Book Feature: Much of Madness by S.E. Summa

Whew! What a week! I don’t know about you, but it definitely felt like February had it out for me, and so far, March hasn’t been much better. But despite the whirlwind of insanity I currently find myself in, I wanted to take a moment to introduce you to a fantastic new indie title by a debut author you’re going to want to keep an eye on.

Much of Madness by S.E. Summa

Seraphina Pearce doesn’t know what’s more frustrating: her magic’s affinity for death, her best friend’s transformation into an albino Sin Eater, or that simply touching a guy she loves means someone’s headed to the morgue.

After a sin-eating job goes awry, she casts a risky spell and butts heads with a handsome stranger in order to win an infamous grimoire.

Marceau L’Argent is the last person she should confide in because the occult cat burglar has a mysterious past, and he’s made it no secret he also wants the grimoire. He recognizes her dark magic and offers his unique help as a rare curse breaker. If all that weren’t enough, Marceau causes butterflies in her stomach—a feeling she’d long thought dead.

Seraphina was only trying to break her curse—not piss off Death himself.

MUCH OF MADNESS is a Southern Gothic Horror story about loyalty, sacrifice, and maintaining hope no matter the odds.

There’s a lot to love about this book, and I’ll go into all the details in my review once I’ve finished reading it, but for now, here’s a tiny glimpse at the awesomeness:

 

MOM Teaser - Cafe'

That’s all I’ve got for now, but I’ll be back with my full recommendation soon. For now, I suggest adding it to your TBR or checking it out for yourself. The book links are conveniently located below.

Happy reading! 😉

About the Author:

Shantele-Silly-hat-300x300S. E. Summa lives in Tennessee with her husband and a menagerie of spoiled pets. After her daughter left the nest, she rediscovered her love for writing. Growing up in Nashville, she always felt the city’s unique culture and landmarks would be the perfect setting for monsters to play. A PRO member of the Romance Writers of America (RWA), Shantele serves as the Volunteer and Membership Coordinator for her local chapter, the Music City Romance Writers (MCRW). She graduated magna cum laude with a BBA from Belmont University. S. E. started The Debut Collective, a supportive online tribe of authors (both published and aspiring), editors, formatters, and cover designers working together to foster a new generation of stories and authors. The Debut Collective is publishing a series of five anthologies in June 2016.

You can find her online at sesumma.com or connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Book Links: Amazon | Goodreads | Barnes and Noble

Featured From the Archives: What To Do WHILE Querying

I had an entirely different post planned for today — about the good, bad, and ugly of prologues –but then I got hit with what I’m not-so-affectionately calling the Rip Van Winkle flu and was forced to sleep away any writing time I may have had. So the dissection of everyone’s most hated literary device will have to wait for another week, I’m afraid.

Instead, I’m going to give you an encore of an article I wrote earlier this year, which is especially pertinent now, when hundreds of writers with freshly finished NaNoWriMo drafts are preparing to brave the query trenches and Twitter is heading into what’s otherwise known as Pitch Party Season. Be sure you check out the counterpoint article referenced as well, for the full spectrum of both good and bad behaviors found in querying.

Good luck to all those participating in #pitmad today! And until next week, happy writing!

What To Do WHILE Querying

by Kisa Whipkey

Originally Posted on 7/3/15

A few months ago (okay, six months ago), I posted a surprisingly popular piece about what not to do when querying, detailing all the things authors should avoid, as well as some of the things they shouldn’t (I posted a reprise of it last week too, in case you were wondering). But that only covered the initial part of the process, the actual act of querying. Today, I want to talk about things you, as an author, can do while you wait oh-so-patiently (yes, that was sarcasm, people) for those elusive responses. And in keeping with the tone of the previous post, there will probably be at least a tiny bit of snark, so be ready.

What To Do WHILE Querying

(aka How to Avoid the Finger-Drumming Lure of Bad Decisions)

Let’s face it, waiting sucks. It has always sucked. And it will continue to suck, because it’s waiting. And waiting — say it with me now — SUCKS. Humans aren’t wired to be patient, and the age of the internet, with its instant gratification and its lightning fast access to information and entertainment, has done absolutely zip when it comes to instilling the virtue of said trait.

