Genre fiction

Genre fiction, also known as popular fiction, is a term used in the book-trade for fictional works written with the intent of fitting into a specifically literary genre, in order to appeal to readers and fans already familiar with that genre.[1]

Although genre fiction is generally distinguished from literary fiction, a number of major literary figures have also written genre fiction, for example, John Banville, publishes crime novels as Benjamin Black, and both Doris Lessing, and Margaret Atwood have written science fiction. Georges Simenon, the creator of the Maigret detective novels, has been described by André Gide as "the most novelistic of novelists in French literature".[2]

The main genres are crime, fantasy, romance, science fiction, western, inspirational, historical fiction and horror. More commercially oriented genre fiction has been dismissed by literary critics as poorly written or escapist.[3]

Genre and the marketing of fiction

In the publishing industry the term "category fiction" is often used as a synonym for genre fiction, with the categories serving as the familiar shelf headings within the fiction section of a bookstore, such as Western or mystery.

The uncategorized section is known in the industry as "general fiction", but in fact many of the titles in this usually large section are often themselves genre novels that have been placed in the general section because sellers believe they will appeal, due to their high quality or other special characteristics, to a wider audience than merely the readers of that genre.

Some adult fans are embarrassed to read genre fiction in public.[4] Some authors known for literary fiction have written novels under pseudonyms, while others have employed genre elements in literary fiction.[5][6][7]

Romance fiction had an estimated $1.375 billion share in the US book market in 2007. Religion/inspirational literature followed with $819 million, science fiction/fantasy with $700 million, mystery with $650 million and then classic literary fiction with $466 million.[8]

History of genres

Genre began as an absolute classification system for ancient Greek literature. Poetry, prose, and drama each had a specific and calculated style that related to the theme of the story. Among the genres were the epic in poetry and tragedy and comedy for plays.[9] In later periods other genres such as the chivalric romance, opera, and prose fiction developed.

Though the novel is often seen as a modern genre, Ian Watt, in The Rise of the Novel (1957) suggests that the novel first came into being in the early 18th century,[10] it has also been described as possessing "a continuous and comprehensive history of about two thousand years", from the time of both Classical Greece and Rome.[11]

The "romance" is a closely related long prose narrative. Walter Scott defined it as "a fictitious narrative in prose or verse; the interest of which turns upon marvellous and uncommon incidents", whereas in the novel "the events are accommodated to the ordinary train of human events and the modern state of society".[12] However, many romances, including the historical romances of Scott,[13] Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights[14] and Herman Melville's Moby-Dick,[15] are also frequently called novels, and Scott describes romance as a "kindred term". Romance, as defined here, should not be confused with the genre fiction love romance or romance novel. Other European languages do not distinguish between romance and novel: "a novel is le roman, der Roman, il romanzo."[16]

Genre fiction developed from various subgenres of the novel (and its "romance" version) during the nineteenth century, along with the growth of the mass-marketing of fiction in the twentieth century: this includes the gothic novel, fantasy, science fiction, adventure novel, historical romance, and the detective novel. Some scholars see precursors to the genre fiction romance novels in literary fiction of the 18th and 19th centuries, including Samuel Richardson's sentimental novel Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded (1740) and the novels of Jane Austen such as Pride and Prejudice (1813).[17]

The genres

The following are some of the main genres as they are used in contemporary publishing:


Crime fiction is the literary genre that fictionalises crimes, their detection, criminals, and their motives. It is usually distinguished from mainstream fiction and other genres such as historical fiction or science fiction, but the boundaries are indistinct. Crime fiction has multiple subgenres,[18] including detective fiction (such as the whodunit), courtroom drama, hard-boiled fiction, mystery fiction, and legal thrillers. Suspense and mystery are key elements to the genre.


Fantasy is a genre of fiction that uses magic or other supernatural elements as a main plot element, theme, or setting. Many works within the genre take place in imaginary worlds where magic and magical creatures are common. Fantasy is generally distinguished from the genres of science fiction and horror by the expectation that it steers clear of scientific and macabre themes, respectively, though there is a great deal of overlap among the three, all of which are subgenres of speculative fiction. Fantasy works frequently feature a medieval setting.


The romance novel or "romantic novel" primarily focuses on the relationship and romantic love between two people, and must have an "emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending."[19] There are many subgenres of the romance novel including fantasy, historical, science fiction, same sex romantic fiction, and paranormal fiction.

There is a literary fiction form of romance, which Walter Scott defined as "a fictitious narrative in prose or verse; the interest of which turns upon marvellous and uncommon incidents".[20]

According to Romance Writers of America's data,[21] the most important subgenres are: Contemporary series romance, Contemporary romance, Historical romance, Paranormal romance, Romantic suspense, Inspirational romance, Romantic suspense (series).

