• Skylar Hamilton Burris

Genre Bending


In the publication world, marketers want books to fit in neat, little genre boxes. This makes them easier to both shelve and sell. If you’ve written a Christian novel, there best be a conversion in the third act. If you’ve written something with a romantic subplot, but that’s not the focus of your book, how do you classify it? Where do you shelve a book that mingles literary fiction, horror, fantasy, and comedy?

Genres are useful from a marketing standpoint and for giving readers some general concept of a book, but they are often limiting and misleading. Real life doesn’t fit neatly into a box. It’s full of mystery and wonder and sorrow and joy. Fiction very often doesn’t fit neatly in a box either.


Wiktionary defines “genre bending” as “the subversion of tropes associated with a particular artistic genre or the synthesis of multiple genres.” The romance that does not end in a happily ever after, the horror novel that is written in a literary style, the work of dystopian fiction that focuses on family life, the drama that is rife with comedy…all of these types of works are “genre bending.”


So when I released my latest book, COVID-39, I didn’t know how to categorize it. The novel takes place in a semi-dystopian future in the American South. Events quickly disintegrate, and soon enough the reader finds himself in an apocalyptic world. There are some traditional elements of horror (the book does have zombies of a sort, after all), but the emphasis is on the development of the two main characters, who are struggling to survive the collapse of civilization while also learning to cut toxic family ties. There’s even a smattering of romance, though that’s not the focus of most of the book, so I couldn’t call it a “paranormal romance” without disappointing regular consumers of the genre.


In the end, my book was shelved (virtually) in two primary categories: apocalyptic fiction and family life fiction. And I suppose it is a work of family life fiction…with zombies.


Despite it’s inability to fit neatly in a genre box, I hope you’ll give my latest novel a try. It’s now available in paperback and Kindle editions, just in time for Halloween. My eldest child, who is currently studying Graphic Design and Illustration, kindly provided me with the main illustration used on the cover. You can get your copy here: COVID-39.


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