Tag: Genre

When Genre Writing Is In Name Only

zombie hordeActually I have never met anyone who acts in pornographic movies so I don’t know for sure, but I think I would. Where I intend to go with this concerns an article I saw, Why Science Fiction Writers are Like Porn Stars, on io9. The piece is a rebuttal of sorts to Glen Duncan’s review of the book, Zone One in the New York Times. That is where you will find the comment about intellectuals dating porn stars in regards to literary writers tackling genre fiction. Now having read the review but not the book I am sorry that I am committed that much to this internet dust up. That being said I thought my two cents on genre writing might be worth, well, two cents.

I aspire to write literature, I mean who doesn’t. What I think most do not understand is that, much like history, it is up to the decision of time. Using fancy words, or complex plot structures, or even nouveau cliches only gives your work the semblance of aspiring to be literary. On the other end of the spectrum, throwing zombies into your look at modern life only makes it genre in the same way McDonald’s made pizza. Writers are a fickle lot and nothing grinds our gears than someone writing poorly in our chosen genre or even writing quite well and making more money. What separates true genre writing is not what is in it but what would be missing if it was not there at all. Gadgets and Victorian clothes do not make a Steampunk novel any more Steampunky (?) than a strong protagonist with a wit and a bit of a rebellious nature do. If you remove the airships and Tesla Cannons and the story reads like a Wild Western Romance, you haven’t written a Steampunk novel. The same goes for horror. If the monsters are a metaphor for the ills of society, or even worse, nothing more than set  dressing you haven’t written a Horror novel. What genre writers seem to get better than others is all of the pieces matter and not just the ones that assemble the main picture. I think that is what Mr. Duncan was alluding too but somehow went about it in a very literary way.

10 Things That Every Brand New Creator of Science Fiction Must Know

bunsen burner and beakerFirst I must send a shout over to my friend Michael Bradley over at Michael Bradley — Time Traveler from whose website I first spotted this sage advice. I have been asked from time to time is writing Science Fiction difficult. My answer is, “why, should it be? You can make your story as difficult to tell as you want.” By this point the person asking is usually clarifying, “no I mean the science part.” There again if all your story has to offer is accurate science you are missing a whole lot.

So head over to i09.com for the full list.


Vampires, it’s Because They Suck

I recently saw the trailer for the movie remake of Dark Shadows. Seeing Johnny Depp as Daytime TV’s favorite vampire Barnabas Collins had me thinking about the continued popularity of vampires in fiction.

The birth of vampire lore is easy to understand when viewed against what was understood of medicine and science in medieval times. Since the mechanics of decomposition was so little understood one can see how people let their imaginations go wild. They didn’t know about the shrinking of the skin which gave the appearance of hair and nail growth after death. Nor did they understand the natural causes of blood pooling in the eyes and mouth during early decomposition due to the work of gasses inside the body. All of these observations coupled with such a limited body of knowledge lead to one simple conclusion; the dead were leaving this graves and feasting on the living. Even the solution of the wooden stake was a very rational one. If you want to anchor something to the ground you drove a stake through it. It was thought the stake driven into the consecrated ground of the churchyard would be enough to keep these wandering undead in place whether or not it pierced the heart. A simple solution to a simple problem.

So if the myth grew from observations then where did the vampire character come from. That may be harder to answer without picking a specific character and time period. The vampire tale’s rise in Victorian England came about as a response to the sexual repression of the period. Some of which we still see in the sex appeal of vampires today. Humans are also creatures of appetite. We often eat not until satisfied but until we feel ill. We will hoard and stockpile for the future all that we deem important; our appetites insatiable. How reassuring it is to know there is a creature that surpasses even human level appetites. The hunger that drives the vampire is a reflection to absurd levels of our drives whether they are sex, drink, wealth or food (blood of course). Lastly I would be remiss if I did not mention our love of nostalgia. The good old days are just beyond our reach but an immortal being represents a crucial link to those past times. The vampire represents our shared past by having lived, or unlived, though it. We also have an innate respect built up for our elders so an immortal would command the ultimate respect. Plus think of how rich they would be, talk about old money. Though that concept certainly flies in the face of the reality of money and inflation.

For a writer, these three elements of vampire lore provide fertile material for incredible characters and drama. These are creatures we can fear, love, hate, fantasize over and laugh at. My next novel is is a vampire story and I am beginning to work on another. I look on these works as a challenge to take the familiar lore and twist it in a new way for the reader. I also enjoy reading vampire stories especially ones that have brought something new to the genre. Stephenie Myer’s Twilight was an awesome read as was The Fixer from Jon F Mertz, to name a couple of recent reads of mine. Both of these works, though they couldn’t be further apart, took the lore in new directions. That is what makes them such good reads. Vampire stories are an acquired taste, (pun intended), but one that I know I will be returning to again and again and one worthy of reading if you haven’t.