GENRE, SPECULATIVE & LITERARY FICTION
Read these wiki entries on genre ficton and speculative fiction. The two categories encompass some of the most popular as well as some of the most esoteric and alternative forms of fiction, among them science fiction, fantasy, horror, magic realism, irrealism, bizarro fiction, romance, detective fiction, western, comedy, erotica, etc. These forms are often opposed to literary fiction, a somewhat nebulous and subjective term that connotes narratives distinguished by "literary merit," i.e., narratives that focus on things like style, psychology, metareferentiality and academic jargon in lieu of plot and suspense. Then again, there are many narratives that blend elements of genre, speculative and literary fiction, such as Steve Aylett's fictional biography, Lint, Mark Leyner's story-cycle, My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist, and my novel, The Kyoto Man.
There is no way to concisely provide you with a lesson on genre, literary and speculative fiction, all of which are hotly debated by practitioners, editors and readers, particularly as genre splicing, a somewhat recent formation, becomes more and more popular and the boundaries that define these categories increasingly blur. Nonetheless by reading the above links you can get an idea of the basic elements that comprise science fiction, fantasy and horror. You will need to do so in order to complete Fiction #2 (see below).
Diehard aspiring authors of science fiction and fantasy may like this world building tutorial. You might also enjoy the Science Fiction Hub and the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.
If genre horror is your poison, check out Matthew Warner's Horror Isn't a 4-Letter Word: Essays on Writing & Appreciating the Genre. (NOTE: Excerpts of Warner's book are accessible via the archived columns at Horror World.) Also check out an article at the Horror Writer's Association called "What Is Horror Fiction?"