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Reflections on the #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I discussed different book genres/categories. Each day, I gave a few details about the genre/catego...

April 27, 2024

X is for Xenofiction #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber

#AtoZChallenge 2024 letter X

For the A to Z Challenge, I'm discussing different book genres/categories. Each day, I will give a few details about the genre/category and an example or two. I would love to know your thoughts on the genre/category and if you have any reading suggestions. Be sure to check out all of my A to Z posts.

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Xenofiction is usually science fiction or fantasy where the story is told from a non-human perspective. It could be an animal or an extraterrestrial but could also be a robot (so Klara and the Sun from the V is for Visionary Fiction post would count as Xenofiction). I didn't realize there was a term for it but as soon as I saw the term I knew the books I would feature.

According to the description of the Goodreads' list Through Another's Eyes, stories from the perspective of mythological creatures like mermaids and centaurs would be Xenofiction, but not stories from the perspective of witches, vampires, angels, or zombies.

We can probably think of a number of children's books that are told from that are xenofiction because the characters are animals - Charlotte's Web by E.B. White, Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne, Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Peter Rabbit, to name just a few.

But there are also adult books with animal characters. Animal Farm by George Orwell and Watership Down by Richard Adams may come to mind. 

I'm much more likely to read a book with animal characters rather than aliens, my post-apocalyptic book often gets me to read outside my comfort zone. We read The Word for World is Forest by Ursula K. Le Guin which is set on a different planet. I don't care for 1970s science fiction, but several people in the book club enjoyed it.

I've already mentioned a book with a robot that tells the story. I don't think I've read any adult books with mythical creatures. I haven't read The Lord of the Rings but I think Hobbits would count as non-human or some of the other characters that join the Hobbits on the journey. 

Many of these xenofiction books allow the reader to explore different viewpoints and cultures in a less threatening way but sometimes having non-human characters is more for levity like in a few cozy mysteries I read (Rita Mae Brown's "Sister" Jane series comes to mind where the foxes, hounds, and a few other animals talk to each other). Sometimes non-human characters, particularly animals can provide insights that might be missed by the human characters because of where they can go or because humans aren't as aware of the animal's presence. One of my favorite series is Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman by JB Lynn. The main character Maggie can talk with animals and they act as her conscience and other times her partners in crime. 

It's funny that I won't read a story with an animal in it if the animal is just an animal, particularly a companion animal, but I've enjoyed xenofiction. Perhaps it is because the animals are more human-like. I'm not really sure, but I'm featuring two books that feature animals as main characters. One I reviewed in order to recommend it to my post-apocalyptic book club and the second book the boo club read.

The Council of Animals by Nick McDonnell

book cover of xenofiction novel The Council of Animals by Nick McDonnell

After The Calamity, the animals thought the humans had managed to do themselves in. But, it turns out, a few are cowering in makeshift villages. So the animals—among them a cat, a dog, a crow, a baboon, a horse, and a bear—have convened to debate whether to help the last human stragglers . . . or to eat them.

Buy The Council of Animals at Amazon

Read my review.

Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton

book cover of post-apocalyptic xenofiction novel Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton

S.T., a domesticated crow, is a bird of simple pleasures: hanging out with his owner Big Jim, trading insults with Seattle's wild crows (those idiots), and enjoying the finest food humankind has to offer: Cheetos ®.

Then Big Jim's eyeball falls out of his head, and S.T. starts to feel like something isn't quite right. His most tried-and-true remedies--from beak-delivered beer to the slobbering affection of Big Jim's loyal but dim-witted dog, Dennis--fail to cure Big Jim's debilitating malady. S.T. is left with no choice but to abandon his old life and venture out into a wild and frightening new world with his trusty steed Dennis, where he discovers that the neighbors are devouring each other and the local wildlife is abuzz with rumors of dangerous new predators roaming Seattle. Humanity's extinction has seemingly arrived, and the only one determined to save it is a foul-mouthed crow whose knowledge of the world around him comes from his TV-watching education.

Hollow Kingdom is a humorous, big-hearted, and boundlessly beautiful romp through the apocalypse and the world that comes after, where even a cowardly crow can become a hero.

Buy Hollow Kingdom at Amazon

We also read the sequel Feral Creatures but I didn't enjoy it quite as much.

What do you think about xenofiction? Do you prefer animals, aliens, robots, or mythical creatures?

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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  1. I like xenofiction, but i never knew it was called that. i think i only ever read animals perspectives with the novels of redwall being my favorite example.

  2. I've never heard of xenofiction, but I understand the term now that you mention nonhuman characters. I don't like alien stories, but I love Charlotte's Web. I'm not sure if I could read from the point of view of a crow or about a band of animals as characters plotting against humans, but I'll keep these books in mind in case I'm ever in the mood for something different. :-)

    1. The Council of Animals reads more like a fable. I didn't think I would enjoy Hollow Kingdom but it turned out to be funnier than I thought it would be.

  3. Ditto the other comments re the term xenofiction. Asimov does some great stuff in this space in his Robot series. Some animal stories, I love - most if I think about it, while others not so much. I think if done well it's very clever and powerful.

  4. Seems I write a bit of xenofiction without meaning to... LOL.

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