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Old 06-13-2024, 09:02 PM   #41
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Default Re: The essence and mechanisms of genre?

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This is not important to the discussion, but as an interesting aside Kafiristan was a real place until about 1896, in the east of what is now Afghanistan, and approximately the same as what is now called Nooristan. That's not to say that it was anything like what Kipling described.
Now I had not known that! In that case I withdraw Kafiristan from my list of imaginary countries.
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Old 06-14-2024, 11:36 PM   #42
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Default Re: The essence and mechanisms of genre?

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Well, not quite 0%. It won the Libertarian Futurist Society's Hall of Fame award a few years back.

I don't think that way of looking at things is valid. If you go by those categories, then neither 1984 nor Brave New World is science fiction. Both were published as literary fiction and both were by writers who were responded to as literary figures.
Utopian and Dystopian fiction have always been the most respectable category of spec fic among the kind of people who make a fuss about that sort of thing, but are distinctly not the same category of story as, for instance, a story about a Methodist minister who presents a facade of righteousness while concealing his private peccadillos (such as Elmer Gantry, or indeed a story about a US presidential election involving a fictitious candidate. (It Can't Happen Here)


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I'm not even sure that Wells or Stapledon would be classed as science fiction; they were published in England, and Wells was published before science fiction even existed as a publishing category.
No, it was still called "Scientific Romance" in Wells' day, and 'Scientifiction' when Stapledon started, but it was still recognized as categorically distinct from, e.g. Sherlock Holmes

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For that matter, Islandia, though it's set on a created continent, was never responded to as science fiction or genre fantasy. The blurbs on my copy come from the New York Times and the New York.
Islandia is Utopian fiction, not litfic,
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If you're going to have a literary class system, Islandia belongs with the elite and not with the masses.
"Literary fiction," despite being home to some of the most pretentious authors (and indeed fans) ever to live, has no particular class associations; Oprah's Book Club is not generally considered highbrow, for instance, but most of the books therein would be classed as literary fiction. As a term, it just means "stories that are fiction, but not classed as part of another defined genre." If it takes place in the author's present, has no fantastic elements, and isn't focused on/built using the tropes of mystery, romance, thrillers*, horror, or what have you, then it's litfic.

*In another example of this, take the Jack Ryan books; they're classified as thriller/action books, but in The Sum of All Fears terrorists nuke the Super Bowl, killing tens of thousand of people including many members of the US government. There's several books after that one, and someone picking one of those up without any prior knowledge of who Tom Clancy is or the previous books might well understand themselves to be reading an alternate history novel when someone mentions that incident, because that absolutely, definitely didn't happen in our 1991, and is a major historical event that had major repercussions. (I don't know what all of them were, I haven't actually read the series, but a nuclear attack on US soil would be a big, big deal and change things a whole lot more than, say, a different member of the same party being President or the like). Despite that, the actual readers of the books, as well as the author, understand themselves to be reading/writing books that are in the same category as Ian Fleming or Clive Cussler, not the same category as Philip Dick or Harry Turtledove.
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Old 06-15-2024, 03:10 AM   #43
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Default Re: The essence and mechanisms of genre?

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Utopian and Dystopian fiction have always been the most respectable category of spec fic among the kind of people who make a fuss about that sort of thing, but are distinctly not the same category of story as, for instance, a story about a Methodist minister who presents a facade of righteousness while concealing his private peccadillos (such as Elmer Gantry, or indeed a story about a US presidential election involving a fictitious candidate. (It Can't Happen Here)

. . .

Islandia is Utopian fiction, not litfic,
I'm not convinced that there IS a separate genre of "utopian fiction."

Certainly if you equate "genre" with "publishing category," there is no line of utopian novels from any publisher; there are no shelves of utopian fiction in bookstores or libraries; there are no reviewers whose columns focus on utopian fiction.

