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  1. #1
    Mattress Tester T Hedge Coke's Avatar
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    Default Stories That Don't Fit the Mold

    Certain elements lend themselves to certain genres or subgenres, a type of character, perhaps, or an object, locale, even the sort of inciting crisis in the story. But, having a detective in a novel, even as the main character, does not mean you're going to read a detective story or a fair play mystery. War, in a story, does not make it a war story. Most of the time, however, it does imply it. It's hard for me to think of a story that stars a detective but is not a detective story, to revisit the idea of two sentences ago. Post-Asimov, most robot stories are robot stories; a scary number of them even have Three Laws or feel the need to address the Three Laws upfront. If they're not Asimovian, they're Frankenstein ("Why did you make me!?!") riffs.

    Vladimir Nabokov's King, Queen, Knave has robots in it, but it is decidedly not in the Asimovian mode, and doesn't attempt to address that strain of fiction, that structure, at all. It's not simulacra throwing off the yoke of their commands and design. It is very good, very thrilling and intriguing and sometimes pitiably embarrassing to draw up your empathy.

    Joe Lansdale's The Drive-In isn't set in Texas to make some grand point about Texas. It's set in Texas because that's where it's set. Which, really, you can't say for most fiction set in Texas, even by Lansdale.

    Ed Lacey's Enter Without Desire is a murder mystery with a detective, a gun, and a beautiful woman, but it's not structured along any common genre pattern, particularly because the identity of the murderer is implicit from early on, as the novel leaps back and forth between times.

    The Watcher in the Woods manages, as a film, to entirely escape expectations of an alien visitation movie, because it lifts all its genre structure and cues from a different setup entirely (haunted house mystery), but I haven't read the novel, so I don't know if that's true there, as well.

    Any recommendations along these lines?

  2. #2
    Modus omnibus in rebus Roquefort Raider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by T Hedge Coke View Post
    Any recommendations along these lines?
    Zelazny has a few novels that fly in the face of fantasy's conventions... Lord of light and Nine princes in Amber come to mind. So did Spinrad's Bug jack Barron and The iron dream, or Dick's The man in the high castle.

    Yann Martel's The life of Pi is certainly along those lines; superficially, it can be expected to be a Young Man's Adventure type of story (and please lord, don't let the movie be reduced to that!!!) but it's actually a reflection on what we chose to believe.
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  3. #3
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    When I first started reading Philip K. Dick, I certainly felt that his stories often started out with something like a standard science fiction or even space opera scenario and then proceeded to utterly ignore everything I'd come to expect from such a set-up. I'm thinking in particular of the first of his novels I read, A Maze of Death, which I thought was going to be a ripping good SF adventure yarn about the crew of the spaceship I read about on the back cover blurb.

    Peake's Gormenghast books also come to mind, especially if you go into them thinking they're a "fantasy" trilogy in the post-Tolkien sense. The first book might almost be described as one long exercise in scene-setting and exposition: the story doesn't really get going until near the end; the second is more plot-driven, but with characters and especially setting of incredible depth and richness because of that first book; and the third seems to throw everything out the window, stylistically feeling more like an installment from Michael Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius series than a continuation of the first two - brilliant!

    David Lindsay's A Voyage to Arcturus is another book usually pigeon-holed as fantasy that will be sure to puzzle most readers who think of themselves as fans of that genre. The cover description sounds like you should know what to expect - contemporary earthman somehow travels to another planet and has adventures on alien world. This description is both accurate and completely inadequate.

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