Guest Post: Heisenberg Compensators

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Today I have a guest post for you, from an amazing writer I’ve been following for a few months. He has a style I can only dream of, and his crazy ideas are the sort I aspire to as well. If you ever wondered about genre, this is the guy to see. Everyone, Zig Zag Claybourne!

Heisenberg Compensators

“Tell me about the Before-Time, DiJonn,” says the waif.

“It was a time of repetitive wonders…” says the old man, eyes focusing on days he’ll never get back. “When only starship captains were allowed emotional arcs, and fans knew precisely at all times what they were buying…”

Low blow? Not too low. Let’s talk genre. Sci fi. Horror. Fantasy. Literary. Comedy. Erotic. What’d we leave out? (Tractor porn is not a genre. Ignore what Skeeter says.) Genre sets up expectations. From sci fi, we don’t expect deeply emotional romance. From horror, we get blindsided by the inclusion of robots (although we already live in a ghost world thanks to AI and “smart” tech). Fantasy? Get that socio-political layering out of my elven shire! We want what we want, and publishing has made sure we get that. Up till now.

Just this year I’ve read a book that features religion, damnation, time travel, horror, and a fair bit of comedy, not as incidentals but as the very fabric of the book; another where a witch and a technogeek have an on-again, off-again relationship that threatens to destroy the world; I wrote one myself (shameless frikking plug) merging science fiction, adventure, literary, satire and fantasy. It’s been described as “Buckaroo Banzai by way of James Baldwin and Blade”, and in my neck of the woods you mention any one of those three, you have my attention.

I freaking adore genre blending.

Frankenstein: gothic horror environmental philosophical treatise. The Bible: horror, sci fi, poetry, adventure, love story. Lucian of Greece’s True History: travel writing, sci fi, satire straight from the second century. Hell, even Peanuts counts as YA Dystopia (a world where even children need psychological counseling on a regular basis, and happiness is sought but never achieved). Creators have been dipping their chocolate into peanut butter since words became the rage. The blending of genre speaks not only to the sophistication of the world but of the reader herself. The Greek myths were huge soap operas against a backdrop of testosterone and estrogen of unimaginable levels. The African Orishas are sci fi, horror, fantasy, and romance all at the same time. There is no story that is a single thing unless we force it to be so. Unfortunately there’ve been lots of forced marriages in publishing. The world may never know how many writers have felt compelled to funnel what could have been grand ideas into narrow loveless couplings. Imagine The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy being pitched today.  It’d either be an indie effort or it’d be pared down to being a buddy comedy with a quick, easy payout. Which is sadness.

The argument against blending says readers will be confused, and an author can’t build a following off of confused readers. Let me throw some names out to Google at your discretion: Sam Delany, CSE Cooney, Harlan Ellison, Kurt Vonnegut, Toni Morrison, Ursula Le Guin, Gene Wolfe, Frank Herbert, Julian May, Terry Pratchett. You can build audience by being intriguing, by being daring, and respecting that a reader’s sense of adventure knows no bounds. One of the best novellas I’ve read in years came out via Tor.com in 2015: Kelly Robson’s Waters of Versailles. It’s fantasy, it’s historical, it’s farce, it’s as much about class structures as Les Miz and it’s deeply emotional. I love it. Kelly is one of the best practitioners out there of blending not only genre but realism, and guess what? You’ll be seeing her name for years. We forget that before there was “genre” there was simply good story.

In the beginning was the word, remember? And the word was good?

Are we seeing an upsurge in people wanting their consumables to do more than comfort them? I think we are. There’s enough familiarity in innumerable aspects of life that people can enjoy the challenge of a many-flavored mental meal, and with indie artists experiencing a boom of reach and availability (check out the indie lighthouse-site Narazu.com) the walls of genre aren’t merely crumbling, suckers are vaporizing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to have markers. But it’s also good to know that at any moment of your choosing you can screw the map and go off-road. I titled this little blog “Heisenberg Compensators.” Why? If you’re into Star Trek you know that’s a McGuffin they created for their transporter technology to overcome the principle that the position and the velocity of an object cannot both be measured exactly, at the same time, even in theory. In theory we’re not supposed to be able to bounce about on a quantum level and have all kinds of resulting fun.

I give the human brain credit though. We take disparate bits, beam them into our imaginations, and reassemble them as paranormal detectives, mermaid orphans, mystic adventurers, or starship captains quite literally in love with their ships (hello AI-virtual reality world!). Genre-blending is not only fun to write and read, it leaves both the author and audience (wait for it) energized.

Surprised, even. Pleasantly.

Who doesn’t love that?