Well, publishing isn’t the internet. At all. Publishing is a relic, a dinosaur founded on the very essence of patience. Yes, there have been advances that minimize the time it takes for an author to see their name in print, and yes, there will continue to be avenues and improvements that further move us toward that as yet unattainable moment when a decision is instantaneous. But today is not that day. Today, a querying author faces weeks, months, and possibly even years before they’ll finally hold their book-baby in their hands. Today, you wait.

I’m sure you can see how this scenario often leads to behaviors and decisions that can be problematic, many of which I listed in the previous post. No one likes waiting. No one likes that nail-chewing anxiety of having their fate in someone else’s hands. But how do you get around it?

The easiest way to avoid becoming the poster child for what not to do is to find some other way to distract yourself. Agonizing over the wait, refreshing your inbox every twenty seconds, is only going to drive you crazy. So here are some things to try instead.

1. Learn the Ins & Outs of the Industry

This is especially important for the newbies out there, which is why it’s going to be the biggest section. Debut authors are like fledgling birds, testing their wings for the first time. And that’s a special, unique place to be. But it’s also dangerous. Just like baby birds have no idea what waits for them as soon as they leave that cozy nest, debut authors often have little to no understanding of the industry beyond the steps required to query. It’s okay if this sounds like you. We were all there once. I promise.

One of the deadliest poisons to the author/publisher relationship is unrealistic expectations. Let me paint the picture for you: as a kid, you decided you wanted to become a writer. You loved reading and the act of putting words on paper, and stories just seemed to flow magically from your fingertips. You envisioned topping the New York Times Bestseller list, landing that triple-figure book deal with a Big 5 publisher, instantaneous fame, book-signing tours, movie deals, and quitting your crappy day job with money to spare. Right? Don’t lie, we’ve all done it.

Enter reality.

The sad fact is that only the top 1% of the top 1% ever reach any of those things. The rest of us slum it out in the query trenches, find a nice home at a small to moderate-sized press or even forge our own paths and do the self-publishing thing. You will see more rejections than accolades. Sales will be slow because no one knows who you are yet. Marketing budgets, if offered at all, will be tiny and heavily reliant on the author’s own willingness to do the majority of the work. There are no book tours, probably no movie deals, and you’ll be stuck at that crappy day job for probably several more novels. If you’re lucky.

But as discouraging as all that is, you can combat it. Do your research. Learn the way the publishing industry actually  works. Set aside those shiny expectations that will label you a diva author and figure out how to attain success within the system that already exists. Read blogs by industry professionals, attend writing conferences, research publishers and agents and contracts and marketing and every other tidbit you can get your hands on. A firm understanding of the way the industry operates will prepare you for what’s to come when you land that offer of a contract and will help you avoid becoming prey to the cats waiting below your nest.

2. Befriend Agents & Editors

Social media is fantastic for this sort of thing. Find and follow agents and editors, and even publishers, to see first-hand what they’re looking for. Get to know the people behind the “gate,” as it were. Because we are just people. People who love books just as much as you do.

When you’re on the outside, publishing seems like a big, scary world. But it’s actually not. Industry pros talk to each other as well as to authors, so if you can befriend a couple, guess what? Your chances of success just went up. You’re no longer just a name on the 800th query in the pile; you’re a person. They know you. They may even like you. And when that happens, you can guess what comes next: they dig your query out of that massive pile of submissions.

So don’t fall for the us vs. them mentality. Agents and editors are your friends. Just be careful you don’t abuse the privilege. You can read last week’s post for the cautionary note on that. 😉

3. Read Widely, Both Inside and Outside Your Target Genre

By now, you should be sensing a theme. Research, research, research. All of these are great ways to bide your time during the painstaking months of waiting. If you’re a writer, you really should be doing this anyway. But we all know how few those reading hours become when you’re wrapped in the thrall of writing. Which is why it’s perfect to spend some time catching up on the latest releases while your query works its way through the pipeline.

