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Worlds Away From The Hero’s Journey: Genre, Literature, And Peep Show

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According to some of the people who pontificate and predict, dystopia is hot right now. Which is more or less good news for the release of Arcadian Gates next month. This is a take on zombies, though, and there has to be much more to a story than the genre style. The weakest dystopic stories are the ones that rely too heavily on the environment around the narrative rather than the nuances of story. Anyway, as they often do, Io9 has a decent list of American dystopias which are both famous and not so famous.

I’m tempted to say I am getting bored with the “genre vs. mainstream” debate which sprawls across genre communities and to the New York Times, NPR and beyond. That’d be a lie, though. I eat the stuff up, mostly because my own work lies somewhere in between and because it is also a little silly. Author Daniel Abraham has a sly piece up at SF Signal called “A Private Letter from Genre to Literature.” The piece smartly creates a metaphorical relationship which is an illicit affair rather than the typical enmity that is often brought into the debate.

Somewhat related, I recognized from the start the classical and political overtones of the Game of Thrones adaptation on HBO. David Chandler has written a short piece which offers a quick analysis of what sets this kind of fantasy apart from other kinds of sword and sorcery storytelling. Read “A Game of Sub-Genres.” It’s worlds away from The Hero’s Journey, for sure.

I finished Endangered Species, a collection of short stories written by Gene Wolfe. Of course, the writing is substantial, even if some of the stories are a little thin and demonstrate a kind of cleverness that may be best left in the history of science-fiction writing. The depth of real ideas is engrossing and the bulk of the stories demonstrate how story can serve both entertainment and concept. Perhaps what is most remarkable is Wolfe’s ability to create characters who serve their own needs rather than arbitrary needs of plot.

My viewing habits have circled mostly around a pair of British comedies. Black Books and Peep Show. Peep Show is a ridiculous dive into the absurdities of slacker life in England, and though it is nearly 10 years old (and still running) the humor feels current and fresh. Black Books had a shorter run, only making it from 2000-2004, but the misadventures of Bernard Black, its misanthropic bookshop owner, feels particularly poignant in the current publishing climate. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we still had bookshops owned by cranky individuals and not corporate committees?

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About T.A. Wardrope