Genre Pollution, Part Three

back to "Genre Pollution, Part One"
back to "Genre Pollution, Part Two"


Any tabletop role-playing game has a system for building characters and creating conflict. The mathematical equations necessary to make simple-yet-satisfying fantasy novels have therefore been around for decades, leading to whole franchises like "Forgotten Realms," etc. However, using the same tabletop algorithms, it is possible to build angrier books for an angrier audience. By combining D&D stat building with the politics of Frank Norris, Theodore Dreiser, and Willa Cather, writers will be able to show the true possibilities of a woman born with a constitution of 8 and an intelligence of 22, or vice versa. What happens to those who begin their lives with neither strength, wisdom, nor charisma? Do racial bonuses really exist, and what can we do to adjust for them in the modern world?


All the tropes and stereotypes of conventional narrative fiction apply here, except that all of the characters are homeless and unashamed of this. Instead of trying to "get the sex object into bed," our protagonist merely attempts to "get a bed." Instead of searching for buried treasure or sailing across the sea, our protagonist tries to get a job or make it across town. The role of gods and mythical beasts are played by normal people, who are able to alter the life of our protagonist beyond measure with a mere $5 bill or can of salt pork. In a Homeless, a homeless person is not treated as someone to be pitied, but instead as a possible hero -- a pivot around which drama may still turn, whatever the grim and desultory conditions of their wrecked-up existence.


Southern Fever will be books about the South by people who are not actually from the South and that turn the South into a crazy-ass spectacle that is much more interesting than the reality. People driving around in fast cars. Short shorts. Everybody smokin' and drankin'. Life as a series of small crimes. Everyone knows everyone. Everybody has fucked everybody else at least once, just to see what it's like. Opportunities? Nah. Dreams? The best dream is a slice of really good pie served by yer mamma. Meth and racism and people in smoke-filled backwoods cabins who are planning invasions into Cuba. Voodoo! Food stamps! Doilies shaped like the Confederate flag!

This genre doesn't just have to be about the South. Any region has exciting cliches that are stronger and stranger than the real world. New York Fever. Australian Fever. Subsaharan Fever!


Artificial intelligence has progressed enough that we may now begin actually chronicling the experience of simulated existence. Now, we aren't talking about exciting science fiction storylines where people are dashing about and trying to save the moon from alien dinosaurs. We are talking about more modest science fiction landscapes, where people begin to have their first meaningful connections with simulacra and androids. What functions will androids serve in the modern household beyond being a combination of Google, a travel agent, a personal shopper, wikipedia, and a secretary? How we will integrate them into our family lives, and what real pressures will artificial intelligence put on marriages, children, and mental health?


Stories about Texas! Except stories that are really about Texas. Stories about suburban kids trying to define themselves in meticulous corporate environments and stories about environmentalists in extreme conflict with northeastern investers and global robber barons. Stories about roughnecks working on the offshore oil rigs and coming home to cancer-ridden Beaumont, Port Arthur, and Galveston. Stories about Austinites trying to get interesting things done in "the laziest town in America." Stories about megachurches vs. objectivists, Catholics vs. Protestants, and border-running serial killers vs. small town militias, set in the most interesting state in the Union that has been the least accurately chronicled.


Two cliched storylines will slowly merge as two MFA students slowly fall in love while writing their MFA theses. For instance, a story about a motorcycle ninja slowly bleeds into a story about child suffering in Uganda, alternating chapter by chapter until the stories are inextricably welded and the two bad writers have become one. The climax will come when the two competing protagonists finally get it on. These novels will be so hot.

Posted by miracle on Tue, 11 May 2010 20:33:11 -0500 -- permanent link

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