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New eBook Release: When Ai Met Yu

After being published in five parts on my own blog, it's time for this story to come to a wider audience. My first attempts at both a re...

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Welcome to Reality!

Reality. It can be the bane of the dramatic writer who doesn't know how to work within the laws of the real world to create adventure and mystery. In my latest work, recent finished and now undergoing proofreading and editing, I set myself a real challenge. Writing an adventure story without relying on cheap get-out clauses or improbable events (well, improbable without reason).

The reasons for my strong dislike for those types of scenarios outside very specific situations stems from a natural liking for the realistic. Even in my fantasy worlds, I keep events as realistic as possible. Even in my science fiction, the "science" is based on the real and the possible rather than using Clarke's old tactic of tech being advanced enough for magic (which, while interesting to think about, is something of a cheat when it comes to story writing). But one particular novelist, Clive Cussler, doesn't do any of this. I first encountered Cussler's work through the movie adaptation of his novel Sahara, which I really enjoyed and still enjoy to this day. I decided to buy the original book, and was instantly put off. Any semblance of realism present in the movie was clearly not in the book. My father also reads - or read, at least - Cussler as light entertainment. I tried his other work in Raise the Titanic and Mayday. Suffice to say, these were more than enough to put me of Cussler for life. In reaction to this and my combined enjoyment of and amusement at Dan Brown's novels surrounding the character of Robert Langdon, I decided to write my own story.

First off, I needed a protagonist. She's someone I've tried to get into stories for a long time. Inspired by my love of independent and sassy female heroines (think Lara Croft meets Adele Blanc-Sec with touches of the 1980s Red Sonja and Aeon Flux). I've tried her in fantasy, then in science-fantasy, and neither worked. I think it's because I was using a third-person narrative for a character who deserved a first-person spotlight. She's essentially a version of me, so I was able to write in a convincing way I haven't quite managed with my other works to date. It also enables me to slip in some constructive criticism of genre tropes without it sounding odd or awkward. It's just someone commenting in the narrative on their situation.

Next, I decided to keep my story squarely in reality. I love Lara Croft and Syndey Fox, but you've got to admit the idea of massive temples and tombs with still-working traps after thousands of years does stretch the suspenders of disbelief to breaking point. There's also the modern world problem of where to find undiscovered ruins that aren't either buried under a large amount of jungle (as in completely overgrown and unexplorable) or have been reduced to their foundations. The obvious solution is to make them underground temples and tombs, but then you need to find an area that can accommodate it in the real world. No point putting an underground temple of some scale into rock that's too hard to mine with the tools its builders would have used. Someone will always call you out. So yes, I can hide an ornate tomb in the desert, as long as it's a subterranean structure built into sandstone.

I also wanted to put in some genuine archaeological or historical locations without turning them into surreal "for the reader and for drama" incarnations of their real-world counterparts. I think you can guess what I mean - Egyptian tombs with working traps and vast conveniently lit catacombs, huge undiscovered Khmer ruins with deep catacombs and complex locking systems... Basically what a lot of adventure stories tend to incorporate. My locations eventually included (not strictly in this order) the Cardamom Mountains in Cambodia, the Scavi beneath the Vatican, the Gilf Kebir in Egypt, Pere Lachaise Cemetery the Carriere de Paris, the Cambrian Mountains in Wales, and several minor locations that can be visited today. As to why she's going to all these places, that's part of the story, so I'm not telling you anything here.

All of these places and associated locales had to be meticulously researched, realistically portrayed, and where needed embellished in such a way that it only requires a minor stretch of the imagination and not total suspension of disbelief. It also provided a wonderful opportunity to slip in a few in-jokes at the expense of the very authors I'm emulating. Such as.... a complex locking system on a door breaking due to rot when Helena tries to use it, and in the end all the door needs is a few kicks to get through one of its rotting panels. Yeah, that happens. And she's more than vocal about the fact that ancient locking mechanisms always seem to work in the movies...

Basically, it took five months of alternating between writing and research to complete what I fully consider to be a first draft. There's still editing, proofreading, formatting, and other such tasks to complete. I want it to be as readable as possible. But that's the future. Now, I can enjoy my victory. My first full-length novel written without a scrap of magic or science fiction in its pages.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Review - Book - The Picture of Dorian Gray

Note: This review is based on an unabridged 8-CD reading by CoverToCover.

Oscar Wilde is most widely remembered for his comic plays, which act as social satires of his time and contain some of the greatest witty dialogue ever put to paper. But Wilde's body of work also covers essays, short stories and novellas, the latter including classics such as The Canterville Ghost and Lord Arthur Savile's Crime. But one book has had a profound legacy outside his traditional sphere of work; the Gothic philosophical novel this review is dedicated to. It has been adapted multiple times for radio, television and the movies, but aside from a very few, they all seem to miss the point of this story.

