(Re)shaping Genre
: The Commercial and Social Presentation of Speculative Fiction in the 21st Century

  • Lucija Mercer

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Since the beginning of the 21st century, the speculative fiction genre has evolved significantly; new subgenres have emerged and those already in existence underwent several changes. Though once regarded as pulp, speculative fiction has now rooted itself in the mainstream, dominating large sections of the book market. However, as this is a relatively new development, little has been written on the specifics of the changes that speculative fiction has undergone; the works that address science fiction and fantasy, speculative fiction’s main two genres, primarily focus on the history of the genres up to the turn of the century. Furthermore, these works approach speculative fiction genre from a mainly literary standpoint, neglecting the aspect of speculative fiction books as commodities which are produced, designed, sold, and marketed by booksellers and publishers.

This thesis addresses the question of the way speculative fiction is presented and perceived in the 21st century. It explores the concept of genre, the way readers perceive it and the way it functions as a system of categorisation; it also investigates the relationship between genre and publishing. Focusing on a series of quantitative analyses, this research demonstrates how speculative fiction, its perception, and its presentation changed between the late 20th and early 21st century and explores the role publishers might have played in this process.
Date of Award12 May 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorMadhu Krishnan (Supervisor) & Leah Tether (Supervisor)

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