My poll asking readers to tell me what genre they think my story “Husbandry” is has been up for a week now, and as of this writing the results are: 4 votes for “Fantasy,” 5 votes for “Science Fiction,” and 6 votes for “Something Else.” So it’s pretty close. The something-elses have, I think, some granularity, with Sarah, Damien, and Kat arguing that it’s interstitial fiction, and Elizabeth Twist opining that it’s subtle horror–an opinion shared by Karen Meisner (who was my editor on the story) in this comments thread. (Thanks for the kind words, Shweta!) EDIT: Oops! I mischaracterized Karen’s opinion–see the comments on this post.
I didn’t vote in the poll. If I had voted when I set up the poll, I probably would have voted for fantasy, though I would have been thinking that it was fantasy written with a distinctly science fiction sensibility. I have trouble thinking of it as really being science fiction because, well, zombies. Everything around that core I tried to treat naturalistically, even rigorously, but there is no mechanism for how death works in the story, and without that I can’t really consider it science fiction. All of the stories I’ve read with zombies have been ones I would characterize as fantasy, but I could be persuaded that this is because my familiarity of horror as a literary genre is almost nonexistant. It occurs to me that most zombie movies are considered horror; perhaps that is the natural home of the trope. I don’t really know where the edges of fantasy and horror meet, or how widely they overlap. And is what I’m calling an overlap what the Interstitial Arts Foundation would call an interstice? I’m not sure I understand what interstitial art is. It seems more natural to me to think of these categories as overlapping Venn diagrams, of genres as things that bleed into each other rather than as things with gaps between them into which some stories slip. But then I don’t have the task of marketing books to bookstores. The interstitial metaphor begins to make more sense if there is a shelf of fantasy and a shelf of horror, and they don’t touch each other. Suddenly, in the bookstore of my mind, my story is lying on the floor somewhere between them. So, I’m still not sure I know what genre “Husbandry” is, but I’m starting to be persuaded that “something else” is a worthy winner. Let’s hear it for the wisdom of crowds. (I’m going to leave the poll open for a while longer, just to see what happens.)