Utopias have a long literary history; the trope namer, by Thomas More, was published in 1516. Utopias were commonly set in the present, but in remote locations where a community could be imagined as living by its own customs and laws, as indeed was at least partly the case for experimental ventures such as John Humphrey Noyes's Oneida Community; but there were also what might be called uchronias, set in a future world where Things Have Changed. Works with utopian premises include Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward (set in the future), William Morris's News from Nowhere (set in the future, and intended as a criticism of Bellamy), Robert Graves's Watch the Northwind Rise (set in the future, and perhaps classifiable as fantasy), Austin Tappan Wright's Islandia, Aldous Huxley's Island (notice a theme here?), B.F. Skinner's Walden Two, and Ursula Le Guin's The Dispossessed; one might also count two chapters of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged—or, earlier, part of Voltaire's Candide. If you stretch a point, Robert Heinlein's Beyond This Horizon could also fit: It portrays a future better society with more rational customs, though also one where (a) most people are unhappy, (b) there is an underground movement dedicated to its overthrow, and (c) the hero is himself unhappy until he marries and has children; Samuel R. Delany does something similar in Triton, whose antihero lives in a society that is ideal in many ways, but is relentlessly shallow and dissatisfied.

Is there any way that those can be turned into a genre?

I'll stipulate that the subset of utopia I have labelled "uchronia" is ancestral to science fiction: It helped to establish the idea of a story set in the future, though without emphasis on the scientific or technological aspects of the future. But "in the future" was merely being used as a substitute for "on a distant island," as a way to insulate Utopia from the immoral world around it (Huxley's story makes a point of that insulation being insufficient now)—in effect as a vehicle. And it seems that science fiction as a genre DID NOT EXIST when Bellamy and Morris wrote, and that very few of the later works I mentioned were classified as falling into "science fiction" or even "fantasy" when they were published, even if they have fantastic elements such as the ray screen that makes Galt's Gulch invisible to the outside world (Atlas Shrugged was not generally reviewed as science fiction, or placed on SF shelves in bookstores, though John W. Campbell took it as such; its fantastic technology was not the kind of thing one sees in "wiring diagram" science fiction).

The point where uchronia turns into science fiction might be the point where authors stop using "in the future" purely as a distancing mechanism, and construct future histories where there are ongoing political and social changes.

Anyway, I don't think that "a community where everyone lives by specific moral and political values that are shown as better than ours" is a fantastic premise in itself, nor that it requires a fantastic premise, though such a premise may be convenient as a way of setting it at a distance.
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Old 06-15-2024, 09:32 AM   #44
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Default Re: The essence and mechanisms of genre?

What would you call Nesbit and Eager and that Kipling one with the time-traveling fairy? It is not "juvenile fantasy": age markers are only indications of what the author self-censored and not always very good ones. It is not Urban Fantasy because it is rural*. It is not "fairy tale": fairy tales are essentially scholars from the gentry going native among the lower classes, listening to pub stories and writing them down. Fairy tales are characterized by their austerity because they have to finish before a listener finishes his beer or a child goes to bed (hopefully not that considering what they have in some of them) or the like. Eager and Nesbit are proper fantasy but they are a genre of their own rather than High Fantasy or Heroic Fantasy.

*All the Tropes defines Urban Fantasy as taking place in our world not taking place in the city so maybe that would apply to Eager and Nesbit even when they are rural.
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Old 06-15-2024, 10:35 AM   #45
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Default Re: The essence and mechanisms of genre?

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What would you call Nesbit and Eager and that Kipling one with the time-traveling fairy? It is not "juvenile fantasy": age markers are only indications of what the author self-censored and not always very good ones. It is not Urban Fantasy because it is rural*. It is not "fairy tale": fairy tales are essentially scholars from the gentry going native among the lower classes, listening to pub stories and writing them down. Fairy tales are characterized by their austerity because they have to finish before a listener finishes his beer or a child goes to bed (hopefully not that considering what they have in some of them) or the like. Eager and Nesbit are proper fantasy but they are a genre of their own rather than High Fantasy or Heroic Fantasy.

