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Uncomfortable Crossovers
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Those of you who read/write both sf and mysteries might be interested in the newest issue of Jan Stinson's zine, Peregrine Nations 5.4, in which sf writer Lyn McConchie (Witchworld Chronicles, with Andre Norton) talks about crossovers between SF/F and whodunnits, particularly Donna Andrews' detective, Artificial Intelligence Personality, Turing Hopper, and J.D. Robb's series featuring police detectives Eve Dallas and Roarke.

Lyn decides that Andrews' series would best be classified as SF while Robb's, although it takes place in the 2050s, is basically a mystery. She perfers the latter, in part because it strikes her as being more clearly positioned within its genre. Lyn estimates that the Turing Hopper books are about 60/40 SF and feels such a close split tends not to work:

If the proportion of crossover is right, it's a very good read, if not, then it tends to sag badly in the book, and more so in a series. From what I've seen and read over the years, if you cross two genres, it should be on a high/low percentage, not on something closer to equal. On the other hand if you cross three genres fairly equally you can get an very workable book or series. Nancy Atherton's Aunt Dimity series crosses supernatural with whodunnit and romance in almost equal thirds and is one example of this triplegenre effort

It's an interesting idea. I'm not sure whether I agree or not. I suppose Mary and I do try to make sure that the history in our Byzantine period books doesn't overwhelm the mystery. They are clearly whodunnits and not historical sagas.

There's no chance of us stumbling over into SF, although we do enjoy flirting with the fantastic on occasion. The soothsayer, Ahaseurus, for instance, apparantly performed some remarkable feats in the first and fifth book of the series. Since people in the sixth century firmly believed in magic, demons and the like, it seems to us historically accurate to allow for a supernatural explanation for some things. Nothing happens that a twentieth century sceptic couldn't explain away, but we don't go out of our way to knock down the possibilities with arguments no one would've used during John's era.

If we wrote, say, techno thrillers, we'd face bigger problems. Where's the line between a techno thriller and SF? Is there one?

It's true, we used automatons in one book. Was it a Byzantine techno thriller?

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