Genre Friday – Rampant Technology Horror

Toaster

Like this except, you know, evil.

It’s late, the wind is howling outside, you’re all alone in the house… and then your computer comes to life with malevolent intelligence and takes over all your appliances. Next thing you know your chased screaming from your home with sinister kitchen appliances and a surprisingly angry vacuum cleaner close on your heels only to find your lawn mower and snow blower waiting to ambush you in the front yard. Through the creative and unrestrained use of a shovel and framing hammer (thank goodness the simple tools haven’t turned against you) and running, lots of running, you manage to barely survive the night.

We’ve all been there.

Rampant Technology Horror (aka “The machines are alive and killing everyone!”) is a small but memorable horror subgenre dealing with exactly what it sounds like – technology and machines that have either taken on a life of their own or are being controlled by some mysterious outside force and subsequently turned on their erstwhile masters. It all exploits the fear that man has gone too far and dared too much, creating machines and technology that we can no longer understand (who knows how an iPad works? *crickets*), let alone control. The best (read most ridiculous and therefore entertaining) of the subgenre, in my humble opinion, comes from the late 70s to early 90s when it was all evil automobiles (see Stephen King’s film Maximum Overdrive, based on his short story Trucks) and horrifying home appliances (again, Stephen King provides an example with his story The Mangle about a violent washing machine). Once the digital age was upon us and computers became a household item though they stole the limelight and it all became frighteningly plausible.

Genre Friday – Pulp Fiction

Actually, it has surprisingly little to do with Quentin Tarantino.

Pulp

Pub. January 1952

Initially more a format than a genre, Pulp Fiction was a general term used to describe the stories published in pulp magazines – cheap magazines printed on rough, wood pulp paper (magazines printed on smooth, high-quality paper were called “glossies”). It was not a complimentary description.

Pulp fiction was synonymous with run-of-the-mill, low-quality literature that got by more on its cheap thrills and lurid details than on any merit.

It was, of course, wildly popular.

At least until WWII, when paper shortages and rising production costs spelled the end for many pulp publications.

Pulp_modern

Pub. June 2017

Today pulp fiction lives on mostly as an homage to those early 20th century writers and short stories. Pulp fiction, whether it be sci-fi, adventure, crime fiction, etc., had a certain sensationalist feel and many common themes and elements that developed over the decades of their popularity and some modern authors (especially hard-boiled crime authors) have taken those elements and brought them to their books and stories today. Or movies (there’s your Tarantino-tie-in).

 

 

 

 

Genre Friday – Cozy Mysteries

Mysteries are all about twists and turns and misdirection. There is often danger. There is almost always a dead body or two. So where does “cozy” come into it?

Cozy Cottage

Not to be confused with a cozy cottage… although a lot of cozy mysteries take place in and around cozy cottages. Hmmm, I wonder if there’s a connection.

The Cozy is a pretty popular mystery sub-genre with a pretty specific set-up. They are generally set in a small town or village, with an amateur (meaning not professional law-enforcement or a PI or anything) sleuth, although they will always have some sort of connection, official or otherwise, that will allow them to gather information on the case. The sleuth is almost always a woman… and not infrequently of the grey-haired, grandmotherly variety. The murder – there is always a murder – is over pretty quickly or happens before the book begins and someone just finds the body to kick things off. There is little to no additional violence. Think Murder, She Wrote for a good, well-known example.

And that’s that. Although, if you are intrigued, this sub-genre has a bunch of subcategories (animals – often cats, crafts, cooking, etc.) all its own so you can delve pretty deeply into the cozy rabbit hole if you should so desire. And, as always, the library is a great place to start.

 

Genre Friday! Presents Historical Romance

It’s a romance set in the past. Well, sort of, it’s actually a bit more complicated than that.

