The choices, of course, are endless. Choosing might be a bit tough. For example, Lex Luthor is a tempting choice – billionaire, elected President, has an adversary he can’t stop obsessing over and who some hold up as a hero figure and others regard with suspicion (calm down, Hillary – you’re no Superman), has his own vision of how to use the power of the United States to fulfill his own goals – and yet, can you really compare Trump’s intellect and planning ability to Luthor’s? I would argue NO FREAKIN WAY, OBVIOUSLY.
You might even stretch the definition of villain a bit. I mean, you could certainly call Trump a Salacious Crumb.
The name fits. Perhaps not the role, but ol’ Salacious fits my purpose here, which is to make a clumsy transition to my own choice.
I have a reason to make this choice here: I’m removing the most glaringly obvious one so you have to come up with something different. Ha-ha!
Donald Trump is… *DRUM ROLL*
They’re both filthy rich, emphasis on the filthy. They’re both ALLEGEDLY WINK WINK NUDGE NUDGE in bed with organized crime. They’re both misogynistic – just look at that getup he stuck Princess Leia in so everyone could gawk at what a “young and beautiful piece of ass” he had.
They’ve both got their slimy tentacles deep into the levers of power and are happy to use them to enrich themselves.
And they’re both gluttonous pigs. Whether the feast is food, power, wealth, or flattery.
If you have your own ideas about which villain Donald Trump is, kindly leave a comment and I’ll be happy to discuss Donny’s villainy with you. 🙂
Some art that made me say, “cool!” and a few tweets led to some bigger thoughts on genre writing – which is a pretty normal thing, small ideas leading to larger ones, if you’ve done some writing or pretty much any art I can think of or serious thinking.
I found Travis Durden’s Star Wars Greek statuary through a tweet I saw a couple of hours ago (on the 27th — this post first appeared on my Patreon page (would you like to support a not-quite-starving writer? Please do! Because every penny helps tear down the budget worries that often occupy my mind when I’d rather be writing) in the wee hours of the 28th) (tweet posted below). Durden’s art is seriously neat stuff.
Which lead to this tweet:
And this one:
And finally this one:
After I graduated from kiddie books so many years ago, I cut my reading teeth on science fiction. I tried reading the paperbacks my father brought home from used bookstores and quickly learned to look for the short story collections and anthologies — I’d recently learned to read, it was hard enough to work through all the words I didn’t recognize without trying to figure out what was going on in a whole novel. But the shorter short stories, in those early years, I could wrap my mind around those. And remember (well, you might not have known, so I’m telling you) this was in the mid-70s, when certainly many authors in science fiction and elsewhere may have been experimental in their writing, but the mainstream in short science fiction stories was heavy with straightforward plots, traditional story arcs, and mysteries resolved with a single final twist. There’s plenty of that now, to be sure. But either there was more then or those are what I remember because they’re the stories I understood as a child.
That’s a long way to go to say that science fiction seemed huge to me, but it did. It seemed huge and very distinct because it was my entire fictional world then. Nursery rhymes and the little stories found in early reader books — if you’ve had or been around small children just learning to read much, you’ll recall them — hardly counted.
And science fiction is distinct, or at least distinctive. The definition has been endlessly debated over, but most of us who read much of it recognize it when we see it. The same goes for the other genres I mentioned in that last tweet. Horror is distinct enough that we notice the difference, for example, when we read a Stephen King horror story as opposed to a Stephen King something else. Legends have a pretty distinct definition. Magical realism blurs the lines — sometimes it’s fantasy, sometimes it’s science ficiton, sometimes it’s literary, sometimes, sometimes, sometimes.
That’s the genre that really makes the point, with its blurryness.
They’re all blurry, really. Think of Star Wars: get a SW fan who calls it science fiction and a SW fan who calls it science fantasy in the same room and watch the genre boundary argument fur fly.
We love to dicker over what story counts as which genre and who’s that writer whose work is called X but really it’s more Y don’t you think?
To say they’re all fiction is too simplistic. But there’s that in pointing out that genres are small things that cannot really contain a story, not the large and well-defined things we’re tempted to think of them as, that we often reflexively think of them as after a scholastic lifetime of being taught the boundaries of genre.
They’re all stories. They’re all about human beings and what human beings do and think and feel and wonder. All of them, even the genres where there is debate as to whether or not they’re fiction or nonfiction: mythology, legend, religion.
They’re stronger when they wander, stories are. When we get it into our minds that we can’t write in X event because we’re writing science fiction or that Y character doesn’t make sense because we’re reading fantasy, we weaken the stories that we might otherwise love, whether we’re reading them, writing them, or representing them in other forms of art. For centuries fiction and poetry have derived inspiration and imagery from religion and mythology and legend (assuming you divide stories that faith has grown up around into those rather than lumping them together). Star Wars is beloved science fiction in part because it incorporates elements of fantasy and legend and even, at least in the beginning, of the Western movie.
