Blending Genres

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So I was cruising around io9, which I am wont to do, and came across this article. The basic premise is that the TV show LOST had a mystery with it, and the opened the door to more complex TV, such as GAME OF THRONES (this is a vastly simplified summary, but you get the point). Anyway, it made me think: the stories I tend to like best do blend different tropes of genres. Heck, I've often described ACROSS THE UNIVERSE as a murder mystery in space--an intentional blend of genres.

It got me thinking about the books that do blend genres. Blending genres keeps a book interesting, and surprises a reader. Come for the sci fi, stay for the mystery.

  •  HUNGER GAMES: a blend of dystopian with romance--and a little fantasy (muttations, anyone? The science isn't quite science here--it's more fantasy. Look at the Capital!)
  • GAME OF THRONES: fantasy, with a blend of dystopian (White Watchers are creepy, yo)
  • DOCTOR WHO: sci fi, with a blend of comedy and mystery
  • ENDER'S GAME: sci fi + mystery
  • THE ROAD: dystopian + family tale
  • DIVERGENT: dystopian + school tale (factions) + mystery
  • WITHER: dystopian + feminism 
  • SHATTER ME: dystopian + super heroes
  • BLACK HOLE SUN: sci fi + action hero movie
Think about the best books you've read recently. I'm willing to bet that one of the key things that book did right was blend genres--you have the "setting" genre--the genre most people will classify it as, the easily recognizable genre. But there's a sub-genre in it that will add a layer of uniqueness to the story--and that's what stays with the reader.


Tristina said...

One of the best genre-blending books I read recently was DEARLY, DEPARTED by Lia Habel.

Futuristic, Victorian-based Steampunk Romance...with zombies. And one of the POVs is a zombie.

So awesome.

KT said...

Harry Potter: fantasy with undertone of coming-of-age and epic.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl: contemporary with comedy and drama.

cookie said...

I disagree with Game of Thrones being dystopianish, it's more of a fantasy written as a historical fiction.

I love genre mash-ups, which is probably why I love manga so much, because they do genre blending so well.

Gabe (Ava Jae) said...

Hmm, I hadn't quite thought of it that way before, but I definitely agree. Another good example of this is Beth Revis' ACROSS THE UNIVERSE and A MILLION SUNS, both of which I'd say were Sci Fi + mystery.

fakesteph said...

Lost definitely started it, but the door to more complex television is more closely linked to the rise in Tivo and dvr. If the audience can catch up on missed episodes, they don't have to worry about losing viewers if the shows don't "stand alone" well.

I think I have read somewhere that genre-blending in books is being aided by more consumers shopping online. Fewer shop by genre in a brick and mortar store. I wish I could remember where I read that.

But I do LOVE stories that blend genre!

Ishta Mercurio said...

Great analysis! I've often thought of books I love as a blend of genres, but it's your summary of it as "setting" genre plus other genre blended in that really crystallized it in my mind in terms of how I can think about my own work going forward.