Mystery Readers Only

Guest Post: Mixing It Up: Why I Love Mysteries that Mash Genres Together

I think the greatest pleasure in reading genre fiction comes from the tension between fulfilling my expectations for the genre and surprising me by breaking them in some way.

Singularity Syndrome by Susan Kuchinskas

By Susan Kuchinskas

I think the greatest pleasure in reading genre fiction comes from the tension between fulfilling my expectations for the genre and surprising me by breaking them in some way. I love mysteries for the puzzles and the assurance that justice will probably be served. I love science fiction for its trips away from reality—and I love nothing better than a book that smushes together science fiction and crime.

I’m also guilty of perpetrating this mashup. For my two novels, Chimera Catalyst and Singularity Syndrome, I chose the detective/science fiction hybrid for two reasons. First, I’ve covered technology and the Silicon Valley scene as a reporter for many years, and I wanted to take off from all the skewed attitudes and over-the-top behavior I’d witnessed. (For example, in Singularity, a tech titan wants to force humanity to serve an artificial intelligence; in real life, a tech guru founded a church to worship AI. I kid you not.) Extrapolating what could happen from current breakthroughs is part of the fun of science fiction.

Second, I suck at plotting. I mean, really. I can spend hours flummoxed by the question of what should happen next. So, the conventions of classic detective stories provide a ready-made structure: A crime happens, and the detective visits scenes, questions people and, eventually, gets somewhere. Voila, plot.

Shaking up a mystery with science fiction can provide a fresher milieu. Beth Barany told Mystery Readers Only she sets her mysteries in a hotel/casino on a space station because it would be an exotic location.

A science fiction element can also up the stakes. Charlie Huston based Sleepless on a real malady. In his novel, a policeman works to uncover a conspiracy while everyone in the world—including his wife and daughter—dies around him.

Adding in romance—or even sex—is another way to up the stakes and add some heat to a mystery plot. Heather Haven’s Christmas Trifle marries romance to a cozy mystery. She says she wanted to write a book about a couple’s journey into becoming better people together. “But rather than be preachy (good grief, so not my style), I chose to use food, humor, warmth, and, of course, a dastardly villain,” she says. “Love makes the world go round. Throw in a good murder, and you have a win-win situation.

While many of us are faithful to a genre, few of us cannot be lured by a great mashup. Just look at Outlander—historical fiction with a glorious brew of suspense, romance, horror and time travel. Romance and horror? Jane Eyre and Zombies.

I could go on, but instead, I’m going to start reading This Body’s Not Big Enough for Both of Us, described as, “a mind-blowing, gender-bending, genre-smashing romp through the entire pantheon of action and noir. It is also a bold, tautly crafted novel about family, being weird, and claiming your place in your own crazy story.”

Now, that’s a juicy mix!


Susan Kuchinskas

Susan Kuchinskas’ novels and short stories travel through crime, fantasy, science fiction and erotica, often in the same piece. When she’s not hacking words, Susan digs in her organic garden, stares at her beehive, makes pottery and walks her dog through El Cerrito. Find out more about her here:

Chimera Catalyst and Singularity Syndrome are available in paperback or Kindle formats. 

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By Thonie Hevron

Mysteries to keep you reading through the night.

16 replies on “Guest Post: Mixing It Up: Why I Love Mysteries that Mash Genres Together”

Susan, you definitely have the background to do the sci-fi. I’m always mashing genres but I’d never try sci-fi. I don’t have that type of a brain. I only watched Star Trek as a kid because my older brother watched it so if I wanted to watch tv at that time, that’s what I had to watch. My kids watched Star Wars but I didn’t care for it. I did like the show with Nathan Fillion. I do like the idea of being able to make things up. Unique methods of murder and unique forensic techniques without having to research so much. Your books sound interesting even though I’m not a sci-fi person.

I hadn’t thought about cross-genres before, but when I attempted to write a romantic suspense novel, I got a snootful of it is. Combining mystery and romance is totally different than writing only one or the other. Another thing I learned, too, is it made me more sensitive to what I was writing in any genre. I’ve carried over what I learned from penning Christmas Trifle to my other work and I think I’m the better writer for it.

Question…these ideas about cross genre are intriguing. But I wonder– though I am not fully familiar with the genre, would Christian romances and mysteries be considered “Cross genre?” (Maybe in both ways that writing category can be thought of now?) Oh goodness, did I create a new way to use the term? Several of my mystery novels and stories do include a protagonist who, on occasion, and in trying circumstances, prays. Anyway, thanks for the post and help in introducing new ideas. I am eager to read and see what this is like.

Unlike my first two novels, I’m writing a science fiction detective story. So much fun to create a world without restrictions! My grandson is a beta reader. Looking forward to reading your books.-Lynn

Yes, very interesting, and in my few experiences with Science Fiction (well, if watching Star Wars counts…) I thought there was a mystery tone to it. I admire anyone who can write this. I am thinking it takes at least some scientific knowledge, no matter how imaginative? Another surprise I have seen commented on re: my own short story book (“Solving Peculiar Crimes” ), to be released this fall, is the unexpected ending/resolution. Initially I wasn’t aware what I was doing. It just seemed to happen! We move in a world of imaginings, don’t we. Fun!

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