Science fiction

Science fiction is a genre of speculative fiction dealing with imaginative concepts such as futuristic science and technology, space travel, time travel, faster than light travel, parallel universes and extraterrestrial life. Science fiction often explores the potential consequences of scientific and other innovations, and has been called a "literature of ideas".[22] It usually eschews the supernatural, and unlike the related genre of fantasy, historically science fiction stories were intended to have at least pretense of science-based fact or theory at the time the story was created, but this connection has become tenuous or non-existent in much of science fiction.[23][24][25]


Western fiction is defined primarily by being set in the American West in the second half of the 19th century and, secondarily, by featuring heroes who are rugged, individualistic horsemen (cowboys). Other genres, such as romance, have subgenres that make use of the Western setting.


Inspirational fiction is fictional works with faith-based themes. It may be targeted at a specific demographic, such as Christians. Modern inspirational fiction has grown to encompass non-traditional subgenres, such as inspirational thrillers.


Horror fiction aims to frighten or disgust its readers. Although many horror novels feature supernatural phenomena or monsters, it is not required. Early horror took much inspiration from Romanticism and Gothic fiction. Modern horror, such as cosmic horror and splatterpunk, tends to be less melodramatic and more explicit. Horror is often mixed with other genres.

Critical appraisal and controversy

Although frequently ignored or ridiculed by literary critics, genre fiction has achieved a measure of acceptance among some modern critics, with Stephen King being awarded the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters;[26] but this polarized opinions and led to debate on genre fiction's literary merit. Negative comments about genre fiction have sparked responses from Time,[3] Salon,[27] the Atlantic,[28] and the Los Angeles Review of Books.[29] Nobel laureate Doris Lessing described science fiction as "some of the best social fiction of our time", and called Greg Bear, author of Blood Music, "a great writer". [30]

A number of major literary figures have written works of genre fiction. Graham Greene at the time of his death in 1991 had a reputation as a writer of both deeply serious novels on the theme of Catholicism,[31] and of "suspense-filled stories of detection".[32] Acclaimed during his lifetime, he was shortlisted in 1966[33] for the Nobel Prize for Literature.[34]

In the 2000s, the BBC defended itself against charges that it had sneered at genre fiction,[35] while the Man Booker[36] and National Book Awards[37] have been criticized for ignoring genre fiction in their selection process.

Some critics have claimed that reading romance and suspense thrillers makes readers more sensitive, because these novels focus on interpersonal relationships.[38]

19th-century British and Irish genre fiction

Sir John Barrow's descriptive 1831 account of the Mutiny on the Bounty immortalised the Royal Navy ship HMS Bounty and her people. The legend of Dick Turpin was popularised when the 18th-century English highwayman's exploits appeared in the novel Rookwood in 1834.

Although pre-dated by John Ruskin's The King of the Golden River in 1841, the history of the modern fantasy genre is generally said to begin with George MacDonald, the influential author of The Princess and the Goblin and Phantastes (1858). William Morris was a popular English poet who also wrote several fantasy novels during the latter part of the nineteenth century. Wilkie Collins' epistolary novel The Moonstone (1868), is generally considered the first detective novel in the English language, while The Woman in White is regarded as one of the finest sensation novels. H. G. Wells's (1866–1946) writing career began in the 1890s with science fiction novels like The Time Machine (1895), and The War of the Worlds (1898) which describes an invasion of late Victorian England by Martians, and Wells is seen, along with Frenchman Jules Verne (1828–1905), as a major figure in the development of the science fiction genre. He also wrote realistic fiction about the lower middle class in novels like Kipps (1905) and The History of Mr Polly (1910).

Penny dreadful publications were an alternative to mainstream works, and were aimed at working class adolescents, introducing the infamous Sweeney Todd. The premier ghost story writer of the 19th century was the Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu. His works include the macabre mystery novel Uncle Silas 1865, and his Gothic novella Carmilla 1872, tells the story of a young woman's susceptibility to the attentions of a female vampire. The vampire genre fiction began with John William Polidori's "The Vampyre" (1819). This short story was inspired by the life of Lord Byron and his poem The Giaour. An important later work is Varney the Vampire (1845), where many standard vampire conventions originated: Varney has fangs, leaves two puncture wounds on the neck of his victims, and has hypnotic powers and superhuman strength. Varney was also the first example of the "sympathetic vampire", who loathes his condition but is a slave to it.[39] Bram Stoker, yet another Irish writer, was the author of seminal horror work Dracula and featured as its primary antagonist the vampire Count Dracula, with the vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing his arch-enemy. Dracula has been attributed to a number of literary genres including vampire literature, horror fiction, gothic novel and invasion literature.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Scotland of Irish parents but his Sherlock Holmes stories have typified a fog-filled London for readers worldwide

