Fiction School

Fiction School
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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Finally, I'm getting to the Werewolves and Mermaids

I read this really interesting article once in the New York Times about how every decade has a monster du jour—like a mythical creature that rears its ugly head in pop culture, then dies down so a new one can take its place. If memory serves, the article said the 70s favored mummies, 80s were all about werewolves, the 90s were vampires, and the new millennium thus far has been wild for zombies.

The author presented various theories about why this is, the details of which escape me now, but basically he implied that certain eras favor certain monsters because the creature speaks to us right then—it becomes the mascot for our unconscious thoughts and desires. For example, he argued that zombies are hot now because brain-dead consumerism and mind-numbing jobs make us feel like zombies, so we gravitate toward books and movies that speak to that.

Of course, some monsters just won’t die. I heard from a publishing insider that five or six years ago most editors were convinced that vampires were dead; Anne Rice had milked that trend to its limit, and the bloodsucking icon no longer had any selling power. Then Stephanie Myer came along with the Twilight saga and they had to admit they were dead wrong (ouch! Those dead/undead puns are just so bad! Forgive me…)

Lately I’m flirting with the idea of writing fantasy, or at least incorporating more magic into my realism. I’ve developed a certain yen for whimsical monsters of all sorts—werewolves, zombies, vampires, you name it—but my real love is mermaids. I wrote a story once in graduate school that featured a mermaid, and though one pretty out there girl totally dug it, most of my workshop classmates were like, “Jesus, what were you thinking?” Alarmed by their disdain, I backed off the mermaid thing. Now I’m reconsidering.

What do you think? Do you buy the hot-monster-of-the-decade theory, or is that just some New York Times reporter filling space in the Sunday paper? If you do think it’s plausible, any predictions about the decade ahead? Who will be the next Monster of the Moment?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Neologism #3: Fanny Packery

Fanny Packery: noun (fan΄ē pak er ē) 1. Hideous lack of style, epitomized by wearing a fanny pack, though not limited to FP display. Other examples of fanny packery include commenting during movies on the characters’ emotions or motivations, wearing socks with sandals, and cutting one’s hair into any variation on a mullet. 2. Attitudes that express or embody said lack of style. 3. Philosophical stance characterized by caution, practicality and/or fear of the unknown. i.e. Did you hear that dude going off about how a skate park would bring drugs to the neighborhood? Man, that was some serious fanny packery!