Some More Thoughts On Genre

This post will be a bit random, I’m afraid, but I can’t really find a way to make anything coherent out of them, so feel free to view it as a bit of a braindump.

1. I like cross-genre stuff best. My favourite John Carpenter movie is Escape From Precinct 13, which is effectively a zombie siege movie hashed up with a blacker-than-black film noir and fairly explicit tips to the hat to the westerns of Howard Hawks. My favourite fantasy writer is KJ Parker, whose novels are exquisitely-researched military procedurals that just happen to be set in a made-up land. To my mind genre fiction of any kind is at it’s best when it takes the standard tropes and furniture and tweaks it.

2. I love zombie films (hi to everyone at Zombie Command who wanders in, BTW) but I reckon the reason I like them the best is because they are effectively dystopian science fiction. They’re end-of-the-world stories writ large. They’re infection-panic, fear of the silent invader/Red Menace noir. Think about it. Zombie films rarely have star casts, mainly because you like that frisson that just about any character in there could be turned. No-one is safe from the de-humanising influences that batter at your doors and windows, waiting patiently to grab at you and infect you if you let your guard down for a second. That’s classic 50s I Married A Communist From Outer Space paranoia.

I’d go further and say that the recent trend for running zombies makes this even more explicit, because a running zombie simply isn’t scary. A horde of running zombies even less so. Then you’re in the arena in which James Cameron’s ALIENS played so effectively. I thought Zac Snyder’s remake of Dawn of The Dead was one of the best SF films of recent years, but I didn’t jump or scream like a girl once. (another reason why TLC hates going to see movies with me. I do so get sucked into the action…)

The best example of this cross-connection between the two genres to my mind is Philip Kaufman’s 1979 version of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. It’s genuinely creepy, and utterly disorienting as everyone you think you know and trust becomes something … other.

3. Moving back to my earlier post for a second, the brilliant quote from Tamzin Outhwaite came from Dave Langford’s Ansible, the most Hugoed fanzine ever, and a must read for SF fans anywhere. It’s particularly good on the media’s view of SF as a whole, and those that enjoy it in particular (hint: it’s never a particularly flattering view) and skewers the increasingly prelavent claim from actors, writers and directors that the piece of SF that they’ve written/directed/appeared in isn’t SF because… well, try out the random sampler of quotes and see what I mean.

4. One last thing. Fans of the fantastic in general must have been saddened by the news that Robert Holdstock, one of our greatest fantasy – no, scrub that, one of the finest English novelists of the last 40 years, died suddenly and unexpectedly at the end of November. His work, most famously in the extraordinary novel Mythago Wood, dealt with the power of myth and legend, and in the way that our history and the lives of our imagination can frequently intertwine. Here’s the Guardian obit, but really all I can suggest by way of a memorial is to ask you to read Mythago Wood if you haven’t already done so. A whole new world awaits you.

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Rob

Writer. Film-maker. Cartoonist. Cook. Lover.

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