Fractured Sub-Genres: Good or Bad?

There are many debates raging about the number of sub-genres within Science Fiction. Decades ago we had simply hard and soft. Now? There are more than you can shake a stick at, and new ones being coined every day.

But is this good or bad for the market? It seems the fracture taking place was actually started decades ago by marketers in the publishing industry, in  an attempt to differentiate new books. Fans have picked up on this and extended the concept way beyond its original intent. I suppose one could say they’re simply handles, from which we can describe and categorize a story.

However, I don’t see any problem here. An author might like being just a plain old Science Fiction writer, assuming this description covers a broader market. But this I feel is superficial and not the smart move. That’s because readers don’t read “any old” science fiction. Making niches seems the best solution for both sides, and simplifies the overall search process.

And if you haven’t noticed, simplifying the search process is becoming more important as we head into the new world of self publishing. We not only will have traditional publishers, but established authors throwing up their entire backlog. Toss in hordes of new writers and the number of books to select from will be more than anyone can imagine.

In the new world of publishing, sub-genre niches could very well be the only way to make sense of things.

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3 responses to “Fractured Sub-Genres: Good or Bad?

  1. Sub-genres are all well and good if the writer can identify what that sub-genre is. S/he can then say I fit there when going to market. And yes it helps to sell.
    But what if a writer is lucky enough to have the chance to write about something really new to science fiction? It then becomes a real headache of how to tag it. Believe me… I’m trying very hard to find the right tags for my novel-in-progress. Yes, it’s hard science fiction, but doesn’t fit into any of its sub-genres very easily. In fact not al all.
    So how does the publishing market cater for something that is exciting and bulging with new concepts (yes plural)? Or does it hide away from such innovation?

    • I’ve been on LinkedIn having this exact discussion and you raised many of the interesting points. Where does one leave categorizing and tagging, and move into something undesirable like pigeon-holing. Or worse, genre preconceptions can lead the industry into unneeded expectations. Do you fit this or that sub-genre, is that so important? Or worse, readers expect SF to be this, or that. It is has even been suggested that overemphasis on all this leads down the nasty road of discrimination and segregation. Personally, I wouldn’t let a sub-genre worry you too much about tags for your book. Just pick a few. China Mieville crosses many lines, and I think he is a good example of someone writing books that are interesting, with little care of how the market will classify his work.

  2. Hm… if China can publish his books, then there is hope for my novel yet. Thank you for pointing this out.
    One final point. Science fiction will always generate something new as long as technology continues to develop. That’s a given. Also there are so many themes and topics within the genre. Many books mixing them in new and interesting ways still to be written. Which is also good for SF. What will be really interesting is when something beyond these innovation drivers in SF comes along… and it is this kind of book that might have difficulty finding a publisher. I hope I’m wrong…

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