Why is this necessary? Well, for starters, it will give you a chance to see what the current trends in your genre are, or rather, were. Remember, the books releasing now are a few years old, because unlike the internet, publishing operates at a pace not unlike a sloth on Valium, which is to say, it’s slow. So by the time they’re on the shelf, those trends are pretty much dead. Which means that if your book fits in that trend, you can already guess it’s going to be a hard sell.

But the other reason is that you grow as a writer by reading the work of your peers. You’ll learn new styles, new approaches to storytelling, and possibly even new ways to combine genres. It will also come in extremely handy when an agent or editor asks you for comp titles (comparative books that appeal to the readership you’re targeting) for your work.

4. Start Something New

This is the last piece of advice I have, not because it’s less important, but because it should be the most obvious. Writers write. It what you do. Yes, you poured your heart and soul into that manuscript you just sent out into the world, but there’s nothing more you can do for it. It’s time to turn your attention to the next one. Because it may be years before your first-born novel sees the light at the end of the publishing tunnel, if it does at all. Many writers don’t succeed with their first, or second, or even third novel. Sometimes it’s the sixth or seventh that lands them their first book deal. And that’s perfectly normal. Those first attempts aren’t wasted effort. You learned and developed and grew, and now, now you have a back-list.

Back-lists and archives of “new” content are an author’s secret weapon. Because guess what? Readers are impatient too. Just like you don’t like waiting for agents and editors to respond, readers don’t like waiting for a new installment from their new favorite author. Which is why the best thing you can do while querying is to continue working. Continue honing your craft, be it on novels, short stories, or novellas. Continue generating new content, be it blog posts, contest entries, or platform-building endeavors. Just continue working. Because at the very least, it’ll keep you from drumming your fingers on the desk and falling prey to all the bad choices I mentioned last week. And you never know, one of those other projects could be the very thing that gets you noticed.

All right, those are my top suggestions for ways to make the waiting less agonizing, but they’re certainly not the only ways. I’d like to hear some of yours. So, authors and other editors, what do you do or recommend to keep the query-trench madness at bay? Sound off in the comments below! 🙂

Hear Ye, Hear Ye! $20 Full Manuscript Critique Offer

I know, I’m posting a day early. But if you were on social media earlier, you already know that I’ve stepped off the deep end into a pool of utter (and awesome) madness. Hence the need to post a day earlier than normal this week.

See, one of my best friends — the brilliant and fabulous Cait Spivey — is trying something ambitious for the release of her debut full-length novel, From Under the Mountain. She’s putting together a high fantasy fashion show for her launch party. It’s a unique, fantastic way to bring readers into the world of her novel right from the get-go, and I’m always one to applaud innovation. (As does REUTS Publications, who — to the surprise of no one, I’m sure — is behind the book’s publication.)

The thing is, she can’t do it alone. She needs help to make this ambitious dream a reality. And, with the aid of IndieGoGo, she’s created a way for you to be involved, offering a variety of bonuses and extra perks in exchange for a small-to-generous donation to the cause. (Which, in case you’re curious, funds only the event’s production and not the book’s.) From custom art to autographed copies and exclusive bonus content, there’s a lot to choose from.

But I have one more to add to the pile:

Anyone who donates $20 – $50 to the campaign between 9/3/15 and 10/1/15 will receive a FULL MANUSCRIPT CRITIQUE from me.

Check my Freelance Editing Page, that’s worth $200-$500 dollars all on its own, without the added value of the perks Cait is offering too. That’s a crazy good deal, right? You know you want it. 😉

Here’s how it works:

Between now and the end of the campaign on 10/1, Cait and I will keep track of the eligible donations. I’ll add them to a special two-week schedule on a first come, first serve basis. So the sooner you donate, the higher up on the list you’ll be.

Then, starting 10/2, I’ll contact everyone and work will begin. Due to the other constraints on my schedule, I will be working on them one at a time, so the closer to the top of the list you are, the faster the turnaround time will be.

