A Genre Map

I’ve got genres on the brain. I mentioned liking my genres jumbled when I reviewed Norse Code. I’m about to start reading Julian Comstock, which looks to be a literary, character driven, near future science fiction, post apocalyptic, steam punk, war novel. That’s a ton of sub-genres. I posted about noir and speculative ficiton and upon further thought that combination is even more pervasive than I’d considered. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around new weird. I’m a hard sci-fi fan that’s been reading more fantasy than sci-fi over the last year.

I’m not a fan of pigeonholing a book into a single genre. I prefer to drill down and see how many different ways I can label something, and thus, my work on TagShadow continues. In my pursuit to distill genres and the thousands of ways books get described into a simple visual, I picked up a copy of Visualizing Data. This is a very round about way to get at an insight I had (re purposed slightly from Chapter 1 of Visualizing Data) this morning.

Image by Jonathan Bennett

Map from Ragamuffin by Jonathan Bennett

Genres are like a subway map. They give us just enough information to get where we’re going, without confusing us with the intricacies of the streets and sky scrapers above our head ( or literary merit, social commentary or other complexities ). I illustrate this point with the map that was included in Ragamuffin. Drawn by Jonathan Bennett, this map distills a complex galaxy filled with countless intelligent species (and associated conflict) down to their stops on a wormhole network. Whether this map or the subway map of your favorite city, I think it illustrates my point. Labeling something SFF will tell you where to find it in a bookstore, but there’s a galaxy worth of nuance missing from that simple description.

I hope someone appreciates that I tried to get multiple meanings out of the post title.

~ by mentatjack on July 23, 2009.

3 Responses to “A Genre Map”

  1. […] Furth. And of course the characters and the original story are by Stephen King. My last post was slight rant about genres and how I enjoy seeing them mixed. King’s Dark Tower series is a post apocalyptic alternate […]

  2. Wow. This post led me to your tag project…. and wow. I am at a loss for a meaningful comment since math is not my forte, but should you ever get a working model going, l would be fascinated to see how it works.

    As for labeling SF/F, well, all lit is fluid, and consequently any form of graphical representation would be quickly outdated and highly subjective. Does Atwood write SF is a good example.

    How do you plan on dealing with erroneous information in your project, given the large amount of inaccurate information on the big W?

    • Well, I’m trying to adhere to Ben Fry’s guiding principal, which involves the following when dealing with a visual model of data:


      Basically, I’ll be relying on user input and moderation for acquire and filter … I’m working on algorithms for parsing and mining and have a good idea what the representation will be. Hopefully as people interact, I’ll be able to refine. Apologies if that’s vague. I’ll be able to give more detail as the implementation solidifies. I’ll be sure to let you know when I’ve got a way for you to help on the input side of things!

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