I love this stuff, and any ideas to help in the endless to-and-fro (drunken) debates of what constitutes various flavours of genre is of interest to me:
All too often people point at the trappings of a fiction and claim that they identify it. Book A contains spaceships and robots, therefore it must be science fiction. Book B has dragons and castles, so it must be fantasy. But as a means of defining a fiction, it’s imprecise, often inaccurate and very much open to abuse. For every book which can be definitively identified by its tropes, there are countless others that can’t, or that require the trope itself to be re-defined. Tropes do not identify a genre: if you paint a car yellow, it does not make it a banana.
Ian tries to find a different approach, and it's one I like:
I’ve been thinking about agency in fiction and how it can be used to differentiate between fantasy and science fiction.
He ends up drawing a graph plotting WONDER (from low to high) vs AGENCY (from authorial to natural). I like it, and it's worth checking out how it can be used to group genre on a gradient, as we find it in the Real World (TM).
Read Ian's analysis here: http://iansales.com/2013/08/04/an-epistemological-model-of-speculative-fiction/