*All the Tropes defines Urban Fantasy as taking place in our world not taking place in the city so maybe that would apply to Eager and Nesbit even when they are rural.
Stipulating that definition of urban fantasy, I would say it includes both Nesbitt and Eager. Though I would note that the assumption that fantasy as such takes place in a historical or legendary milieu of the past, or an invented world that resembles such, is not a given of the genre. Carroll and Baum and Grahame (the chapter with Pan in The Wind in the Willows is clearly fantasy) and Thorne Smith were all writing stories set in the present day; even part of Eddison is such. Howard did a lot to popularize fantasy-set-in-the-past, and Tolkien seems to have made it the default assumption, so that we need a separate label if it's not, but that's not a universal. And Rowling made it less so again, especially for fantasy written for children.

As for Puck of Pook's Hill and Rewards and Fairies (two volumes!), both of those are made up of straight historical stories; only the framing narrative, in which the Puck calls up the spirits of people out of history to tell them, is fantasy.
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Old 06-15-2024, 01:58 PM   #46
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Default Re: The essence and mechanisms of genre?

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I'm not convinced that there IS a separate genre of "utopian fiction."
Then take it up with the critics and academics, because it's widely recognized thereamong.

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Is there any way that those can be turned into a genre?
Quite easily: they all depict a society that is distinctly different from any society that really exists/existed, arranged according to a particular set of sociopolitical ideals (usually, but not always, ones shared by the author). The location of the fictional society may be some remote place on Earth, some future place on Earth, or some entirely fictional world, both of which place if firmly in the realm of speculative fiction. Here's a more extensive writeup, not by me, with loads of examples and details.
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I'll stipulate that the subset of utopia I have labelled "uchronia" is ancestral to science fiction: It helped to establish the idea of a story set in the future, though without emphasis on the scientific or technological aspects of the future. But "in the future" was merely being used as a substitute for "on a distant island," as a way to insulate Utopia from the immoral world around it (Huxley's story makes a point of that insulation being insufficient now)—in effect as a vehicle.
Yes, these are precisely the characteristics that define it as both a genre and a subcategory of Speculative fiction.
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And it seems that science fiction as a genre DID NOT EXIST when Bellamy and Morris wrote,
The category of "Scientific Romance " did exist, as I already noted, coined specifically to describe authors like Wells and Verne. Indeed, when I went to Wikipedia (I know, but nonetheless) to check the date of publication of Looking Backwards, the genre is listed as"Utopian Novel, Science Fiction". Indeed, the argument that the category didn't exist at the time is fallacious, since we are not then, we are using the categories that exist now, some of which are the same, some the same with a different name (viz. the tightening of the term "romance" to mean specifically fiction about interpersonal [para]sexual relationships, necessitating the change from "scientific romance" to "science fiction"

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Anyway, I don't think that "a community where everyone lives by specific moral and political values that are shown as better than ours" is a fantastic premise in itself, nor that it requires a fantastic premise, though such a premise may be convenient as a way of setting it at a distance.
It is a fantastic premise in that is (necessarily) takes place somewhere that doesn't exist and is fundamentally different from anywhere that does or did exist. Winnemac is just like real Midwestern states, Cabot Cove is just like real New England towns, but Islandia is fundamentally unlike anywhere real, as are Galt's Gulch, Ecotopia, etc. Once you're describing things that are fundamentally unlike anything real, you have entered the realm of the speculative and/or fantastic, depending on your preferred terminology. Perhaps "actively contrafactual". All fiction is of course contrafactual by the very definition of the concept, but there's a qualitative difference between, basically stories about things that could happen in the world the audience lives in and stories about things that require something (be that history, society, location, or the laws of physics) to be different from the experiential world of the writer.

