If you spend any time reading in the community of general speculative fiction (and I’m referring to blogs and articles and such), what you’ll find is a lot of debate as to where the lines ought to be between various genre of fiction. My perception is that the debate is fiercest on the lines between Science Fiction and Fantasy.
There are, of course, those who play the Swiss stance, and just offer a simple, “Eh, I don’t care,” when asked for opinion. Then there are those who actually get some enjoyment out of the cross-genre-pollination, appreciating the creative ways the two can meet head to head.
But many are those who will allow no such nonsense. They are the purists, who insist that a story be one or the other, or get the heck out of Dodge! I recall reading about the firestorm that went on when Battlestar Galactica suddenly introduced… angels? What’s this, the fantastical and supernatural in our Sci-Fi series? Nevermind that the show had always harbored a certain supernatural, pseudo-spiritual element to it. Or how about back in the good old days when PC games were still in 2D, and Heroes of Might and Magic 3 was preparing for an expansion that would include… yeah, get ready… cyborg zombies. We’re talking the walking, flame thrower wielding, computer guided missile launching dead here. And how was such a proposal received? Well, you may note that the expansion that finally came out introduced no such monsters, instead including an elemental town with your standard earth, air, fire, water, and… magic… elementals.
How about the movie Outlander? Very fun concept, albeit possessing of some cultural issues difficult for an American to comprehend (it was, after all, written in Sweden). But drew a lot of criticism from purists of both Science Fiction and Fantasy. The Fantasy lovers hated that an alien arrives with blaster rifles in a fantasy setting (because, y’know, Medieval Scandinavia is so fantastical…), and the Sci-Fi fans were perturbed that it stopped at one alien with a blaster rifle.
And how about Cowboys and Aliens?
In the world of books, there are so many examples it’s hard to narrow down. China Mieville has certainly been making some cross-genre strides with his self proclaimed “Weird Fiction”. One of my favorite authors, Jack Vance, often wrote in such a way that it was difficult to nail it down to any one genre. And basically everything Zelazny wrote…
As a self-proclaimed wannabe author, I’m interested in this debate because there are times where a story idea doesn’t fit solidly into one camp. At those times, the options are to redirect the story and ditch what doesn’t fit with the chosen genre, or risk the ire of the purists. Which should a fellow do?
So where do you fall in this debate? Segmented plate, or all piled together in a heap?