11.12: Idea as Subgenre, With Nancy Fulda

Nancy Fulda is back for our second episode on the Idea elemental genre. We cover some tools for exploring an idea, and then drill down a bit on how to use that exploration, or even multiple explorations as “seasoning” elements for a larger work.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson


Take a step further on some element of your story. Find an element that perhaps you’ve taken for granted, and turn it into something fascinating.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, by Natasha Pulley, narrated by Thomas Judd

6 thoughts on “11.12: Idea as Subgenre, With Nancy Fulda”

  1. I’m having trouble nailing down the semantics of idea stories. Would it be fair to say all fantasy/science fiction stories are idea stories (at least as a sub-genre)? And are idea stories more likely to be short. It seems like it would be much more difficult to spread an idea (as main-genre) over a novel (Steelheart, maybe? ), than to do the same with a novelette, anthology (Foundation), or short story (The Veldt, or Cold Equations).

    1. The way I understand the term is that the exploration of the idea, its consequences and its implications, are crucial to the story.

      Many James Bond stories are based on an idea (hypnotize innocent girls into poisoning Great Britain’s food sources, rob the gold from Fort Knox, steal a nuclear warhead to extort ransom, destroy London’s financial center with an EMP satellite, induce antagonistic countries to open hostilities, …), but they are not idea stories because the story is not about any implications, but only about Bond figuring out the plan and preventing it from happening.

      1984 is an idea story because the implications, both of the oppressive surveillance state and of the violent resistance, are considered in much detail.

  2. After the brainstorms, there were little glistening mounds of ideas scattered all over the landscape. So we strapped on our snowshoes and started walking across the pristine fall of notions. Who knew what might be found in that wilderness?

    Black peppered popcorn? Oh, wow! There’s a transcript in the archives and over here


    where you can read all about it! Geewhiz, and pass the chocolate. Then write!

  3. I like the idea of the banal with the abnormal.

    Urban fantasy uses this perfectly. A nice suburban household with a middle class family. The troublesome daughter that you have to remind not to turn boys into slaves. A school that instead of fistfights, has magic battles.

    Ironically, I cannot think of a time that Jim Butcher uses this affectively. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think his abnormality and his normality is quite separate. Almost an outside force coming in.

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