Sub-Genres And Why They Make Me Want to Swear.

We all know the big 8.

Genres of Fiction











Those genres of fiction that have been around for centuries. Maybe millenia. Bible –> Inspirational. See also ‘crime’ and ‘horror. It’s actually not that simple. It’s not just fantasy. It’s High fantasy. Epic fantasy. (Same thing, apparently. ETA- a couple of people have commented to clarify there is a difference between the two. I’ve heard both sides, FWIW. Does it really matter? To some people, yes. To the relevance of this blog post. . . maybe a little.)

Young adult.

New Adult.



Speculative fiction.

So what the &*(#$)(%#& are all these new ones?

These are the ones that I’d never heard of and had to look up. For the record, I think having genres is a great thing: it’s organizational. Where would we be if we didn’t know how to find what we were looking for? But I want to be clear: having so many sub genres and genres can be confusing to people who don’t make it their business to memorize the writing/reading/literary business. IE- most people.

To see what I’m talking about, check out this comprehensive Wikipedia list to see how many sub-genres we’re dealing with here.



High Fantasy- AKA- epic fantasy. There are three types. 1– one with a new world. A Game of Thrones. Lord of the Rings. 2. A new world obtained by entering the world through a portal. Alice in Wonderland, Chronicles of Narnia. 3. A world within a world that self functions. Harry Potter, Percy Jackson.

This person has a blog dedicated to high fantasy, if you’re interested. Basically, it’s a big story in a different world that doesn’t necessarily focus on just one plot point. It’s a little more expansive and involved.

New Adult Romance- New Adult helps fill in the gap between Young Adult to Contemporary Romance. This is a great post on it. Another great way to put it: New Adult is a coming of age story featuring a protagonist that is newly independent. It can be romance, or a bit more angsty.

Erotica- if I have to tell you, then I can’t help you. Go here.

photo credit:

photo credit:

Steampunk- it’s not just a fashion movement, folks. –> Think of it as Wild Wild West with Will Smith meets H.G. Wells.

Jules Verne.



– alternatives 1900’s-ish history

– Steam power is main source of power. (Trains, you know. Locomotives.)

– Industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century meets fantasy or apocalypse.

Can you say this genre sounds like the most amazing thing ever? If I don’t respond to your comments, it’s probably because I’m reading Brooke Johnson’s Steampunk book, Le Theatre Mecanique.

Speculative Fiction- Here’s how smart I am- speculative fiction isn’t new. Ha! It’s actually an umbrella term for fantasy-esque stuff. Fantasy. Horror. Sci-fi. (ETA- I got the umbrella term reference from Wikipedia. While it’s not the BEST source of reliable information, it also represents what a lot of people believe, and that’s what I’m going off of here. Reality is perception, no?)

Young Adult- see here, here and here.

Now, this is the part where you recommend really good books in all those genres for me and the rest of my lovely followers to read. Ready. Set.


Also, if you want to meet some people you can point your finger at and laugh, go here. Now, back to Brooke.


  1. says

    heh, I didn’t even know ‘New Adult’ was a thing. Though I’m very much of the opinion of just write the story you want to tell, let the bookstore worry about where they want to put it.

    • says

      The problem is, you can’t just let the bookstore put it where they think it is best. I’ve heard of authors who got their stuff ridiculously mis-classified at local bookstores (“Harry Potter” ends up with pottery-making books for instance — that’s a joke, but not that far from reality). These mistakes led publishers to print the category on the back of the cover.

  2. says

    Nice breakdown!!! I have had to look up what steampunk was…. It was last year. The fourth or fifth time I heard the phrase and had NO CLUE what it meant….

    What did people DO before wikipedia???? Seriously!

  3. Tanya Miranda says

    I haven’t read steampunk novels, but I love the Sherlock Holmes movies with Robert Downing Jr. and Jude Law. And the outfits! The only novel I read that comes close, which is where I learned about the whole steampunk genre, was Silent Kills by C.E. Lawrence. Its a crime novel but the people involved are part of the modern steampunk generation.

  4. LaDonna Cole says

    Steampunk, love the fashion! Writing one myself, but it’s futuristic apocalyptic steampunk. and yes there is a train. :)

    • says

      I hadn’t thought of Urban Fantasy. That’s a perfect suggestion! I’m not always a fan of it myself, but I think there are some good examples out there. Paranormal romance- definitely iffy for me as well.

      Thanks Allie!

  5. says

    Love how you used the different fonts to express the genres :).