The figure of Dorian Gray and his vaguely implied Faustian pact has cast a long shadow over Gothic and horror fiction, elevating the character and concept to a fame the original book has struggled to match. I'm sure most people know of Gray, but fewer know of the book itself. They know the character through the movies, where erotic elements have been added to appease a sex-hungry public in an age where many might consider romance to be dead. But this novel is so much more; it's a biting commentary on the society of the time, but without Wilde's traditional wit. This turns it into a far darker offering than his comparably fluffy plays.

The basic synopsis is well known and well worn. Gray, in the full flush of youth, curses a recently-completed portrait which captures a beauty which will inevitably fade. Through a disastrous romantic escapade with an actress, Gray sees the painting begin to change in a subtly unpleasant way while he remains pristine. This is the basic premise, but what many people will fail to grasp is the principles behind Gray's actions over the course of the novel. In his affair with the actress, there is nothing sexual; he falls in love with her acting ability, which brings life to the Shakespearean roles she performs. Later, when he resolves to use the painting's "gift" to experience life as never before, it is focused on the aesthetic wonders of life and experiences that heighten his sensations of the world (which, yes, includes the popular drugs of the time such as opium). We're never given exact details of his pursuits beyond his passing passions for music and jewels, but it's never stated once that he does anything sexual. It's all about the aesthetic beauties of life and gratifying his senses, in addition to a streak of experimentation that I'm sure most people will understand in some way. He also, at several points in the novel, exemplifies the Victorian upper class stereotype (and often reality) of never wanting to talk or thinking about things that were not "nice".

Alongside Gray are two characters that must not be forgotten. Lord Henry Wotten, an unrepentant and opinionated hedonist who influences the impressionable Gray, is arguably the one responsible for the events of the novel, even though he knows little of Gray's true nature. Basil Hallward, the painter who creates the eponymous picture, is Lord Henry's antithesis, being humble and morally upright. He is also gradually undermined by his complete infatuation with Gray as his ultimate muse (those who wish to see otherwise in Hallward's proclaimed "love" may do so, as I'm sure many at Wilde's indecency trials chose to). These two characters pull Gray in different directions, and provide mediums against which to compare Gray.

From a simple reading perspective, the prose can get a little difficult to swallow as Wilde goes into long philosophical expositions on Gray's inner thoughts, and a large portion of the central book is dedicated to explanatory time-skipping. But parts actually form part of the experience, and key pieces of the narrative are scattered in among them. Without that additional exposition, you wouldn't understand Gray's progress through life half as well. Wilde's style, in contrast, helps convey the emotion of situations expertly and succeeded within a few lines of turning my sympathy for Gray into utter disgust - that's something a very few books have ever managed to do in my experience.

The story as a whole is highly enjoyable, and I recommend that you seek out a complete edition of the book rather than any abridgment or any but the most fanatically faithful adaptation. But for those who have seen Wilde's plays and expect light comedy and titter-worthy lines, be warned. There is little to no comedy in this novel, it's biting satire and mature philosophising people won't typically associate with Wilde. But in doing this, I'd say that Wilde created one of his finest works. and a true piece of literature. Regardless of its influence in horror, its place in the canon of fiction should not be ignored. In an additional note, the complete reading upon which this review is based - with narration by Edward Petherbridge - is top-notch and a worthy edition to any CD or audio collection. If you can find it...


Sunday, 19 November 2017

Story Construction - The Line Between Influence and Cribbing

Note: Sorry if it's rather short compared to other posts, it's rather short notice.

Taking inspiration from those that have come before is common practice for any author, whether it's the scholarly writer of non-fiction, or a writer of the most outlandish fiction imaginable. But where does inspiration end and cribbing begin. To be exact, when I use the word "crib", I'm talking about plagiarism, that career-destroying sin authors commit when they either take heavy inspiration from or lift word-for-word from another work without acknowledging their inspiration/source. This is a problem with me for a very particular reason; with some exceptions, I don't have a good original visual imagination.

Yeah, that was quite a mouthful. I'll try to explain it. In some respects, I've an extremely active and visual imagination, as I'm an avid fan of visual media such as comics, movies, television and video games. In contrast, my spark of invention lies primarily in the written word, meaning the images in my mind are more akin to placeholders for the characters I create than actual visions of what they look like from the book. From characters created by artists to the visages of notable actors and actresses, I copy-and-paste to ensure I've got something there for when I create the scenes in my head. This tends to go hand in hand with how I can find sudden inspiration while going through something completely different from my story that's got a strong visual motif. Example; much of Crystal and Sin has a tone that took inspiration from both the anime series Cowboy Bebop and the American live-action series Firefly.