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What would you call Nesbit and Eager and that Kipling one with the time-traveling fairy? It is not "juvenile fantasy": age markers are only indications of what the author self-censored and not always very good ones.
Wainscot fantasy, although that term appears to have been largely eclipsed by "Urban Fantasy", which is annoying to me, because "Urban" is also a contrast to "Rural/pastoral", and things like Cook's Garrett PI books or Max Gladstone's Craft Cycle are very much "Urban fantasy", in that they take place in cities and have a cosmopolitan atmosphere that differs distinctly from the Lord of the rings or the generic farmboy on a quest narrative, but are secondary world fantasy completely unconnected to the real world. Wainscot fantasy is loosely "a setting that is just like the real world, only magic works,at least some myths are based in truth, and all of this is hidden from the mundane world in such a way that history and current events look just like they really do", and is a subclass of Secret History, previously mentioned in this thread. There's also another subgenre that I don't know if it has a name, it's usually also classed as Urban Fantasy (unless it's called Paranormal Romance, which is the same thing but with more sex, unless it's Wainscot fantasy with more sex, or portal fantasy with more sex), where the world is basically like the modern world (or sometimes some historical period, in which case it's historical fantasy, although that also describes wainscot fantasy set in a time before the author's) except there's always been magic and everyone knows about it and magical beings are around etc.
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Old 06-15-2024, 09:01 PM   #47
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Default Re: The essence and mechanisms of genre?

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The category of "Scientific Romance " did exist, as I already noted, coined specifically to describe authors like Wells and Verne. Indeed, when I went to Wikipedia (I know, but nonetheless) to check the date of publication of Looking Backwards, the genre is listed as"Utopian Novel, Science Fiction". Indeed, the argument that the category didn't exist at the time is fallacious, since we are not then, we are using the categories that exist now, some of which are the same, some the same with a different name (viz. the tightening of the term "romance" to mean specifically fiction about interpersonal [para]sexual relationships, necessitating the change from "scientific romance" to "science fiction"
This depends on what you mean by "genre."

Part of the time, you have been using "genre" to mean, basically, "publishing/marketing/shelving category." That's significant because publisher try to buy, and authors often try to write, books that aim at a particular category (and seek a particular subset of readers). But if you mean it in that sense, then if a category has NOT YET been defined, then it is not possible for publishers to attempt to buy things that fall into it, or for authors to attempt to write in it. We can now say that Jonathan Swift, or Mary Shelley, or Edgar Allen Poe, or Jules Verne, was writing a book that we should call "science fiction," but they were not writing a book that fell into that publishing category, because they had no concept of "science fiction." (Swift's category was "satire"—probably "Juvenalian satire," given his fierce contempt for much human behavior, but it might have been "Menippean satire"; Shelley's was "horror," because that is what she and Byron and Polidori agreed to compete in writing, with an influence of "Gothic fiction.") Marketing categories can't be applied retroactively to before they were identified, because authors' literary intent isn't shaped by their awareness of those categories.

If you want to talk about Verne or Wells being science fiction because we now classify them so, and because they have the essential attributes of science fiction by some conceptual definition—well, I classify them that way myself, and I do think all the authors I listed above wrote "science fiction." But then talking about marketing categories is simply irrelevant. A novel has the attributes it has no matter what shelf a bookstore or library puts it on.

So which meaning of "genre" do you want to talk about?
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Old 06-17-2024, 08:21 PM   #48
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Default Re: The essence and mechanisms of genre?

My preferred genres of fiction to watch are police procedurals, especially forensics ones, and space opera; they carry very different elements to be expected.

Police procedurals generally start off with a low bar for verisimilitude; we all know police exist, follow a bunch of rules, break a few...
But in the subgenre of forensic procedurals - starting with Quincy, and running through Crossing Jordan, Bones, Hawaii Five-O/Five-0, and the NCIS, CSI, and FBI franchises... they all dabble in near-future sci-fi. Each of them has just past the current bleeding edge¹ technology... results far sooner than possible at the time of filming... but they slide this stuff in unchallenged, since it's usually just more accurate and much quicker than current real world tech. My favorite sciencefictional element is the 3-D display in Bones - "The Angelatron"... Having read several of the novels, they are more grounded. But Reichs does occasionally seem to shortcut timelines and push the limits of accuracy even there.
As for the character sheets for them...
A rating for how SF the forensic tech is
A rating for how corrupt the leadership above the mains is
A rating for how corrupt the beat cops are
A rating for how much rulebreaking the mains get away with.
A rating for how much gunplay is expected.
A rating for just how bloody weird the crimes are
A rating for how vengeful the baddies are towards the mains
A rating for how realistic the treatment of criminals is.
A trait-list for which clades of people actually can solve it... with possibilities including one or more of: Beat Cop, Detective, Forensic Tech, Medical Examiner, Medico-legal investigator, author tagging along, outside observer, special agent, parolee, some combination of the aforementioned types.
A similar list for main characters.
A list of preferred crime types for the show.


