Mainstream Literary Fiction

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Crossroads: “Speculative” Literary Fiction and SF/F Techniques

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 and refined in science fiction and fantasy. There are many theories as to what constitutes the “core technique” underlying speculative […]

Peace by Gene Wolfe

Crossroads: “Literary” Speculative Fiction and Literary Sensibilities

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 which undermine its veracity. If, however, we think about both genres as falling somewhere on various probabilistic spectrums, then generalizations […]

Venn diagram of Literary Fiction/Speculative Fiction along Character/Plot Spectrum

Crossroads: The Cores of Literary Fiction and Speculative Fiction

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 to one side and focus our attention on the works themselves, we find that the two genres are neither incompatible, […]

Magic Realism vs Fantasy - Venn Diagram

Crossroads: Negotiating the Unreal in Magic Realism and Fantasy

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 their relationship is likely to be. Gene Wolfe once condescendingly remarked that “magic realism is fantasy written by people who […]

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Crossroads: Tensions between SF/F and Mainstream Literary Fiction

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 of each genre fascinating because each relies so heavily on the other to renew itself. But the ways in which […]