I suspect that everyone who loves books has a special fondness for some very specific type of story, of which there may or may not be enough in existence to form a sub-genre. (If it's Regency comedy-romances or cozy mysteries with elderly protagonists, you're in luck.) Especially if there's not all that many of them out there, aficionados will buy every one they see, immediately, and enjoy it even if it's not actually very good.

Here are my favorite weird little sub-genres:

1. Troubled teenagers in mental hospitals, group homes, experimental shape-up-or-ship-out boot camps, etc.

I will also read about troubled children in institutions, like Torey Hayden's true stories of special ed. This genre has huge appeal to me. I like ensemble stories full of quirky characters, and ensemble stories in which each character has not only quirks, but lovingly described individual mental illnesses or horrific traumas are the quintessence of that sort of thing, as far as I'm concerned. There's tragedy, dark comedy, therapy scenes (I love therapy scenes), and generally an uplifting ending where the main character, at least, manages to overcome her interior and exterior problems and rejoin the rest of the world. I identify with the teens, of course, but there's also a bit of wish-fulfillment in the idea that they get to work out their problems together and surrounded by adults who both know about their problems and care about them. (The horrendous, uncaring instirtution is an entirely different genre.)

In this genre, my favorites are probably John Marsden's Checkers and Susannah Kaysen's memoir Girl, Interrupted. Patricia McCormack's Cut was OK but not great, and I didn't much like Brent Huntzinger's melodramatic Last Chance Texaco.

2. Mutant kids. Trapped in a world that fears and hates them! Why yes, I did not fit in as a child or teenager. X-Men, Alexander Key, Andre Norton, Tamora Pierce (unusual magic substituting for mutant powers), Brian K. Vaughan, John Wyndham... this is actually a pretty big genre. The requirements are an ensemble cast of young people, each with their own special power, and they are very very lonely and misunderstood until they find each other. And no, I don't like Slan. Can't take the writing style.

3. Backstage dramas. More ensemble casts! More talented people who are misunderstood (or in some cases, understood all too well.) And lots of comedy! Bonus points for the show reflecting the lives of the characters. A lot of the best of these are movies or plays, but there are some good books with this plot. Robertson Davies' The Lyre of Orpheus and Tempest-Tost come to mind.

Recommendations for backstage dramas, troubled institutionalized teens, mutant kids, or troubled mutant institutionalized teens who put on a show books that I might have missed?

And what are your favorite weird little sub-genres?

From: [identity profile] james-nicoll.livejournal.com

Plausible mid-term interplanetary adventure, published slightly less frequently than HOT ETRUSCAN BABES.

Note: if there are cables connecting the inner planets, it's not plausible.

Big Hunger* Galaxies: civilized galaxies with histories going back a long time, of detail suitable to something with hundreds of trillions of worlds in it.

Note: "And then the humans conquered the galaxy and made everything the same all over" don't count.

Related: Extreme Archaeology. "Let's go dig in the City of Lost Archaeologists to see what we can find! Also, let me crack open this jar labelled "antimatter". I think it's like antipasto."

Related: a world that has hosted hundreds of advanced civilizations over the course of a billion years or so.

* From a Walter Miller story. It's not a Malthusian reference.

Percolation theory settings. I can't off-hand think of an example.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

I love Extreme Archaeology too. That's why I was so excited by the end of Anne McCaffrey's The White Dragon, not realizing that it heralded the end of the series in its form as something I would want to read.

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From: [personal profile] larryhammer

I'd read about Hot Etruscan Babes. Bonus points for romantic comedy, but hey, I'd take porn or thriller if it was done well.


From: [identity profile] literaticat.livejournal.com

I fucking LOVE LOVE LOVE backstage too, with drama, comedy, hilarious misunderstandings, jaded vaudevillians, debonair financiers, leggy showgirls, scrappy idealists, some romance a +. In the case of films, I prefer them to be musicals in the vein of Summer Stock, Kiss Me, Kate, &c. Luckily for me, there are no shortage of films like that, but there are not nearly enough books. (See my WIP, ahem).

I like comedic English Country Manor books, in the vein of Wodehouse & Beerbohm. (This also extends to more historical ones, a la Austen and the film "Impromptu"). Gypsies or rich people disguised as gypsies a +.

