So a while ago I started posting chapters of a genre mash-up, satirical novel online before I panicked and took them down after realizing that they (a) weren’t at the calibre I could achieve, and (b) were not going to be produced as expediently as I hoped.
I’ve since been working on it again.
I decided to shift the tone of the book (first in a series maybe?) when I stepped back and started examining what sort of genre satires and parodies I enjoyed myself. And I realized that I preferred riffs on genre that don’t make fun of the genre in as much as they exemplify it.
Think The Naked Gun versus Hot Fuzz. I mean, we all love Leslie Neilsen, but Hot Fuzz is a masterpiece. And you don’t have to get all the jokes in order to enjoy it. You can take it as an action film. You can take it as a satire. Because of this intersection, you can take is as a deeper meditation on genre and storytelling.
I’m at the point where, to get to the heart of each genre, I’ve had to establish a reference point. A generic (literally generic) fog in my head was just not cutting it anymore.
So what I ended up doing was trying to figure out three texts for each genre as I want to showcase it that I would use as three points of a triangle of the genre, with the intersection between then being what I was aiming for.
I’m not necessarily going for the most perfect representation of the genre, but rather what elements I want to pull from it. For instance, my three texts for a pirate theme are Treasure Island, On Stranger Tides and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle.
Treasure Island skews classic ur-text; On Stranger Tides brings in the possible supernatural/myth-involved portion (it was the base text for the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie); and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle pulls towards a female protagonist, an outsider to this world, as well as wider historical context.
Is this a ridiculously formal and quantitative way to approach something as subjective as art? Oh hells yes. But, it really helped me find my focus so I could do more than just spout genre references, like, say, National Lampoon.
And I don’t want readers to have to have read Le Morte D’Arthur, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and The Lais of Marie de France into order to “get” the non-specific fantasy realm I’ve dropped my characters in. Rather, these texts contains the elements that have seeped into our implicit and subconscious understanding of this genre.
Anyway, all these texts (expect for the ones I’m still hunting bookstores for) are on my desk for easy reference. It’s a glorious thing.
A version of this post was originally published at sandpaper blues.