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes is a brilliant London-based "consulting detective", famous for his intellectual prowess, skilful use of astute observation, deductive reasoning and forensic skills to solve difficult cases. Holmes' archenemy Professor Moriarty, is widely considered to be the first true example of a supervillain, while Sherlock Holmes has become a by-word for a detective. Conan Doyle wrote four novels and fifty-six short stories featuring Holmes, from 1880 up to 1907, with a final case in 1914. All but four Conan Doyle stories are narrated by Holmes' friend, assistant, and biographer, Dr John H. Watson.

The Lost World literary genre was inspired by real stories of archaeological discoveries by imperial adventurers. H. Rider Haggard wrote one of the earliest examples, King Solomon's Mines in 1885. Contemporary European politics and diplomatic manoeuvrings informed Anthony Hope's swashbuckling Ruritanian adventure novels The Prisoner of Zenda 1894, and Rupert of Hentzau, 1898.

F. Anstey's comic novel Vice Versa 1882, sees a father and son magically switch bodies. Satirist Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat 1889, is a humorous account of a boating holiday on the river Thames. Grossmith brothers George & Weedon's Diary of a Nobody 1892, is also considered a classic work of humour.

20th-century genre fiction

Early 20-century

Erskine Childers' The Riddle of the Sands (1903), defined the spy novel and Follett has also called it "the first modern thriller".[40]

Emma Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernel (1903) was originally a highly successful play, when staged in London in 1905. The novel The Scarlet Pimpernel was published soon after the play opened and was an immediate success. Orczy gained a following of readers in Britain and throughout the world. The popularity of the novel, which recounted the adventures of a member of the English gentry in the French Revolutionary period, encouraged her to write a number of sequels for her "reckless daredevil" over the next 35 years. The play was performed to great acclaim in France, Italy, Germany and Spain, while the novel was translated into 16 languages. Subsequently, the story has been adapted for television, film, a musical and other media. Baroness Orczy's character The Old Man in the Corner (1908) was among the earliest armchair detectives to be created. Her short stories about Lady Molly of Scotland Yard (1910) were an early example of a female detective as main character.

John Buchan wrote the adventure novels on Prester John (1910) and four novels telling the adventures of Richard Hannay, of which the first, The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915) is the best known. Novels featuring a gentleman adventurer were popular in the interwar period, exemplified by the series of H. C. McNeile with Bulldog Drummond (1920), and Leslie Charteris, whose many books chronicled the adventures of Simon Templar, alias The Saint.

The medievalist scholar M. R. James wrote highly regarded ghost stories (1904–1928) in contemporary settings.

This was called the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. Agatha Christie, a writer of crime novels, short stories and plays, is best remembered for her 80 detective novels and her successful West End theatre plays. Christie's works, particularly those featuring the detectives Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple, made her one of the most important and innovative writers in the development of the genre. Her most influential novels include The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926); one of her most controversial novels, its innovative twist ending had a significant impact on the genre), Murder on the Orient Express (1934), Death on the Nile (1937) and And Then There Were None (1939). Other female writers dubbed "Queens of crime" include Dorothy L. Sayers (gentleman detective, Lord Peter Wimsey), Margery Allingham (Albert Campion, supposedly created as a parody of Sayers' Wimsey,[41]) and New Zealander Ngaio Marsh (Roderick Alleyn). Georgette Heyer recreated the historical romance genre since 1921, and also wrote detective fiction (1932–1953).

A major work of science fiction, from the early 20th century, is A Voyage to Arcturus by Scottish writer David Lindsay, first published in 1920. It combines fantasy, philosophy, and science fiction in an exploration of the nature of good and evil and their relationship with existence. It has been described by critic and philosopher Colin Wilson as the "greatest novel of the twentieth century",[42] and was a central influence on C. S. Lewis's Space Trilogy.[43] Also J. R. R. Tolkien said he read the book "with avidity", and praised it as a work of philosophy, religion, and morality.[44] It was made widely available in paperback form when published as one of the precursor volumes to the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series in 1968.

From the early 1930s to late 1940s, an informal literary discussion group associated with the English faculty at the University of Oxford, were the "Inklings". Its leading members were the major fantasy novelists; C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. Lewis is known for The Screwtape Letters (1942), The Chronicles of Narnia (1950–1956) and The Space Trilogy (1938–1945), while Tolkien is best known as the author of The Hobbit (1937), The Lord of the Rings (1954–1955), and The Silmarillion (1977).

