Let’s Discuss: Special Niche Genres

Posted January 14, 2017 by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction in Let's Discuss / 51 Comments

This post is linked up to the 2017 Book Blog Discussion Challenge.

I was reading my latest Shelf Awareness newsletter a couple of days ago, and I saw an advertisement for a book, professing the following:

I have to confess that it kind of made me laugh. This claim immediately made me think, The best Swedish crime novel? Is that even a thing? How hard is it to be the best Swedish crime novel of the year?  Is that a terribly competitive market?

The question buzzed around in my head for a while, and so I investigated. Now, anyone who’s an actual fan of crime novels probably knows that Swedish crime novels really are “a thing.” After a quick internet search I discovered that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a Swedish crime novel. Even I’ve heard of that one. And apparently Stieg Larsson started a whole new craze. I found several groups and lists dedicated to Scandinavian crime fiction, in fact. Obviously, I wasn’t giving this little gem enough credit!

This made me wonder what other strange-sounding niche genres might be out there.
A search brought these to my attention:

  • Bangsian: A fantasy genre that uses famous literary or historical individuals and shows their interactions in the afterlife … So, like Jane Austen hanging out with Tom Clancy? That could be interesting. (Apparently, this strange-sounding sub-genre is named for John Kendrick Bangs, who often wrote in it.)
  • Sword and planet: A subgenre of science fantasy that features rousing adventure stories set on other planets, and usually featuring Earthmen as protagonists. Go Earthmen!
  • Giant monsters: A story about a giant monster, big enough to destroy buildings (or eat a ship!). But, wait, not all giant monsters are bad. Just check out TIM: Defender of the Earth. He’ll save us all!
  • Jiangshi fiction: Stories about jiangshi, the hopping corpses under the control of Taoist priests, derived from Chinese literature and folklore.
  • Biopunk: A science fiction (or sci-fi horror) story that focuses on genetics and biological research. Apparently, you can just choose anything, make it sci-fi and then stick “punk” after it. How about some Chrispunk? Sci-fi Santa stories—could be a new revolution!
  • Bizarro: Stories are purposefully strange, absurd, and surreal. The name suits it well.
  • NASCAR-themed romance novels: Um, yep. Pretty much what it sounds like. This is really a thing!
  • Epistolary: A story told exclusively through letters, emails, newspaper articles and other primary sources.
  • Bildungsroman: Explores the education, development and coming of age of a young protagonist. Well, I guess I’ve read lots of these, but I sure haven’t heard that genre name before!
  • Mundane Fantasy: This sub-genre is basically supposed to be simpler fantasy (in contrast to High fantasy or Epic fantasy). But, really, couldn’t they come up with a better name for this? I mean, why didn’t they just call it Boring Fantasy?

Have you read (or even just heard of) any strange sub-genres? I want to know!


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51 responses to “Let’s Discuss: Special Niche Genres

  1. Oh how funny, haha. I’ve never heard of most of these either, and some of these are super highly specific. I’ve heard about sword and planet from Greg’s blog I think though, I’ve heard of bizarro, and I’ve heard of bildungsroman because like every review for this one book I was considering used that word and I finally had to look it up. I feel like probably one reviewer used it and then everyone else just followed suit to sound smart 😛 But lol, I’ve totally scene some books that could start the Chrispunk genre (I looked for sci-fi/fantasy Christmas books over the holiday season), they just need you to christen them with the name!

    Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight recently posted: Book Review: Obscura Burning by Suzanne van Rooyen
  2. The Epistolary and bildungsroman I had heard of, but mostly because those are genres we discussed in a class. Maybe Swedish crime novels just aren’t that well known in the US, but in the Netherlands it is definitely a thing. There really are a lot of Swedish authors that write crime novels, and as someone who is looking for Swedish books because I’m learning Swedish I’m actually having a hard time finding interesting books that are not crime novels, haha.
    I had not really heard of the other genres you mentioned. Mundane fantasy does indeed sound boring, but I might have to check out biopunk, that sounds pretty cool =D

    • Swedish crime novels ARE really big here—I was just completely out of touch with that one. Most of the other genres I listed are a bit more esoteric, though I’d heard of Epistolary before (but actually not until recently when I found a challenge for it for my list of 2017 challenges).

