Spec-Fic Subgenres: Alternate Reality & Virtual Reality

Who doesn’t like escaping into a book? It’s like alternate reality in paper form. Speaking of alternate reality (see what I did there?) the subgenres-of-the-month are…alternate reality and virtual reality.


Alternate Reality 2Alternate Reality

The subgenre of alternate reality can also be called parallel universe. Some sites make a distinction between the two, but it’s not large enough to label them as different subgenres (unless you want to get reeeeally picky.)

Alternate reality can fall under both the fantasy and sci-fi genres. It refers to another world or reality that exists inside our own. (Narnia fans, you with me?) Often times these stories start in our normal world and the characters may find a portal/gateway/key/machine/something cool that transports them to an alternate world. (Some forms are also referred to as portal fantasy.) Generally, the protagonist is treated as the Chosen One (Harry Potter) or the savior of the land (Pevensie children) or someone equally important.

The discovered reality tends to deviate from our normal universe in one way or another (otherwise it’d be boring!) — maybe it has magic, or the beings there have a third arm, or all the animals talk. The protagonist(s) usually go through a time of acceptance, where they must accept and then engage in the new and confusing world. Here are some examples.

  • The Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. LewisRestorer-Smaller-258x400
  • The Restorer, by Sharon Hinck
  • Harry Potter Series, by J. K. Rowling
  • The Word Changers, by Ashlee Willis
  • The Circle Trilogy, by Ted Dekker
  • Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll



Virtual Reality 2

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality could be classified under alternate reality as a subsubgenre, but I won’t do that to you. It’s a specific type of alternate reality that has clawed it’s way to the soft portions of my heart (aka. I like it.)

Virtual realities thrive off of technology and computer simulation. This technology allows the character to interact with a three-dimensional artificial world through a computer-simulated environment. Virtual reality can recreate sensations like touch, smell, sight, sounds, and the idea of being physically immersed or present, hence the label reality.

Characters interact with the virtual reality through headphones or input devices (Ready Player One), or if you want to get more crazy, through injected serums (Divergent). You may or may not see a little bit of virtual reality in my dystopian book, A Time to Diebut I won’t give anything away. The lines and rules are quite fuzzy, which is why the genre is so fun. No one likes lines or rules anyway — they’re more like guidelines. [grin]

Here are some examples of books and movies that are in the virtual reality subgenre:

  • Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
  • The God Hater, by Bill Myers
  • The Eye of Minds, by James Dashner
  • Tron (movie)
  • The Matrix (movie)
  • Total Recall (depending on your perspective 😉 )


Do you have specific alternate or virtual reality books you recommend?

Have you ever read these subgenres?



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