Try picking out a few of your favorite stories that have won wide acclaim or are considered enduring classics. Give them a read with this in mind, and look for where the genres blur. You don’t need a story that glaringly throws seventeen genres together; one that’s mostly in one but draws in bits of others is just fine — even better, in fact.
Much like the ancient advice that a single stick alone is weak but a bundle of those same sticks is strong together, I think you’ll find that stories that gather together elements of different genres are the strongest.
And I also think that it’s more than worth the effort to seek them out as a reader, and to try to create them as a writer.
(This post originally appeared on my Patreon page on 14 February 2016. Becoming a patron means they get to see almost all of my posts three days before they appear here, and when I publish a short story they get to read it THIRTY days before anyone else, PLUS they can download a FREE .pdf copy EVEN IF I CHARGE FOR THE EBOOK. So if you’re not already part of my Patreon crew, you should be!)
2364: Jedi Heir to Crowdfund Mars Orbital Habitat
AP-MARS (Thoat Crossing Domeplex)
15 April 2364 UT-Earth
Mars-born asteroid-mine heir and ordained Church of The Force Master Jedi Arianna Musk-Aguinaldo announced the establishment of a systemwide GoKick crowdfunding campaign in an effort to construct a habitat devoted exclusively to members of the Church of The Force. Late last year Musk-Aguinaldo made headlines with her purchase of Mars-sychronous orbital rights from her own private funds, with the purpose shielded by a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) with a maximum duration of three years and early disclosure limited to her and not to the government or officials of Mars.
Some financial and political experts believe that Musk-Aguinaldo intended to develop her orbital habitat concept in secrecy for the entire term of the NDA, but was prompted to take earlier action in response to a March 23rd security breach of MarsGov intranet, for which the infoterror group Full Transparency took credit.
The scope of the project is ambitious for a private effort, with a habitat ecology capacity of 250,000 individuals and plans to invite 25,000 initial occupants. Those occupants are expected to consist of individuals with strong networks within the church hierarchy, as their number represents only a small fraction of the Church of The Force’s estimated thirty million members throughout the solar system. When asked if the habitat would be open to skeptics or nonadherents to the church in the future, Aguinaldo-Musk stated that skeptics directly related to church members in good standing would be welcome, but individuals designated to be Dark Side by official action of the church would be excluded or exiled without exception. Also excluded would be members of or adherents to the schismatic Congregation of Lucas, Prophet, whose doctrines differ with the Church of The Force on doctrine regarding the divine inspiration of Star Wars movies beyond the Holy Sextet (Episodes I-VI) or inclusive of the Old Expanded Universe.
The Church of The Force’s teachings on shunning of those designated Dark Side have been controversial both historically and at present, as church Writs have been issued commanding the faithful to sever all contact with employers, spouses, and parents, or even to abandon adolescent children to foster care.
Habitat plans include a hydroponics district and wildlife preserve designated as “Dagobah,” a mixed urban and recreational parkland district of “New Alderaan,” a vacuum and cryonics laboratory named “Hoth,” and a contract with Mars Orbital Utility Solar (MOUS) to provide primary power (in addition to onboard fusion reactors) to the habitat via microwave laser.
“Younglings” as a crappy word choice comes to you from the Star Wars prequels, specifically when everyone is horrified that Anakin killed “younglings.”
But, you say, look at that Star Wars Wikia pic you just posted. It’s meant to be used to refer to juveniles in a species-neutral way. It’s a piece of worldbuilding!
Maybe so. But, for one, you don’t need a different term for that. “Child” will work fine for the juveniles of sentients in general. Establish it by having characters refer to nonhuman children as children. Nobody will misunderstand.
Second, “he killed the younglings” sucks the emotional juice out of the scene, which is much more important than a small bit of superfluous linguistic worldbuilding. It comes across as a euphemism. Euphemisms exist to soften harsher words. And so “younglings” softens the impact of the idea that Anakin just slaughtered a classroom full of kids and reduces it to the impact of a nasty bit of vandalism. Oh, damn, we’ll have to repaint the whole nursery. What a shame.
And that IS a shame. If any scene should have high impact, it’s the scene that establishes that Anakin has gone full-on evil bastard. But letting a worldbuilding detail take precedence over the emotional impact of the story took the wind out of its sails.
Writers need to look to the integrity and purpose of their scenes and stories first. And that means killing children, not euphemistic “younglings.” When picking words, make the right choices. Your stories and your readers (watchers, for screenplays and their dialogue) will thank you.