Narrowing down a genre for my novel: Gothic Science Fantasy
Now that my novel is nearing completion, after more than three years of work, a suitable genre is finally becoming clear. The plot is all in place; I’ve been working on layers of editing and tweaking: sensory details, distinctive language and habits of the main characters, finding irrelevant or redundant passages, looking for things that need more detail or action, never-ending research, etc. etc.
In the process, themes and symbolism are also revealing themselves, even ones which I did not consciously include. It certainly does not fit into a “pulp fiction” genre category, ie, following formulas and light on meaning or symbolism, while focusing mostly on a quick, plot-driven read. No, my book reflects the fact that I like to read a lot of literary novels.
There’s a definite romance, two in fact, but it’s certainly no Romance-novel “happily ever after.” Actually, it’s an obsessive, even destructive romance, in which one of the characters–whether he’s truly a narcissist or not–sure acts like one. And if you don’t have an “HEA” ending (as the fans term it) in a romance novel, there’s a very good chance your readers will toss it against the wall and never read any of your other books. (This has actually happened with writers before.) But if you have an HEA with a hero like mine, it’s likely to get pushback from abuse victims like we saw with Fifty Shades of Grey.
It doesn’t fit into science fiction, either. I’ve always been more interested in the fantastical science fiction–Doctor Who, Star Wars, Back to the Future, Farscape–and not so much in hard science fiction. So what if it’s unlikely a humanoid alien ever lived on Mars? I still want to read about that. So what if hypnotism doesn’t actually work like in the old movies? I still like to watch them.
Turns out, “science fantasy” is a term used for that kind of science fiction. It doesn’t have to follow strict, real-world scientific principles, and can include mysticism or the supernatural, such as the Force or ghosts or fairies. So my novel–light on the science but heavy on plot, symbols, reflections on human nature, etc.–fits right in. It also fits because the hypnotism goes beyond what actual hypnotism can do.
(Or does it? A boyfriend in college hypnotized me and caused a mental link, just like in the novel. But then, I can never really be sure how much was truly a Link, and how much was him playing with my head. But the concept is not unheard-of.)
But that’s not all it is. Not only is there a romance. Not only is there time travel and a mad scientist. But there is a focus on the psychology of the characters, so it can be called a Psychological novel.
There are also themes, symbolism, a character-driven story that’s at least as important as the plot, and deeper meaning exploring the depths of human nature, making it fit in the Literary genre.
But then you find those themes which have become prominent over the past few years as I’ve worked and tweaked: Byronic hero, described above. Svengali, the older man hypnotizing and manipulating the young woman, while another man–the young hero–tries to save her. The older, aristocratic man obsessed with the young virgin, imprisoning her in a castle. Dark themes of oppressive religion and questioning, abandonment, betrayal, destruction, death. Hypnotism. A character who is also very vampiric, inspiring a dark and erotic fascination not just toward the young woman, but from her as well.
So there you have it: It’s a Gothic. Because the Gothic elements are not based in the supernatural (other than the hypnotism and the Laws of Time which seem almost like a deity), “Gothic Science Fantasy” seems most fitting. Also, because Psychology and Literary elements are all very much a part of the Gothic genre, I don’t even have to specify that it’s a “literary” or a “psychological” novel.
So there you have it: I’m working on a Gothic Science Fantasy. This will help me with the editing and, later, the marketing, because publishers and readers both want to know “where it fits.” I love genre-bending novels, which this certainly is, but it helps to know where to put it and who to market it to.