What Defines a Story’s Genre?

I finished writing a flash fiction story yesterday. During an edit session I tried to use a critical eye as I read the story. What I realized is that while the setting is the space-faring future of the human race, nothing else in the story is particularly science fictional. The main character is Native American. He is a traveling salesman. He sells computer thingamabobs based on early 1980’s technology. Bureaucrats are involved. The plot hangs on these four facts, not the setting. I could tweak the setting from a US Embassy security office on Mars to a similar office in modern day Burkina Faso, and the theme and the plot would still hang together.

So… is the story Science Fiction? Just because I could remove the futuristic setting, should I?

The story generated in my mind as a futuristic story where some things are not that much different from how things are right now. I suppose that point is important for the tongue-in-cheek humor of the story. It is funnier that this kind of thing would still occur decades or centuries from now.

I think the story is Science Fiction.

Any opinions? Fire away if you are so inclined.

BTW, I kept the futuristic setting and sent it out to Every Day Fiction before I could talk myself into changing it. Perhaps Jordan and Camille will have an opinion…

In related news, I realized earlier last night that I have four stories out there in various slush piles. This is a record for me. I am also not wigging out wondering if the editors will like any of them. I think I’ll be able to stick with this desire to write this time around.

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4 Responses

  1. I haven’t read the story, but I say keep the setting and call it science fiction. The telling point in your post, to me, is this sentence: “It is funnier that this kind of thing would still occur decades or centuries from now.”

    To me, that’s sort of implying a theme along the lines of “things change, but human nature doesn’t.” Even if that’s not your main theme, it’s a theme nonetheless — and without the futuristic setting, you lose that theme.

    So … it’s science fiction (SF, damnit!)

    Awesome that you have four stories out there!

    — Steve

  2. That is what I kept telling myself. It’s SF!

    As for the number of stories out, I hope to increase that soon. The next story I am going to be working on I started writing back in 1997, and finally finished it last summer. Like most of my first drafts, it needs a lot of work. There have also been some recent advances in robotic tactile sensitivity that I can work into the story to make it better.

    I have eight rough draft or partially completed stories waiting for me to work on them. Four of them date back to 1997.
    New ideas keep flowing out as well, and I have started a list. Now, if I can just nail down that pesky craft thing…

    I have been having a lot of fun writing recently.
    More fun than I ever had!

  3. Keep at it. Craft is something that improves with practice. Just keep jotting those ideas down, work on the stories that are dancing around the loudest inside your head and keep on keeping on.

  4. The story this post was about, “Language Barrier” was rejected, but that is OK. It was treated just like a proper SF story, so that concern of mine was unfounded. The main reason it was rejected was because it read like a joke… which is exactly what it was. I wrote a joke and sent it in. I am going to poke around Ralan’s and DuoTrope to see if there are any humor sites I think might be a good fit, and if not, then I am going to take the advice of the editors that rejected it and flesh it out, develop the main and secondary characters (and the setting) more and soften the punchline a bit.

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