04 June 2015

Science Fiction Fantasy Mysteries

I just got my copy of the July/August Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, and (no surprise, folks!) SleuthSayers is well represented:
  • Robert Lopresti's "Shooting at Firemen" just knocked me out. I already knew to look out for it from Rob's blog here (http://www.sleuthsayers.org/2015/05/telling-fiction-from-fact.html) and it's a wonderful story about riots, politics, and race.
  • David Edgerly Gates gave us "In For a Penny", and what the cover says is true: The graft is greener at the border.
  • Janice Law's "A Domestic Incident" - besides being a harrowing account of betrayal on almost every level - raises the question, "what would/should I have done?"

Congratulations to all!

Another great story is Donald Moffitt's "A Handful of Clay". Sadly, Mr. Moffitt died just before publication. He was a multiple science fiction/fantasy/ and mystery writer. I love this story, both as an historian (setting a story in ancient Sumeria - 4500 years ago - and getting the details right without bogging down in them while keeping the universal humanity of the past, now that's an achievement) and as a mystery buff (love the plot). And it also got me thinking about the way so many people have shifted between sci-fi / fantasy/ mystery / horror without missing a beat.

First, some BSP:

Yes, that's me on the left, and later on the right, at the reception and panel discussion for the Startling Sci-Fi anthology that was held on May 16th in Greenwich Village, NYC, NY. Yes, I got my 15 minutes of fame. We answered questions, posed for photos, and signed books. We signed a lot of books. (Huzzah!)

It's a darned good anthology, if I do say so myself: My story, "Embraced" is a black comedy of lust, obsession, war, prophecy, and resistance during the apocalypse, as told by Yuri Dzhankov, who is, unfortunately, having the time of his life. Jhon Sanchez' "The Japanese Rice Cooker" may be all things to all men (and women), but is it the right thing? And Daniel Gooding's "Cro-Magnum Xix" is one of the best takes I've ever read on poor planning in the search for eternal life. And many, many more.

Copies can be purchased here.

This isn't the first of my sci-fi/fantasy work. "Dark Hollow" appeared in the Fall, 2000 issue of Space and Time, and its semi-sequel, "At the End of the Path", in the July/August 2002 issue of AHMM. And I've written a few others that have showed up in various places.

But here's the thing, innumerable authors, far better than I, have done the same thing. To wit:

a/k/a Bladerunner
  • First off, I would argue that every ghost story is also a mystery story - why are they there? Why won't they leave? Why won't they leave us alone? What do they want? Etc.
  • "Dracula", in case you've never noticed, is a mystery as well as a horror/fantasy story. It's not my fault that Jonathan Harker is a lousy detective, at least compared with Van Helsing.
  • Isaac Asimov - who wrote about freaking everything (says the owner of his "Annotated Gulliver's Travels", which I highly recommend) wrote 66 stories about the "Black Widowers", mostly published in EQMM. There's also The Caves of Steel, introducing policeman Elijah Baley and robot detective R. Daneel Olivaw.
  • Ray Bradbury's work switches regularly between fantasy (he himself claimed he never wrote science fiction) and mystery/horror (Something Wicked This Way Comes).
  • Len Deighton's alternate history novel SS-GB, about a British homicide detective in Nazi-occupied London.
  • J. K. Rowling's Cormoran Strike mysteries (which, to be honest, I have not yet read...) The Cuckoo's Calling and The Silkworm.
  • Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. (Delicious!)
  • Stephen King has been writing horror/sci-fi/fantasy/and now Westerns, so you figure it out.
  • Our own Melissa Yi recently posted about being a finalist for the Roswell Award for Short Science Fiction http://www.sleuthsayers.org/2015/04/the-writers-dilemma-risk-vs-reward.html
  • and Melissa just posted about some modern mash-ups of mysteries and werewolves (and other creatures) in Monday's post: http://www.sleuthsayers.org/2015/06/would-you-like-little-werewolf-in-your.html
  • And my personal favorite: that unique, beautiful, crazy, hilarious, and haunting mash-up of history, mystery, fantasy, and Chinese myth, Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds: A Novel of an Ancient China That Never Was. I read it in one gulp at a library and went out and bought it that afternoon. (Can you tell that I used to teach Chinese history?)
    • Best quote: 'Immortality is only for the gods,' he whispered. 'I wonder how they can stand it.'
    • Seriously - go buy it, read it, just revel in it. An amazing work…
Anyway, I think this sort of switching between genres is pretty normal and fairly common. When you're killing people [fictionally] for a living, sometimes you need a wider horizon, or a shift in time, or a shift in dimensions in order to get the point sharpened, the point across, the point driven in.

And really, given the basic universals of pride, anger, envy, greed, lust, gluttony, and even sloth - and yes, I remember reading, long ago, a sci-fi story about murder by betrayal being done because of sloth - Anyway, given these universals it just doesn't matter about ages, universes, or much of anything else. It can always work. Anything is possible. Or at least wildly improbable.

And keep writing.


  1. Thanks for the kind words.

    Good piece. I enjoyed all the stories in this issue of AHMM and I am sorry to hear about the death of Mr Moffitt. I enjoy how his stories demonstrate the importance of that wild new technology, writing! I am also a great fan of Douglas Adams.

    I have a fantasy/crime related story coming out this fall. I think the details will be announced today!

  2. Congratulations to all the Sleuthsayers in this issue of AHMM.

    In the past, I think crossovers were more frowned on. But today they seem to be accepted. Which can only be a good thing.

  3. Glad you enjoyed A Domestic Incident.
    And that you are also a Ray Bradbury fan.
    A good post.

  4. Great piece, Eve, and congrats on your successful literary shape-shifting! I agree with you about genre-crossing; it's almost a natural progression. Let me toss in Richard Matheson for his great "I Am Legend", a wonderful, and early, mix of sci-fi and horror. My latest outings in EQMM dip their toes in these same waters: "Her Terrible Beauty" mixes historical mystery with a touch of magic realism, and this month's "The Walking Path" blends a little horror in with its central mystery.

    Congrats to our fellow SleuthSayers on this issue of AHMM!

  5. Richard Matheson was great.

  6. Congratulations to Janice, David, and Rob!

    Eve, science fiction was my first, early discovered love, the first adult novel I read. I haven’t attempted to publish anything in SF, but I do love the genre.

    Speaking of… It’s difficult to make a science fiction movie I can’t find a way to like, but Disney has managed. Tomorrowland looks like a movie filmed by committee. The two kids in the film are great, especially the little girl Athena, but Clooney is terribly miscast and gets into gratuitous fisticuffs with House. Some plot points make little sense, it has too much ‘Disney culture’ (wink, wink to those ‘in the know’), and the movie squanders audience goodwill. The best part is the 1964 World’s Fair, which lasts only moments on the screen. Consider it a lesson how not to do science fiction.

  7. In my writing class, a man decided to write science fiction, which was turning out awful. He confessed he didn’t like sci-fi but considered it the easiest genre to write– just plug in space monsters and stuff. Right.

  8. Leigh, I guess he confused writing science-fiction with those old pulp-fiction illustrations of a large-breasted chick being rescued from bug-eyed monsters by a guy in a space suit. And even that would have been hard to actually draw...


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