Jump to content
bdcharles

Reading outside the fantasy genre?

Recommended Posts

Blasphemy? Heresy? Madness? Not at all! Why not share some non-fantasy books you've read and enjoyed, and what you got out of them? I'm reading The Muse by Jessie Burton (she of The Miniaturist) right now, and I love her attention to detail with the little quirks and observations of her characters. That's definitely something that's feeding into my own WIPs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I love to read dystopy, which is usually marketed as SciFi. Non-fantasy books that I have enjoyed a lot is the Otherland series by Tad Williams - amazing worldbuilding, it's technically SciFi, but has fantasy elements. Dmitriy Glukhovsky's Metro 2033 is another one I'd recommend, the author does a really good job at creating atmosphere and tension - it's set in postapocalyptic Moscow, where the survivors live underground because the surface is pretty deadly after nuclear war.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I used to read historical romance, but now the cliches and writing quality tends to bug me, so much of it is mass produced. These days I get my romance mostly from fanfic, which is ALSO cliche ridden, but IDK. Maybe because 'its only fanfic' I have lower expectations and can enjoy it more freely?

Otherwise I read the occasional sci fi short story, but that's mostly because they are bundled in with my fantasy short stories in anthologies. I do enjoy sci fi though!

  • Agree 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The last book I've read was Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, which I would best describe as historical fiction with some ethnographic qualities. Pretty good for the most part, even if the MC was a bit hard to like (he has a nasty habit of beating his wives and children as punishment, since he's intent on appearing stronger and more manly than his "impotent" father).

I believe reading outside the fantasy genre can benefit a fantasy writer because it will expose them to fresh new influences not common within the genre. In case people haven't noticed already, fantasy gets lambasted all the time for its cliches and overdone tropes. I would attribute much of that to the genre's self-cannibalizing tendencies since its writers don't read much outside of fantasy. If more fantasy writers examined stories outside their genre comfort zone, we'd have more variety in the influences and tropes within fantasy.

In fact, I probably read outside of fantasy at least as often as I do within it. Don't get me wrong, many of my favorite novels and short stories are fantasy works or have fantasy influences, but I find that the subjects and tropes I'm most fond of aren't commonplace in conventional fantasy. More often, they're in adventure, sci-fi, or historical fiction.

  • Agree 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I admit it: I really don't read outside of the fantasy genre.

It's not that I haven't done so - between the books I was forced to read in school that were the total and complete opposite of anything I was actually interested in 99% of the time and the rare book that I've read for pleasure reading outside of the genre, I definitely have - it's just that my preference is to NOT read outside of the genre, even though I know that's what they say you should do. They say that it's good to read outside of your chosen genre, which is fine. But to me, it's even better to read INSIDE your genre, because you can see exactly what the authors of that genre have done in order to get themselves published and can see what has worked and hasn't worked.

I just don't have any interest in reading non-fantasy books. I read for the enjoyment, and because I love relaxing and putting myself into another world. I don't like being forced to read something I have 0 interest in, and I'm definitely past the point of taking classes that force me to do so. -Shrug-

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Fiction-wise I tend to gravitate towards blended genres, so Steampunk has been a big discovery for me the past two years.  Some of it has magic and some of it doesn't.  It crosses into different parts of history or into the future, or into different worlds entirely.  It's fascinating to see the different spins authors put on their version of Steampunk, and some of them have influenced my current projects.

I do read a fair bit of non-fiction.  I like biographies and personal journals.  I just picked up a variety of both that center on women who journeyed on the wagon trains during the 1800's.  Because I liked the play 'Hamilton' so much I also bought the book that first inspired Lin Manuel Miranda to turn Alexander Hamilton's life into a musical.  

When I don't have either or aren't in the mood for them I turn to fan fiction.  There is so much raw creativity there experimented on with great and wondrous abandon that mistakes are less jarring for me, and I get exposed to numerous genres and tropes, sometimes all within the same story.  Some of them hold together better than some published works I've read.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 minutes ago, TricksterShi said:

Fiction-wise I tend to gravitate towards blended genres, so Steampunk has been a big discovery for me the past two years.  Some of it has magic and some of it doesn't.  It crosses into different parts of history or into the future, or into different worlds entirely.  It's fascinating to see the different spins authors put on their version of Steampunk, and some of them have influenced my current projects.

Not to get too off topic, but do you have any recommendations for good steampunk? I've encountered it mostly in art and video games but haven't had much luck finding actual novels. I read Elizabeth Bear's Karen Memory, which was advertised as steampunk, but it was more just sprinkled in here and there (the big sewing machine mech suit was cool though).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 minutes ago, Penguinball said:

Not to get too off topic, but do you have any recommendations for good steampunk? I've encountered it mostly in art and video games but haven't had much luck finding actual novels. I read Elizabeth Bear's Karen Memory, which was advertised as steampunk, but it was more just sprinkled in here and there (the big sewing machine mech suit was cool though).