(Side note: if you won something from me previously and have not received it yet, don’t worry. I have not forgotten you and will be working on those first. You’ll even receive a bonus for your patience and the inconvenience.)

All right, that’s pretty much all you need to know about the terms and conditions of my offer. As always, if you have questions, feel free to contact me directly or leave a comment below. I’ll be back next week with more book reviews, editing/writing advice, or whatever other randomness grabs my attention. But for now, what are you waiting for? GO DONATE!

About From Under the Mountain

ivy cropped

The novel follows Guerline, a young woman who ascends to the throne of the empire after her entire family dies in one fell swoop. Now Empress, Guerline must address the suspicion growing in her court toward the four witch clans that protect the empire’s borders. Among the seditionists is Guerline’s best friend and lover, Evadine.

Guerline’s political balancing act is upset when the palace is attacked by powerful magic, bringing all Evadine’s fears to bear—but magic saves them too. In the wake of the attack, with an even greater threat looming, Guerline must decide who to trust, and summon all her strength to meet the challenge.

From Under the Mountain is a high fantasy for the modern world, drawing on the foundations laid by great female fantasy writers of the past twenty years to tell the story of one young woman. Guerline’s journey to establish her place, protect what she loves, and do right by her people will resonate with readers across the board.

From the Editor’s Desk: Diverging Cadence by Katie Hamstead

Many of you also follow me on social media (I think), so it’s probably not a surprise that I’m posting a review for this. Anyone who saw my tweets about it knows that I swooned hard for this series. And since I already reviewed Deceptive Cadence, it wouldn’t be right to let the second one pass by unnoticed. Plus, I’m part of this here nifty blog tour:

Diverging Cadence Blog Tour Banner

But, because I was also part of the team that worked on it, I have to do the obligatory disclaimer first. So, for those of you who already know what that means, feel free to skip it! For everyone else, here’s the rundown:

As an editor (both freelance and under REUTS Publications), I have the wonderful opportunity to see amazing novels during their developmental/production phase. And I wanted to find a way to share them with all of you as they became available. (I also wanted to find a way to help support the authors who trusted me with their manuscripts.) So think of these posts as my own personal book recommendations, straight from the editor’s desk.

All right, on to the book review!

Diverging Cadence

By Katie Hamstead

Diverging Cadence Cover

When Cadence Anderson woke to find her husband and infant daughter had been killed, she thought her life was over. Instead, she was offered a second chance and sent back in time to do it all again.

She’s made the most of this opportunity, repairing her relationship with the best friend she lost the first time, avoiding the romantic mistakes she made originally, and even bringing her family closer together. But she’s also done something she wasn’t planning on — she’s fallen in love with someone other than her future husband.

Stepping onto a plane and flying across country to attend university is the hardest decision she’s had to make. But unless she follows through with it, her future with Austin might never happen. And what becomes of her beautiful baby if she stays with James, the man she was never supposed to love?

The only thing she knows for certain is that she has to see Austin again, and she’s intent on reliving that part of her previous life exactly like she did the first time. Even if that means she has to lie to James to do it. Because, deep down, she can’t quite bring herself to let him go.

Now, past and future are about to collide, and Cadence has to make her final choice — follow the uncertain path of a life with James, or the one she came back to save . . . with Austin.

In this emotional conclusion to the story that began in Deceptive Cadence, relationships will be tested, identities revealed, and the past will overshadow the future, putting the finishing touches on an unforgettable tale of courage, sacrifice, and, above all, love.

Diverging Cadence picks up where Deceptive Cadence leaves off, but not in typical sequel fashion, where you’re quickly brought up to speed even if you missed the first book. No, to truly experience the emotional roller coaster that is this series, you have to read both, and preferably back to back. Together, the duo create a traditional narrative arc, with Diverging Cadence being the latter, more appropriately tense, climatic portion. And trust me, the emotional pay-off of reading the series in its entirety is well worth the investment of time.