  3. Huh, who knew there were so my niche sub-genres? I have to say, I’m shocked you didn’t know about the Scandinavian crime novel trend. I heard of it after reading Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I think I was a bit more in the know about it because my mom loves a good crime novel (as do I). I think the fad has died down some but it’s still a really big genre (or I thought it was, anyway).

    I think the thing is we are such fans of categorising books and the genres are getting more and more specific as so many new books come out we like to make sure we can put similar books together and just because two book are fantasy doesn’t mean they’ll be anything alike, you know?

    • Obviously, you’re right. In my defense no one I know really reads crime fiction (well, my husband occasionally listens to a crime audiobook when he has a trip for work, but he is NOT a reader, so he just listens to whatever he finds easily on our library website).

  4. I know about Swedish fiction because I read a lot of it but none of the others have made my radar. I try and ignore putting books or anything else in life in too small a box as it narrows my view and I might miss out. Have to say some of these niche reads made me laugh.

  5. I have heard of Epistolary and Bildungsroman. The second was the major focus in my adolescent literature class in college in order to get a teaching degree. With it, there has to be the element of choice and decision in order to be a true Bildungsroman novel. The rest seem kind of out there.

  6. Never heard of any of them, but then again, why the heck not? But on the other hand, oh great. Now I’m going to want to ‘invent’ a weird sub-genre.

    I kind of take the first sentence (question?) back. When I was in college, I read the Griffin and Sabine trilogy, where you actually take letters (telegrams, etc.) out of envelopes that are glued to the pages of the book. So I guess I knew about epistolary, just didn’t know it had a name.

    Oh great, looking back through the comments, ‘bildungsroman’ is beginning to sound familiar. I’m not sure if that is from books or language studies, or my mother (who was born in Switzerland).

    So I’m going to stop now before I have to revise my revisions etc.

    LuAnn Braley recently posted: Perception by Lee Strauss - #review
  7. There’s probably a lot of sub-genres that I don’t even know! And I’ve NEVER heard of any of those on your list. I have not ready any books in this genre but I have watched movies in this genre: Wuxia. This would be like The House of Flying Daggers, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon… mostly called Chinese Opera. Also we NEED books like this!

  8. Yes to Bildungsroman, epistolary, and Swedish crime, although I think of it as Nordic crime, because I think there are a few Norwegian authors as well in there. Smilla’s Sense of Snow was one of the early ones I read–it’s actually been a thing for a decade or more before Girl with the Dragon Tattoo! That one is still the most violent one I’ve read; usually they feature slightly depressed, decidedly non-glamorous middle aged detectives.

    I tried awhile back to figure out the different fantasy subgenres–my understanding is that mundane fantasy means it takes place in the real world, as opposed to “portal fantasy” (like your NaNoWriMo novel and Narnia) or high fantasy (LOTR). Like, it’s the WORLD that’s mundane, not the fantasy. But still.

    Let’s see, I can think of some Nice White Teacher Lady books, some The Dog Always Dies books, and of course, we all know what a Chosen One book is! It really is fun to think of niche genres! My dad was a fan of the Smutty Spy novel when I was a kid.

    • That description of mundane fantasy makes a little more sense than the one I found (though I still think they could have come up with a better name for it). But it definitely made me laugh. And I ADORE your made up genre names. You should definitely be put in charge of genre titles. I read a lot of those The Dog Always Dies books when I was younger—that should definitely have it’s own category. 🙂

  9. Quote:
    “Mundane Fantasy: This sub-genre is basically supposed to be simpler fantasy (in contrast to High fantasy or Epic fantasy). But, really, couldn’t they come up with a better name for this? I mean, why didn’t they just call it Boring Fantasy?”

    LOL. Mundane Fantasy – what an alluring name. Not to mention, it’s a GIANT oxymoron…

    I knew of Epistolary and Bildungsroman, but the others are new to me. I think I’ll look into Biopunk and Bizarro – they sound crazy enough to suit me ;). Thank you for the list and a good chuckle!

    Roberta R. recently posted: E.S. Wesley: The Outs (ARC Review)
  10. HA! you made me smile big Nicole, especially with Chrispunk! Nope I did not know Swedish crime novels were really are “a thing.” wow The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo! that tells you huh? 🙂 Even I HAVE HEARD OF THAT ONE! LOL you made me laugh here too because that statement applies too me as well! Crime is definitely not my favorite genre so I’m even more ignorant than average 🙂

    I’m very happy you posted this Nicole! Now I can say I’m a big fan of Bizarro, Bangsian
    Sword and planet, and Biopunk

    Jiangshi??? omg NEVER heard o fit! 😀

    AND YES! oh YES! Thank you for saying it. Makes me feel less of a weirdo. Yes! High fantasy should be called “Boring Fantasy?

    Great Post !

    Dragonfly @ Our Familiarium recently posted: Book Review: A Monster Calls
  11. Jen

    I’ve heard of NASCAR-themed romance novels! I ran across some of them a few weeks, or a month ago, while I was looking for books to add to my tbr.
    Did you know about Monster Erotica?! That’s the only niche genre I really know, outside of NASCAR. I have a friend on Goodreads who reads Monster Erotica every Halloween. Her reviews always have me with my mouth open, because author’s are SO creative and I never even thought of something before, or I’m laughing because of what she wrote. That’s the only two niche genres I’ve heard of before. 🙂

    • Actually, now that I think of it (I can’t believe I forgot!) I have read a few romances that had to do with car racing, though not specifically NASCAR—I guess it’s not much different. I just would never have thought of it as it’s own sub-genre, but why not?

      Oh, and erotica—there’s probably plenty of weird sub-genres for that. I HAVE heard of monster erotica and alien erotica too (I’ve heard tell of tentacles used in … um … creative ways). Those genres sound more than a little scary to me!!

  12. Wow, I hadn’t heard of a lot of these, and I have to say, some of them have left me intrigued (although certainly not mundane fantasy, as much as I love fantasy in general, and definitely not NASCAR themed romances!)! I know there are a lot of sci-fi ‘punk’ variations (steampunk, cyberpunk, dieselpunk, etc.), but I’ve never been quite sure about the differences!
    Interesting post! 🙂

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  13. This is a great topic. I like epistolary novels and have recently read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which was amazing.

    Umm well with romance you get very specific subgenres. Like cowboy inspirational romance or amish romance or (gasp) tentacle erotica, which is something I’d only heard about and refuse to even Google because I’m sure it’ll result in images I can’t unsee. 😀

    I also heard of a genre loosely called “smart people having lots of sex”, which isn’t really a genre but I like those types of books anyway. 🙂

  14. I have to admit, this post makes me so happy! I had no idea that niche genres were an actually thing, but they are so cool. I did know about bildungsromans though, especially as for an extended essay for class I answered an essay question about how bildungsroman abiding is The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. But biopunk? Now that sounds seriously epic 😀

    Olivia Roach recently posted: The Rhine Valley [My Travels]
  15. HAhaha! WOW, this list is GREAT! I’ve never heard of most of these. Bangsian is RIDICULOUSLY SPECIFIC, you know? BUT, I can totally see that being a fad for a while 😛 I’ve heard the term “Mundane Fantasy” and have chosen to ignore it as a sub-genre because WHY would you call it THAT?! Plus, how do you OBJECTIVELY classify anything into THAT sub-genre as opposed to another MORE INTERESTING one?!

  16. I’ve only heard of the Swedish crime novel, the Bildungsroman and the epistolary novel. I figured the first was a crime novel set or written in Swedish. Most of YA would count under Bildungsroman from what I know of it. I used to read the historical fiction diaries of royals when I was younger, but I only found out what an epistolary novel was in the last two years.

    It seems to me that Mundane Fantasy would contain urban fantasy or magical realism, but I’m going solely on the description you gave. That’s such a weird genre name.

    I know historically that there are other genres. One of my world literature courses had us read something from the Floating World genre of Japan’s Edo period. I don’t remember what this genre entails, but it really makes you wonder what other genres are out there. Great post!

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