Tuesday, 14 June 2011

10 Things about Fantasy (genres) in bookstores

It has come to my attention that a new species of bookshelf is turning up in bookstores all over the place... "dark romance" and "dark fantasy" abounds... but what exactly is that? Isn't dark romance just angsty vampire/shifter/randomsupernaturalcreature romance? Why the new category? So I though I'd do a post on what fantasy categories I could think of and see what you've got to add...
  1. Fantasy/Sci-Fi: This is the most general category possible, and covers pretty much everything from Asimov to Tolkien to Bova to JK Rowling. And there we have the first problem with categorisation...why is JK Rowling not in every fantasy section? Because she writes "YA" books, of course. So head on over to the children's section to find her...
  2. Horror: You'd be surprised (or not) to know that this is where most vampire books can be found. Why? Because vampires are bloodsucking monsters, of course! *sigh* I know at least one 'horror/dark fantasy' author who would be better placed in the erotica section, thank you very much. 
  3. Classic Fantasy: Ok so I've only seen this once in a bookstore (and in Goodreads) but still...what would you expect to find here? Tolkien again? Are we talking epic fantasy, here, or are we talking writing style (in my limited experience 'classic' fantasy seems to be more descriptive, the worlds drawn in more detail, than 'modern' stuff) - in which case George RR Martin and maybe David Gemmel would find their home here?
  4. Epic Fantasy: One particular author comes to mind immediately: the late Robert Jordan, whose Wheel of Time epic is VERY epic indeed. Or again, George RR Martin. But what about Terry Prachett, whose DiscWorld series has uncounted books? Is that epic? Or how about Laurell K Hamilton? Her series are long, but play in an alternate present. 
  5. Romantic Fantasy: This type of book (or shelf subsection) is mostly found amongst the romance novels. Why? Because the main plotline is ROMANCE, duh. There are also, for the most part, two MCs rather than one. And lately, there's likely to be a werewolf or vampire involved. 
  6. Paranormal Romance: Uhm...what about the word "FANTASY" did people object to, exactly? Is this one of those old cow-new cow things? A marketing gag thingy? Because for the life of me I can't tell the difference between "romantic fantasy" and "paranormal romance". Maybe they thought "Paranormal Romance" sounds better?? Is that why Paranormal Romance sometimes rates its own shelf, unlike Romantic Fantasy? Discriminating, that's what it is... *grumble*
  7. Dark Fantasy: is just what it sounds like. It tends to involve a LOT of night, seeing as there's usually a vampire or two running around. Think Christine Feehan, or (again) Laurell K Hamilton. Uhm...wait a minute. Those are writers with a definite trend towards romance...I don't know. Would you consider looking for Stephen King in Dark Fantasy? Because what he writes is surely dark and mostly fantasy. But no. He's in the Horror section. So what is Dark Fantasy, then? The nighttime sister of Paranormal Romance??? 
  8. Dark Romance: don't even get me started on this. Last bookstore I went to, they had all the YA type "Dark Fantasy" and plain "Fantasy" shelved under "dark romance". Whatever. 
  9. Science Fiction: Oh, finally a category nobody seems confused about. Phew. Only....ehm...the recent development of the whole 'distopian world' topic, couldn't one consider that science fiction? I'm thinking The Hunger Games here. Or the Maze Runner Trilogy (though I'm not certain what that is actually shelved under). What do you think?
  10. YA Fantasy/SciFi: I give up. Really I do. Does everything with a teen MC belong into this category? I don't know. Do you? What makes something YA rather than 'normal'? 
I'm sure I could come up with some more categories, but let's leave it at that. Do you have anything to say that might enlighten me? Any category definitions I should know? Any pet peeves in terms of bookstore shelving policy?
    Because let me tell you, I'm starting to get annoyed with not knowing where to look for what. *sigh*


    Stephanie M. Lorée said...

    No one has any idea how to qualify genres anymore. So don't feel like you're alone in this. I'm always confused at the bookstore.

    And I know exactly who you're talking about here: "I know at least one 'horror/dark fantasy' author who would be better placed in the erotica section, thank you very much."

    I saw her books lined up in the Horror shelf and cringed!

    Elena Solodow said...

    I'm with Steph. The whole "Dark" section perplexes me too, as if other categories are somehow "less dark" than these, which are only dark because they involved romance with some kind of monster who's actually not monstrous at all, so...

    Hunger Games & Maze Runner are both in the YA section b/c they feature teenage protagonists and are written for teenagers. That's the basis for YA basically, but within that you have the separate genres. It's accessible to everyone though, but some people feel YA is inferior so it needs to have a separate section.

    I just call it book racism : )

    Tessa Conte said...

    I'm glad I'm not the only one!

    @ Stephanie: I saw that, too! The certain author in the horror section, that is. Right next to Stephen King. *shudder*

    @ Elena: I think it's called YA because they couldn't figure out how to put an age on it without offending those of us above teen age still reading those books... ; )

    Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

    I just wish all the paranormal/romance stuff wasn't on the science fiction shelf. Or even with the fantasy. To me, vampires and ghosts are horror - that is where those books should reside.

    Summer Ross said...

    Categories- I'm not going to go far in this subject I agree finding things in a book store has gotten complicated.

    Myne Whitman said...

    I have found that categorization is rarely straightforward. I just look for the book I want if I know it or browse.

    Sarah McCabe said...

    Epic Fantasy is usually defined as fantasy that takes place in a secondary, made up world. So Discworld would fit, but not anything set on earth.

    Tessa Conte said...

    Interesting! I never actually thought of the 'not on earth' thing being a requirement, though now that you said it, it makes sense. I always figured EPIC was more an indicator of the scale of the work and the style it was written in.

    Taryn Tyler said...

    Anything more specific than "romance" or "fantasy" annoys me in a bokstore really. I understand they break it up for marketing purposes but if i know the author's name and the tittle i don't want to have to check six sections before I find it. All genres overlap eventually so, it seems like the simpler the category the easier it would be to decide where a problematic book might be placed sine you would only have to identify one underlying atribute. But then I guess those looking for something specific --like a teen romance with hot werewolves and vampires in it --who don't know the exact book they want wouldn't be able to find anything. There probably isn't a perfect system.

    ~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

    So true! In our B&N, I can't find a regular, non-dark fanstasy/paranormal/etc. book in the YA section. The shelves are labeled in a way that you begin to think those are the only options.

    Carolyn Abiad said...

    I don't know...but the agent I spoke to recently told me to put more "dark" in my MS. I hope she didn't mean I need to recruit a vampire co-protag.

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