Later 20th-century

In thriller writing, Ian Fleming created the character James Bond 007 in January 1952, while on holiday at his Jamaican estate, Goldeneye. Fleming chronicled Bond's adventures in twelve novels, including Casino Royale (1953), Live and Let Die (1954), Dr. No (1958), Goldfinger (1959), Thunderball (1961), The Spy Who Loved Me (1962), and nine short story works.

In contrast to the larger-than-life spy capers of Bond, John le Carré was an author of spy novels who depicted a shadowy world of espionage and counter-espionage, and his best known novel The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963), is often regarded as one of the greatest in the genre. Frederick Forsyth writes thriller novels, including The Day of the Jackal (1971), The Odessa File (1972), The Dogs of War (1974) and The Fourth Protocol (1984). Ken Follett writes spy thrillers, his first success being Eye of the Needle (1978), followed by The Key to Rebecca (1980), as well as historical novels, notably The Pillars of the Earth (1989), and its sequel World Without End (2007). Elleston Trevor is remembered for his 1964 adventure story The Flight of the Phoenix, while the thriller novelist Philip Nicholson is best known for Man on Fire. Peter George's Red Alert (1958), is a Cold War thriller.

War novels include Alistair MacLean thriller's The Guns of Navarone (1957), Where Eagles Dare (1968), and Jack Higgins' The Eagle Has Landed (1975). Patrick O'Brian's nautical historical novels feature the Aubrey–Maturin series set in the Royal Navy, the first being Master and Commander (1969).

Ronald Welch's Carnegie Medal winning novel Knight Crusader is set in the 12th century and gives a depiction of the Third Crusade, featuring the Christian leader and King of England Richard the Lionheart.

In crime fiction, the murder mysteries of Ruth Rendell and P. D. James are popular.

Nigel Tranter wrote historical novels of celebrated Scottish warriors; Robert the Bruce in The Bruce Trilogy, and William Wallace in The Wallace (1975), works noted by academics for their accuracy.

Science fiction

John Wyndham wrote post-apocalyptic science fiction, his most notable works being The Day of the Triffids (1951), and The Midwich Cuckoos (1957). George Langelaan's The Fly (1957), is a science fiction short story. Science fiction novelist Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), is based on his various short stories, particularly The Sentinel (1951). His other major novels include Rendezvous with Rama (1972), and The Fountains of Paradise (1979). Brian Aldiss is Clarke's contemporary.

Michael Moorcock (born 1939) is a writer, primarily of science fiction and fantasy, who has also published a number of literary novels. He was involved with the 'New Wave' of science fiction writers "part of whose aim was to invest the genre with literary merit"[45] Similarly J. G. Ballard (born 1930) "became known in the 1960s as the most prominent of the 'New Wave' science fiction writers".[46] A later major figure in science fiction was Iain M. Banks who created a fictional anarchist, socialist, and utopian society named "The Culture". The novels that feature in it include Excession (1996), and Inversions (1998). He also published mainstream novels, including the highly controversial The Wasp Factory in 1984. Nobel prize winner Doris Lessing also published a sequence of five science fiction novels the Canopus in Argos: Archives between 1979 and 1983.


Terry Pratchett is best known for his Discworld series of comic fantasy novels, that begins with The Colour of Magic (1983), and includes Mort (1987), Hogfather (1996), and Night Watch (2002). Pratchett's other most notable work is the 1990 novel Good Omens.

Philip Pullman's fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials comprises Northern Lights (1995), The Subtle Knife (1997), and The Amber Spyglass (2000). It follows the coming-of-age of two children as they wander through a series of parallel universes against a backdrop of epic events.

Neil Gaiman is a writer of science fiction, fantasy short stories and novels, whose notable works include Stardust (1998), Coraline (2002), The Graveyard Book (2009), and The Sandman series.

Alan Moore's works include Watchmen, V for Vendetta set in a dystopian future UK, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and From Hell, speculating on the identity and motives of Jack the Ripper.

Douglas Adams wrote the five-volume science fiction comedy series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and also wrote the humorous fantasy detective novel Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency.


Clive Barker horror novels include The Hellbound Heart (1986), and works in fantasy, Weaveworld (1987), Imajica and Abarat (2002).

Age categories

Most genres of fiction may also be segmented by the age of the intended reader:

See also


  1. ^ French, Christy Tillery. "Literary Fiction vs Genre Fiction". AuthorsDen. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
  2. ^ Charles E. Claffey, The Boston Globe September, 10, 1989 Contributing to this report was Boston Globe book editor Mark Feeney.
  3. ^ a b Grossman, Lev (23 May 2012). "Literary Revolution in the Supermarket Aisle: Genre Fiction Is Disruptive Technology". Time. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  4. ^ "Locus Online: Betsy Wollheim interview excerpts". Locus. June 2006. Retrieved 2017-12-06.
  5. ^ Merritt, Stephanie (14 February 2010). "Forget 'serious' novels, I've turned to a life of crime". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  6. ^ STASIO, MARILYN (20 April 2008). "Next Victim". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  7. ^ KAKUTANI, MICHIKO (21 November 1989). "Critic's Notebook; Kill! Burn! Eviscerate! Bludgeon! It's Literary Again to Be Horrible". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  8. ^ See the page Romance Literature Statistics: Overview Archived 2007-12-23 at the Wayback Machine (visited March 16, 2009) of Romance Writers of America Archived 2010-12-03 at the Wayback Machine homepage. The subpages offer further statistics for the years since 1998.
  9. ^ Hadas, Moses (1950). A History of Greek Literature. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
  10. ^ "Literary critic Ian Watt dies after a long illness". Stanford News Service. Retrieved 8 August 2015.
  11. ^ Margaret Anne Doody, The True Story of the Novel. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1996, rept. 1997, p. 1. Retrieved 25 April 2014.
  12. ^ "Essay on Romance", Prose Works volume vi, p.129, quoted in "Introduction" to Walter Scott's Quentin Durward, ed. Susan Maning. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992, p.xxv.
  13. ^ "Introduction" to Walter Scott's Quentin Durward, ed. Susan Maning, pp.xxv-xxvii.
  14. ^ Moers, Ellen. Literary Women: The Great Writers[1976] (London: The Women’s Press, 1978)
  15. ^ [1] Robert McCrum, "The Hundred best novels: Moby Dick", The Observer, Sunday 12 January 2014.
  16. ^ Doody (1996), p. 15.
  17. ^ Pamela Regis, A Natural History of the Romance Novel, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007.
  18. ^ Franks, Rachel (2011). "May I Suggest Murder?: An Overview of Crime Fiction for Readers' Advisory Services Staff". Australian Library Journal. 60 (2). Retrieved 18 January 2016.
  19. ^ "The Romance Genre Overview". Romance Writers of America. Retrieved November 26, 2013.
  20. ^ Walter Scott, "Essay on Romance", Prose Works volume vi, p. 129, quoted in "Introduction" to Walter Scott's Quentin Durward, Susan Maning, ed Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.
  21. ^ Romance Writers of America
  22. ^ Marg Gilks; Paula Fleming; Moira Allen (2003). "Science Fiction: The Literature of Ideas".
  23. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 6, 2015. Retrieved November 8, 2015.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  24. ^ "Media and Imagination: A Short History of American Science Fiction". Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  25. ^ Misa (2013-03-25). "Does the Science in Science Fiction Matter?". Misa Buckley. Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  26. ^ "Distinguished Contribution to American Letters ", National Book Foundation, Retrieved March 11, 2011.
  27. ^ Nelson, Erik. "Stephen King: You can be popular and good". Salon. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  28. ^ Jacobs, Alan. "A Defense of Stephen King, Master of the Decisive Moment". The Atlantic. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  29. ^ Dickey, Colin. "King & I: Stephen King and a Balanced Diet". Los Angeles Review of Books. Archived from the original on 14 April 2013. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  30. ^ Doris Lessing: Hot Dawns, interview by Harvey Blume in Boston Book Review
  31. ^ Ian Thomson (3 October 2004). "More Sherry trifles". The Observer.
  32. ^ Lynette Kohn (1961). Graham Greene: The Major Novels. Stanford University Press. p. 23.
  33. ^ Candidates for the 1966 Nobel Prize in Literature
  34. ^ Robert C. Steensma (1997). Encyclopedia of the Essay. Taylor & Francis. p. 264.
  35. ^ Flood, Alison (21 April 2011). "BBC denies 'sneering' at genre fiction". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  36. ^ Flood, Alison (18 September 2009). "Science fiction author hits out at Booker judges". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  37. ^ Miller, Laura. "National Book Awards: Genre fiction dissed again". Salon. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  38. ^ Fong, K., Mullin, J.B., & Mar, R.A. (2013). "What you read matters: The role of fiction genre in prediction interpersonal sensitivity". Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, And The Arts, 7(4), 370-376.
  39. ^ Skal, David J. (1996). V is for Vampire, p.99. New York: Plume. ISBN 0-452-27173-8.
  40. ^ Follett, Ken (2016). "The Art of Suspense". Retrieved 11 May 2016.
  41. ^ "The Great Detectives: Albert Campion". Strand Mag.
  42. ^ Book Review: A Voyage to Arcturus (1920) by David Lindsay Archived December 15, 2014, at the Wayback Machine – Review by Paul M. Kieniewicz 2003
  43. ^ Kathryn Lindskoog – „A Voyage to Arcturus, C. S. Lewis, and The Dark Tower“.
  44. ^ "".
  45. ^ The Oxford Companion to English Literature, p. 674.
  46. ^ The Oxford Companion to English Literature, p. 64.

