This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

24 November, 2010

THE FOURTH SFF GENRE.

   Everyone knows there are three main genres of SFF, or Speculative Fiction. That is of course Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror.    These three genres have plenty of sub-genres, and you would think that nothing is lacking. I disagree, there is a certain type of story that I feel belong under the SFF banner, but is currently not receiving the recognition it deserves.
   So I am going to present to you the fourth SFF genre:

ADVENTURE

   The name is by no means a new one, in fact it has been used for years to describe exactly the type of story I think deserves it's own SFF-genre. Granted it is used mostly about films and games. And it was used much more widely ten to twenty years ago. At least here in Norway where it is called "eventyr" (, also meaning fairy tale in case you come across it in that meaning). 
   Usually action is tacked on at the front, and I think everyone will recognize the term action-adventure. But by going to my DVD collection, I notice most of the films who would be classified as action-adventure during the 90s are now only described  as action. (Bizarrely this includes my Norwegian DVD of Underworld.) So I guess now would be a good time to take the adventure term back to SFF where it belongs.

   Maybe it's time I gave a description of what I think about when I use the term Adventure:

   Action-oriented story. Usually with a quest. Can sometime border the mystery/thriller genre, but it has a supernatural, paranormal or mythical element. Often the element is an artifact the the main character is looking for, or it could be some sort of ancient cult/conspiracy/guardians of wisdom that is involved. Anything that involves what can be called alternative, or fringe, archaeology falls into this category.

   From my description of Adventure, it is easy to use the most widely known example to clarify further; Indiana Jones. For some reason the Indiana Jones movies are considered SFF by fans of the genre, while most people outside the genre consider them action movies. 
   Indiana Jones looks for mythical artifacts, something that as far as we know are legends and do not exist, like the holy grail. This is what makes people see it as SFF(, I think most people use Fantasy to describe the movies). 

   But I see a huge problem with Indiana Jones belonging to SFF without the genre Adventure being utilised.
And that problem can be traced back to the holy grail, and also literature. Indiana Jones isn't the only one to hunt for, and find the holy grail, Robert Langdon did the exact same thing in The Da Vinci Code. The difference being the "san greal/sang real" interpretation.
   
   Take away the setting, and you have what amounts to basically the same story. But despite this Dan Brown is considered mainstream by SFF fans, while Indiana Jones is being embraced as SFF. I see this as the kind of value judgement that I hate as a SFF fan. 
    
    We SFF fans are tired of SFF being classified as Lit.Fic. if the literary crowd thinks it is good. But we do the same with Brown. Brown may not be a great writer, but his stories, at least The Da Vinci Code, are as much SFF as Indiana Jones' adventures.
   And to remove, as much as possible, the value judgement, I think we need the Adventure genre under the SFF umbrella.
   (If you wonder why I use Brown as an example, I considered using Clive Cussler, but settled on Brown because he's more familiar to most people. And I have to say that Cussler's books more or less embodies the Adventure genre.)

    What do you think? Am I wrong, am I right? Do you disagree that my definition of Adventure falls under the SFF umbrella? (Am I even making any sense?)
    -Please comment.

5 comments:

  1. I think the problem with these sub genres is that they are so hard to define and keep within those definitions. So many books can be classified as one, or two of those genres above. For example, a book can be both fantasy and horror, or sci fi and horror or even (sometimes) a blend of sci fi and fantasy. Adventure, I think, qualifies as a fourth genre, but then you'll run into the same problem of books being parts of multiple genres. Does that make sense? I'm not saying that it isn't a bad idea, I'm just saying that so many books can be considered more than one genre already that adding another to the list will exacerbate that.

    If it's not already obvious I'm not a big fan of sub genres outside of scifi and fantasy as the only two. I always get the mixed up, or call books by the wrong sub genre or whatever so don't take my word for anything. I'm bitter about these endless classifications books go through. Why can't they just be "sci fi" and "fantasy" respectively? I spend far too much time trying to figure out what genre a book would be. It's like scientific classifications - "here's its genus. What's it's species? What's it's family?"

    Of course I'll get it wrong.

    And here I was, trying to answer a question and then I started ranting. I apologize for that.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think you are definitely making a good point here actually. I'm always really surprised that Wilbur Smith's books cannot be put into the SFF arena - not all of them by any means, but certainly some of those set in Ancient Egypt. They are adventure stories with a large dose of magic, which surely puts them into the SFF genre? Only if we have a sub genre of adventure :-)

    ReplyDelete
  3. @Sarah

    Yes, it can be confusing with all the sub-genres around. And that's even without getting started on things like the difference between what was Urban Fantasy in the 90s and what is Urban Fantasy now.
    I still stand by the Adventure genre, there's lots of books that belong there.

    @Magemanda

    I read a lot of these types of stories, and Wilbur Smith's Taita-series (,it's called that in Norway,) certainly belongs there. The Seventh Scroll has the archaeological aspect I was thinking about, and the others contain some magic as you say. -Definitely Adventure :-)

    ReplyDelete
  4. I agree with your general theory, with the addendum that Adventure would have a lot of overlap with Sword and Sorcery, which would make it confusing for a lot of people!

    ReplyDelete
  5. @Mieneke

    I see what you're getting at.
    But I think of Sword and Sorcery as secondary world, and Adventure as our world.
    To clarify that, Conan and LotR is secondary world, even if both claim to be set in prehistoric earth.

    And I don't think Adventure would add to the SFF subgenre confusion. But would clarify what really belongs with SFF, like in my Indiana Jones/Da Vinci Code example.

    ReplyDelete