One of these things is not like the other

Nothing bothers me more than finding a book grouped with titles of obviously different genres. I’m not talking about the books on someone’s bookshelf, but rather in places where people should now better: popular websites, newspapers and bookstores.

While doing some research, I was looking through a list of some of the most popular science fiction books. The number four title on “The Best Sellers in Science Fiction” on (and it’s been there for a while) was George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. Wait, what?

Since when is A Game of Thrones, or any part of A Song of Ice and Fire, for that matter, science fiction? Where is the futuristic science, the technology or any other aspect that could make that book fit into the science fiction genre?

Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire has been labeled one of the quintessential pieces of modern high fantasy, so it’s shocking to me that there seems to be so much confusion regarding the genre of the book, especially considering how popular it is.

Whoever decided that A Game of Thrones should be categorized as science fiction has clearly never read the book. The novel, which heavily mirrors the feudal system of medieval Europe, is quite obviously a work of fantasy. Ironically enough, A Game of Thrones is also listed as number three in “The Best Sellers in Fantasy”.

Practically any reader knows that science fiction and fantasy are not the same thing by any means. However, for some reason, many sources are quick to categorize them the same way. If you were to enter a bookstore in search of either of these genres, a sales associate would likely send you off in same direction.

It’s true that science fiction and fantasy share many similarities in themes and writing styles. Both genres exist in invented or futuristic settings, which can be more conducive to writing about the human condition. Also, science fiction is a newer genre than fantasy, and may have evolved from earlier forms of fantasy. For this reason, the differences between the two genres have not been considered very significant.

However, nowadays the differences between science fiction and fantasy are increasing. There should be no excuse as to why bookstores are so behind in the times. Science fiction and fantasy have evolved into complex genres and deserve to be marketed and talked about separately.

These two genres are working to further differentiate one from the other, so it only seems reasonable that we should be further differentiating them as well.

Fantasy is known for its use of magic and other unnatural phenomenon as primary elements in its plot. Science fiction, on the other hand, deals with imaginative content rooted in futuristic science and technology. Yet despite the clear guidelines that come with each genre, the genres of many new books are muddled. Rather than making the decision to categorize a new title within the one genre that suits it best, people are much more likely to categorize it under several different genres to cover all of their bases.

But why? That doesn’t make any sense. Why should A Game of Thrones, an excellent fantasy novel in its own right, affect the standings of popular science fiction books when it shouldn’t even be on the list in the first place?

My main problem with the way that books are categorized is that I feel like it is negatively affecting the way that books become popular. I’m not trying to disregard A Game of Thrones, as I am a big fan. I just want to see more authors get their time in the spotlight.

A Game of Thrones is popular enough without it being included in every sub-genre of fiction. Learn the differences between two ever differing genres of books and give the little guys a chance.