Further reading

  • Forbes, Jamie M. (1998). "Fiction Dictionary". In Herman, Jeff, Writer's Guide to Book Editors, Publishers, and Literary Agents 1999–2000, pp. 861–871. Rocklin, California: Prima Publishing.
  • Gelder, Ken (2004). Popular Fiction: The Logics and Practices of a Literary Field. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-35647-4
  • Johnson-Woods, Toni (2005). Pulp: A collectors book of Australian pulp fiction covers. Australia: Australian National Library. ISBN 0-642-10766-1.
  • Schneider-Mayerson, Matthew (2010). Popular Fiction Studies: The Advantages of a New Field." Studies in Popular Culture, vol. 33, no 1 (2010): 21-35
  • Sutherland, John (1981). Bestsellers: Popular Fiction of the 1970s. London and Boston: Routledge. ISBN 0-7100-0750-7
  • Swirski, Peter (2005). From Lowbrow to Nobrow. Montreal, London: McGill-Queen's University Press. ISBN 978-0-7735-3019-5
2007 in literature

This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 2007.

20th century in literature

Literature of the 20th century refers to world literature produced during the 20th century (1901 to 2000).

In terms of the Euro-American tradition, the main periods are captured in the bipartite division, Modernist literature and Postmodern literature, flowering from roughly 1900 to 1940 and 1960 to 1990 respectively, divided, as a rule of thumb, by World War II. The somewhat malleable term of contemporary literature is usually applied with a post-1960 cutoff point.

Although these terms (modern, contemporary and postmodern) are most applicable to Western literary history, the rise of the globalization has allowed European literary ideas to spread into non-Western cultures fairly rapidly, so that Asian and African literatures can be included into these divisions with only minor qualifications. And in some ways, such as in Postcolonial literature, writers from non-Western cultures were on the forefront of literary development.

Technological advances during the 20th century allowed cheaper production of books, resulting in a significant rise in production of popular literature and trivial literature, comparable to the similar developments in music. The division of "popular literature" and "high literature" in the 20th century is by no means absolute, and various genres such as detectives or science fiction fluctuate between the two. Largely ignored by mainstream literary criticism for the most of the century, these genres developed their own establishments and critical awards; these include the Nebula Award (since 1965), the British Fantasy Award (since 1971) or the Mythopoeic Awards (since 1971).

Towards the end of the 20th century, electronic literature developed due to the development of hypertext and later the world wide web.

The Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded annually throughout the century (with the exception of 1914, 1918, 1935 and 1940–1943), the first laureate (1901) being Sully Prudhomme. The New York Times Best Seller list has been published since 1942.

The best-selling literary works of the 20th century are estimated to be The Lord of the Rings (1954/55, 150 million copies), Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (1997, 120 million copies) and And Then There Were None (1939, 115 million copies).

The Lord of the Rings was also voted "book of the century" in various surveys.Perry Rhodan (1961 to present) proclaimed as the best-selling book series, with an estimated total of 1 billion copies sold.


Action may refer to:

Action (narrative), a literary mode

Action fiction, a type of genre fiction

Action game, a genre of video game

Action fiction

Action fiction is the literary genre that includes spy novels, adventure stories, tales of terror and intrigue ("cloak and dagger"), and mysteries. This kind of story utilizes suspense, the tension that is built up when the reader wishes to know how the conflict between the protagonist and antagonist is going to be resolved or what the solution to the puzzle of a thriller is.


In book publishing, an anthology is a collection of literary works chosen by the compiler. It may be a collection of poems, short stories, plays, songs, or excerpts by different authors. In genre fiction, anthology is used to categorize collections of shorter works such as short stories and short novels, by different authors, each featuring unrelated casts of characters and settings, and usually collected into a single volume for publication.

The complete collections of works are often called complete works or Opera Omnia (Latin language equivalent).


In modern literary criticism, more common with genre fiction, conceit often means an extended rhetorical device, summed up in a short phrase, that refers to a situation which either does not exist, or exists rarely, but is needed for the plot.

"Faster than light travel" and "superior alien science" are examples from science fiction; the "hardboiled private gumshoe" is an example from detective stories. The word conceit was originally coined in the context of poetry, deriving from the root concept, conceive. It has subsequently been extended to other forms of literature, the performing arts, painting, photography, and even architecture.