Meanwhile, for Space Operas - I'm running from just shy of including Star Wars through to Space Above and Beyond...
THe verisimilitude breaks are presumed power sources, and often, FTL, and frequently Psionics. (as far as I'm concerned, including Psionics doesn't knock it out of Space Opera, but DOES elminate it from Science Fiction.)
Sheet ratings...
  • Tech Paradigms?
    • Power Systems: Fission? Fusion? Cold Fusion? Zero Point Engery? Antimatter?
    • FTL? In N-Space? In a fixed hyperspace plane? In wormholes of effectively 0 length? Wormholes with traversal times? Space Folding?
    • Extradimensional travel? (eg: Trek's Mirror Universe)
    • Time Travel?
      • How?
      • Elastic or brittle timelines?
      • Many Worlds, few timelines, or single timeline?
      • Limited range or to Anwhen?
    • General Tech Level?
    • Artificial Gravity: Spin/thrust only? Some particulate effect? Some field effect?
    • Medical Tech? (This can be very wildly different even for high tech, since drug resistance is a thing)
    • Anagagthics?
  • Social Paradigms?
    • Requirements to work?
    • Requirements to travel?
    • Conformist or individualist?
    • Autocratic, meritocratic, theocratic, democratic?
    • Character, organization, or event focused?
  • Consistency? No consistency Episodic, limited continuity, strong continuity, single continuous story?

FTL is the least difficult tech for most people to suspend disbelief in, in my estimation...

Fusion's doable - it's just a matter of scale and recovery of the energy. The question isn't "Can we do fusion for power?" It's "How big do we have to make it to be able to use it for our power source?" and "How soon can we figure that out?"
Antimatter is more iffy.

So that's usually the two big bumps over... the other big one is psionics. And again, lots of people want psi to be true... so it often gets a pass.

Ensemble casts are also not uncommon in Space Opera, blurring the line between main and supporting cast... so it's often been focused on a unit more than the mains... but in visual media, there's usually a fixed cast, even if the main/supporting line is blurry.

-=-=-=-
¹: pun intended
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Old 06-27-2024, 12:22 PM   #49
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Default Re: The essence and mechanisms of genre?

I've been out with some illness, pardon my lateness in replying...

Anyhow, I am carefully looking over possible ideas for the whole "genre sheet" and racking my brain to get ideas. Some good ones from you all, so let's try just a tentative few, at first...

Basic stats include:
- Texh level
- Magic level
- Violence
- Density (how much stuff, incl people, is everywhere)
- Agency (from strict orders to free agents)
- Coherence (strong mythos or episodic?)
- Realism?

Advantages (added components that provide options):
- Special tech (many different)
- Superior (PCs have powers that make them better than others, e.g. superhuman)
- Plot Armor (more comic book style, with PCs getting special treatment=
- Special Gear (access to superior equipment, likely high TL or ML)
- Special Knowledge (knowing old truths, hidden geography, etc.)
- ???

Disasvantages (aspects of genre that puts PCs at, well, a disadvantage):
- Dystopian (some ruling body keeps PCs in check)
- Apocalyptic (everything is bad)
- Post-apocalyptic (evrything good is almost gone)
- Ubpredictable, minor (life is chaos, bad things happen at random)
- Unpredictable, major (plot things happen at random, like jumping in time or space)
- Survival (PCs are without basic means of survival, must fight to stay alive)
- In the Dark (PCs do not know what is going on)
- ???

Skills (like Advantages, but more gradual, and less broadly applied):
- Single Tech Variation (TL is different for one or two techs)
- Profession (PCs are trained/experienced within a shared profession)
- Home Turf (PCs have advantages in certain areas, geographical or otherwise)
- Resource )access to money, network, or other source of help)
- ???

It's all just off the top of my head, but I think it might have some kernel of use to it. Let me know your opinions and ideas!

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