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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Genre Identification

   
Author Topic: Genre Identification
Owasm
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Here's a question:

What do you call the genre of a story-series based in a mythical district in a mythical kingdom on a mythical world that has absolutely no speculative nature other than the setting? This particular place is modeled on 1800 England.

Would such a story benefit from just placing the district in England?

The stories from the district will be similar in concept to Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice and Cranford.

Looking for some genre advice.

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Robert Nowall
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Ruritanian? As in The Prisoner of Zenda, which took place in the fictional kingdom of Ruritania in the Balkans (maybe), but was strictly late 19th century action-adventure-romance.
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extrinsic
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Alternate history? Except the alternate feature is the setting's place rather than time.

For that scenario, an intriguing possibility arises for a kind of dramatic irony from readers' curiosity looking for evidence of real-world setting features., which, contrarily, is also a challenge to willing suspension of disbelief if there are lapses, yet greater potential engagement if the secondary setting is exotic yet familiar enough. That's two out of three of the audience-writer implied contract clauses oriented on meaning spaces. The third being a participation mystique, which also could be invoked by an alternate history place narrative.

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Owasm
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These are meant to be character-based stories and I wonder if the fictional place will raise an unwarranted expectation of speculative elements (elves, dwarves, dragons, magic). There aren't any.

I've created a somewhat isolated district where the physical attributes that surround the area will come into play (mountains, mines, badlands, marshes. However the stories won't be as much action based (wars, conflict, quests) as human event based (deaths, relationships, reactions to external events outside the district).

The stories are intended to appeal to women readers.

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extrinsic
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Philip K. Dick's alternate history novel The Man in the High Castle doesn't have a fantastical motif to speak of, beyond that of the setting's alternate situation.

Narrowing the appeal target to women readers means to me that main dramatic complications should orient around the feminine trait of emotional bonding rituals for community building, thematically, the individual in society;

"a. Society and a person's inner nature are always at war.
b. Social influences determine a person's final destiny.
c. Social influences can only complete inclinations formed by Nature.
d. A person's identity is determined by place in society.
e. In spite of the pressure to be among people, an individual is essentially alone and frightened" {Themes).

"Themes," Common Themes in Literarure, San José State University. http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/patten/theme.html

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LDWriter2
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I think it's usually under the general fantasy genre or SF.

Glen Cook has his Garrett series in such a world and the book is fantasy, a such and such Mills-Sorry I forget her initials K. E. maybe- has her action in a world that would fit your description almost to a T. I say almost because it does have magic and dragons. So does Garrett, along with elves and dwarves etc..

Barb and J. C. Hendee's Noble Dead series takes place on another earth.

Can't think of any SF at the moment but I know I have read them.

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aspirit
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If you're using your fictional world to emphasize real-world relationships, then I suggest Mainstream/Literary. That's what Ursula K. LeGuin's Orsinian Tales (1976) seems to be sold as. I wouldn't consider your series a part of Fantasy unless there there was strong, fantastical What If? premise.

I'm wondering, however, why you don't what to set the series in England? Do you not want to do the research, or is a different setting necessary for what you envisioned?

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Robert Nowall
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I don't see that a fictional setting would make a story alternate history---if so, Sinclair Lewis's stories set in the city of Zenith (Babbit, and others) would be science fiction.

I've always seen alternate history as when some incident in the past, that happened one way, happens the other way---and everything that happened afterwards was changed as a result.

I think some further element---magic, say---would be needed to make a story fantasy.

(As for fictional settings and alternate history---I've often wondered what would've happened to the characters in Gone With the Wind if the South had won the Civil War...I'm sure when the novel lapses into public domain later in this decade (I think), someone will publish one...)

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LeetahWest
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This is an excellent discussion as I am also working on an alternate history/fantasy genre yet, as I plot and outline I keep on playing with the idea of leaving the "fantasy" out of it. . . Ahhhh decisions decisions.

And I have to agree with Robert about the definition of "alternate history."

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Alternate geography, perhaps?

C J Cherryh wrote a book set in an alternate oriental country (so far as I could tell). Nothing else about it was speculative, so it has been done, and such things have been published by SF/F publishers. The title of Cherryh's book was THE PALADIN, by the way.

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Robert Nowall
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Also Thomas Wolfe's (not Tom Wolfe) novels and material set in Old Catawba---so clearly the state of North Carolina that you can pick out the historical figures. I can't recall anything fantastic in them per se (possibly some of the short stories were fantastic in nature, been awhile since I read them). It's not alternate history, just fictionalized real history.
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Pyre Dynasty
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I don't have anything to add to the conversation, I just want to say that every day I think this thread is titled Gender Identification and I click it expecting a whole different conversation.
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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury:
Alternate geography, perhaps?

C J Cherryh wrote a book set in an alternate oriental country (so far as I could tell). Nothing else about it was speculative, so it has been done, and such things have been published by SF/F publishers. The title of Cherryh's book was THE PALADIN, by the way.

Alternate geography, I like that. That's an astute observation. Perhaps the whole alternate genre is a subset of historical fiction, too. Cherryh's The Paladin I've read. It's my second favorite Cherryh to Cuckoo's Egg.

Pyre Dynasty, if you'd like deep background on gender identity, I recommend Robin Lakoff's signal and seminal work on the topic: Language and Women's Place. The 2004 edition significantly updates and advances understanding of the gender identity topic. The 1975 edition isn't quite as comprehensive.

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mrmeadors
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THis is a tough call. I had a friend who wrote a novel in an alternate world. It was sort of like Master and Commander but in an imaginary world. No magic, etc. There was a religion and stuff like that, but nothing supernatural happened, they just believed in "alternate" gods and goddesses. She had a very hard time figuring out what to call it because fantasy, as you said, implies to most people that there will be some sort of magic.

I have read many books that were in this "world," but set in imaginary places (Islands, towns, villages, etc). And they were just shelved in romance or literary or wherever they belonged. It was the plot that set the genre, not the setting. There is really no reason you couldn't just make up a place in England, if that would be possible with your story ("dukedoms" were huge, and with that kind of scale, you could pull quite a bit off). It could probably make things a bit easier on you.

Melanie

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Pyre Dynasty
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I recently half watched a movie set in a mythical town called Dublin, any resemblance, they said, to a real place named Dublin was wholly coincidental. (Sadly that was the most interesting thing about the movie.)
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Robert Nowall
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Westerns are set in the West, mostly...but, in many cases, you can't really tell when or where they're set.

Sure, you recognize Monument Valley in the John Ford Westerns, but would some of the stories as described actually take place in such an arid and barren location?

Or Howard Hawks's Rio Bravo, which makes it clear it's in the County of Presidio in the State of Texas, but is it before or after the Civil War? Have the railroads come yet, if not to this particular town, then somewhere?

On the whole, the Western is something of a mythical creation---in the sense that they're making myth and legend, not that they're false---and trying to "fix" them in space and time is something of an empty activity.

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mrmeadors
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Robert makes a good point about the westerns. I guess it just depends on HOW different your setting/culture is. There was that Sean Bean movie Black Death, where there was a secluded place with people who were weird. If a place is secluded enough, anything could happen...
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LDWriter2
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There are different forms of fantasy as well as SF. So maybe choose one of the subgeneres if you need a name.
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