    See, I always thought that “high fantasy” meant stories where magic was strong, prevalent and front and center in the world – fireballs raining from the sky, people being turned into toads (so to speak), powerful healing spells, etc. Examples might be, well, Harry Potter, Haydon’s Rhapsody series, Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry, Douglass’ Wayfarer Redemption series, etc. Maybe Shannara, it’s been so long since I’ve read any of them I can’t recall.

    Whereas “low fantasy” meant stories where magic existed in the world, but it was rare and/or difficult, and the story was about the people and society more than the magic. I always put Game of Thrones (ASOIAF) and Lord of the Rings (the novels, less so the films) in that category.

    But logically, your definition of “high fantasy” works better – a strange, fantastic world very much unlike our own.

    I tend to think of “speculative fiction” as being closely tied to scifi, but that’s almost certainly because I write scifi and have claimed it as my own, lol :). I don’t even want to talk about “New Adult Romance”….

    • says

      GS- I think you’re onto something here with the High and Low fantasy. Who knows? There’s probably 8 different definitions rampaging through the internet right now. Let’s just say they are all right! We need an authority on it. Oh, wait. There’s always wikipedia :)

      I’m so excited to see you around here. We’ll be great friends!

      • says

        You bet :)

        Oh, I’m sure there’s at least 8 different definitions out there, for every genre. And even then…I mean, if you look at the definition I gave for high/low fantasy, where is the line between “a little” magic and “a lot of” magic? The extremes are fairly easy to identify, but most works are somewhere in the middle.

        I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to categorize works – it’s a very helpful shortcut – but it can be enough to drive one mad!

  6. says

    Great job on the research, Katie! I think the useful thing about these genres – if you’re not self-publishing, is it helps to find a publisher/agent who deals with the particular genre your novel is in…if course there’s the umbrella term ‘commercial women’s fiction’ which deals with everything!

    • says

      Haha, thanks Teagan. I’m so new to self-publishing that I feel like everything is research anymore. It’s good though! I love learning and perfecting things that I’m involved in. I didn’t know about that umbrella term, actually. Very interesting!

  7. says

    I too hate trying to put myself in a genre. I’ll check out teh Wikepedia list in case there’s one there just for me. I read teh first of the Parasol Protectorate books which was supposed to be Steampunk, which suprised me a bit due to the amount of vampires and werewolves. The science and the flying machines were kind of second to that. It was a very enjoyable book though.

    • says

      I didn’t have a problem knowing what genre I was in, I had a problem admitting it. I always felt like people would roll their eyes at me. “Oh, you write fantasy. You’re one of those.” Like a cast off donut, or something.

      Actually, as it turns out, people don’t care about me as much as I thought they did :)

  8. says

    I knew what steampunk and young adult was, but HIGH fantasy and NEW adult romance??? And speculative fiction seems the same as sci-fi to me. I think I’m going to invent the ‘new cat adult’ sub-genre or NCA: books about adults that are addicted to cats. Do you think I’ll have readers? :-)

    • says

      I’m really excited about trying out some Steampunk like Brooke’s, but I have to say, when I’m introduced to a new genre, I need a good representation/writer in that drama in order to stick with it, you know?

      For the record, Vanessa, you got me for a reader. Cats all day. Let’s be old cat ladies together! Except I’ll have dogs. Big ones. 60 lbs. No problem.

  9. says

    It’s funny you mention this today. Because of my line business I’m seeing all these millions of different genres ALL THE TIME. And it’s SO confusing! When putting together the form on my blog tour hosts I had to debate about how many different genres I would list. I thought about just saying speculative fiction instead of fantasy and science fiction, but I know from experience that some read one but not the other. I just know I left some important genre out on accident. But yes, it’s INSANE. It wouldn’t be a big deal but people tend to be very particular. Some people will say they read thrillers but I email them about a thriller and they don’t accept SPY thriller (just an example). So yeah, it’s hard to make everyone happy. I’m an eclectic reader, I’ll try it all except erotica and usually not many ‘romances’ (like harlequin types). And I scare easy so not much horror, but sometimes I do, it just depends. I pretty much will say you can hit me up for any genre and it will depend on my mood.

    And I LOVE steampunk! If you are looking for recs you could probably do a search on my blog and they would show up. I’m pretty sure I have them labeled (I just checked and I do have quite a few, but I don’t think they are ALL showing up. But still some good ones on there!)

