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On The Dangerous Edge Of (Sub)Genres

Thande

Conſiderable Perſon
Published by SLP
This is why I tend to agree with @Meadow that it's better to see AH as a 'setting' rather than a 'genre' - not only can it not be pinned down so easily, but AH elements can be used in a wildly diverse range of writings; one could easily define genres within AH, or say that a work falls into a standard genre (spy thriller, travelogue, romance) but uses an AH setting or AH elements.
 

Gary Oswald

It was Vampire Unions that got us Vampire Weekend
Sea Lion Press staff
Published by SLP
Pronouns
he/him
This is why I tend to agree with @Meadow that it's better to see AH as a 'setting' rather than a 'genre' - not only can it not be pinned down so easily, but AH elements can be used in a wildly diverse range of writings; one could easily define genres within AH, or say that a work falls into a standard genre (spy thriller, travelogue, romance) but uses an AH setting or AH elements.
I tend to agree with George RR Martin that most genres are best viewed as settings, tbh.

Martin has made the argument before that you could write the exact same character and plot in a sci-fi, a fantasy, a western, a kitchen sink drama etc. It's just the setting that changes.
 

Coiler

Connoisseur of the Miscellaneous
Published by SLP
Location
Nu Yawk
Pronouns
He/Him
It's true that any historical fiction technically counts as AH if it makes up places/people/battles - and thus Hammer Horror becomes a studio full of AH worlds!
I use the term "alternate and historical but not AH" to describe such works. IE, the author isn't going for a pure reenactment but clearly isn't trying to write an alternate history like one where the outcome of the entire war is different.
 

Jared

fatal softener
Published by SLP
Location
Over the rainbow
This is why I tend to agree with @Meadow that it's better to see AH as a 'setting' rather than a 'genre' - not only can it not be pinned down so easily, but AH elements can be used in a wildly diverse range of writings; one could easily define genres within AH, or say that a work falls into a standard genre (spy thriller, travelogue, romance) but uses an AH setting or AH elements.
I have some thoughts on that question, far too long to fit into a reply here. Maybe I should turn them into an article...
 

Alexander Rooksmoor

Well-known member
I found this very interesting. In my Thinking of Writing Alternate History? I tried to grapple with some of these questions. In particular around novels that perceived a victory for Nazi Germany that were published before the end of the Second World War. The classic is Swastika Night published in 1937, which can be defined more simply as science fiction because it looked to centuries after a Nazi victory. However, reading it now we can much more easily perceive it as an alternate history novel. When we turn to Years of Rice and Salt, this clearly starts as an alternate history novel, but because it goes into the future beyond when it was published, it becomes a more straight forward science fiction book towards the end.
 

Alexander Rooksmoor

Well-known member
This is why I tend to agree with @Meadow that it's better to see AH as a 'setting' rather than a 'genre' - not only can it not be pinned down so easily, but AH elements can be used in a wildly diverse range of writings; one could easily define genres within AH, or say that a work falls into a standard genre (spy thriller, travelogue, romance) but uses an AH setting or AH elements.
I totally agree with this. In Thinking of Writing Alternate History? I similarly portrayed alternate history less as a genre in its own right and more as a framing genre and, like you, pointed to AH thrillers, AH spy stories, AH romances, AH horror, AH slice of life stories, even AH erotica. All of these are clear genres in themselves. Yet, they can be brought over into an alternate history setting largely because it allows the authors of these other genres greater freedom to explore other aspects than if they had to adhere what is the case in our world in terms of how societies function, genders relate or even the extent to which magic is real, etc. Thus, I would also argue that alternate history is one of the most vigorous meta-genres.
 
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