I love Karen Memory!  I found that book through an anthology of weird westerns call Dead Man's Hand by John Joseph Adams.  There's a sequel to Karen Memory called Stone Mad, but I haven't read that one yet.

Steampunk Fairy Tales by David Lind is another anthology I liked.

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest.  I haven't read the whole book yet but the setting and the way she twisted the history around the civil war (and added gas-poisoned zombies and airships) was really cool.

Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories by Kelly Link, this book got me started on the genre, lots of good stories in it.

Most of Gail Carriger's works seem to be steampunk and Victorian science.  I've read one of her Parasol Protectorate series books and loved it.  It's a romance, which is outside my normal comfort zone, but there's a ton of good humor and fun characters (including werewolves and vampires) in the middle of the posh and mannered Victorian era.

These are a few I can think of off the top of my head.  If you have access to Netflix (and it may even be on Youtube) there's a steampunk documentary called Vintage Tomorrows that is an excellent source of finding not only novelists who write steampunk but people who are involved in making steampunk things and examining the subculture and history around them.  Truly fascinating stuff. 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I read maybe 50% outside the Fantasy area, but my choice of books almost always tie in with what I'm working on at the moment (which is always fantasy). I recently read "Dear Leader. My Escape from North Korea" by Jang Jin-Sung, which was so interesting and also heart-wrenching. It's been on my TBR-shelf for a while, but now when I'm looking into Dystopia I finally read it, because seriously, North Korea... Very Orwellian. 

Basically, I read a lot to inspire my own writing these days. I have favorite fiction writers I go back to again and again because of their style and descriptions. I always look for ways to make descriptions interesting. I'm kind of a sparse writer, and discriptions are not my favourite thing to do, but I constantly work to make them less boring for me (and hopefully for the reader). I also get inspired by the amount of storytelling joy or energy I see in the text. If I can sense that they had fun when they wrote the story, that tickles my own storytelling bone. Annie Proulx, George Saunders, Wodehouse, Noir-writers, Anne Tyler are a few (mostly) non-fantasy writers who tick those boxes for me. George Saunders write a lot of strange stuff though, some stories are kinda fantasy/sci-fi.     

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've also found myself gravitating more toward "blended" genres lately rather than straight fantasy. Tor.com, every month, has the list of books they call "Genre-benders" that are due to be published that month, and a lot of my current TBR list is made up of those titles, because I really like seeing the unique ideas and plots that fall outside standard fantasy. I've also been reading a lot more science fiction and horror. Of the three books I've read this year so far, two were science fiction and one was kind of a magical realism/literary/fairy tale-esqe story (not a good one, sadly, despite a promising premise). I'm reading one now that's more straight horror. Other stuff I read a lot include literary fiction books (very hit or miss, and a lot of them I think would only be improved with the addition of magic!) and science-related nonfiction. I especially like books about science history. I've got one sitting on my shelf right now about the ten biggest medical breakthroughs in history, and I plan to start it as soon as I have a couple other books off my plate.

Overall, I'd say fantasy actually takes up less than 50% of my reading, even though it definitely holds the plurality of my interest.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/4/2019 at 7:50 PM, Tyrannohotep said:

The last book I've read was Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, which I would best describe as historical fiction with some ethnographic qualities. Pretty good for the most part, even if the MC was a bit hard to like (he has a nasty habit of beating his wives and children as punishment, since he's intent on appearing stronger and more manly than his "impotent" father).

 

Ah yep my wife cites that as one of her favourite reads. I'll have a go at it someday.

On 1/4/2019 at 10:42 PM, TricksterShi said:

Fiction-wise I tend to gravitate towards blended genres, so Steampunk has been a big discovery for me the past two years.  Some of it has magic and some of it doesn't.  It crosses into different parts of history or into the future, or into different worlds entirely.  It's fascinating to see the different spins authors put on their version of Steampunk, and some of them have influenced my current projects.

I do read a fair bit of non-fiction.  I like biographies and personal journals.  I just picked up a variety of both that center on women who journeyed on the wagon trains during the 1800's.  Because I liked the play 'Hamilton' so much I also bought the book that first inspired Lin Manuel Miranda to turn Alexander Hamilton's life into a musical.  

When I don't have either or aren't in the mood for them I turn to fan fiction.  There is so much raw creativity there experimented on with great and wondrous abandon that mistakes are less jarring for me, and I get exposed to numerous genres and tropes, sometimes all within the same story.  Some of them hold together better than some published works I've read.

I love a bit of steampunk. And Lin-Manuel Miranda - for some reason I am seeing that guy's name everywhere recently. I mean he's very talented but I'm starting to get to the point of asking: what does this mean? What am I being told? And I'm really not the sort that asks that question alot. :) I've already seen Mary Poppins Returns (it's great by the way!) so what more does L2M want of me? :)

 

Great responses by the way guys. Keep 'em flowing

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×