Matt Urich on the "Periodic Table of SF/F/H Authors" is the topic for the February meeting. I don't know what is covered by this topic in a literary sense, but I am familiar with the one used in chemistry. It's a useful way for chemists to group the elements by their properties. It also appeals to the human mania for placing things in order. I sometimes wonder if the creation of lists, tables, and classifications is the determining characteristic of Homo sapiens. Homo sapiens, of course, is the name for human beings in the system devised by Carolus Linnaeus in 1735 for naming living things. Biologists have happily used it ever since.
Publishers and stores also place books into categories. Romance readers can go straight to the shelves with romance novels without encountering Crime and Punishment. Science fiction fans can avoid poetry.
Then there are specific sections for science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Which lead to sub-genre such as hard science fiction and urban fantasy. All of this sounds very neat and efficient, except it doesn't really work.
The Lord of the Rings is fantasy. So are The Iron Dragon's Daughter, The War for the Oaks, and Perdito Street Station. Run that last one by me again. It has no hobbits, no elves, no dragons, and no medieval setting. The characters use a form of magic, but they're living on another planet. What about The Book of Ash? The double story line includes: first, the story of Ash, a female mercenary in mid-fifteenth century Burgundy, and, second, a researcher from the near future writing a scholarly history of Ash. The title of the first volume of The Book of Ash is A Secret History. The book could be classified as a secret history, or alternate history, or even science fiction. If you look for it, it's in the fantasy section.
Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age is science fiction. In a future where nanotech has changed the world, a young girl is given a stolen book by her brother. The book gives her entry to an enchanted world where she sets out on a quest for the twelve keys. The plot would work as fantasy except for the technology.
Are ghost stories horror or fantasy? Easy, the dark scary ones are horror and the comic ones are fantasy. Except when a woman washing the evening dishes is talking to her long dead grandmother. Then it's magic realism. So the category of ghost stories includes horror, comedy, and magic realism.
I'm sure PARSEC members can come up with many more examples of their own. As for biology, long-legged water birds were once thought to be more closely related to each other than to other birds. The long legs came first, and then the different species branched off. Closer examination changed this view. But the use of genetic analysis changed it even more. The long-legged pink flamingo's closest living relative is a bird called the grebe. Grebes resemble loons. They are short-legged, awkward on land, and plain brown.
So classification is more complicated than people once thought. Except for my last category of books, the recommended book. When a friend says, "This is a good book. You'll like it."
See you at the meeting!
Remember, it is a new year, and your annual PARSEC dues are due. We haven't raised dues in many years, so be conscientious and pay yours so that we don't have to raise them for next year! -- The Treasurer
Barton Paul Levenson sold "The Closet" to ChiZine.
Mary Soon Lee sold the poems "First Impact" and "Art Will Be Appreciated" to The Magazine of Speculative Poetry. Her poem "Backwards" appeared in Star*Line 25.6.
Tim Esaias had a review of Tom Standage's nonfiction book, The Turk, in The The New York Review of Science Fiction. He also had a poem in Star*Line 25.6: "First 3-Year-Old to Pitch a Major League Game".