Genre in the Mainstream

Genre in the Mainstream: 5 Literary/SF “Crossover” Books to Watch For in 2012

Literary offerings that dabble in the fantastic will continue into 2012 and beyond, with this January seeing the release of two such books, with more confirmed for later in the year. As part of the ongoing conversation on genre crossover, here’s a very brief look ahead into what’s coming in 2012. Genre in the Mainstream will likely be covering all of these books, but I’d like you, the readers, to have some titles in the backs of your minds as you try to fulfill that all-important New Year’s resolution: “I need to read some new books…”

The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus (Random House)

Ben Marcus is no stranger to experimental fiction. A previous book, Notable American Women,  incorporates meta-fiction as well as a kind of alternate history framework. Now, his impending release The Flame Alphabet seems to evoke shades of Jose Saramago’s Blindness in presenting an unlikely, but terrifying epidemic. In this near-future, adults become afflicted with a bizarre illness caused by the sounds made by children’s voices. Words are the weapons here. I have a feeling this will be one of those books everyone will be talking about this year, so get ready to read it soon. The  Flame Alphabet releases on January 17th. Also, if you missed it in our Morning Roundups, watch the awesome book trailer at the top of the post.

Blueprints of the Afterlife by Ryan Boudinot (Grove Press/Black Cat)

Set in a post-apocalyptic future, this novel focuses on “the age of fucked-up shit.” Early buzz is comparing author Ryan Boudinot as a cross between Vonnegut and Palahniuk. There may also be some Charlie Kauffman leanings in this one, as a full-scale replica of Manhattan (reminiscent of Synecdoche, NY) plays a role. This book was originally slated for release in late December 2011, but it looks like it just came out in early January. Because it’s an independent publisher, this one might be trickier to find, but it sounds like it’s worth it. Look for Genre in the Mainstream to cover it early next month.

Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel (Random House YA)

Indicative of what everyone already knows: that YA is more friendly to genre than any other literary designation, this first book in a trilogy is set to explore a magically infused version of The Dust Bowl. Landing in the midst of the Depression, with Prohibition raging and entire storms of dust wiping out crops in one swoop, this time in American history feels like a post-apocalyptic event for those who experienced it. Which makes it a ripe setting for a story with magical realism or out-and-out magic. Though it’s YA, and may contain some predictable structuring to accommodate a trilogy, the choice of historical venue seems strong and literary. Dust Girl releases on June 26 of this year.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker  (Random House)

This is the debut novel to watch this year. In a near future, the entire rotation of the Earth slows down. Told from the perspective of one family, specifically, a young girl; this book sounds a little too good to be true. I’ve seen early chapters of this one and I have to say, both the prose and the concept are totally gripping. From what I can tell, Karen Thompson Walker might end of being a mash-up of Karen Russell and Margaret Atwood. This one should definitely not be missed, and Genre in the Mainstream will be talking about it when it comes out on the 26th of June!

Suddenly, a Knock on the Door by Etgar Keret (FSG)

Etgar Keret

I’ve discussed Keret’s previous work in this column before, and I interviewed him for Clarkesworld a few years ago. In terms of weird, snappy short fiction, Keret may be one of the best living writers. Previous collections have featured talking fish, super-powers, and entire lives lived well after death. True, those folks over in Israel have had this one for a couple years, and the English translation is just now coming out,  but Keret works so closely with his translators, and it’s often shocking the stuff isn’t originally written in English. This is the kind of author who will be all over NPR, and when you notice that, remind yourself this: he loves science fiction and science fiction fans should love him. This short story collection comes out March 27th.

And now dear readers, I ask you to scoop me! Do you know of any literary novels or short story collections coming out this year that might have SF leanings? Comment below!

Ryan Britt is the staff writer for


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