Monday, June 30, 2014

Genre Mash-Ups with Lily - Guest Post

A few weeks ago I asked Lily J. from Lily's Notes in the Margins if she would want to guest post on Inklined. She's here with a lovely post on Genre Mash-Ups that I think you'll all enjoy. If you like today's post be sure to head over to Lily's blog. It's one of my favorites! Thank you so much for posting Lily!

Lily J. started writing stories to get out of writing a book report, and despite the failure of that plan, has been writing ever since. She's been participating in NaNoWriMo since 2011, reads lots of books, and spends too much time on Pinterest. She blogs at Lily's Notes in the Margins (

Thank you, Sarah, for letting me guest-post!

In the world of books, you have your mainstream genres, with whole sections of the bookstore dedicated to them, and then there are those quirky books that are a mash-up of two or more genres.
As I think about this, I realize there are two kinds of genres: Story genres and setting genres. Story genres are things like mystery or romance, where the quintessential element is something plot-related. Setting genres are things like wild west or fantasy, where it’s some element of the setting that puts the story in that genre.
Different story genres get mashed with setting genres all the time, hence you have things like paranormal romance, or a Cinderella retelling about cyborgs. In the end, stories are about people, so naturally things like romance and coming of age work for all genres everywhere. (Indeed, it seems like it’s hard to find a book that doesn’t have a romantic subplot in it these days.)

Mashing two setting genres leads to something like Steampunk or urban fantasy. Steampunk is essentially historical fiction for sci-fi writers. It’s a mash-up of hi-fi and sci-fi, and now it’s become a genre of its own.
Genre-mashed books take genres we’re all familiar with and do something new with them. Soulless by Gail Carriager put a murder mystery with vampires and werewolves in Victorian England. (As a side note, I do not recommend this book due to excessive amounts of very mature content, but it’s a great example of genre-mashing.)

Lots of fantasy stories are about epic wars. What if you scaled that down? What if, instead of being about armies, a story was about the police catching a notorious criminal? How do the police work in a world where magic is the norm? What’s the justice system like? There’s a fantasy-set thriller for you.
What about a coming of age story set in outer space, where the protagonist isn’t the same species as the rest of the planet and has to deal with alien coming of age ceremonies? 
The possibilities are endless.  (Amish Vampires in Space, anyone?)

Genre-mashing books appeal to me because right away they say “Hey, look at me! I break stereotypes!” When you think about a given genre, you think of some standard motifs, don’t you? For fantasy it’s epic battles and daring wizards, for romance it’s love triangles, for mystery it’s a gruesome murder investigated by a hard-boiled PI. But with genre-mashed books, those stereotypes may not apply, or they may combine with the stereotypes of another genre to be something new and cool. I’ll go back to Steampunk: the elegance of the Victorian era combined with steam-powered technology. Not things that immediately come together in mind, but that when put together create a fun new world to explore.

Some genre-mashed books I’ve read are Embassy by S. Alex Martin (coming of age story set in a sci-fi world), Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson (a fantasy-set heist, though the events of the trilogy do culminate in an epic war), Alloy of Law also by Brandon Sanderson (takes place in the same world as Mistborn, but 300 years after that series ends. It’s sort of a fantasy-Industrial Revolution-mystery-thriller), and the Dark Mirror series by M. J. Puteny (historical fiction, fantasy, time travel.)

Anyone up for a writing challenge? Go find a list of common genres and combine two or more of them into something fun.  If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, write a short story in your new mashed-up genre. 

1 comment:

  1. Ooh, I love genre mash-ups! Have you ever read the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer? She combines fairy tales with... steampunk, I guess? The main character of the first book is part-cyborg, part human girl.

    It sounds bizarre, I know, but the combination works really well. I have no idea how Meyer even thought of that combo, but I'm happy that she did. :)


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