I LOVE kids books with big funny families, kids in show business, orphans, boarding school, and especially kids during WWI OR THE BLITZ (Nesbit, Burnett, Streatfeild, Lewis, etc etc). Basically I like groups of kids having to make their own world because their parents are too busy/crazy/distant/at war/freaked out/poor/dead to handle them, so they have to band together and do for themselves. (Which is also a theme in HOW I LIVE NOW, which is why it was one of my faves last year).

From: [identity profile] tharain.livejournal.com

OOOOOOOOOOH! Wodehouse! EF Benson's Lucia novels are faves, too.

Have you ever read The Affair of the Bloodstained Egg Cozy? mid 80's or so English Country House Murder Mystery. Totally over the top.

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From: [identity profile] apintrix.livejournal.com

Troubled teenagers in mental hospitals! I remember being affected by "I Never Promised You A Rose Garden", but the ending wasn't very uplifting.

For Mutant Kids-- a guilty pleasure was G. Clifton Wisler's "The Mind Trap", 3rd in a YA series about a boy who discovers he's a telepathic alien. (Oops.) This one also features him-- in an institution! (Although not a mental one.) I had a big telepath fetish, read everything I could. Probably a better mutant-kid one in that subgenre was "The Girl With Silver Eyes", which was a bit of a fable for thalidymide. But with telepathy. It's by Willo Davis Roberts, who wrote quite a bit of Abused Kid stuff, if I recall correctly.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

The Girl with the Silver Eyes is one of my favorite books ever. I always wished she'd write a sequel.

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From: [identity profile] tharain.livejournal.com

Backstage dramas and murder mysteries are a favorite of mine, also. I've been an amateur actor for since second grade (mumble mumble years ago), and so thoroughly enjoy reading books that take place in that milieu. Unfortunately, they are kind of few and far between. Most are (ahem) cozies, and are way lowbrow, but then, I have no shame in my reading materials. I've recently found a series that starts with the murder of an evil dance diva in a dance troup, with the protagonist being a retired dancer, drawn back into the world of touring companies by an old friend. It looks like fun. One of my favorites of this genre is Big Kiss : One Actor's Desperate Attempt to Claw His Way to the Middle, which was an absolute hoot in the style David Sedaris made popular.

My Guilty Pleasure Sub Genre: Cozy Murder Mysteries. Brain candy.

From: [identity profile] pameladean.livejournal.com

I adore backstage drama. I'm writing one, but its first publisher rejected it. In that vein, I frankly can't believe that you have not read John M. Ford's Casting Fortune, but it sure is one.

I have a terrible weakness for Young Writer books -- A Room Made of Windows, Montgomery's Emily books, even the bits of L'Engle that deal with aspiring poets or writers. I Capture the Castle fits in that genre for me, though it fits in a lot of others too.

I like books that deal intelligently and integrally with literary matters. This includes Cross's The James Joyce Murder.


From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

I re-read Casting Fortune a couple days ago, which may have been what prompted this post. Although my favorite Ford backstage dramas (of sorts) are How Much for Just the Planet? and "Erase/Record/Play."

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From: [identity profile] james-nicoll.livejournal.com - Date: 2005-10-04 05:11 pm (UTC) - Expand

From: [identity profile] copperwise.livejournal.com

Mutant kids is one of mine too. And fairy tale retellings from the perspective of the villain. And post apocalyptic stuff, I'm very big on that, as long as it has lots of juicy day to day detail and not a lot of political wank.

From: [identity profile] ide-cyan.livejournal.com

Have you seen the movie Ginger Snaps II: Unleashed? (Well, you'd have to watch Ginger Snaps first, natch.)

From: [identity profile] james-nicoll.livejournal.com

I am not sure "like" is quite the right word but I seem to have seen a lot of movies about second generation Indian-Canadians dealing with the conflict between tradition and their personal goals.

Oddly, none of the ones that come to mind have female protagonists. You'd figure random chance would make it 50/50 M/F.

From: [identity profile] desayunoencama.livejournal.com

Hmmm, the Canadian-Indian (or adjacent) authors I can think of offhand (Ashok Mathur, Shyam Selviduri) are male, too.