But that presents a very real danger. Where does inspiration end and cribbing begin? There's always the risk that the unwary author will take too much of something and run the risk of being seen as too derivative. Of course everything's been done at some point, and phrases or names will inevitably slip into our subconscious to be filed away for future usage. But when they begin intruding on your own thoughts and wishes, it becomes a real problem. I've abandoned more story ideas than I can count because they're just too derivative. Other ideas have needed massive modification due to the same reason.

Example: I have a wonderful idea focused around a world where humanity has become sterile, and its population is mainly replaced by artificial humans whose only difference is a slight blankness of look and are ruled by the last six surviving "true humans". The main plot is the mystery why one of the surviving humans is trying to kill the others. Sounds great. Except that I was inspired by the video game Drakengard 3 and the book series by Sean Russell starting with Beneath the Vaulted Hills, which have a very similar premise (a key figure related to something bringing an end to that same something). If the premise is strong enough, which I believe this is, it could be carried through. But if it remains verbatim, then I'll never be fully comfortable with it.

Another one barely worth a mention was a planned series that stank so much of the Earthsea and Inheritance books I dumped it after fifteen chapters, utterly unable to continue writing something that derivative. It led to the creation of something else slightly more original and promising, but its original form is dead and buried. And good riddance.

These are just two instances. There are dozens I can only just remember because the ideas came within a few days and left in just as short a time, or were modified that their initial derivative forms are lost for good. And a good thing too. The last thing I want to feel like is a copycat...!

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Using a Genre; Straight, Satire, or Deconstruction - Part 3

In this series of blog posts, the first in some time due to a variety of factors, I've decided to focus on the three major ways people use genres in general; playing them straight, satirising them, and deconstructing them. Each has merits, and none are set in stone. That's what lovely about them!

This time, for this final post, deconstruction is the order of the day. So what is deconstruction, when not applied to Lego or philosophy that is? Well, it's generally applied to stories in various media which take the tropes of a particular genre and examine them with a critical eye and the aim of understanding its interior workings. While satire does something similar, deconstruction tends to be far darker. The word "deconstruction" has been associated most recently with anime, which has become notorious for relying on genre tropes to the point of exasperation, but many of these deconstructions don't actually count as such. They're just dark or violent takes on those same tropes without actually deconstructing them.

It's difficult to pin down what counts as deconstruction, so it may surprise you what I've picked out as fine examples of it. For books, I think one of the best examples for its time is the work of H. P. Lovecraft. Yes, his weird fiction may be a common subgenre now, but in its day it was groundbreaking. While most stories at the time focused on humans overcoming impossible odds, Lovecraft takes completely the opposite approach, using typical story beats of his time, wrapping his distinct and near-nihilistic views on humanity around them, and creating stories that can be seen as a commentary on how these stories are typically told, and how their protagonists are portrayed. Of course every book can have deconstruction in it somewhere, but there are very few which have it as a major part of their narrative.

The same can be said of movies and television, although there it seems to be spread even thinner on the ground due to...reasons. But there are plenty out there. Shrek, in between its bouts of comedy and genuinely moving romance, deconstructs multiple fairy tale tropes people take for granted, accomplished by making its lead character an ogre, a being typically portrayed as a villain or antagonistic minion. A series that I think does this well is Firefly and its movie conclusion Serenity. While it has the usual allowance of sci-fi tropes and concessions, its people are more real than most other sci-fi casts, facing its extraordinary circumstances with down-to-earth responses. A special shout-out must be given to Whedon's writing as he makes characters real even in the most outlandish situations.

In anime, deconstruction has sadly become more of a buzzword than an actual description of the anime's contents. Shows like School Days and Puella Magi Madoka Magica are labelled as deconstruction without actually understanding what a deconstruction is. In my view, they're just ultra-violent or downbeat takes on a genre's tropes without actually deconstructing them. There can be deconstructive elements there, but it's not like the whole show deconstructs the genre. One show I think is often overlooked in the deconstruction line is Neon Genesis Evangelion. It stands as both a prime example of the mecha genre, and a brutal examination of what real teenagers with real problems would do and how they would react when stuck inside a giant mech and forced to fight merciless monsters dubbed Angels.

Video games have a far richer field of view for deconstruction due to their interactive nature. But again it's an industry averse to taking risks, even more so than the movie and television industries as they focus more on high returns than art. The setting I most associated with deconstruction is Yoko Taro's seminal Drakengard/Nier franchise. On the surface a Medieval high fantasy world, its dark twist on multiple RPG-based storytelling tropes from the hero with animal companion and love interest (here a sadistic soldier with a racist dragon and a sister holding secret incestuous love) to the righteous cause of the main character (androids sent to Earth to defeat monstrous machines, only said machines aren't nearly so monstrous and their leaders not nearly so honest as they seem). One part dark fantasy, one part cautionary tales about prejudice and the nature of killing, one part deconstruction of what games are, this franchise is unique in the gaming world. And that's saying something!

