SF Genre Benders
December 12, 2005 5:55 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for SF books that may not be classified as sci-fi, but instead as standard adult fiction "literature" at my local library. Examples would be Mary Doria Russell's "The Sparrow" or David Mitchell's "Cloud Atlas"

The SF books at my library have little stickers on them to help me easily find them, but they seem to only classify the hardest core SF type books with this sticker. I've almost missed a few great SF books which I love, because they are genre benders.
posted by Dag Maggot to Writing & Language (38 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Kurt Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse Five), Margaret Atwood(The Handmaid's Tale), Jules Verne (any one of them), Mary Shelley (Frankenstein), George Orwell (1984), and Aldous Huxley (Brave New World).
posted by rabbitsnake at 5:59 PM on December 12, 2005

Another Margaret Atwood: Oryx and Crake

The newest Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go

both books belong in the SF and mainstream contemporary literature categories.
posted by elisabeth r at 6:04 PM on December 12, 2005

P.D. James' The Children of Men is a departure from her usual crime tales, and is a sort of cosy-catastrophe in the British mode.

Doris Lessing's five Shikasta novels.
posted by zadcat at 6:09 PM on December 12, 2005

Anything by Kim Stanley Robinson, but particularly his most recent two, Forty Signs of Rain and Fifty Degrees Below, and Antarctica.
posted by precipice at 6:10 PM on December 12, 2005

Maybe Solaris by Stanislaw Lem.
posted by Espy Gillespie at 6:14 PM on December 12, 2005

Sexing the Cherry, Jeanette Winterson. Assorted books by Angela Carter.
posted by dilettante at 6:18 PM on December 12, 2005

Oh, and Bimbos of the Death Sun, Sharyn McCrumb. No, really.

Slight derail - I really loathe the division of books into genres, especially at the library. I'm hypocrite enough to take full advantage of it for my own convenience and won't even bother with certain sections - but I'm sure I miss stuff I'd like that way.
posted by dilettante at 6:23 PM on December 12, 2005

I just finished The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, which some may find too chick-lit but does involve, believe it or not, time travel.
posted by nev at 6:23 PM on December 12, 2005

Richard Powers: Galatea 2.2
Much of Murakami, specifically Hard-Boiled Wonderland at the End of the World
posted by jgee at 6:24 PM on December 12, 2005

Also The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon and The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathem Lethem are both well-regarded books that have elements of the fantastic.

(Lethem's earlier work is more straight-up sci-fi.)
posted by nev at 6:27 PM on December 12, 2005

A lot of good stuff has already been mentioned especially the two dystopian Atwood books and the Ishiguro, but here's some more: Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie, Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, and, from the teen section but definitely worth reading, the His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman. Haruki Murakami books might be a good shot too if you like Phil Dick style experimental sci-fi.
posted by thecjm at 6:29 PM on December 12, 2005

James Morrow's novels are usually in the regular fiction section at libraries.
posted by skwm at 6:31 PM on December 12, 2005

Haruki Murakami's books often have sci-fi elements, but I've only rarely seen them put in the sci-fi shelves in a library. Some of Kim Stanley Robinson's stuff gets shelved in "fiction" as well. Adams' "Watership Down" is not science fiction, but it's not particularly well-suited to the "fiction" shelves either. I think people have already mentioned most of the rest of the authors I've encountered in other sections - Vonnegut, Atwood, Orwell, Huxley, etc.

I'd stay away from Oryx and Crake, if you're looking for a good read. I like a lot of Atwood's books, but I found it really, really disappointing. Shallow characters, incredibly annoying brand faux names, and absolutely nothing novel to say on the topic. Bleh. There's satire, and there's serious fiction, and Oryx and Crake has the worst points of both.
posted by ubersturm at 6:32 PM on December 12, 2005

Response by poster: dilettante, I don't mind the ghettoization of SF so much in the library or bookstore, it's more people's attitudes and general disdain for the genre that gets me. Of course there is a fair amount of crap on the shelves, (most books based on a TV series come to mind).
posted by Dag Maggot at 6:33 PM on December 12, 2005

Anthongy Burgess: A Clockwork Orange.
You would probably be interested in DeLillo's Ratner's Star, as well.
posted by jgee at 6:33 PM on December 12, 2005

Response by poster: ubersturm, you're barking up the wrong tree with Oryx and Crake. I loved that book. It was a very well fleshed out world, and I believed in the charecters. One big thumbs up for Oryx and Crake from me.
posted by Dag Maggot at 6:37 PM on December 12, 2005

Oh, an obvious author I missed: Neal Stephenon. Some of his stuff is obviously sci-fi, but his more recent stuff has only more subtle subtle sci-fi elements. Libraries often put at least some of his books in "fiction."

