Fusion Fantasy – Reaching Beyond Genre

Straight Jacket
Do you feel restricted?

This article is by Bets Davies.

I always felt straight jacketed by fantasy’s strict genre expectations.

Got a little too much romance or sex in your fantasy novel? Sacrilege. That is Romance.

Wait. What if I am talking about two guys? Gay and Lesbian, then. All the way.

Got frat boy zombies who want to play foosball all day? Hey. That’s Horror!

It seems that Fantasy, a genre whose very name suggests the ability to explore and expand, has become too confined.  For me, this disillusionment is married to the fact that I like to explore a lot of different areas.

When submitting to agents, I routinely received responses that came down to, “We think you can write, but what the heck are you doing?  Do something more normal and we’ll look at it.”  The problem is that I don’t know how to do normal.  My writing doesn’t fit into the strict confines of the genre.

Yes, genres do serve a purpose.  They can help us to tag a book quickly while searching for a new novel to read.  They also provide basic structures and elements to work with.  But that isn’t enough. We now have sub-genres.  We are fitting our writing into smaller and smaller niches.

As I spent more time defining and discussing my work with others, I found it helpful to come up with my own concept, which I hope contributes to a widening perception of what can be included, rather than closing out elements.  I call it “fusion fantasy.”

I have my mom to thank for the name.  She’d been reading my latest book, Weaver’s Web, and told me that she liked it because it was “a fusion of so many elements.”  And that was the “ah-ha” moment.

So what does it mean?

Take a base of fantasy. Throw in various other genres. Throw it in a blender, and put it on high.  That is fusion fantasy.

Fusion fantasy opens the door for us to combine elements of different genres to come up with something new.  Yet it still sits firmly in the realm of speculative fiction, as it asks the classic question: “What if?”

For me, however, speculative doesn’t take the next step that fusion does. Fusion fantasy takes a bite out of any genre that can’t run fast enough to get away.  Innovative writing is more than a series of elements to be rearranged over and over again. Beyond “What if,” fusion asks, “Why not?”

Genres, in general, encourage cookie-cutter thinking.  Fusion is different in that it encourages the author to stretch.

It makes statements like, “It’s my party and if I want to pull from Romance, Films, Mythology, Horror, Memoir, Poetry, Literary Fiction, Gay and Lesbian Fiction and Post Cards, I get to.” Fusion allows the author to grasp at as much as they wish to build worlds, characters, metaphors and structures. The heart is fantasy, but there is so much more to a body than a heart.

Fusion Fantasy  is in many ways an infusion of other genres into fantasy.  In reaching beyond, when we come home to fantasy, we are all the richer for it.

What are your thoughts regarding this idea?  Do you find the confines of genre to be too restrictive?

About the Author:

Bets Davies did an abrupt turn around from studying memoir in her MFA to writing fusion fantasy.  She also writes poetry.  She lives in Ann Arbor with her two dogs and a parrot.  You can read her blog at betsdavies.blogspot.com.

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Peter Masalsky
Peter Masalsky
4 years ago

Agree 100%. There are people like Harlan Ellison and Joe Lansdale who cross and combine genres all the time.

WH Wisecarver
5 years ago

Thank-you for your post. Count me in on your crusade – Fusion Fantasy it is!

My Resurrection Trilogy is slated by the industry as conspiracy, political thriller and political science fiction. When in fact it
is a historical fantasy with a sci-fi twist, graphically portraying the false zeitgeist blinding the new generation from their own potential.

The narrative centers around the ever-increasing awareness of today’s generation — individuals technologically advanced and unhampered by the ghosts of the past, waking to alternatives necessary for the next step in human evolution

The story unfolds with the real conflict each individual, regardless of heritage, socio-economic class, or religious persuasion is questioning, by providing alternative views of historical facts. Flashbacks in history and human mythology provide a fast paced, tension building exploration of where we are and how we got here, portraying the true inter-workings of today’s Capitol Hill and Wall Street. Historical parallels from 30,000 BC to present day, with special emphasis in WWII, are explored in an entertaining format for the modern reader to provoke the audience to RE-EVALUATE the myths of contemporary America — not to perpetuate their oppression— but rather to enlighten them to how they can liberate themselves.

Conspiracy – really? My response is … that only in fantasy may one speak the truth!

