Thursday, May 14, 2009

genre fiction at its finest

and meanwhile in a lonely house far out on the prairie, monica sat at her sleek word processor, waiting for that first moment of inspiration. in her wide and varied career in genre fiction, she had crafted many a gothic romance, many a regency bodice-ripper, had even dabbled in the all-male frontier of western and spy novel, but now she was due for a return to the wide open field of SCIENCE FICTION!

yes! for tonight she would venture into the far reaches of space and time to find a story that could span galaxies and yet touch the heart, show man (note to self, find a gender neutral way of expressing this heinlein type concept) at his finest, create many a piquant alien species with its own mores and customs, not to mention languages full of odd vowel combinations guaranteed not to resemble any language here on dear planet earth.

where to start? perhaps with a humble spaceship sitting on its pad, ready to blast off into the outer reaches of the solar system, there to discover an alien probe of many years acquaintance? or perhaps with a lonely visitor from another planet, sadly disguised as a down-and-out on the streets of manhattan? or even a spot of time travel, which would nicely allow insertion of a few chunks from her last unfinished historical thriller. there were so many possibilities!

and yet somehow she sensed a lack of originality here, a "been there done that" so anathema to the true SF fan, who insisted on endless novelty. gods, aliens, machines, the end of time, alternate universes - no concept was too grandiose! and yet drearily the same old human preoccupations infested them all; there was always a wise-cracking hero, often complete with cigar and alcoholic beverage; there was always a bar full of fun-loving aliens, just like us but with extra extremities; there was always some tedious romance, the hero or heroine daring or discarding all to save or win some tiresome person of opposite sex. one might as well stick with the tried and true and set it all here on earth, saving a good deal of imaginative effort (and yet, adding a good deal of research - if lord x resides on mars, no need to get the details of his house and trousers just right).

a weariness overtook her. perhaps it was age, or the effects of the rain outside and the overdue power bill. no story seemed worth the telling, much less the reading. who indeed would care to read a real one, featuring perhaps a socially inept writer unable to make a steady living, and struggling for hours a day with weighty concerns such as how to unblock the toilet, find a way to shovel the drive without putting her back out, or budget enough to get the roof fixed before the back bedroom ceiling fell in.

could there be a new genre for her here, perhaps? spunky heroines who "do it all" (and perhaps win some conveniently nearby man). this would be descending far on the scale of her aspirations, and yet perhaps there was a market for it? just make the heroine 20 years younger, 30 pounds thinner, and with thick naturally curly hair, and off we go!

with a heavy sigh, she fixed a cup of instant coffee and began. "eloise sat at her chippendale desk, her naturally curly hair waving in the soft southern breeze. however would she pay all those bills! if only ted had not deserted her in her hour of need, leaving her to carry on the family plantation."

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