Didn't mean to derail on the Atwood bit. I'd just been looking forward to the book coming out and was very disappointed at the uninteresting characters (neither Oryx or Crake, for example, are particularly believable, and Jimmy barely real enough to keep me reading), the obtrusive product/company names and writing style, and at the fact that Atwood didn't go anywhere new or interesting with the "my god, genetic manipulation could have Bad Effects!" theme. It continually surprises me that people think it lives up to her other [very good] books. But that's not what this question's about; sorry, Dag Maggot.
posted by ubersturm at 6:46 PM on December 12, 2005

Some SF books that might also get filed under Fiction/Literature:

Fahrenheit 451
Cat's Cradle
Nova Express
War of the Worlds
Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde
posted by justkevin at 6:56 PM on December 12, 2005

On the Beach by Nevil Shute.

Whereas Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days is science fiction only by the most technical definition, in that it's denoument involves an interesting, although by no means speculative, scientific fact.
posted by SPrintF at 7:04 PM on December 12, 2005

Maybe Elizabeth Moon's The Speed of Dark?
posted by stray at 8:11 PM on December 12, 2005

Michel Faber's Under the Skin is a good example of literary science fiction, and some of the stories in Some Rain Must Fall also fall into the category.
posted by Lycaste at 8:47 PM on December 12, 2005

jack vance hates to be called a sci-fi author. he's more of a secular/transcendental humanist, or something. also, he's a mystery writer.
posted by dorian at 9:04 PM on December 12, 2005

I've seen Marge Piercy's two SF novels shelved in regular fiction (He, She and It and Woman on the Edge of Time).
posted by Cyrie at 9:05 PM on December 12, 2005

Most Letham is Sci-Fi that's shelved in fiction.
posted by drezdn at 10:08 PM on December 12, 2005

dammit, this thread has inspired me to go back to my local liberry and find some of these authors I've never heard of. and I thank you.

also, sheri s tepper is generally uncategorizable and for good reason. plus, she's really amazing.
posted by dorian at 10:18 PM on December 12, 2005

Oryx and Crake? I found Jimmy believable as the child of a depressed parent--although I didn't like it that the character who was murdered was only seen as an object even by the killer (I don't want to put in spoilers).
posted by brujita at 10:19 PM on December 12, 2005

great thread--keep em coming! /piggybacking and taking notes : >
posted by amberglow at 10:41 PM on December 12, 2005

Into the Forest by Jean Hegland

Doomsday book by Connie Willis; also Passages

Timescape by Gregory Benford
posted by niloticus at 10:43 PM on December 12, 2005

Lewis Shiner

John Crowley

Mark Helprin
posted by furvyn at 11:09 PM on December 12, 2005

In the Wet by Nevile Shute.
posted by GoatCactus at 12:07 AM on December 13, 2005

Iain Banks - The Glass Ceiling
posted by salmacis at 2:44 AM on December 13, 2005

Everyone is at it these days. In the last year or so the most recent novels by Margaret Atwood, Kazuo Ishiguro, Michael Cunningham, David Mitchel, Michel Houllebecq and Audrey Neiffinger have all been science fiction market as standard literary fiction.

Iain Banks hasn't written a book called The Glass Ceiling. Do you mean Walking On Glass?
posted by ninebelow at 3:19 AM on December 13, 2005

I second Houllebecq, but only Atomised (aka The Elementary Particles). None of his other books is nearly so interesting or satisfying.
posted by roofus at 6:30 AM on December 13, 2005

Gravity's Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon, is often called science fiction but is classified among literature.
posted by Scooter at 7:34 AM on December 13, 2005

Kevin Guilfoile's Cast of Shadows definitely hovers between lit fic and sci fi. Excerpts here.
posted by verysleeping at 9:08 AM on December 13, 2005

Anything by Geoff Ryman, and Rupert Thomsen's book Divided Kingdom. I'd also put George Saunders in this category.

You also might want to cast around a bit for slipstream literature.
posted by gnomeloaf at 10:13 AM on December 13, 2005

Also Alasdair Gray's Lanark.
posted by zadcat at 10:49 PM on December 13, 2005

Unfortunately I thought Rupert Thomsen's Divided Kingdom was awful, which is a shame because I love Thomson. It is a pretty much textbook example of how fables fail. However his Dreams Of Leaving is an excellent piece of magical realism. As is everything else he's written.
posted by ninebelow at 2:30 AM on December 14, 2005

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