The second half of Cadence’s journey encompasses her adult life — attending college, finding independence, marriage — but is fraught with turmoil unique to her slightly supernatural circumstance. Namely, her decision between forging a new path and reclaiming the life she returned for. Unlike other love triangles, the relationship drama rings with more than a shred of truth, as Cadence wrestles between letting go of the comfortable (her relationship with James) and exploring the promise of her life with Austin. Hamstead expertly crafts a scenario that is heartbreaking, torturous, often maddening, and ultimately human. Cadence is allowed to make mistakes, to make the wrong choice, and the consequences of that speak volumes.

I won’t lie, there were many times that I felt uncomfortable with the choices Cadence made, and there were quite a lot of tears shed during the last third of the book, when we’re finally shown the horrific earthquake scene in real time, but the final resolution more than made up for all the heartbreak. It’s poignant, beautiful, and exactly what I wanted as a reader. Hamstead will rip your heart out before you get there, but that makes the ultimate satisfaction all the more powerful.

With beautifully simplistic prose, Hamstead captures a cast of characters who feel entirely real by the end. Flawed, human, and brilliant, Diverging Cadence wraps up all the threads left dangling at the end of Deceptive Cadence, providing a conclusion to a tale that will likely haunt me for years to come. If you’re looking for a light, upbeat story, this might not be for you, but if you want a thought-provoking tale that tugs on every element of your empathy, I cannot recommend this series enough. Seriously. Read it. Now.

Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Featured From the Archives: Exploring the Subgenres of Science Fiction

Whew! We made it! Welcome to the final installment of our refresher course in subgenres. It’s quite a doozy too, so I won’t keep you. Next week, I’ll be back with new content of a To Be Determined nature, but for now, I give you one of the longest posts I’ve ever written. Happy reading! 😉

Exploring the Subgenres of Science Fiction

By Kisa Whipkey

Originally Posted on 9/13/13

Welcome to the daunting final installment of my subgenre series — the long-awaited behemoth, Science Fiction.

Sci-fi is most often synonymous with spaceships, aliens, technology, robots, and to some, Star Trek or Star Wars. But there’s more to it than that.  Just like Fantasy sports a whopping 31 subgenres, Science Fiction contains a plethora of subtle variations, each deserving of its own subcategory. A shocking 37 subcategories, to be exact. (And I thought Fantasy was bad!) Now you know why I had to keep deferring this one. That’s a lot of research! Ready to find out what these 37 subcategories are? Then let’s get to it.

Hard Science Fiction

This is the subgenre most people think of when they hear “Science Fiction.” Drawing from the “hard” sciences — physics, astronomy, chemistry– Hard Science Fiction is not for those easily lost by conceptual details. Scientific realism trumps the more mundane aspects of character or plot development, placing this subgenre’s focus on things like exploration and discovery instead. Expect a lot of attention to be paid to process explanations and technology, and if this is a genre you want to write, expect to put in hefty amounts of research. Plausibility is king in this field. If it’s not believable, that ship’s not gonna fly. (Pun intended.)

Star Trek is the most notable example of Hard Sci-fi. There is character development across the series, but that’s not the main focus. I mean, they say it right in the opening sequence. The mission is to “boldly go where no man has gone before.” That same slogan applies to pretty much everything in this category.

Soft Science Fiction

The exact opposite of Hard Sci-fi, Soft Sci-fi puts the emphasis on character and plot, with the scientific aspects taking a backseat. This subgenre focuses on what are considered the “soft” sciences– anthropology, political science, sociology, psychology, etc.  Anne McCaffrey’s Dragon Riders of Pern series would fall in this category. Deceptively starting off as a Fantasy with just a light hint of Sci-fi, later books in the series reveal a heavier Sci-fi slant. But the focus is largely on the characters and cultures, with very clear influence from the disciplines of anthropology and political science.

Military Science Fiction

The name says it all on this one. Military Science Fiction revolves around a distinctly militaristic theme. Usually, the characters are part of the military and the plot involves some kind of war. For those fans of the video game world, Bioware’s Mass Effect trilogy and Bungie’s Halo series are prime examples of this type of story.

Robot Fiction

Another one where the name is pretty self-explanatory. Works in this category place heavy focus on the science of robotics. Isaac Asimov is one of the most prominent pioneers of this subgenre, but you’ll see this theme a lot in films. 2004’s I, Robot springs to mind as a popular example of these kinds of stories.

