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I know about some fiction genres. These are the genres I've seen mentioned online or that have a section in the Borders I go to.

I tried to add an example when I could think of one in two seconds.

  • Horror (Ghost Story -- Straub)
    • Zombie (World War Z -- Brooks)
    • Vampire (Dracula -- Stoker, Salem's Lot -- King, Let the Right One In -- Lindqvist)
    • Psychological (Misery -- King)
    • Lovecraftian (The Call of Cthulhu -- Lovecraft)
  • Suspense (Duel -- King)
  • Action/adventure (The Spy Who Loved me -- Flemming)
  • Fantasy
    • Swords and sorcery (LOTR -- Tolkien, First Law series -- Abercrombie)
    • Urban fantasy (Storm Front -- Butcher)
  • Mystery
    • Hard-boiled detective (The Big Sleep -- Chandler)
    • Crime (The Big Bounce -- Leonard)
  • Western (Riders of the Purple Sage -- Grey)
  • Science fiction
    • Hard science fiction (The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress -- Heinlein)
    • Space opera (Star Wars -- Lucas)
    • Cyberpunk (Neuromancer -- Gibson)
  • Literary fiction (Cathedral -- Carver)
  • Romance
  • Erotica (Delta of Venus -- Nin)
  • Horror-romance
  • Steampunk (Boneshaker -- Priest)
  • Chick lit
  • Young adult (Forever -- Blume)
  • Historical fiction (I Claudius -- Graves)

What other genres of fiction exist? (I mean significant ones with a reasonable history and number of exemplary works -- not microscopic ones with three books in them.)

I know there have to be more subgenres of horror. Not sure what they are, though.

For the purpose of this question I'm interested in contemporary fiction. So the morality play is a genre, but not the concern here.

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closed as not a real question by justkt Dec 19 '10 at 1:54

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Again, I feel that the subjectivity of genre organization makes this difficult, if not impossible to answer in a useful way. For example, I don't think "Young adult" is a genre, just a category of books intended for a specific age-range. I feel "Lovecraftian" is a categorization more specific than genre (and the fact that the example is a Lovecraft work doesn't help). Of course, others will think I'm completely wrong. The point is, I think this is too subjective and of questionable utility to writers. –  sjohnston Dec 18 '10 at 4:31
@Ethan - I am going to have to agree here. Asking for a complete list is too much. A question about the definition of genre sounds helpful, though. –  justkt Dec 19 '10 at 1:55
too quick on the close-button.. I'm a novice, and the content here is really pertinent/useful/informative from my viewpoint. Please re-open , change to community-wiki, change title/question to "Genre discussion" or s'thing like that. It reeks of elitism to assume that your level of knowledge should be the yardstick on allowable questions. –  slashmais Dec 19 '10 at 6:26
@justkt: reopen please - see my comment above. –  slashmais Dec 19 '10 at 6:33
@slashmais - if others in the community with reopen votes agree, they'll case their vote, and then I will cast mine. The downvotes indicated that the community wanted it closed, so I'll need signs from them or the other mods that it should be opened. You can post on meta for further discussion. –  justkt Dec 19 '10 at 20:55

2 Answers 2

There is a near infinite number of genres and subgenres. I honestly have never seen them all compiled into one list before. Also, genre classifications are extremely subjective. One person's Paranormal Romance is another's Urban Fantasy.

Everyone one of the main genres you listed has numorous subgenres. Romance, for example, is often broken down into M/F, M/M, F/F and menage. From there it's further broken down into Western, Contemporary, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, etc.

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Read the whole question. As I clearly said, I'm not looking for every ramification of the genre tree. Just the major, commonly agreed upon genres. Yes, there is some subjectivity involved. Nonetheless, there does exist a hard set of major genres that everyone, outside of a few odd cranks, agrees on. Those are the ones I'm asking about. For example, I think it's safe to say that The Big Sleep is a detective story. –  Ethan Dec 18 '10 at 18:42
These /are/ major, agreed upon genre classifications with a significant number of books in them. The "main" genre classifications of fiction would be Horror, Thriller, Fantasy, Mystery, Western, Sci-Fi, Lit Fic, Romance, YA, Childrens, Middle Grade, Chick Lit, Historical, Religious Fiction. I'm not positive if Steampunk is a "major" classification or if it would be a sub-genre of another. This could probably be whittled down even further, since horror could be moved under Thriller, and Chick Lit under the other genres. –  Ralph Gallagher Dec 19 '10 at 0:41

Genre is as divisible as you choose to make it, and it may have any number of dividing categories. You might choose to divide all fiction into the "Mimetic" (stories set in a world which appears to be our own) and the "Fantastic" (science fiction, fantasy, supernatural horror, possibly even historical fiction).

Or you might make the biggest division between "Created World" and "Shared World", the latter being fiction which makes use of characters and concepts derived from other authors. And the definition of "shared" might extend to well-known imaginary conceptions of real-world locales like the London of Sherlock Holmes or the Wild West of Zane Grey.

And in your own mind, "genre" might be a high-minded part of literary theory, or a crass marketing scheme. I have myself looked at it in both ways.

I enjoy the invention or "discovery" of subgenres such as Steampunk. I myself, considering the concepts behind Steampunk, realized that just as Steampunk is a kind of magic realism based on the Victorian notion of how the world worked, and Cyberpunk is a magic realist vision of what it felt like to be engaged in computer programming in the early 1980s, and that others had invented Dieselpunk (example: "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow") and Clockpunk (example: "Whitechapel Gods" by S.M. Peters), there was also such a thing as Transistorpunk (example: the James Bond novels) which is based on the fascinations of the period just after the Second World War (I have since learned that others have called this "Atompunk", but I like my own term better).

Note that in each case above, the genre is defined by the new technology which seemed at the time to offer limitless possibilities.

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Thanks Mr. Burt. Great answer. I forgot about cyberpunk! However, I think dieselpunk, clockpunk, and transistorpunk, while they may be actual genres, are too specialized and obscure for my purpose here which is just to list out the major genres that everyone knows about. –  Ethan Dec 18 '10 at 18:31

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