If spy fiction uses SF/F techniques, then why doesn’t speculative fiction feature more espionage? Perhaps SF/F’s world-building is too much of a good thing, preventing the genre from leveraging tension the way spy fiction does.
Growing up in a household where the legacy of Communism loomed large (my parents had fled Communist Poland during the ’60s), poison-tipped umbrellas and double-or-triple-agents were regular mealtime conversation. And with no James Bond showing […]
Hello and welcome to August! I was away for much of July on a “blogging vacation”, and I very much missed you and our ongoing genre mash-up conversation while I was gone. Now that I’m […]
Character, Context, and Procedure: The Cores of the Police Procedural One can’t analyze science fiction and fantasy without running into certain words over and over again: World-building. Sense of wonder. Neologism. Cognitive estrangement. Novum. These […]
Police procedurals are a complicated genre to explore because they intersect so fluidly with so many other genres. On the one hand, they solidly rest within the mystery tradition: there is a crime that needs […]
Last week, we talked about how works of speculative fiction deploy techniques commonly found in literary fiction. This week, we’re going to flip that coin and look at how mainstream literary fiction employs techniques developed […]
As I mentioned last week, trying to draw general conclusions about the relationship between mainstream literary fiction and speculative fiction is difficult at best. For every “general” hypothesis, a slew of counter-examples can be raised […]
The relationship between speculative fiction and mainstream literary fiction is complicated by decades of group identity dynamics, mutual ignorance, and overbroad critical generalizations about both genres. However, if we try to put our long-held attitudes […]
Perhaps the most important insight I’ve gained from my research for my Crossroads series is that the borders between genres are very fluid, and the more one genre (or sub-genre) resembles another, the more contentious […]
Welcome to the first week of May! This month, I’m going to be taking a look at the often-fraught relationship between speculative fiction and mainstream literary fiction. I’ve always found the love-hate relationship between devotees […]
NOTE: This week’s essay is actually an adapted form of an essay from December 18, 2012 that was originally published at The King of Elfland’s 2nd Cousin. Some changes, however, have been made from the […]
Last week, we talked about how every piece of humorous speculative fiction inevitably gets compared to Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. But as I outlined, Adams’ comedy of the absurd operates very […]
Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy (itself spread across five books with a six written by Eoin Colfer), with its friendly, green warning against panic, casts a huge shadow over the field of […]
Hello, folks! Now that I’m back on my feet, I find that April’s here. A few days ago was April 1st, also known as April Fool’s Day. And while I may not be clever enough […]
Sorry, folks. I know some of you were looking forward to the final installment in the Crossroads: Western series, but I’m afraid I have been laid low by a really nasty virus plague. As a […]
Speculative fiction gives my imagination space to play. Whether it’s a strange, fascinating city, an entire alien world, or a different time/reality, the genre’s ability to transport offers both escapist entertainment and the insight into […]
Someone once said that every story starts with someone either coming to town, or leaving town. And there is no genre for which this adage holds more true than the western. It probably takes us […]
March is here, and that means it is time to move into a new Crossroads series. For some reason, March always brings to mind melting snow, spring’s inexorable creep across the plains, cold mountains withstanding […]
Whenever I think of speculative fiction’s relationship to romance, I am always reminded of that scene in The Princess Bride where Fred Savage’s character interrupts his grandpa and – voice dripping with scorn – asks: […]
Last week, we talked about paranormal romance and the ways in which it uses longstanding cultural archetypes (vampires, werewolves, etc.) to explore power, sexuality, and possibly even deeper existential themes. But speculative fiction is composed […]
Happy Valentine’s Day! In my first draft of this week’s essay, I started to trace the history of the paranormal romance all the way from the Gothic novel, through to noir, into romantic suspense, urban […]
Today is February 7th, and with Valentine’s Day around the corner, love is in the air. Which is why this month I’ll be taking a look at romance, and how it rubs up against speculative […]
Last week, we talked about some of the tensions between science fiction and noir. Fantasy, which relies on metaphor even more than science fiction, has an even more challenging time of it. Its traditional themes […]
World-building, extrapolation, analogy, conceptual breakthrough, thought experiment – these are science fiction’s basic methods. Other genres might occasionally borrow them, but SF has sharpened them to a razor’s edge. So what happens when this set of tools works alongside the themes, styles, and plot structures of noir?
Before we get into a discussion of how speculative fiction approaches noir, let’s start by discussing just what the noir aesthetic really is.
Speculative fiction’s ability to stay fresh is a direct result of its ability to blend with other genres: the mash-up, the hybrid, the literary crossroad are where science fiction has always found innovation. We’re a magpie genre, and I think that should be celebrated and explored.
Chris Gerwel is a science fiction, fantasy, and horror writer. Raised in New Jersey, he spent ten years in Central & Eastern Europe in the market research industry, and today when he isn’t reading or writing speculative fiction, he works in the software industry. He lives in northern NJ, with a beautiful wife and a rambunctious puppy, and also writes the weekly blog The King of Elfland’s 2nd Cousin.