Social Science Fiction

Social Science Fiction is an interesting creature. It relies heavily on the influence of Social Science to extrapolate and then criticize future societies. So at its heart, it’s a genre bent on satire, on delivering criticisms and moral messages about our own society through the filter of a fictional, future one.  This subgenre shares a lot of similarities with Dystopian Fiction in that sense. Notable, and probably familiar, examples include Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and The Giver by Lois Lowry.

Space Opera

For those of you who pictured the operatic blue alien from The Fifth Element, I’m sorry to say, you’re wrong. This subgenre has nothing to do with music. It does, however, bear a slight resemblance to its more earthly counterpart — the Soap Opera.

Space Operas are adventure stories. Romanticized and melodramatic sometimes, but still. They usually center around a sympathetic hero going up against insane odds in an epic battle to save the universe.  Good always wins in a Space Opera, and if you can’t guess the notable work I’m alluding to yet, here’s a hint: it features light-sabers, Wookies, and a princess in a slave outfit. 😉

That’s right, Star Wars was, and is, considered a Space Opera. (Alternatively, it’s also known as a Science Fantasy, for the same thematic reasons.)

So although this subgenre may have some intrinsic ties to the much-ridiculed Soap Opera, don’t let that color your feelings. Star Wars is one of the most successful Science Fiction franchises of all time, and if it can survive being called a Space Opera, your work probably can too.

Steampunk

Steampunk is an strange one, spawning an entire subculture as well as a subgenre. It’s often set in an industrialized not-so-distant, alternate future, with heavy influences from 19th century Victorian England and the American Wild West. Strange combo, no? It may also contain elements of Fantasy, Horror, or Historical Fiction. The main requirement, though, is that a story in this category must include steam-technology and a 19th century perspective on everything from machinery to fashion. Examples include the work of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne as well as more contemporary author, Phillip Pullman.  But with the rapidly growing popularity of this cultural movement, Steampunk will likely have several more notable titles soon.

Cyberpunk

Cyberpunk is Sci-Fi’s answer to the Detective/Crime Novel. Its settings are typically dark and gritty, with a heavy emphasis placed on advanced technology. Plots often revolve around the degradation of society and the abuse of technology. Hackers, Artificial Intelligence and Megacorporations spying on the world are all elements seen in these high-intensity thrill rides. The work of Phillip K. Dick falls largely under this category, making him one of the most well-known authors in this field.

Biopunk

Biopunk is pretty much the same as Cyberpunk, but instead of an emphasis on technology, it focuses on the biological. Genetic modification and DNA engineering are common in this subgenre, providing a cautionary look at the downside to messing with biology. The Island of Dr Moreau by H. G. Wells would be a prime example, although it technically predates the creation of this category.

Nanopunk

Another cousin of the previous “punk” categories, Nanopunk focuses on a specific set of technology — nanotechnology. Michael Chricton’s Prey, as well as NBC’s recent hit show, Revolution, are both examples.

Superhero Fiction

Ah yes, a subgenre full of dudes in tights and capes, and women wearing barely-there spandex and magic-powered accessories. I don’t think there’s a person alive who isn’t familiar with this category, (don’t lie, you know you went through the towel-turned-cape wearing phase when you were a kid) although it’s much more popular in the visual mediums– TV, film, video games, and comic books.

The basic idea is exactly what you’d expect, a “good” protagonist dressed in an elaborate costume faces off against a supervillain. Often, both hero and villain have superhuman abilities, making their battles nothing less than epic. Which is why we continue to reboot these narratives over and over and over again. I mean, seriously, what are we on, like our 8th Batman?

Scientific Romance

No, this isn’t a combination of Sci-Fi and Romance, although that does exist. (It’s considered Science Fiction Romance, in case you forgot. 😉 ) Scientific Romance is actually an archaic term that was the genre’s original name. Now, it refers specifically to works from the late 19th to early 20th centuries or ones that are purposely written to sound that way. H.G Wells, Jules Vern, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are considered part of this category, largely because they were writing during that time frame, pioneering the genre.

