Maureen McHugh has an excellent post over at Eat Our Brains on discussing Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union where she talks about “Not Science Fiction“, the kind of science fiction that some classify as anything but. Maureen’s book Nekropolis is described as a literary novel in sci-fi clothing, so she knows what she’s talking about.
Not Science Fiction is a genre of books which are declared Not Science Fiction, usually by the publishers and the critics. There are dozens of reasons why a book that takes place in the future (The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood) or describes a fantastical break with space and time (The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger or Memoirs of a Survivor by Doris Lessing) or even a journey to another planet in a spaceship where the hero meets aliens (The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell) are declared Not Science Fiction and they range from the legitimate to the pernicious. But as a person navigating a bookstore, I find it a useful category. Certain types of books are never Not Science Fiction. So I know that if I go wandering off to find my title in the general fiction stacks, there are certain characteristics of genre it won’t have. (They aren’t usually series, they tend not to emphasize the science, and they tend to avoid certain conventions like Galactic Empires-tropes I don’t dislike but that I don’t like all that well when it comes right down to it.)
Other Not Science Fiction Books: