reading cover letters after noticing a promising story.

Chrysoula said...

Also, science fiction can be about social change. Or rather, SF can be. 'Sci-fi' is kind of an... older concept. Speculative fiction, science fiction, science fantasy... SF is very useful!

Anyhow, society uses all sorts of technology, not just the gadgets and physical chemical gizmos. 'Meal deals' at fast food restaurants are a kind of technology. So is Newspeak in 1984.

Also, I think something has to be funny to be satire.

Bella Stander said...

How about "dystopian satire set in the near future"? That's how I'd describe it in a review. Leave it to others (such as Miss Snark) to call it "a page-turner."

Bella Stander said...

Or on 2nd thought: "a satirical dystopian fantasy."

Abidemi said...

Like Chrysoula said. No need to call it anything other than SF. SF doesn't just have to focus on whizbang gadgetry. Sociological science fiction is actually fairly common. Plenty of famous stories, like C.M. Kornbluth's "The Marching Morons", do the same thing.

Anonymous said...

Also, I think something has to be funny to be satire.

I think funny is different from satire. Here's the American Heritage Dictionary definition for satire:
1. a. A literary work in which human vice or folly is attacked through irony, derision, or wit.
b. The branch of literature constituting such works. See Synonyms at caricature.

2. Irony, sarcasm, or caustic wit used to attack or expose folly, vice, or stupidity.

I'm having the same problem classifying my novels as they contain historical and Scifi elements, but are mostly about a person and his character and what he does to overcome obstacles I cruelly throw in his path. For lack of anything better, I'm calling it mainstream fiction, because the scifi elements are enablers for the rest of it. I suppose I could call it historical fiction, except it's not about a period in history.

Probably as confuddled as the author who submitted this question--anon-y-mouse

GC said...

'Speculative Fiction' comes in very handy when you have unusual or surreal events or images that may skirt the edge of Sci Fi, but you do not want to be lumped in to the overall cliches of Sci Fi.
For example, how would you classify the writing of JG Ballard when the aim generally is a more literay readership?

Termagant 2 said...

I'd call it speculative fiction, in that it asks "what if". Jean Auel's books (whether you like them or not) are speculative fiction in that sense, 'cause she takes known facts about prehistory and then extrapolates from them.

I'd read it. I like SF that isn't "hard" SF. My opinion, anyway.

T2

Elizabeth Foxwell said...

The J.D. Robb novels of Nora Roberts are set in the future, yet I've never seen any category applied to them but mystery.

Anonymous said...

Speculative fiction works for me as I do ask some big what if questions and try to answer them. Thanks...

Anon-y-mouse

HawkOwl said...

Chixulub - I think "page turner" is actually very accurate. Notice that it doesn't say "good." It says you will turn the pages. Fast. Very fast. I've read lots of "page turners" and they do exactly that. There is just so little brain food on each page, you can turn every ten seconds. I've never finished a "page turner" and said "wow, that was good," but I have said "wow, that was fast." An successful "page turner" is one that makes you turn so fast, you get to the end of the book before you fully realize that it's crap.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Well, you never know about things Bill E. Goat proposes, but he says you should call futuristic speculative fiction "an inverse memoir" or a "pre-written memoir."

I thought it was a great idea, and I suggested he was pre-handsome for a goat. He was a tad miffed. Never-the-less, his suggestion just might work.

Patrick Samphire said...

Category is about marketing as much as (or more than) it is about what you write. From your description, your book could as easily appear in the science fiction section as the literary section of your bookstore. If you want it in the science fiction section, call is science fiction, if you don't, go with one of bella stander's suggestions. There are advantages and disadvantages to being in either section.

SherryD said...

HawkOwl said... "A successful
"page turner" is one that makes you turn so fast, you get to the end of the book before you fully realize that it's crap."

I'm LOL - that's true. But I'll bet the author blushes all the way to the bank : )

magz said...

I've pondered this point too! I havent a clue as to how to catagorize my fiction; I've called it Fast Fluff, Beach/Airport Reads, Post-Prandial Pulp, Boonie-bunny Bedtime Tales, and just plain Fick. Shun.
I leave the naming of the genre to the pros, and just enjoy scribbling like I live; Fast, Fun, and a little Loose.
(exiting with my usual signoff..)
Mucho schmoochos from the deserty side!

Anne said...

Speculative fiction seems fine for this application, but I'd like to agree with abidemi. Science fiction can also be defined as using principles from the "soft" sciences like psychology and sociology. I think the concept that sci-fi is only about spaceships and robots is a disservice to the genre.
I understand the dilemma though - I'm writing something that would be a fantasy if it contained some magical element, but it doesn't. I'm going to call it spec-fic too.

Noel Lynne Figart said...

Science fiction ceased to center around ray guns and rocket ships long before I was born and I certainly qualify as une femme d'une certaine age.

Rick said...

Anne writes

I'm writing something that would be a fantasy if it contained some magical element, but it doesn't.

I'm in much the same boat (I do have a trace of magical element, but only a trace). But if it has a fantasy-like flavor, you might be better off calling it a fantasy. Some books marketed as fantasies, notably most of Guy Gavriel Kay's, are nearly or wholly lacking standard tropes such as magic.

Bernita said...

Sorry, Rick, but I can't agree that "most" of G.G. Kay's work lacks magic as an element.
I would say over half include it: Tigana, the Fionvar Tapestry trilogy, and The Last Light of the Sun.

Anonymous said...

I've seen things like that referred to as a "futuristic BLANK." Like Futuristic Mystery or Futuristic Romance.