“Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.”
— C.S Lewis.
Literature has endless possibilities and it molds our lives in ways we can’t comprehend, we read ,enjoy and criticise numerous literary works and everyday we learn something new. We are all aware of the different genres out there and they are constantly evolving. The General depiction of fiction and non fiction has branched onto give various subgenres .
Today I will be introducing you to 5 lesser known literary genres you need to read or revisit this year.
1.Gas Lamp Fantasy
Gas lamp fantasy is a subgenre of both fantasy and historical fiction with a Victorian or Edwardian setting. It loosely has elements of science fiction and supernatural, this subgenre is largely derived from gothic literature and is essentially used to modernise literary Gothicism. This term was first coined by a Web comic artist in the early 2000’s.
“I called it Gaslamp Fantasy because, I’ve never liked the term steampunk much for our work, it’s derived from cyberpunk (a term which I think actually fits its genre well) but we have no punk, and we have more than just steam, and using a different name seemed appropriate. I mis-remembered a term that I had come across in the foreword to an H. Rider Haggard book, where the author was talking about Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Rider Haggard and that sort of pre-pulp adventure material, and came up with “Gaslamp Fantasy.” I felt a bit foolish when I discovered that I had made up my own term, but it works and I like it."
— Kaja Foglio,
Popular books in this genre include: Dracula by Bram Stoker , Mexican Gothic and The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno Garcia.
ALSO READ: 6 Gothic Fiction Authors Who Paved the Way
Robinson Crusoe was the pioneer of realistic fiction, It was so successful that there have been numerous imitations, in fact a new sub genre labelled ‘ Robinsonade ' was invented to categorise adventure fiction that mainly deals with a cast away narrative. It is often very common in this genre to have the main characters separated from society and they are often finding ways to escape from a deserted island/uninhabited land or a shipwreck and have to improvise in order to survive.
The word was coined by a German writer and include themes of self isolation, introspection, comments about society.
“Die das Hauptmotiv des Robinson, insularische Abgeschlossenheit von der menschlichen Gesellschaft zum Mittelpunkt der Erzählung machen oder doch episodenhaft verwerten, mögen sie sich als Robinson oder Robinsonade bezeichnen oder nicht.”
(Translation: who make the main motif of Robinson, insular isolation from human society, the focus of the narrative or at least exploit it episodically, whether they call themselves Robinson or Robinsonade or not)
—Herrmann Ullrich in 1898 in the preface of his comprehensive bibliography(The very first definition of the term)
Popular books in this genre include The island of Doctor Moreau by H.G.Wells, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson and Life of Pi by Yann Martel.
3. Slip Stream
As you rightfully guessed Slipstream fiction doesn’t have a conventional genre it can be categorised under fantasy fiction, psychological fiction , philosophy and even a hint of new wave science fiction, I kid you not ,it can be all of these too, I guess the title would make more sense if I am, to talk in respect to one particular book called Kafka on the shore by Haruki Murakami,this particular book can be categorised in all the above mentioned genres. The whole idea of Slip stream genre was born for those books that leave you feeling strange ,in fact it’s termed as the ‘fiction of strangeness’ ,as soon as I got to know more about these particular genre, I immediately thought about Murakami books and if you have read his works ,you precisely know what I am talking about, if you haven’t maybe it’s a sign to pick one of his books?
“It was Invented by my friend the late Richard Dorsett while the two of us were discussing a category of non-genre fantasy books that we had no name for. “They’re certainly not mainstream,” I said, and “Why not slipstream?” he suggested, and I thought it was a pretty good coinage.
its a kind of writing which simply makes you feel very strange; the way that living in the twentieth century makes you feel, if you are a person of a certain sensibility.”
Popular books in this genre include, Kafka On the Shore by Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami and The Handmaid’s tale by Margaret Atwood.
RELATED READ: Where To Start With Murakami - Reading Guide
I was talking to a friend of mine and happen to mention the term magical realism, I was quite surprised that she wasn’t aware of it already!
Magical Realism ideally includes a realistic setting with magical elements and often has limited information regarding these elements to Ideally incorporate magic in day to day lives and most importantly there isn’t a specific plot structure which gives the reader a more immersive experience ,it also critiques class difference in the society.
Despite having a fair usage of fictional and fantastical elements they aren’t categorised in either of these genres since it combines them into beautiful blend of the two worlds.
Matthew Strecher (1999) defines it as
“what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe.”
Popular books in this genre includes One hundred years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie and Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka .
ALSO READ: Kafkaesque, The Metamorphosis and Franz Kafka
Fancy name but what is Bildungsromane?!
This genre generally includes the holistic development of the main character into adulthood. Coming of age and Bildungsromane cannot be used interchangeably since the former deals with growing up that can fall into any category/genre whilst the latter mainly includes psychological and emotional maturity he attains from childhood to adulthood and deals with themes of growth, education,internal turmoil, conflicts and loss.
Often the journey includes a lot of emotional distress and the character eventually finds his /her own footing in a society that deems perfection in their own way.
“The Bildungsroman examines a regular course of development in the life of the individual; each of its stages has its own value and each is at the same time the basis of a higher stage. The dissonances and conflicts of life appear as the necessary transit points of the individual on his way to maturity and harmony. And the “highest happiness of humankind” is the development of the person as the unifying, substantial form of human existence”
—Wilhelm Dilthey on Bildungsromane
Popular books in this genre includes Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Kite runner by Khaled Hosseini and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.
RECOMMENDED READ: 11 Books to Read if You Liked The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Like I mentioned the fascination surrounding literature is evergreen, I had fun curating this little capsule of geeky stuff and I hope you find it enchanting too!
- Devika Dilip
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