Although one gets subcontinent-[other Anglo culture] second generation narratives, in both film (BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM) or fiction (Mary Anne Mohnraj's recent linked story collection BODIES IN MOTION).

From: [identity profile] riemannia.livejournal.com

I'll have to think about strange sub-genres I love. But two of my favorite books from my teen years were Wyndham's The Chrysalids and Phyllis Gottlieb's Sunburst -- the latter has a Canadian award named after it so it was big here anyway. Definitely in the mutant kids subgenre.

From: [identity profile] loligo.livejournal.com

Re: sub-genre #1: Oh! The Grounding of Group Six! I haven't thought about that book in YEARS. I'm surprised I even remember the title. But I loved it -- it's about five troubled kids from wealthy families who think they're getting sent to yet another "we'll help your troubled special kids" boarding school, but it's really a plot by their parents to get them all murdered. Much growth and learning ensues as the kids have to work together to save their lives.

My favorite sub-genre: Society Tells Us We Shouldn't Love Each Other. I am a total sucker for romances where the two protagonists fall in love despite cultural barriers of class, race, age, gender, whatever -- and the more angst they suffer in surmounting their own internalized prejudices, the better. (Hence my love of slash, as well as heroes falling in love with their mortal enemies.)

From: [identity profile] lesser-panda.livejournal.com

Julian F. Thompson is practically a subgenre all on his own! I was going to say Group Six also, and his other one about the two kids who are sent off to survivalist camp by their well-meaning parents, and discover that the camp is run by a militia: big comedic conspiracies, with a small group of right-thinking misfits who have to run from/defeat evil adults. Like Wargames or even Bless the Beasts and the Children (Glendon Swarthout is another of my favorites). And moving into the college years, Neal Stephenson's (yes, THAT Neal Stephenson) first novel, The Big U. I love that kind of thing.

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From: [identity profile] rushthatspeaks.livejournal.com

My favorite Mutant Kids books are probably the trilogy by Wilanne Schneider Belden, Mind-Call, Mind-Hold and Mind-Find. They're dead out of print but well worth tracking down if you haven't read them, especially the last two-- Mind-Call is essentially ringing the changes on Emergence (please tell me you've read Emergence), but the other two are quite unique, particularly Mind-Hold, in which the protagonist and his excessively telekinetic and bratty younger sister are held prisoner in a post-earthquake Southern California by mad karate-master fundamentalist cultists. (Hm. Actually, now that I think on it, that one reminds me in some ways of your memoir, especially the way in which the protagonist is surrounded by true-believing types who are certain of what is in his best interest and are dead wrong.) Mind-Find is pure wish-fulfillment candy for adolescent girls who are fairly certain they are smarter than the people around them and would like a new family to acknowledge that: a book that taught me a fair bit about living well with other people, and choosing comfort.

I think my favorite small sub-genres are memoirs by people with multiple personalities (there are actually lots of them), well-written books involving a Secret History Of Western Civilization Which Has Been Going On Under Everyone's Noses For Centuries (think Umberto Eco, not that idiot who wrote The Da Vinci Code and damn near destroyed the genre), feminist utopias, and late-Gothic fantasy and horror involving blood'n'thunder'n'voices in the attic and Lovecraftian nightmare forces Beyond Our Ken.

Am now trying to picture a book which combines all those genres, and am not sure whether to take notes or just let my head quietly explode.

... taking notes. That may have started something. Thank you.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

I am now going to comb the ends of the Earth to find those books. Mutant kids, post-apocalypse, cultists, and karate: four of my favorite things in one package!

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From: [identity profile] james-nicoll.livejournal.com

Oh! Oh! Metamorphic humans, technologically given the ability to rebuild themselves to live in various non-terrestrial environments. Not building kids-to-order but jump-inna-vat, come out able to breath methane sort of thing.

I blame Karl Hansen. Don't look up his books. I will be embarrassed. Mind you, I read Varley's Eight Worlds first.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (Default)

From: [personal profile] larryhammer

1. Science fiction epics. As in epic poems. Which aside from the two by Frederick Jackson, there's not much worth the name.