Gothic Science Fiction

I find it interesting that this isn’t lumped into Horror Sci-Fi, but rather is given its own designation. Gothic Science Fiction is what it claims– a combination of Gothic-minded elements and Sci-fi. Vampires and Zombies are frequent visitors here. The most common plot is the attempt to explain monsters through science. There’s heavy emphasis placed on the biological explanation of these more-typically mythological creatures while still maintaining that darker, Gothic edge. Think Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend.

Mundane Science Fiction

This subgenre very closely resembles Hard Sci-fi, except there’s no interstellar travel or alien life forms. Fascinatingly enough, part of this subgenre is a position that things like worm holes, warp drives, and multi-galaxy exploration (all things typically found in Hard Sci-fi) are speculative wish-fulfillment and could never really happen. (Which I suppose makes the choice of “mundane” in the title fairly appropriate.) Instead, this subgenre focuses on stories that could happen, and often contain scientific data that can be, or has been, corroborated by scientists. Geoff Ryman and the short story anthology he edited, When It Changed: Science Into Fiction, are the most prominent names associated with this subgenre.

Horror Science-fiction

Just like it sounds, this is a combination of Horror and Sci-fi. Pairing the adrenaline inducing gore and violence of Horror with Sci-fi’s action-based futures, this is a powerful combination. Alien invasions, mad scientists, experiments gone wrong, there’s really no end to the number of ways Sci-fi can terrify us. Resident Evil, The Body-snatchers, The Alien Franchise, even The Terminator, are all examples of just how lucrative this category can be.

Comic Sci-fi

Again, pretty straight-forward. In fact, so straight-forward that all I should have to say is this: Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. See? Enough said, right?

But seriously, this is a combination of Comedy and Sci-fi. It exploits the elements of Science Fiction for comic relief, often leaning toward satire, as in our example above.

Science Fantasy

This is a blend of Science Fiction and Fantasy (Duh, right?) that lends a sheen of scientific realism to things that could never really exist. This is a squishy subgenre at best, and has never been truly solidified with a description. Surprisingly, one of my all-time favorite series, Shannara, by Terry Brooks, is considered this. I never knew that. See? Even I learn something doing these posts.

Apocalyptic Science Fiction

These next two subcategories are very tightly linked. Apocalyptic Science Fiction is all about the end of days, the downfall of civilization. The whole story leads up to some cataclysmic event that destroys life as we know it. Sometimes we survive, sometimes we don’t. But once disaster strikes, the story’s over. Otherwise, it becomes part of the next subgenre.

Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction

If Apocalyptic is about the disaster itself, Post-apocalyptic naturally features what happens next,after the crisis. Often it includes desolate landscapes, a much smaller population, and sometimes even a return to medieval, or non-technology-enhanced ways of life. Apocalyptic fiction is often depressing, but Post-apocalyptic brings a sense of hope with it, revolving around themes like survival and rebirth/rebuild.

Zombie Fiction

I know what you’re thinking: Doesn’t this belong in Horror? Well, that depends entirely on the storytelling approach. When the emphasis is placed on the fear created by a Zombie Apocalypse, and violence and gore play a major role, then yes, I would tend to agree that it’s more fitting in Horror. But when the focus of the story is on an infectious contagion sweeping through the world, turning everyone to mindless, flesh-craving mutants, that’s Sci-fi’s realm. So it really just depends.

Alien Invasion

There seems to be a lot of these self-explanatory subgenres in Sci-fi, doesn’t there? Alien Invasion is exactly what you’d expect: Aliens invading Earth for the nefarious reasons of either destroying or enslaving mankind. This has been one of the most common storylines in Sci-fi; it’s right up there with Hard Sci-fi’s exploration and discovery. From War of the Worlds, to Independance Day, toAvatar, Alien Invasions have fascinated audiences. I wonder if we’ll find it so fascinating if it ever really happens?

