I’ve always struggled with labeling the genre of my novel. In many ways, I knew it could be considered dystopian. It takes place in a society in the future where things aren’t as perfect as the people living there seem to think they are.
But recently, dystopian novels have certain tropes, and I have a list of tropes I intented to avoid when writing my story (disclaimer: I don’t think these tropes are bad. I just didn’t want to use them.):
- The Chosen One (Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Divergent)
- The Love Triangle (The Hunger Games, Matched, The Selection)
- The Post-Apocalypse (The Hunger Games, Divergent)
I wanted to write something more in line with earlier dystopian works, like Fahrenheit 451 and The Giver–places where the hero isn’t looked on to save society, and where the world isn’t necessarily a better place when it’s over. I wanted the stakes to be personal. So I did. I’m really happy with how the story turned out. But then there was the matter of genre.
While dystopian fit in a technical sense, avoiding most of the tropes common in popular dystopians made me want to avoid classifying it as such. But there isn’t much new technology, so sci-fi didn’t feel right either. Alternate history might work, but the changes made aren’t based on any strong “what if this turned out differently” from our history, so that didn’t seem like a good fit either.
Finally, I did something I should have done a long time ago. I Googled the genre for Gathering Blue, the book that originally struck the what-if question in me that forms the backbone of my worldbuilding (which is, for the record, very different than that of Gathering Blue). According to the Wikipedia article on it, Gathering Blue is social science fiction set in a dystopian world.
I didn’t know what they meant by social science fiction, so I did what any good Wiki user would do and clicked on the little blue link. This is what I found:
Social science fiction is a subgenre of science fiction concerned less with technology and space opera and more with sociological speculation about human society. In other words, it “absorbs and discusses anthropology”, and speculates about human behavior and interactions.
“Yes,” I thought to myself. That is what I was trying to do. So I reclassified. Of course, it would be more helpful if it were a widely recognized subgenre, but Asimov wrote about it, and that means a lot to me.
So dispite its vaguely dystopian exterior, I’m very happy with my new subgenre of choice. Now only time will tell if it will help with requests.