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I'm working on a couple pieces that take place in imaginary worlds. They involve made-up cities, countries, rivers, history, etc.

However, the level of technology and the social structures in the made-up world are similar to our own contemporary world. The characters drive around in cars and make phone calls. The settings and technological level are sort of like our world of the 1950's.

There are supernatural elements in the stories. In one of them there are witches, and in the other the devil intrudes into the world.

So what the genre does all that amount to? Could it be fantasy? Urban fantasy? Maybe urban fantasy/supernatural horror?

It matters to me because when I interact with other writers and people involved with publishing I want to be able to say something coherent about what I've written without two hours of explanation. I want to be able to talk about my writing without being all weird and confusing.

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In one of my favorite recent movies, 'Stranger than Fiction' about a fellow who hears his life narated by a writer's voice, the hero goes to an english professor who compiled a list of questions, so he could find out what genre he'd found himself in. – Charles Laster Sep 20 '11 at 18:32
up vote 8 down vote accepted

There is significant overlap in genres, and nowhere more so than speculative fiction. There are few hard and fast rules to identifying genre, and one man's Urban Fantasy is another man's Supernatural Horror. To a certain extent, you can choose the genre you want to claim for your story. What aspects of this story do you consider to be the most important?

If it's designed to scare or be troubling, call it Horror. If supernatural elements are paramount to the story, call it Supernatural Horror. If it's fantasy emphasizing a gritty urban setting, call it Urban Fantasy.

As long as you're in the ballpark (i.e. not advertising your serial-killer police procedural as romance), you're not going to annoy agents or editors. They'll decide for themselves what genre they think it fits, anyway.

Finally, you might also try your hand at writing a back-cover summary or synopsis. There are many guides online that you can use. Forcing yourself to consolidate your story like this will make it easier for you to pick out the vital points, and hopefully make it easier to describe in conversation.

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I guess urban fantasy is as close as I'm going to get so I'll say it's that. – Ethan Dec 16 '10 at 0:18

Considering your comment

"the level of technology and the social structures in the made-up world are similar to our own contemporary world. The characters drive around in cars and make phone calls. The settings and technological level are sort of like our world of the 1950's"


Taking that into account and the fact that both super natural entities you have specified i.e. witches / devil fit into the Horror theme more specifically -

I probably would lean more towards "Horror"

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This technology level is somewhere north of Dieselpunk (see this year's Captain America movie for many wonderful examples of a Dieselpunk aesthetic). I guess, bearing in mind that the convention seems to be to take the prevailing technological marvel of the era and put "punk" on the end of it, that you would probably define this as "Plastipunk" or possibly "Tupperpunk".

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"Tupperpunk." That's hilarious! And the ladies could have "tupperpunk parties." It's wrong on so many levels. – Ethan Sep 22 '11 at 18:04
@Ethan: I couldn't resist when I pictured the 50s for some reason tupperware just pops right up in my head... possibly time for some counselling. – One Monkey Sep 23 '11 at 8:01

Fantasy based on the technology of the 1950s.

That's precise enough to have an idea what you do, and vague enough to make them curious and ask more questions. If it is for a cover letter, add two more sentences to explain witches and stuff.

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Don't do this. Agents and publishers want to have an idea of what your genre is in your query letter, and you don't get to make up a new genre of your own. I've heard this from multiple agents. – JSBձոգչ Dec 14 '10 at 19:38
@JSBangs: What are you talking about? The genre is mentioned: Fantasy. Plus details what it is about. Fantasy was not a new genre, the last time I looked at LotR publishing dates. – John Smithers Dec 14 '10 at 19:50
Thanks, I think you're basically right. I'll say it's urban fantasy. – Ethan Dec 16 '10 at 0:18

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