The Capricon Project – Detectives in the Wild
My first panel at Capricon 40 was one of the three I’m scheduled to moderate, “Detectives in the Wild.” In it we explored the many ways that mystery stories show up in speculative fiction.
Deirdre Murphy, Mark Huston, and Clifford Royal Johns joined me as co-panelists. All of us have written, or are writing, speculative fiction mysteries. Just between the four of us, we covered the mystery sub-categories of Cozies, Amateur Sleuth, Detective, and Police Procedural.
The panel’s description made it seem as if mysteries in the speculative genres that range outside of urban fantasy are hard to find. But between us and the audience, we came up with a bunch. We quickly found ourselves sub-categorizing them, too.
“Detectives in the Wild” aren’t hard to find in the alternate history genre. It’s so flexible, it can encompass any number of co-genres. Our panel’s alternate history point-person Mark Huston gave us an excellent overview.
Mark writes in Eric Flint’s 1632 Universe. Here are just a few of the recommended alternative history mystery novels we came up with.
No discussion of mysteries would be complete without the Noir Mystery category. For some people, it’s the first kind of mystery they think about when they hear “mystery fiction.” The Noir sub-genre has its own tropes and unique characteristics.
These often extend into speculative fiction categories in distinctive ways. We included stories with the feel and general optics of traditional Noir, but which the authors have played for laughs or to make a different point. Here are some of the Noir-style novels we touched on.
Yes, we know we weren’t supposed to get into urban fantasy. But the line between it and paranormal stories is blurry. We kept coming up with so many good ones! With our active, engaged audience, we shared ideas about books that are well worth reading. Many in this line-up are the first books in enduring and well-loved series.
Robots and AIs
Speculative fiction’s detectives aren’t always human. The unusual capabilities of extrapolated and imagined artificial intelligences–whether they’re in the form of androids, robots, or other things–have made these creations a favorite for speculative fiction writers, especially since Isaac Asimov’s classic team of R. Daneel Olivaw and Elijah Baley. Panelists and audience came up with several highly-recommended titles and series.
General Science Fiction
But not all science fiction mysteries fall into easy categories. That’s the nature of the genre–it’s grounded in the unexpected. We couldn’t complete our survey of “Detectives in the Wild” without talking about some that defy confinement in traditional mystery categories.
I’m sorry I couldn’t transport all of my readers into the panel room itself. This little overview has only scratched the surface of our discussion. I have to give a lot of credit to the breadth and depth of our panelists’ knowledge–and also to our stellar audience. It took all of us to create what was for me a fun and informative panel. I hope they enjoyed “Detectives in the Wild” as much as I did.
First of all, many, many thanks to the kind gentleman from the audience who volunteered to take our picture for me. He didn’t identify himself, but he has my deep gratitude!
The images of our book covers come from varied sources. The cover art for Jan S. Gephardt’s What’s Bred in the Bone is © 2019 by Jody A. Lee. Cover art for Jan’s forthcoming novella The Other Side of Fear (watch for it in late March 2020!) is © 2020 by Lucy A. Synk.
The cover image for Mark H. Huston’s Up-Time Pride and Down-Time Prejudice is courtesy of Amazon. Many thanks to Goodreads for Clifford Royal Johns’ Walking Shadow cover image. Unfortunately, Deirdre Murphy’s Murder and Sea Monsters isn’t yet available online.
ALTERNATE HISTORY and NOIR Covers:
Many thanks to Goodreads, for the cover of Randall Garrett’s Murder and Magic, the first Lord Darcy book. I also wish to thank Ring of Fire Press for the cover image for A Holmes for the Czar. Many thanks to Goodreads again, for the cover image for Julie McElwain’s A Murder in Time. Finally, thank you to Abe Books, for Michael Chabon’s cover image from The Yiddish Policemen’s Union.
I’m grateful to Book Depository, for the Altered Carbon cover art on Richard K. Morgan‘s book. Many thanks to Wikimedia for the first edition cover for Jonathan Lethem‘s Gun, with Occasional Music. Gratitude and thanks to Amazon for the Magdeburg Noir cover image, from David Carrico of Ring of Fire. Note: Carrico has showed up previously on Jan’s Artdog Adventures blog. Last but not least for the Noir section, I am indebted to Abe Books for a good image of cover art for Glen Cook‘s Sweet Silver Blues, first of the Garrett Files series.
PARANORMAL, ROBOT/AI and GENERAL SF Covers:
Many thanks to Amazon for the cover of Lee Killough‘s Blood Hunt, and to Goodreads for the cover images of Charlaine Harris‘s Dead Until Dark, Laurel K. Hamilton‘s Guilty Pleasures, and Jim Butcher‘s Storm Front.
I’m grateful to Amazon for the cover of Isaac Asimov‘s The Caves of Steel, and to Goodreads for cover images for A. Lee Martinez‘s The Automatic Detective, Guy Haley‘s Reality 36, and Donna Andrews‘ You’ve got Murder.
Finally, many thanks to Amazon, for the covers of Lee Killough‘s The Doppelgänger Gambit, and Mur Lafferty‘s Six Wakes. I’m grateful to Goodreads for the cover of Kristine Kathryn Rusch‘s The Disappeared, and to NPR (nice interview there, too!) for the cover of Arkady Martine‘s A Memory Called Empire. I literally couldn’t have created this post without y’all! Thank you!