subgenre n.

a style or category (of fiction, film, etc.) that is a regarded as a subset of another, broader genre

OED has evidence from 1903 in mundane use.

SF Criticism


  • 1955 L. S. de Camp Readin' & Writhin' in Science Fiction Quarterly Aug. 39/2 page image L. Sprague de Camp bibliography

    Dunsany, a giant in the small sub-genre of modern fantasy, influenced the Lovecraft-Weird Tales school of fantasy-writers that flowered in the thirties.

  • 1961 M. Moorcock Putting a Tag on It in Amra May 15 Michael Moorcock

    In this sub-genre I would classify books like "The Worm Ouroboros", "Jurgen", "The Lord of the Rings", "The Once and Future King", Grey Mouser/Fafhrd series, the Conan series, "The Broken Sword", "Well of the Unicorn", etc., usw.

  • 1963 N.Y. Times 14 Apr. vii. 5/3

    The novel about the sex life of intellectuals, in or out of the universities, is fast becoming such a hackneyed subgenre of American fiction that just about the only thing left to do with it is turn it into a parody of itself and make it serve as a laughing, critical commentary on its own clichés.

  • 1966 ‘J. Merril’ What do You mean—Science Fiction? in Extrapolation May 42 Judith Merril

    There had been some overlapping before, but now there was fluent admixture of those writers from both areas who were least satisfied with their own sub-genre patterns.

  • 1973 L. Carter Imaginary Worlds 66 Lin Carter

    The kind of story Howard created with his Conan yarns, and which C. L. Moore imitated with her tales of Jirel, we call ‘Sword & Sorcery’ today. The term, however, was not coined until long after the new sub-branch of heroic fantasy appeared. It was, in fact, coined by Fritz Leiber (himself probably the finest living writer of Sword & Sorcery) as recently as 1961. The British writer Michael Moorcock had published an open letter in the amateur magazine Amra, asking for ideas on a name for the sub-genre, his own suggestion being ‘epic fantasy’. Leiber suggested ‘Sword & Sorcery’, an obvious derivation from such terms as ‘blood and thunder’ and ‘cloak and dagger’. His response first appeared in another ‘fanzine’—as amateur periodicals are called in the sub-world of fantasy and science fiction enthusiasts—a publication called Ancalagon, and was reprinted in the issue of Amra dated July 1961. Although some prefer ‘heroic fantasy’, as being more dignified and literary and a few employ a variant, ‘swordplay-and-sorcery,’ the term ‘Sword & Sorcery’ caught on and is now generally accepted.

  • 1977 B. Aldiss Future & Alternative History in B. Ash Visual Encyclopedia of Science Fiction 116 Brian W. Aldiss bibliography

    I believe the alternative world is growing as a sub-genre, following the warm reception of perhaps the three most brilliant examples of the species, Bring the Jubilee, The Man in the High Castle and A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah!, which belong to the fifties, sixties and seventies respectively.

  • 1977 B. Aldiss Future & Alternative Hist. in B. Ash Visual Encyclopedia of Science Fiction 121 Brian W. Aldiss

    In an afterword to his story ‘Trips’ (1974), Robert Silverberg has noted: ‘If science fiction is a literature of infinite possibilities, the subgenre of alternative-timetrack fiction must be one of its most infinite compartments.’

  • 1997 Entertainment Weekly 26 Sept. 84

    One subgenre, ‘crossover’, posits a universe in which characters from different shows (and networks) coexist in a single hyperactive universe; one story weaver has Law & Order detectives Logan and Briscoe working a murder case with the X-Files duo. Another variety, ‘slash’, creates sexual histories more appropriate to the Kinsey than the Nielsen report.

  • 2001 G. R. Dozois in M. Swanwick & G. R. Dozois Being Gardner Dozois 140 Gardner Dozois

    I came up with the idea, although of course it’s just a variant on the long sub-genre of time-viewer stories.

  • 2001 G. R. Dozois in M. Swanwick & G. R. Dozois Being Gardner Dozois 214 Gardner Dozois

    It may look a little better when compared to the overall sub-genre of science fiction cat stories.

  • 2002 D. Layne & J. Lake Polyphony p. ix

    We love short fiction—science fiction, fantasy, horror, mainstream, literary, humor and all the multiplying subgenres and offshoots that have spawned repeatedly since the Epic of Gilgamesh was first cut into wet clay along the banks of the Euphrates by some harried scribe with a too-dull stylus.

Research requirements

antedating 1955

Earliest cite

L. Sprague de Camp, in SF Quarterly

Research History
Jeff Prucher submitted a 2002 cite from Deborah Layne and Jay Lake's editorial material in "Polyphony".
Jeff Prucher submitted a 2001 cite from Gardner Dozois in "Being Gardner Dozois".
Jeff Prucher submitted a 1977 cite from an article by Brian Aldiss in Brian Ash's "The Visual Encyclopedia of Science Fiction".
Ben Ostrowski submitted a 1997 cite from an article by Patrizia DiLucchio in Entertainment Weekly.
Enoch Forrester submitted a 1966 cite from Judith Merril's article "What Do You Mean--Science? Fiction?"
Bill Mullins submitted a 1963 cite from the New York Times.
Jeff Prucher submitted a 1961 cite from "Mike" Moorcock in Amra.
Jesse Sheidlower submitted a 1955 cite from L. Sprague de Camp in Science Fiction Quarterly

Earliest quote in the OED: 1976.

Last modified 2022-06-06 12:14:07
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.