Created By: Maklodes on July 31, 2011 Last Edited By: Maklodes on August 1, 2011

Author Genre Denial

I'm NOT writing science fiction! I'm just extrapolating from current technological and social trends to speculate about the future! No ray-guns!

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Is this already covered (although somewhat more narrowly) in Sci-Fi Ghetto?

This is a form of the Word of God in which the creator claims either that the work does not belong to the genre to which it appears to belong, or that the work is a deconstruction or subversion of the genre, even if no deconstruction or subversion is evident.

As evidence of the fact that the work does not belong in the genre, the creator may cite features which separate the work from the genre, sometimes by pointing out that the work does not fit into some specific subset of the genre. Sometimes, the fact that their work does not follow any of the dead horse tropes or dead unicorn tropes of the genre is cited as proof that the work is not a member of the genre.

Alternatively (or additionally), the author may simply cite not having significant personal familiarity with the genre as a reason for the work not to be counted as part of that genre, based on the conception of genres as cumulative literary traditions rather than categories for works dealing with certain broad themes.

Needs More Examples.



Video Games
Community Feedback Replies: 16
  • July 31, 2011
    This could actually be a trope, assuming its examples are popular enough. Videogame example here:

    • When players criticized Brutal Legend as being a real-time strategy game pretending to be an action game, Tim Schafer claimed that anyone playing Brutal Legend as an RTS was doing it wrong.
  • July 31, 2011
    • Kurt Vonnegut vehemently denies he is a science fiction writer, all textual evidence to the contrary.
  • July 31, 2011
  • July 31, 2011
    Don't we have this somewhere? I might just be thinking of Sci Fi Ghetto though.
  • July 31, 2011
    Kurt Vonnegut's fans often denied that he was writing science fiction. I don't believe that he himself ever denied it (though I don't think he made a big deal of it either way). I'm not sure this is really a trope, though it might be -- are there any in-universe examples?

    Also, I'm dubious about the Brutal Legend example, since the multiplayer mode is pure RTS. I suppose it's possible, but it seems implausible. In general, this trope could become an urban legend magnet.
  • July 31, 2011
    Terry Goodkind claims his Sword Of Truth books are not fantasy, but "novels that explore important human themes.".
  • July 31, 2011
    • Here's a quote from Kurt Vonnegut's collection of essays "Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons": "I have been a soreheaded occupant of a file drawer labeled 'Science Fiction' ... and I would like out, particularly since so many serious critics regularly mistake the drawer for a urinal."
  • July 31, 2011
    The only thing close to an in-universe example I can think of is Adaptation, in which Donald Kaufman talks about how "everyone writes in a genre" after attending a Robert McKee seminar, and Charlie Kaufman denies that his work could possibly fit. Eventually, Charles consults Mc Kee, rewrites his screenplay, and the film itself starts turning into a stock thriller.
  • July 31, 2011
    I'd like to defend authors who take this view. With dystopian novels, authors aren't generally trying to predict the future. Instead, they are saying that x is bad (with x being some political idea they don't like) and this is what things would be like if there was too much x/x was taken to its logical conclusion.

    That's not to say that dystopian novels haven't predicted future technology, but it's not really the aim of those authors. I suppose you could say that Atwood and others write science fiction, but not speculative fiction.

    I'm not sure of Rowling's exact quote, although I get the impression that she didn't read much fantasy fiction, which would kind of explain not thinking of herself in it.
  • July 31, 2011
    ^^^ Not everything Vonnegut wrote was science fiction, but many things were. That sounds more like a complaint about lumping all his work together rather than a blanket denial of the category.

    ^ Atwood actually embraced the term "speculative fiction" back when she was still trying to deny the science fiction label. And if we leave dystopian-trying-to-make-a-point stories out of science fiction, we have to leave out HG Wells, Robert Heinlein, and many of the best known SF writers of all time.
  • August 1, 2011
    "If this goes on" stories are traditionally considered SF, though usually in the category of "soft" or "social" science fiction.

    A frequent accusation against the "magical realism" fiction crowd is that they want to use some fantasy tropes without copping to writing "fantasy."

    In general, this happens when an author who considers themself "mainstream" comes up with a story idea that contains elements that would normally sort it into SF, fantasy or horror publishing categories; they're worried that actually having it marketed as such will make it difficult for their usual audience to find it, and since they haven't read anything in the genre since they were twelve, they think of it as for children or arrested adolescents.

    It results, in many cases in something that is not just a speculative fiction book in a thin "mainstream" wrapper, but a very poor one at that. Since the author doesn't read the genre, and is actively trying to be disassociated with it, they don't know the state of the art. They'll often use stale or Discredited Trope devices , won't fact-check their details and don't follow through on the logical consequences of the speculative elements of the story.

    This was most prevelant as a publishing "trope" from the 1950s (when SF came into its own as a publishing category) through the late 1980s (when speculative fiction started becoming more accepted by the mainstream public.) It still occurs today, however.
  • August 1, 2011
    "If this goes on" stories appear across the whole range of the Mohs Scale Of Science Fiction Hardness. It's a rare writer who can resist the urge to add philosophical or political lessons to a work. Robert Heinlein and Poul Anderson are two very hard SF writers who were notorious for this. One of Heinlein's most famous novellas is even named "If This Goes On..." (a Take That aimed at the religious right -- back in the 1940s.) Legendary SF editor John W. Campbell, who almost single-handedly re-invented the genre in the '30s and '40s (and discovered Asimov and Heinlein and most of the other big names of the era), claimed that "if this goes on" is the core of SF.
  • August 1, 2011
    And there are just as many creators who claim they're not writing SF because they're trying to predict the future; for example, Steven Boccho, who said that NYPD 2069 "is not science fiction. This is trying to conceptualise a relatively near-term future that's logically a function of the world we know today."

    I think my favouite example was when Liam Neeson explained "Science fiction is set in the future, whereas this is set A Long Time Ago In A Galaxy Far Far Away."

    Averted by Russell T Davies, who at the press launch for Torchwood Miracle Day was directly asked "What would you call this? I mean, it's not science fiction..." and immediately answered "Yes, it is!"

    During the 90s, when The BBC didn't do science fiction & fantasy, Neil Gaiman said he called Neverwhere Magical Realism because that was the only way he could get it made.
  • August 1, 2011
    Okay, looking at Scifi Ghetto, I think that this trope may be the same thing after all. Scifi Ghetto includes the bits about Atwood, Goodkind, Vonnegut, etc, that have been discussed in this YKTTW.
  • August 1, 2011
    What about when someone doesn't think they're writing fantasy because they believe the fantasy elements are real? For instance, a religious person writes a story where people are miraculously cured by prayer.
  • August 1, 2011
    I think there is a valid trope here, as in a generalised version of the Sci Fic Ghetto. Authors (and other creators) have denied writing (making) science fiction, fantasy, horror, crime novels, romance, comedy...

    For bonus points, don't make any claim that the work in question is part of said genre - the simple denial from the author should be enough. Eg, Tolkien explicitly denied that T Lot R should be read as an allegory. (IMHO it is, over the virtues of "simple rural life" and hereditary just dictatorships, but I digress…)