BIO STUFF

Zig Zag Claybourne (also known as Clarence Young) wishes he’d grown up with the powers of either Gary Mitchell or Charlie X but without the Kirk confrontations. (And anybody not getting that Star Trek reference gets their sci fi cred docked 3 points.) The author of The Brothers Jetstream: Leviathan, Neon Lights, Historical Inaccuracies, By All Our Violent Guides, and In the Quiet Spaces (the last two under C.E. Young), he believes a writer can be like an actor, inhabiting a delightful variety of roles and genres, but his heart belongs to science fiction.

His fiction and essays have appeared in Vex Mosaic, Alt History 101, The Wayne Review, Flashshot, Reverie Journal, Stupefying Stories, The City (a cyberfunk anthology), UnCommon Origins, Extraordinary Rendition: American Writers on Palestine, and Rococoa (sword & soul/steamfunk anthology).

When not writing (or fiddling on Facebook) he loves promoting great art and posing the Great Questions, such as whether or not anybody will ever be funkier than Prince.

Find him on the web at www.WriteonRighton.com

Straight from the Subconscious! It’s Urban Fantasy!

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So, I’m writing this blog post from the depths of my near-delirious state. I hope it is, at least, understandable when I post it.

Stayed up late last night talking to my twin brother online.

This kind of 2-3 hour conversation was of the sort of scale I have fairly often with my brother, but last night’s talk was something special as far as the amount of fun I had. It reminds me how well these conversations can go.

We discussed A LOT of different story stuff, mostly related to dark stories (Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Narcos, Joe Abercrombie’s First Law books), and the anime Ghost In the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Now, of those four TV shows and one book series, I have only barely read or watched about half of the total stories. However, these are all up my brother’s alley.

I told him he really seems to like dark stories to a degree I do not (Though I like at least some things about most of the stories I mentioned above). While I don’t think I really fall in love with the dark stories, I do enjoy them. Of course, as a writer, that distinction is important.

The most powerful ascendant element of fiction for me right now is adventure, not tone or grit. I enjoy adventure stories and having realized recently how much Urban Fantasy I’ve been writing over the past few years, I think this is an important element to emphasize. Some Urban Fantasy goes more toward horror, while others lean on romance. Mine rely on adventure, at least at this point. And I do not plan to fight this (Apparently) natural development.

With a mighty mental leap, I managed to fit my thoughts into Urban Fantasy. My brother and I also talked about genre last night.

My first released novel, and the sequel I’m working on, the whole Maker Mythos really, is Urban Fantasy. That point is fairly clear to me now. It has a contemporary setting in which technology from present Earth can have an effect on the supernatural and fantasy elements (Unlike something like Harry Potter where guns and phones are pretty much unknown among wizards, for example). So, that one fits.

Many of my other series ideas surprised me a bit in this regard, but I realized I could just slightly tilt them and have them fit as kin to the genre of Urban Fantasy if not quite fit them in as kind.

A few examples from other story-worlds I have not released much stuff for yet…

Rem’s Dream has a novel out, and even though I’ve categorized that as cyberpunk, I realize now how much magic and crazy fantasy elements are effectively present in the story. Young people can alter the dreamworld at will. Nightmares become real monsters. There is a lot in just those two sentences that make the story as much fantasy as near-future.

Next up, my short stories.

Stolen Parts deals with necromancers in the modern United States in a small-town setting. It is DEFINITELY Urban Fantasy in the most customary sense of the moment, a la The Dresden Files.

Weirder to think of as Urban Fantasy for me is Ludosensitivity. This is a VERY short story I released a bit over a year ago. It’s also set in a setting I always thought of as Science Fiction, near future, but still. However, there are people who gain psychic abilities temporarily by drinking the blood of strange nonhuman characters as a major part of the story and world. It takes place in a city on Earth. Huh. And the technology level is basically similar to the present, despite the year listed. So, my point? This could easily qualify as Urban Fantasy too, even though my personal prejudice wanted it to be some kind of science fiction. The larger, unreleased stories from this universe fit the family even more clearly.

Does that not cover all my current releases (Except for Tenlyres I, which probably does not fit)?

One last example is a book I wrote years ago, with no consideration for genre whatsoever.

This novel’s working title was Hanging Jupiter, and it takes place in a modern city on a different Earth (Much like a couple other unreleased stories I will not go into here because they are not as complete at the moment). There is magic in this book, side-by-side with technology. There are nonhumans, a protagonist with a dark past. Huh. I guess this is pretty close to Urban Fantasy tropes too.

You see? I write and have written a goodly amount that can be classes in the Urban Fantasy sub-genre. I don’t think that is a big stretch.

Anyway, my point is this: I can fit a lot of stuff into this genre, world-wise.

So, I’m waking up now. I’m happy to report that this post actually has helped me get my thoughts together this morning.

I can only hope you will get something out of it.

What are some favorite books of yours in Urban Fantasy? Do you like dark stories or prefer a lighter tone?

Let me know in the comments if you like.

And you can check out Rem’s Dream and Hunter and Seed today on most online stores.

Thanks for reading!