Skip to Content

Author Picks

Favorite Made-Up Genre

Photo of Marcus Sakey

Marcus Sakey


My favorite genre doesn’t have a name. So I made one up for it.

I call it “alt-fic.” In essence, alt-fic is about a world that is very similar to ours, only with one or two significant changes in which the whole story is rooted. Think Inception or Lost. Alt-fic is a cousin to sci-fi, but appeals to a broader audience. It’s rather like speculative fiction or magical realism, but tends to be more grounded.

I came up with the name about the time I started my Brilliance trilogy, an alternative present in which a fraction of the population are born savants, forcing the question: If 1% are objectively better, what happens to the other 99% of us? My new novel Afterlife is also alt-fic. I posit a world where death is just the beginning, and where afterwards people find themselves in a world with a new set of rules.

What I love about alt-fic is that it is broad and recognizable. It feels familiar, and yet introduces a difference that changes everything. It’s a genre that allows writers to design compulsively readable thrillers around thoughtful ideas.

Here are a few of my favorites.

About the Author

Marcus Sakey

Marcus Sakey is the award-winning author of 9 books, including the million-copy bestselling Brilliance Trilogy. His thrillers have been named New York Times Editor’s Picks, and selected among Esquire Magazine‘s Top 5 Books of The Year. His novel Good People was made into a movie starring James Franco, and Afterlife is soon to be a major motion picture from Imagine Entertainment producers Ron Howard and Brian Grazer (Da Vinci Code, A Beautiful Mind). Sakey lives in Chicago with his wife and daughter.+