Can a geunine mystery be in a fantasy novel

Hmmm, a comment was made the other day by someone I know in another web-site I frequent that got me to thinking. Can a detective novel be written colored as a fantasy novel? Can a hard-boil style detective reside in sci-fi?

My first reaction was to say, why not? And then I got to thinking. Exactly what are the defined parameters for 'fantasy,' for 'detectives.' For any genre. If we have 'historical-detectives,' why not ones in fantasy? Is there a One True Rule (the OTR) which defines a genre?

I don't think there is one.

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Comment by J. F. Juzwik on February 14, 2009 at 7:26am
The dictionary defines mystery as "something that is not, or cannot be known, understood, or explained. Any action, affair, or thing that arouses curiosity or suspense because it is not fully revealed".

On another site I frequent, we discussed horror, and believe me, there are a some people who believe horror is only that which is supernatural. Now, I'm sure we can all agree that horror can be that, or it can be a serial killer, or an abusive spouse, or..., well, just about anything or anyone that instills a sense of fear or dread. So, as horror is not just one thing - neither is the concept of mystery.

A mystery doesn't have to be only something Jessica Fletcher solves. A mystery can be something a detective from the year 8,000 comes back to 1941 to solve before it even occurs. Or a mystery can be something that occurs in a world parallel to ours, on another planet - whatever.

I agree with what's already been stated above though. As long as the writer sets up 'rules' and follows them to the letter, because readers will pick up inconsistencies, the genre is wide open to whatever you can imagine.
Comment by B.R.Stateham on February 14, 2009 at 4:00am
Yeah, D.R., I know. In fact I have the first ragged images of just such a novel crashing around in the back of my head like an out of control bowling ball.
Comment by D.R. MacMaster on February 14, 2009 at 3:57am
But if a wizard commited a murder--and another wizard had to solve the murder thru traditional methods because each wizard cancels out the other's magical powers--that would become a genuine mystery! Right?

Now that's what you call a hook.

But have multiple wizard suspects, so the reader doesn't just settle on Gandorf the Beige right away. ;)

Just remember that when you set up the rules to your book's universe, that you follow them and don't toss in a quick ending that violates the laws of that universe. Readers would feel cheated then.
Comment by B.R.Stateham on February 14, 2009 at 3:53am
Pepper--read Asimov's robot series--saw Outland--and BladeRunner. Excellent choices.

Dana, I agree. Follow the rules you set up within your book concerning what is and what isn't, and I think you can make a mystery novel out of any background scenery.
Comment by Dana King on February 14, 2009 at 2:20am
I see no reason why it couldn't work, so long as the rules of the fantasy world are properly constructed and observed. Pepper mentions Outland; Blade Runner also comes to mind. The wizards wouldn't necessarily have to cancel each other out, either. They just wouldn't have to have all the same strengths and weaknesses, so one could play on the weak points or blind spots of the other.

Sounds like something that could be a lot of fun in the right hands.
Comment by Pepper Smith on February 14, 2009 at 2:10am
Isaac Asimov's Robot series featured a robot detective. The movie Outland had a mystery plotline. Mystery is where you plant it. It doesn't really matter what the world is that you set it in.
Comment by B.R.Stateham on February 14, 2009 at 1:43am
But if a wizard commited a murder--and another wizard had to solve the murder thru traditional methods because each wizard cancels out the other's magical powers--that would become a genuine mystery! Right?
Comment by D.R. MacMaster on February 14, 2009 at 1:20am
When righting a mystery in a fantasy setting, it might make the story a tad too short if your detective has a spell that makes the killer confess by page 3. ;)

But seriously, I read somewhere that a good historical detective can't just torture or otherwise force a confession from a suspect, but is in a situation where they have to rely on evidence to solve the case. So I guess the same goes for fantasy or sci-fi.

Of course I'm actually writing a hard-boiled detective story set in a sci-fi future right now, so I might be biased. ;)

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