Three MusketeersFirst, there are the different meanings of romance to consider. “Romance” in the days of yore was pretty much the same thing as what we would call a novel today – a story that someone made up and, to keep it interesting, filled with a bit more drama and action than most people would find typical to everyday life. Thus a historical romance can technically be most any novel written prior to the first half of the 20th century (although particularly in late medieval Europe). This gets even more confusing because some historical romances (read “novels”) focus on a love story, making it qualify as the modern definition of a romance as well.

Of course, this ambiguity is mostly avoided these days due to the simple fact that 99% of the people who go looking for historical romance are looking for books about romantic love that are set in the past. I may have been overstating how complicated it was to take advantage of a teachable moment… Librarian.

Still, even if you are looking for the modern definition of a historical romance, there are choices to be made; mostly involving which time period is you favorite. Most popular are the stories set in the late historical periods of Europe and Great Britain (there is a lot of attention paid to Scottish Highlanders). The American Civil War is also popular, but it doesn’t stop there; ancient Egyptians, Caribbean Pirates, Vikings, you name it, it’s out there somewhere – something for everyone.

Examples:

Traditional Definition:

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

Rogue by Any Other NameModern Definition:

The Duke and I by Julia Quinn

First Comes Marriage by Mary Balogh

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean

Genre Friday Returns! with Court Intrigue Fantasy

Whether it is set on Earth (past, present or future), in a parallel world or universe, or a mystic realm where the familiar laws of nature do not apply, Fantasy allows imagination to run wild. True to this idea, Fantasy’s many subgenres can vary from one another a great deal, encompassing just about anything one could imagine, which helps to explain the genre’s ever-growing breadth and depth.

The Court Intrigue subgenre of Fantasy generally focuses on and around royalty and the ruling elite. Settings can be anything from a well known historical backdrop (but with magic or something) to some unrecognizable alternate world but we are almost always going to be dealing with the upper crust of society and their despicable plotting and scheming. The plots of these stories are often complex and heavily entangled with politics, power grabs, espionage, assassinations (successful and attempted), court scandal and everything else that you would expect from a political thriller, but normally set in feudal, medieval-esque surroundings with sorcerers and dragons about.

GOTCoverMIAExamples:

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Genre Friday!

Helping people find the book (or books) they wanted is great. Helping people find the books that they never knew they wanted is even better!

Introducing Genre Fridays, a quick, once-a-week look at a random genre, subgenre, theme, setting, etc. It may be a genre you love, it may be one you hate, or it may be one that you have never heard of – regardless, here you will get a brief description as well as a few examples of books in the genre. You might just find your next favorite book. Or maybe you won’t. Either way, it’s meant to be horizon broadening so please enjoy.

Alternate History

Alternate history is usually lumped in with science fiction because many, but certainly not all, alternate history stories contain sci-fi elements, but this sometimes-sci-fi subgenre is often thought of as a genre in its own right. Regardless of the presence or influence of science fiction, the stories always revolve around a drastic change to historical events or circumstances. The primary distinction, if a distinction is made at all, between science fiction based alternate history and the larger genre of alternate history is what is causing the alteration to history and how those alterations have played out.

In science fiction-y alternate history the changes occur when a person or group of people (and often their equipment, vehicles and weapons – these types of stories usually deal with some war or military action of the past and often those that are sent back are soldiers themselves) are somehow propelled backwards through time. This can be accomplished through technology or some unknown phenomenon. Another possibility is that the change in history, whatever it was, has led to an anachronistically advanced society or world – these stories often show similarities to the steampunk subgenre of science fiction.

Pure alternate history depicts might-have-been scenarios. History is filled with near-miss situations that the author can easily tweak to say, “what if this crucial situation had been resolved differently?” Common themes once again revolve around military conflicts, most notably; ‘What if the South had won the Civil War?’, or ‘What if the Axis Powers had won World War II?’ Despite being complete speculation these stories are often meticulously researched and are based upon an author’s educated guess at what might have been, skipping all of the more fanciful or improbable elements found in science fiction based alternate history.

Examples:

Alternative History1632 by Eric Flint

How Few Remain by Harry Turtledove

Lest Darkness Fall by L. Sprague de Camp

Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon