The SF/fantasy/horror category, already a chimera, is budding new subcategories right and left. Many authors and publishers have given up on categorization altogether. Words like "amalgamation" and "blending" and "cross-genre" appear in our reviews with increasing frequency, and readers are eagerly gobbling up these unclassifiable books.
It's not quite a truism that experimental writers are good writers—as in science, some experiments go boom or simply fizzle out—but many of our top picks for the fall and winter are decidedly idiosyncratic. Christine Cody's Bloodlands, inexplicably promoted as a paranormal romance, is a postapocalyptic supernatural western that deftly subverts all three genres. Christopher Buehlman's debut, Those Across the River, is a period piece married to a Southern gothic horror novel. T.C. McCarthy's Germline takes apart the contemporary military romance and the near-future battlefield thriller and reassembles them into a gender-swapped tale of genetic manipulation, love, and war. It's impossible to identify a target audience for any of the three, but adventurous readers will love them all.
Short stories offer plenty of opportunities for genre alchemy. Jack Dann and Nick Gevers solicited stories of steampunk, suspense, and the supernatural for Ghosts by Gaslight, correctly noting that mysteries and hauntings are even more authentically Victorian than airships and clockwork. Christopher Golden's anthology The Monster's Corner is something like a method acting class for fantasy authors, encouraging them to get inside the heads of their inhuman characters; the result is a merging of the monster story with memoir, meditation, polemic, and other heartfelt expressions of self. Tim Powers will be releasing his first collection in six years, The Bible Repairman and Other Stories; like his novels, his short works draw inspiration from a wide variety of historical, religious, and fantastical notions and events.
Works that upend genre expectations often incorporate elements of dark fantasy and horror. This admixture is not so much a dilution of the horror genre as a gateway drug. Readers who want to try the harder stuff may turn to John Ajvide Lindqvist's Harbor, a hefty stand-alone novel that begins with psychological horror and gradually incorporates the supernatural—another blurring, but a more familiar one.
For readers who eschew unease and want solid ground underfoot before they stick their heads up into the clouds, the fall and winter will see a fine crop of high-quality sequels to established series. Chris Moriarty's Ghost Spin follows 2003's Spin State and 2006's Spin Control, sending interstellar colonies into chaos when teleportation networks begin to fail. Even longer-awaited is Vernor Vinge's The Children of the Sky, the sequel to his 1993 opus A Fire upon the Deep, which describes the aftermath of the disasters in Fire while exploring the world of the dog-like, hive-minded Tines. Readers who don't like decadeslong gaps in their series will be thrilled to see N.K. Jemisin's The Kingdom of Gods released just a year after her widely praised The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and The Broken Kingdoms, completing the epic-feeling fantasy trilogy with a cataclysmic battle between mortals and gods. Perhaps there's not so much stability and solidity to be found there after all, but is that such a bad thing? This season will be a great reminder that shaking up the status quo is what the speculative genres do best.
PW's Top 10 SF, Fantasy, & Horror
Christine Cody. Ace, Aug.
Those Across the River
Christopher Buehlman. Ace, Sept.
T.C. McCarthy. Orbit, Aug.
Ghosts by Gaslight: Stories of Steampunk and Supernatural Suspense
Edited by Jack Dann and Nick Gevers. HarperVoyager, Sept.
The Monster's Corner:
Stories Through Inhuman Eyes
Edited by Christopher Golden. St. Martin's Griffin, Sept.
The Bible Repairman and Other Stories
Tim Powers. Tachyon, Sept.
John Ajvide Lindqvist, trans. from the Swedish by Marlaine Delargy. Thomas Dunne, Oct.
Chris Moriarty. Spectra, Jan.
The Children of the Sky
Vernor Vinge. Tor, Oct.
The Kingdom of Gods
N.K. Jemisin. Orbit, Nov.