Alien Conspiracy

Unlike Alien Invasion, where all hell breaks loose as massive ships descend from the sky, Alien Conspiracy takes a more subtle stance on the whole Alien thing. UFO sightings and abductions are fair game in this category and stories usually center on the conspiracy itself, on the journey to truth. Perhaps the most well-known example of this subgenre is The X-Files.

Time Travel

First popularized as a Sci-fi subgenre by H.G. Wells and The Time Machine, Time Travel is one of those things, like Historical, that crosses several genres. And, like Zombies, the designation between each is subtle and based on the approach. Time Travel without an explicit, scientific explanation would fall more in the realm of Fantasy, but when it’s based in science, like The Time Machine, it’s most definitely Sci-Fi. Other than that distinction, the idea is the same– traveling through time. End of story.

Alternate History

We’ve seen this header elsewhere. And just like its Fantasy counterpart, Sci-fi’s version is pretty straightforward. It’s a story rooted in history, but then deviates from that to create an alternate timeline. Pretty simple, no?

Parallel Worlds

This is the only subgenre that allows for pure speculation, more akin to Fantasy in many ways than its Sci-fi brothers. The idea is that there is a parallel universe to our own, where the world is either recognizable or very much not. Often including elements of Time Travel, Parallel Worlds is rife with endless possibilities for imaginative new twists. The most prominent and recent example I can think of is Fox’s cult hit, Fringe.

Lost Worlds

This subgenre features tales of adventure, discovering lost locations (islands, continents, planets, etc.) that tend to feature dinosaurs or other extinct creatures and cultures. Jules Verne’s A Journey to the Center of the Earth is a prime example of this type of fiction.

Dystopian Fiction

Just like Dystopian Fantasy (which isn’t an official subgenre yet), Dystopian Sci-fi is all about the opposite of Uptopia. Generally set in a near-future heavy with social unrest, Dystopian Fiction explores things like police states, repression, and dictatorship. They also commonly feature rebellions. This subgenre has seen a recent boost in popularity, especially with the YA audience, claiming such heavy-hitters as Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games Trilogy and Marie Lu’s LegendSeries.

Space Western

Yep, space cowboys. (Oh, come on, you know you were thinking it.) Combining the ideology of frontier America with intergalactic travel may sound like a ridiculous concept, but it’s actually a pretty potent combination. How many of you have heard of a little show by the name of Firefly?**Waits for the fanboy/girl squealing to die down.** Yeah, exactly. That’s a Space Western. Enough said, right?

Retro Futurism

This subgenre can boiled down to a phrase: “The future as seen from the past.” It has to conform to a vision of the future presented by artists pre-1960, creating a nostalgic blend of elements to showcase a timeline that could have been but never was. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, The Rocketeer, and even The Phantom all qualify for this category.

Recursive Science Fiction

How’s this for a convoluted subgenre? Recursive Science Fiction is Science Fiction about Science Fiction. The best way I can describe it is that it’s a framed narrative often featuring a protagonist writing a science fiction story. Fortunately, it’s rare, so I wouldn’t dwell on this one if I were you.

Slipstream

Landing somewhere between Literary and Speculative Fiction, Slipstream is just plain weird. It’s actually known as the “fiction of strangeness.” It actively tries to break the conventions of genre, crossing between the various styles with ease. A good Slipstream will leave you feeling confused and uncomfortable, and is often accompanied by a resounding, “WTF?” But hey, to each their own!

Anthropological Science Fiction

This subgenre is rooted entirely in the discipline of Anthropology. It seeks to portray races and cultures to the same scientific degree that anthropologists do, even if those races and cultures are entirely fictitious. Notable names under this header include Ursula K. Le Guin, Chad Oliver, and Michael Bishop.

And that concludes our long, sometimes arduous, journey through the many literary subgenres. Next week, I’ll return to my previous style of snarky commentary on something random. (Which really means I have no idea what to write about now and will spend the next 4-5 days scrabbling for a topic.) Thanks for sticking around and if you happen to have a topic request, feel free to send it via the Contact page. (Like seriously, no idea what to write about. Suggestions would be mighty helpful! 😉 )