9 years ago

I say YAY!  It’s about changing with the times, giving readers what they want, and exploring ourselves as writers.  Even fantasy is modeled after real life….. and in real life, there is drama, romance, mystery, morality, sexuality…..  it’s all there.  The depth of our characters and the things they experience is what readers connect to, and for me at least, well, I like a few surprises.  
I agree that lines are drawn for a reason, and I have been disappointed a time or two by books which did not deliver on the promised content, but I also encourage people to write for both profit and pleasure.
I love the idea of fusion fantasy; fusion is a word we hear so often now in regard to food, fashion, everything, and I love the literature application as well; it definitely defines what I do!

Reply to  Cagedmaiden
9 years ago

I agree genres have a certain place.  I’m not denying that.  I am not saying all genres must die.  What I am saying is that it is an opportune time to create a new niche genre.  If more people than me and a few writing buddies do this, we can really create a revolution into a new genre that, when people pick it up they know what they are getting into.

Also, my experiences in other genres are not that dire.  Many slide in smoothly.  Yes, my obsession with horror movies definitely colors my work in a specific way, but a lot of fusion is angled at craft.

Because I work in poetry, for instance, I am aware of the use of a single, power image rather than a long discussion.  Because I’ve worked in film, I have a tendency to work with heavy dialogue and short shots of emotion and action, etc.  Because I’ve worked in memoir, I have a leaning towards brutal honesty.  I’ll admit my own failing in that I toned down the sexuality for sales, but my friend simply refers to these moments as “snot” because when I have a crying character, they always get snot everwhere.  I mean, really, who doesn’t?  But none of this out and out rebells against or expects the diconstruction of genre.

I’ll admit, it is a little different for me.  I don’t want to make a living as a writer.  Who does, anyway?  I want my writing to be read.  I want people to get what I am trying to do.  I have a day job–teaching secondary–that I love as well.

It’s just asking that a few brave souls join in my indie based crusade to get stretching our skills, rather than retracting them, out there.

9 years ago

Personally I think that you should most likely apply and introduce your work to genres that would better suit your style, instead of attempting to force those criteria’s to accept your work that may/may not really apply to it.  As I see it – there are topics that which will follow in all genres, but simply categorizing is more beneficial for everyone. People should not be deceived in what they’re buying. 🙂

Aiden Sawyer
9 years ago

Interesting article. Ideally, a writer should never feel confined or restricted by a genre or any other label when they are writing. If they do, they are not writing from the soul. On the other hand, if you have to pay the bills, sometimes you have to do what the job requires. Simply put, writing for profit requires sales; and sales require an audience. And that’s where genres come in. Genres serve to help readers find what they like as much as they help publishers market and sale what they publish. A writer who cuts across or “breaks the rules” within genres runs the risk of either not finding a place to hang their hat or of disappointing readers if they hang their hat in one genre and deliver something other than what that audience expects. Of course, if the writing is good, you can overcome these risks and be a ground breaker instead of a rule breaker; so the risk is well taken. In the end, good writing and good stories will always find a home. Whether these works have a foot in multiple genres or forge ahead into a new one depends on whether there is an audience who will identify with the new genre and if there is a body of writing that can be similarly classified.

9 years ago

Of course the publishing companies are controlling the genres and sub genres that we play to.  However, as ebooks gain prominence, the big publishing establishment, I feel, is floundering a bit to catch up.  Now is an excellent time to experiment, perhaps for the first time in decades.  If we get a movement towards fusion fiction rolling right now, I think we have a shot to recreate ourselves.

9 years ago

You are totally right.  The problem is that publishers created these genres to hit certain markets.  And most writers follow these specific outlines that the publishing industry has created.  So the publishing industry/writers are in tandem responsible for all these restrictions.

9 years ago

Nice Article!  Good points.

7 years ago

I love this. I ended up shelved in Urban Fantasy, much to my great surprise. Fusion Fantasy is the perfect term for what I thought I was writing…

7 years ago

Great post–and completely true! I am considering what the outcome of my books will be, whether I’ll get put in the gay section, the fantasy section or the black lit section.

I recently went to a lecture about Visionary Fiction–taking back the narrow confines of Science Fiction and broadening it back to simple “What if…” The speaker mentioned how Beloved by Toni Morrison is Fantasy/Sci-fi/supernatural–really Speculative Fiction and how she is either placed in Lit fiction or just a genre of her own because she’s a legend.

Thank you for these thoughts!

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