2. Utopic/ecotopic romantic comedies. Which again is a very small genre -- aside from Pacific Edge, you kinda half to chip at the edges to get The Dispossessed and Eye of the Heron into the heptagonal hole.

3. Love dodecagons. A la Ranma 1/2. With only minor stretching, you can call A Midsummer Night's Dream a love octagon.

larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (Default)

From: [personal profile] larryhammer

4. Silly chivalric romances. Orlando Furioso and anything comparable. As opposed to the earnest type.


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From: [identity profile] ghosthorse [deadjournal.com] (from livejournal.com)

Holes, of course. Zenna Henderson's The People books. Gib Rides Home by Zilpha Keatley Snyder.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

I love the first two, and will look for the third. I had thought that was a realistic Western, for some reason.

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From: [identity profile] ghosthorse [deadjournal.com] (from livejournal.com)

Oh, and Octavia Butler's Mind of My Mind and Patternmaster. (Only some of the characters were mutant teens, but enough to work for me.)

From: [identity profile] staplershurt.livejournal.com

Recommendations for backstage dramas, troubled institutionalized teens, mutant kids, or troubled mutant institutionalized teens who put on a show books that I might have missed?

Troubled institutionalized teens is one of my biggies, and I would recommend Peter Hoeg's Borderliners if you haven't read it already. It's not a perfect book -- there is a section towards the end that pretty much collapses under its own weight -- but it's interesting and very well-written in places. And it hits, and in some cases expands upon, all of the right Troubled Institutionalized Teens Novel notes: formation of the surrogate family, pathology of the surrogate family, evil authority figures, ominous conspiracy involving the institution, and so forth.

From: [identity profile] desayunoencama.livejournal.com

Well, there's David Lubar's HIDDEN TALENTS, a YA which combines mutant kids with institutionalized kids.


I really liked it.
ext_7025: (Default)

From: [identity profile] buymeaclue.livejournal.com

1. Underground cities. I like dark-and-strange places in general. I like liminal places in general. Both in one place!

2. Horse stories. Many many horse stories drive me bonkers, honestly. But I still _want_ to like them, and still keep reading them in hopes of finding the non-bonkers-driving ones.

3. Histories of the present. Jack McDevitt's Eternity Road is my favorite of this weird little sub-genre. Part of what I like about stories in general is that they let/make me look at the world in ways I haven't looked at it on my own, and these stories in particular are a from-the-outside-in that strikes me as especially cool (done right!).
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From: [personal profile] the_rck

Have you read Ngaio Marsh's Light Thickens? I don't care much for her mysteries as a rule (or often for mysteries in general), but I loved the slow building of the production. I also liked her Killer Dolphin because of the theater connection. (My mother loves reading mysteries, so I've sampled many mysteries when desperate for something to read while visiting her.)

My own guilty pleasure genre isn't exactly a genre. I like reading books that use places and/or activities I know well as a setting. Susan Holtzer's mysteries use my home town, for example, and I love them. I have a huge weakness for books that involve libraries if there're details of library operations (cataloging, reference, preservation, acquisitions, etc.). Marian Babson wrote a book that I love called Murder on a Mystery Tour that I enjoyed a lot because it involved a role playing game of sorts (It might also qualify as a backstage story since the game involves actors playing out a murder mystery over the course of a weekend for a bunch of tourists to try to solve).

From: [identity profile] naomikritzer.livejournal.com

Oh oh oh, "Drama" by Raina Telgemeier: http://www.amazon.com/Drama-Raina-Telgemeier/dp/0545326990

It's a graphic novel, which I bought for my younger daughter (a huge graphic novel fan) and then read myself. It's delightful. And I saw her set something up....only to have her truly surprise me with how it played out. Read it!

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

Thank you!

Naomi, you are cracking me up. I have to say, I'm enjoying this trip down memory lane.

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From: [identity profile] floriatosca.livejournal.com

"Brainbent" on tumblr and AO3 is a multimedia fanworks project (unfortunately on hiatus at present) about a bunch of quirky troubled institutionalized young adults. It's also technically Homestuck fanfiction, but it's a from-the-ground-up AU so I don't think you need to have read the webcomic to understand what's going on.

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