Genre Blending

One of my favorite stories is Phillip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep", a blending of detective stories, a romance, and science fiction.
One of my favorite stories is Phillip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”, a blending of detective stories, a romance, and science fiction.

I’ve been reading a lot of different things lately in between writing my own stuff.  Namely, I’ve been working my way through Thomas Harris’s Hannibal series.  The first book, Red Dragon, was a masterful suspense journey that kept me guessing and even though I had seen many of the film incarnations of the novels, terrified me none-the-less.

I also just finished editing a detective novel for a client, and loved how the author wove in all the red herrings that drew me away from the actual murderer.

This got me to thinking about my own work.  Currently I’m in between novels as I polish up a group of short stories that I have written over the years, but like all good novelists I have a novel cooking in the wings.

As a science-fiction writer, I always set my novels in some kind of strange place or futuristic world.  I set The Transgression Box in a fictional galaxy with a series of inhabited planets with ecosystems and governments I had designed for allegorical purposes.  I set This Broken Earth in a post-apocalyptic future where our heroes have to survive and find their destiny with their faith still intact.  Finally, I set Come Apart in a small town in Oklahoma where a mystery is occurring, namely the main character’s journey to figure out who he is and why he can’t remember how he ended up in a city park face down in the grass.

With the first two novels I followed a straight forward science-fiction setting and genre, but in the third I mixed the genre of science-fiction with mystery, laying red herring after red herring in the reader’s path.  However, instead of the clues leading to a murderer or how he/she did it, they led to the identity of the main character and what is really going on in this strange small town.

I kind of liked that, finding that I was really in my element writing that kind of thing.  I decided that with my next novel I would take the genre blending a step further and create a murder mystery detective novel in a dystopian future a century after the Yellowstone volcano explodes and the effects of global warming have become commonplace.  I love Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and his final novel Radio Free Alboleth, and would love to write a Dick-esque book with as many twists and turns as one of his books so masterfully portray.

This is an attempt to blend two genres (science-fiction and murder mystery) and I think it is an interesting way to jazz up any droll genre.  To mix two genres is an incredible challenge, as we normally see a mystery/romance or a dystopian/romance or something else, but I think it is a more mature way to think about plotting a novel.

I suppose I have my work cut out for me, but here is my five step plan to executing this herculean maneuver:

  1. Outline/Flowchart – I will create a detailed outline of the novel based on a flowchart created in Mindnode, beginning with the murder or murders and creating a master list of believable red herrings to choose from, and then working backward from the final chapter of the novel which I will write first.
  2. Character Bios – I will create detailed character bios for every character including minor ones, complete with backstory for each.  I already know that my main character is going to be female.
  3. Timeline – I will use Aeon Timeline to create a future history that is detailed enough to explain the ecosystem and government of the future (set in a domed Oklahoma City) and will tie this history to the reason why the murder or murders take place.
  4. Narrative – I have chosen to use first person narrative from the perspective of my female heroine, as I love detective stories where the reader finds clues along with the detective, taking them along for the ride.
  5. Theme – My novel will have a theme, in that it will be a struggle between faith and unbelief, or at least symbolize that idea allegorically.

Wish me luck!

Published by Roger Colby, Novelist, Editor

Roger Colby is a novelist and teacher who has taught English for nearly two decades. He is also an avid reader of science fiction who feels, like many other sci-fi readers, that he has read everything. He writes science fiction for the reader who is looking for the next best thing, something to excite them into reading again. This blog is his journey as a writer and his musings about writing. He also edits manuscripts for a fee and is an expert at helping you reach your full potential as a writer.

5 thoughts on “Genre Blending

  1. I love genre blending and writing in multiple genres. My current WIP is a near-future, post-alien invasion dystopian novella, hehe. I also have a supernatural thriller I am working on, a zombie novel on the back burner and plans for a superhero/cyberpunk YA mashup. I love it all.

  2. Thanks, very helpful. I agree that the feel is usually more important than the specs, and I am always more curious about how the technology impacts the characters, more than about what the technology is/does. Do they like the advances or solutions, or do they wish for better? How are the characters interacting with the technology?

    What sources do you find yourself going to most often, if I may ask a follow-up?

  3. As you write your science fiction, how much of your prewriting time and energy goes into research? For example, I imagine that this post-volcano, climate-changed atmosphere will come to bear quite significantly on how you describe your setting, and how the characters are formed by it and interact with it. How will you gather information about what advanced climate change will look and feel like? Will you look into any developing or concept technologies for closed ecosystems before writing about a domed city? Or do you trust your imagination for this? Thanks!

    1. Excellent questions, Cody. I will, of course, do tons of research into the topics above, and it will take approximately two months to do so (barring any editing clients, etc.) It is my firm belief that the science fiction worlds we create must be scientifically plausible, but indeed we must rely on our imagination as well. It just has to be believable for the reader in order to suspend their disbelief. Ultimately we can get bogged down in specifics, but remember that we must, after all, tell a good story.

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