The Evolution of Genres: A Sideways Look at Literature

Explore the books, writers, events, and movements across centuries that made genre fiction what it is today.

Welcome to the companion timeline to the award winning book Gumshoes, Fangs, Rockets, & Spies: How Literary Genres Evolve and Change Our World. Winner of the Gold Award for History, 2021 Royal Palm Literary Awards.

How to use the timeline:
Click on entries to learn more or to jump to different years. Click and drag the slider to progress through the timeline. To toggle between 2D and 3D views, click on the round icon in the lower left corner.

Gumshoes, Fangs, Rockets, & Spies: How Literary Genres Evolve and Change Our World

“A fascinating account into a fascinating subject!” —Steve Berry

From BEOWULF to THE TIME MACHINE to HARRY POTTER, an entertaining and provocative look at fiction genres, how they shift and grow, and how they change us and our world, often in profound and unexpected ways. Storytelling has bonded humanity with shared lore and lessons since prehistory. How did our favorite tales of mystery and imagination come to be? Were the authors hatched in airtight vacuums? For the most part, no. All good writers are good borrowers first. Gillian Flynn borrowed from Daphne du Maurier. Albert Camus borrowed from James M. Cain. Stephen King borrowed from Sheridan Le Fanu. Wars, disasters, plagues, and technological breakthroughs have shaped stories, and in turn, many genre stories, both good and bad, have shaped human societies. How did a volcanic blast affect all popular culture to follow? How did a mystery writer invent modern police detection? How did an Edgar Allan Poe story of treasure hunting help win two world wars decades after his death? How did a novel about peace kickstart the atomic bomb? The connections are endless. GUMSHOES, FANGS, ROCKETS, & SPIES digs deep to tease out these connections, and to celebrate the world of writers and writing.

4 thoughts on “The Evolution of Genres: A Sideways Look at Literature”

    1. Anything with impressive fangs and a willingness to use them, really. But if those are my only choices, I pick werewolf. If I have unlimited choices, I’ll go with vampire. Or a dinosaur. Or a bunny guarding a cave.

      1. I like the openness of your reply. After being raised in a black-and-white Calvinist religion full of dogma, I’d rather stay open-minded about creativity, writing, animals, and life.

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