Turn the Page: Defining Genres

There are so many new sub-genres in the literary world (but, of course, not limited to literature) right now, that all the terms and buzz words being thrown around can get a bit confusing.  In fact, many of them are not actually new, but have just recently increased in popularity and are now able to be marketed differntly.  What do they mean?  Are they REALLY necessary?  Does any of it even matter?   I have decided to help some of you out that may want to work your way through the muddled world of book genres and buzz words.


Easily put, it is the opposite of utopian, or the ideal society.  Dystopian fiction explores societies that have collapsed or regressed to the point of repressing those who live within it.  It is an offshoot of speculative fiction, and attempts to delve into the ways that people relate to one another during times of social downfall.  Generally, the government has either completely taken over or no longer exists at all.  Although it is most often set in the future, it is generally the author’s way of reflecting what may be happening in a given society at the current time and creating a metaphorical future.  It is most often used within fantasy and science fiction, but is not exclusive to those.

Examples:  1984 by George Orwell,  The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion, The Giver by Lois Lowery


Steampunk, in its simplest definition consists of two parts:  technological aspects of the 19th century (the steam) and some sort of rebellion against society or redefining of the norm (the punk).  There can be many aspects of Steampunk, but the main focus is quirky characters within the Victorian Era using fantastical machines that are based on the technology of the time.  Most often, the technology is amped up or tweaked out in some way and set in a fantasy world.  There is, however, some Steampunk fiction that is not set in the Victorian Era, but merely uses the machines and influences of the time.  Although most often fantasy and science fiction, it is only limited to the author’s imagination.

Examples:  20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, The Infernal Devices Trilogy by Cassandra Claire, Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

New Adult:

This term is actually a very new genre, coined in 2009 by St. Martin’s Press, that is still having trouble gaining footing and respect in the literary community.  New Adult was created to explore the worlds twenty-somethings and college-aged, sometimes referred to as ‘post-adolescent’ fiction.  It focuses on coming of age and exploring what it means to become an adult- post YA.  It allows authors to delve deeper into the defining time in life that has been often overlooked in the literary world because of the inability to market to such a specific audience.  However, with the recent surge in adult interest in YA, a new market opened up.  Due to a lack of understanding of the genre, New Adult has faced a lot of criticism as simply being a way to market erotica, because there is often themes of sexual exploration.  While some authors are using it as a way to publish their erotica, that is only one branch or aspect of the genre.  New Adult can be any genre, and it will be interesting to see how it grows.

Examples:  Easy by Tammara Webber, The Elementals by Francesca Lia Block, Nolander by Becca Mills (fantasy)


Now, I am finding myself wondering if there is any Steampunk Dystopian New Adult fiction out there.  Now that would be quite the genre mash-up.




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