  10. says

    Hey Katie! Nice breakdown. What if you’re writing a NA romance in a dark, monster infested post-apocalyptic world that you arrived at through a portal? Ha,ha,ha! Just kidding! I enjoyed your post. 😀

  11. says

    Totally agree about genres bringing on an impulse to say something rude (or at least snarky and sarcastic).

    I’m starting to think that we (writers, readers, book people of every sort) are becoming obsessed with sub-genres and categories. Why does every combination of elements need to have its own genre name? If I want to write in a meaningful, prose-driven way about magic-using astronauts of the future who are too busy falling in love to properly repair their steam-powered rockets or solve the mystery of why everyone has fang marks on their necks, do I need to invent a genre for that?

    My feeling on genres is, you go into your nearest bricks-and-mortar bookstore, look around, and figure out where they would put your book. If the genre isn’t broad or popular enough to have a section with a sign at the bookstore, do you really need to label yourself with it?

  12. says

    This sort sub-dividing into niche genres takes place within so many cultural areas, not just books. Punk rock music, for example, has a multitude of sub-genres: crust punk, skate punk, emo-screamo, oi!, street punk, hardcore and pop punk. I don’t think there is necessarily anything wrong with narrowing down your preference to this degree, regardless of what art form is being discussed, but I think problems certainly can arise when the sub-genres becomes the dividing line between micro-tribes.

    • says

      Kevin- great point! I hadn’t really thought of how it applied to other artistical venues, and to be honest, I’ve never heard of crust-punk. I’m a non-lyrical music fan myself, so I tend to move away from that kind of music. Actually, I think genres and sub-genres help readers find what they like more, and I think the freedom of self-publishing has added to that. I do think, as you said, that problems in confusion comes up when people who don’t have their lives submerged in fiction, (as many writers do) get confused between High Fantasy and Epic Fantasy, for example. Some people claim it’s the same thing, while others think is has very different parameters. But really, who is going to be the police force and set the square down, so to speak?

  13. says

    I actually write New Adult so that one isn’t new to me, nor were the others. However, I would argue with whoever told you Harry Potter was High Fantasy. Many in the literary field consider it to be low fantasy. Not Urban Fantasy…but low fantasy.
    Yes, there’s Low Fantasy and it’s different than Urban Fantasy. Confused yet?

    Sigh. There really are SO MANY genres.
    We all have to find our place to fit into :)

  14. says

    The primary use of genre definitions is as a marketing tool to tell interested readers if it’s what they want to read.

    If you don’t know what genre or subgenre your book is in, then you aren’t finding the right readers for your book. To figure out what the primary genre is in your genre mix, you need to figure out the central plot and go from there. For more help in finding our your genre, click on the link with my name, then find the label “Genre” on the right side of my blog site.

    Although some say that epic and high fantasy are the same thing, they aren’t. High fantasy is mythic in the sense that the main character is more a mythic character than a human or human type, and their journey has a quality of myth about it. BEOWULF and LORD OF THE RINGS are high fantasy. Most popular fantasies today like Martin’s SONGS OF FIRE AND ICE and Robert Jordan’s WHEEL are epic because they are about people who are part of a grand adventure.

    Speculative fiction is used exclusively to refer to science fiction, not fantasy.

    • says

      Hey Marilynn,

      I think it’s good to have the genres, as it narrows things down. I just often get lost in what a genre is. Mostly because there are so many.

      My understanding is that speculative fiction encompasses fantasy and science fiction. Not that wikipedia is the BEST source of one of the reasons I believed this, but it is a place where it is written as such.

      Thanks for your comment! I also appreciate the clarification on High and Epic fantasy. I think this lack of understanding exactly what a genre is, or isn’t, is something that can happen with so many sub genres. At least for people who don’t make a studious effort of figuring them out. Which, without a vested interest in, I doubt most readers do.

  15. Will says

    Subgenres of science fiction include hard science fiction & space opera. Hard science fiction has been around for a long time & space opera for a very long time. If there is hard, does it follow that there is soft? Yes, but the term “soft science fiction” isn’t used nearly as often although, arguably, there’s far more science fiction that is soft than hard.
    Steampunk is a sub-genre within fantasy, although it’s roots are mixed & an argument can be made that there’s stories that are categorized as science fiction that would be called fantasy if they were judged by the same criteria that are applied to steampunk.
    There’s no sharp & bright line that divides science fiction from fantasy. And there’s stories within both that are at the same time romance, horror or mystery. Science fiction mysteries are a favorite of mine.


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