A cross-genre (or hybrid genre) is a genre in fiction that blends themes and elements from two or more different genres. As opposed to the (literary and political) conservatism of most genre fiction, cross-genre writing offers opportunities for opening up debates and stimulating discussion.

Such hybrid genres are not new but a longstanding element in the fictional process: perhaps the most famous example is William Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell, with its blend of poetry, prose, and engravings. In contemporary literature Dimitris Lyacos's trilogy Poena Damni (Z213: Exit, With the people from the bridge, The First Death) combines fictional prose with drama and poetry in a multilayered narrative developing through the different characters of the work.


Fiction broadly refers to any narrative that is derived from the imagination—in other words, not based strictly on history or fact. It can also refer, more narrowly, to narratives written only in prose (the novel and short story), and is often used as a synonym for the novel.

Fiction writing

Fiction writing is the composition of non-factual prose texts. Fictional writing often is produced as a story meant to entertain or convey an author's point of view. The result of this may be a short story, novel, novella, screenplay, or drama, which are all types (though not the only types) of fictional writing styles. Different types of authors practice fictional writing, including novelists, playwrights, short story writers, radio dramatists and screenwriters.

Formula fiction

In popular culture, formula fiction is literature in which the storylines and plots have been reused to the extent that the narratives are predictable. It is similar to genre fiction, which identifies a number of specific settings that are frequently reused. The label of formula fiction is used in literary criticism as a mild pejorative to imply lack of originality.

Formula fiction is similar to genre fiction. The label of genre fiction is typically assigned because of the reuse of settings, content, layout, and/or style. The label of formula fiction is assigned because of the reuse of plot, plot devices and stock characters.

Genres like high fantasy, Westerns and science fiction space opera often have specific settings, such as a pseudo-Medieval European setting, the Old West, or outer space. Approaching a given genre, certain assumed background information covers the nature and purpose of possible predictable elements of the story, such as the appearance of dragons and wizards in high fantasy, warp drives in science fiction, or shootouts at high noon in Westerns. These set-ups are taken for granted by the genre conventions, and need not be explained for the reader anew, though these elements can easily be treated subversively as well, playing with some of the preconceptions inherent in formula fiction.

The formula is defined specifically by predictable narrative structure. Formulaic tales incorporate plots that have been reused so often as to be easily recognizable. Perhaps the most clearly formulaic plots characterize the romantic comedy genre; in a book or film labeled as such, viewers already know its most basic central plot, including to some extent the ending. This does not always prove to be detrimental to a given work's reception however, as the popularity of the aforementioned genre demonstrates.

Formula fiction should not be confused with pastiche (the mimicking of another work or author's style), though the latter by its nature may include elements of the former; the same holds true of some parody and satirical works as well, which may well include formulaic elements such as common stereotypes or caricatures, or which may use formulaic elements in order to mock them or point out their supposedly cliché or unrealistic nature. Indeed, between parody, satire and such subgenres as romantic comedy, comedy as a whole often relies on either formulaic elements, or the mocking of such elements.

Formula fiction is often stereotypically associated with early pulp magazine markets, though some works published in that medium, such as "The Cold Equations", subvert the supposed expectations of the common narrative formula of that time.

The dissection and tracking of common formulaic tropes (as well as their subversions and new permutations) has become reasonably popular beyond strictly academic circles. (The Final Girl being one such example, as well as, to some extent, Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces). Amateur circles have websites such as the TV Tropes Wiki.

List of writing genres

Written genres (more commonly known as literary genres) are those works of prose, poetry, drama, hybrid forms, or other literature that are distinguished by shared literary conventions, similarities in topic, theme, style, or common settings, character types, or formulaic patterns of character interactions and events, and an overall predictable form. Genres are not wholly fixed categories of writing, but their content evolves according to social and cultural contexts and contemporary questions of morals and morés. The most enduring genres are those literary forms that were defined and performed by the Ancient Greeks, definitions sharpened by the proscriptions of our earliest literary critics and rhetorical scholars such as Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Aeschylus, Aspasia, Euripides and others. The prevailing genres of literary composition in Ancient Greece were all written and constructed to explore cultural, moral, or ethical questions; they were ultimately defined as the genres of epic, tragedy, and comedy. Aristotle's proscriptive analysis of tragedy, for example, as expressed in his Rhetoric and Poetics, saw it as having six parts (music, diction, plot, character, thought, and spectacle) working together in particular ways. Thus Aristotle establishes one of the earliest delineations of the elements that define genre.

Literary genres are often defined by the cultural expectations and needs of a particular historical and cultural moment or place.

The major literary genres defined by topic are:







Detective story

DystopiaOther major genres are clustered together based on the form of how they are written, from the constrained syllables of a haiku to the controlled rhymes of a limerick.

