7 Extremely Specific Sub-Genres, From "Mannerpink" To "Sky Pirates"

by Charlotte Ahlin
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So you've just opened up a new indie bookshop (congratulations!) and you've decided to organize your shelves by genre. Sure, you might personally believe that book genres can be a limiting and somewhat outmoded way of unnecessarily dividing up our diverse world of literary brilliance... but sometimes a girl just wants to know where the romance section is. This should be easy enough. There are only like five or six book genres, right? But then you start to wonder if you should really shelve sci-fi and fantasy together, or if they each deserve their own section. And while you're on the subject, should cyberpunk get its own section within sci-fi? What about YA dystopia cyperpunk? What about alternate history YA dystopia cyperpunk? What about romantic alternate history YA dystopia cyperpunk? Where did all of these sub-genres come from, and how did they get so specific?!

I mean yes, at the end of the day it is pretty subjective where one sub-genre ends and another one begins. But there's no denying that we live in a beautiful new world of possibilities when it comes to finding a book genre that is perfectly tailored to your own weird reading tastes. Here are a few extremely specific sub-genres to explore, even if you've never heard of them before.


Sky Pirates

Sky pirates, my friends. Sky. Pirates. The Sky Pirates genre seems to be a descendant of Steampunk fiction, which in turn is an offshoot of Sci-Fi (basically, what if Victorian-era steam technology was way cooler and everyone had airships?). Throw in some good old fashioned pirates and plundering, but in the sky instead of the sea, and you've got a weird, wonderful genre full of buccaneers in blimps. Notable Sky Pirates books include Jules Verne's classic Robur the Conqueror, The Edge Chronicles by Paul Stewart, and, of course, Sky Pirates by Liesel Schwarz.


Cashier Memoirs

You've read Showbiz Memoirs, sure, but have you ever entered the glamorous and rarefied world of the Cashier Memoir? OK, so most of these books aren't all that glamorous. Rather, the sub-genre of the Cashier Memoir explores the frustration (and, at times, straight up cruelty) that most cashiers deal with on the daily. If you've ever worked as a cashier, these books are highly relatable. And if you haven't... you'd better check them out to make sure that you're not one of the nightmare customers. Cashier Memoirs include Checkout by Anna Sam, Memoir of a Cashier: Korean Americans, Racism, and Riots by Carol Park, and Letters From Your Friendly Cashier by Carrie Evans.



If Steampunk is a vision of neo-Victorian tech, and Cyberpunk is a hellscape of creepy virtual tech, then Solarpunk is a beautiful fantasy of environmentally friendly tech. That doesn't mean that all Solarpunk books are plotless manifestos about urban rooftop farming. But in Solarpunk stories, there is always at least a glimmer of hope that humanity might be able to use some of our wacky technology to actually help the Earth instead of destroying it. Examples of Solarpunk include the anthology Glass and Gardens edited by Sarena Ulibarri, the anthology Wings of Renewal edited by Claudie Arseneault and Brenda J. Pierson, and the novel New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson



Is it just me, or are there a lot of Counter-Lovecraft books coming out these days? By "Counter-Lovecraft" I mean, essentially, stories based on the writing of H.P. Lovecraft that H.P. Lovecraft would hate. See, Lovecraft's writing was hugely influential on the genres of Horror and Science Fiction. His tales of unimaginable evil and alienation are sometimes called Cosmic Horror, playing on humanity's insignificance in the cosmic scheme of things. Lovecraft was a very scary writer. He was also an Olympic level racist, sexist, homophobe, white supremacist, and generally awful human being. However, there's a current trend of taking Lovecraft's stories and using them to explore issues of oppression and real life alienation, subverting Lovecraft's bigotry with his very own tentacle monsters. Examples include Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff, The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle, and Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys.


Bangsian Fantasy

Most Bangsian stories start out like a joke: *insert famous person here* walks into Heaven. Or Hell. Or Limbo. Or some combination of the three. But rather than ending with a punchline, a Bangsian book will explore that person's adventures as they wander around the afterlife, usually (but not always) with a humorous slant. The genre is named for author John Kendrick Bangs, who loved a good story about a famous dead person. Examples include Heroes in Hell by Janet Morris, Chris Morris, and C.J. Cherryh, the Riverworld series by Philip José Farmer, A House-Boat on the Styx by John Kendrick Bangs, and Dante's Inferno.



Look, we all love a good comedy of manners. Jane Austen is still hugely popular, and most modern sitcoms bank on our common understanding of social norms and unwritten rules of conduct. But what if I told you that you could have a comedy of manners... with zombies? Mannerpunk is a genre that mashes up fantasy and manner-based comedy. Stories take place in an elaborate social structure, battling primarily with wits instead of monsters, even though the world around them might include magic and mayhem of every kind. Examples include Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith, and Soulless by Gail Carriger.


Mr. Darcy POV Books

I want to be clear here: I don't mean modern re-tellings of the novel Pride and Prejudice, or mash-up Mannerpunk stories that add zombie vampires to Pride and Prejudice, or even prequels or sequels to Pride and Prejudice. Those all exist in abundance, too. But what I'm talking about is the entire sub-genre of books that more or less tell Jane Austen's original story from Mr. Darcy's perspective. There are many of them. Some of the most popular include His Good Opinion: A Mr. Darcy Novel by Nancy Kelley, Mr. Darcy's Diary by Amanda Grange, Into Hertfordshire by Stanley Michael Hurd.