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!
ABOUT 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: http://www.kuchinskas.com.
Chat with Susan on Twitter (https://twitter.com/susankuchinskas) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ChimeraCatalyst). Follow her on Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Susan-Kuchinskas/e/B001K8JAZ2/) or Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/605550.Susan_Kuchinskas).