• Memoir

• Biography

• Play





DIY (Do It Yourself)


Other genres are defined by their primary audiences:

Young adult fiction

Children's books

Adult Literature (often about sexual behavior)

Literary fiction

Literary fiction is a term used in the book-trade to distinguish novels that are regarded as having literary merit from most commercial or "genre" fiction. All the same, a number of major literary figures have also written genre fiction, for example, John Banville publishes crime novels as Benjamin Black, and both Doris Lessing and Margaret Atwood have written science fiction. Furthermore, Nobel laureate André Gide stated that Georges Simenon, best known as the creator of the fictional detective Jules Maigret, was "the most novelistic of novelists in French literature".


Malafrena is a 1979 novel by Ursula K. Le Guin. The only fantastic element of this novel is that it takes place in the imaginary Central European country of Orsinia, which is also the setting of her collection Orsinian Tales.

In many ways, Malafrena reads like a 19th-century novel, with its many detailed characters, its political and romantic subplots, its lack of the supernatural, and its settings that range from the mansions of the aristocracy to slums and a prison.

Malafrena is written for an adult audience, rather than children and young adults, the target readership of most of Le Guin's works in the period 1979-1994.

Outline of fiction

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to fiction:

Fiction – narrative which is made up by the author. Literary work, it also includes theatrical, cinematic, documental, and musical work. In contrast to this is non-fiction, which deals exclusively in factual events (e.g.: biographies, histories). Semi-fiction is fiction implementing a great deal of non-fiction, e.g. a fictional description based on a true story.


A paperback, also known as a softcover or softback, is a type of book characterized by a thick paper or paperboard cover, and often held together with glue rather than stitches or staples. In contrast, hardcover or hardback books are bound with cardboard covered with cloth. The pages on the inside are made of paper.

Inexpensive books bound in paper have existed since at least the 19th century in such forms as pamphlets, yellowbacks, dime novels, and airport novels. Modern paperbacks can be differentiated by size. In the U.S., there are "mass-market paperbacks" and larger, more durable "trade paperbacks." In the U.K., there are A-format, B-format, and the largest C-format sizes.Paperback editions of books are issued when a publisher decides to release a book in a low-cost format. Cheaper, lower quality paper; glued (rather than stapled or sewn) bindings; and the lack of a hard cover may contribute to the lower cost of paperbacks. Paperbacks can be the preferred medium when a book is not expected to be a major seller or where the publisher wishes to release a book without putting forth a large investment. Examples include many novels, and newer editions or reprintings of older books.

Since paperbacks tend to have a smaller profit margin, many publishers try to balance the profit to be made by selling fewer hardcovers against the potential profit to be made by selling more paperbacks with a smaller profit per unit. First editions of many modern books, especially genre fiction, are issued in paperback. Best-selling books, on the other hand, may maintain sales in hardcover for an extended period to reap the greater profits that the hardcovers provide.

Saturn Award

The Saturn Award is an American award presented annually by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films; it was initially created to honor science fiction, fantasy, and horror on film, but has since grown to reward other films belonging to genre fiction, as well as on television and home media releases.

The award was originally referred to as a Golden Scroll. The Saturn Awards were created in 1973.

Small press

A small press is a publisher with annual sales below a certain level. Commonly, in the United States, this is set at $50 million, after returns and discounts. Small presses are also defined as those that publish an average of fewer than 10 titles per year, though there are a few who manage to do more.

The terms "small press", "indie publisher", and "independent press" are often used interchangeably, with "independent press" defined as publishers that are not part of large conglomerates or multinational corporations. Defined this way, these presses make up approximately half of the market share of the book publishing industry. Many small presses rely on specialization in genre fiction, poetry, or limited-edition books or magazines, but there are also thousands that focus on niche non-fiction markets.

Subterranean Press

Subterranean Press is a small press publisher in Burton, Michigan. Subterranean is best known for publishing genre fiction, primarily horror, suspense and dark mystery, fantasy, and science fiction. In addition to publishing novels, short story collections and chapbooks, Subterranean also produced a quarterly publication called Subterranean Magazine from 2005 to 2014, specialising in short fiction and edited by William Schafer; it had also an online direct seller. In addition to trade editions, the company produces collector's and limited editions. These books are issued with author signatures, in both numbered and lettered states, and are produced using high-grade book papers and bindings with matching slipcases and traycases.


Tamamo-no-Mae (玉藻前, 玉藻の前, also 玉藻御前) is a legendary figure in Japanese mythology. One of the stories explaining the legend comes from Muromachi period genre fiction called otogizōshi. In the otogizōshi Tamamo-no-Mae was a courtesan under the Japanese Emperor Konoe (who reigned from 1142 through 1155).

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