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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Discussion: Genre Differences/Distinctions

Todays' discussion is on the differences between genres where the lines are a bit blurry. In truth, it's not so much a discussion on my part, more as it is a question that I'm asking to YOU, my wonderful reader. :)

While I was writing a review the other day, when it came time to specify the genre of the book, I was a bit uncertain with what to write. Personally, I thought it was paranormal, but others online had called it urban fantasy. So my question, what exactly is the difference between paranormal and urban fantasy? To me, they seem to be the same thing. Creatures that shouldn't exist feature in their stories.

Thinking about it, the way I would classify it is that paranormal has things like vampires, werwolves, ghosts, angels, ect. While urban fantasy is more on the faerie, pixie, mermaid, goblin, ect, side. What do you think? But my problem with this is that you then get novels like Paranormalcy by Kiersten White that have all of those things-- vamps, weres, fey, mermaids, the works. So then, what is it? Paranormal urban fantasy?

Also, I'm a little muddled on the difference between sci-fi/dystopian. Most dystopians I've read (though not all) can easily be classified as sci-fi. But that doesn't necessarily mean that a sci-fi is a dystopian. Is it one of those cases like in geometry, where a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle isn't a square?

What do you think of all this?


  1. I don't really have an answer for you, but I've wondered the same thing. I get easily confused as to what the heck an UF actually is. I tend to just say paranormal for everything, unless it doesn't have all the creatures mentioned in your post. Or if it clarifies that it's set way in the future and has a like a set of strict rules then I call it a dystopian. Humm. I'm curious to see what others say.

  2. Hmmm. I think 'paranormal' is more of a banner term, and UF is a subgenre. UF is usually just any fantasy book in an urban (or even just modern day) setting and tends to have less of a romance element in it. So, if the plot is fairly romance-centric it's a paranormal romance, and if it's more action-centric (albeit with a romance involved) it'll be UF. The Demon Trapper's series by Jana Oliver would be classed as UF, but most paranormal YA I'd say is Paranormal Romance.

    The dystopian thing...dystopia refers mainly to a repressive, controlled and unappealing society. So a classic example would be Divergent. If it's got a scifi element (like across the universe, maybe) then yeah it would probably be scifi too, but if by scifi you're referring to the advanced technology in most of these books (like the uglies series by scott westerfeld) I'd say that's probably still just dystopian, as dystopian societies often involve excessive use or over-reliance on technology.

    Hope that helps a bit, it's more my opinion than fact-all these terms are totally open to interpretation but there is some basic guidelines there.

    The Cait Files

  3. Dystopia is a subgenre within science fiction. Sci Fi encompasses anything with time travel, technology, scientific improvements, etc. Within that you get post-apocalyptic stories which include those based on natural disasters, zombie/alien invasions, etc. where society could potentially be wiped out. Dystopia is when society has gone wrong...the opposite of a utopia. So while many post-apocalyptic stories are dystopian in nature (society has overreacted to the disaster and become horrific) not all dystopias are post-apocalyptic...

    Paranormal does indeed refer to those books with vampires, werewolves, etc. Now there is also a subgenre called paranormal romance (think Twilight) where one of the love interests is a supernatural being. Urban fantasy refers to any fantasy set in a "urban" (modern city-like) setting. That is set apart from high fantasy which takes place in it's own magical world. Urban fantasy takes those fantastical elements and implants them into our world...


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