Closing Note;
Playing it straight. Satire. Deconstruction. Each has merits. Each has pitfalls. I'm not telling you which to use or which to ignore, only showing what they have to offer. I hope you've enjoyed what I've shown you as examples of these three approaches.

Shameless plug time ;)
If you want a cheap sample of non-violent deconstruction, then why not take a look at When Ai Met Yu: A Modern Japanese Romance, my take on the LGBT-focused yaoi/bara genres.

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Amazon US link
Kobo Score link

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Review - Television Movie - The Count of Monte Cristo (1975)

Note: I’d intended this week’s post to be the third in my series on approaches to genre, but I couldn’t resist the urge to write this review of what ranks among my favorite Dumas dramatisations.

Few stories are as ingrained into popular culture as Alexander Dumas's seminal saga of revenge The Count of Monte Cristo. Wronged Marseilles sailor Edmund Dantes is falsely condemned to over a decade in the Chateau d'If, escapes with the help of friend and tutor Abbe Faria, and discovers a promised stash of unimaginable wealth on the little island of Monte Cristo. As the Count, and under a wealth of other aliases, Dantes sets about exacting a slow and calculated revenge on the men responsible for his ruin. The original book is a literal brick to read, but has spawned multiple adaptations, pastiches and parodies, and is ranked among both Dumas's (and his ghost writer partner August Maquet) greatest works and among the great works of literature.

There are over twenty separate adaptations in existence across multiple languages, including a stellar four-part BBC radio adaptation with Iain Glen taking the role of the Count. There are three notable movie adaptations, but the one I'm focusing on for this review is the Emmy award-nominated 1975 television movie with Richard Chamberlain in the lead role. This adaptation has the unenviable task of fitting the basics of a book coming in at nearly 400,000 words (the size of four standard modern books combined) into the modest span of 105 minutes, or one hour and forty-five minutes (116 minutes/nearly two hours in Europe).

The first thing to note is that this isn't a faithful transcript of the novel, but an adaptation of its salient points. This means that nearly every subplot has been cut, leaving the bare bones of the original novel's narrative. In this case, it's a plus, as many people probably need a graff to keep track of what's going on from one chapter to the next. Despite its meagre runtime, the movie does an admirable job of communicating the novel's plot, and succeeds in being more faithful to the original story than either the 1934 black and white adaptation or the more action-oriented 2002 version. There are clear influences from the 1934 version, from motifs to direct lifts for particular scenes, but the original novel's bleak tone is maintained. Dantes isn't a hero, he's a man out for revenge. And in this story, revenge is served very cold indeed. The cut subplots help keep the movie's pace at a breathless speed, and while there are multiple artistic liberties with the sequence of events, they don't stop it being an enjoyable romp through one of the great revenge plots of our time.

The casting has some mixed results. The lavish direction of the production shows in the actors brought on board, but it's difficult to be entirely convinced by Tony Curtis as Count Fernand Mondego, and some of the other performances come off as over-the-top. The other leads and major supporting roles are surprisingly good despite some occasionally laughable French accents; a shoutout must be given to Louis Jourdan in the role of Gerard de Villfort, who both brings a smile to the face and makes us relish the character's downfall. Chamberlain does a good job with Dantes, both in his innocence and his life as the Count, showing a gentlemanly grace combined with his cold-hearted determination to be avenged upon his foes. Those who only know Chamberlain for his roles of Aramis in The Three/Four Muskateers and 20 Years Later and his dual role of Louis XIV/Phillipe in the 1970s version of The Man in the Iron Mask will be surprised at how dark and tragic his performance is.

The production values are unquestionable. The location shoots and costume design give a sense of authenticity regardless of any anachronisms the expert might pick up. Set design invokes the renewed decadence of France during the 19th century following Napoleon's defeat, and many of the costumes reflect the gaudy designs present among the French elite at that time. The music, composed by Allyn Ferguson, is suitable sweeping and dramatic, even though it's totally at odds with the music they were actually playing at the time. But then, we didn't complain about Dmitri Tiompkin's work on The Fall of the Roman Empire. It just works, regardless of what the era's music was actually like.

To summarise, this movie is a good adaptation of Dumas's novel, but it's not the most accurate. In fact, only the BBC radio dramatisation's come anywhere close to being an accurate adaptation, and even then it cut bits out and made alterations to some events. This movie is a good introduction to this story that's become part of the Western zeitgeist, with some fine performances, its fair share of camp, and a lavish presentation and production. A good movie for those into classic period drama or the work of Dumas, but maybe less appealing for those who prefer a purer approach to adaptation.


Sunday, 22 October 2017

Using a Genre; Straight, Satire, or Deconstruction - Part 2

In this series of blog posts, the first in some time due to a variety of factors, I've decided to focus on the three major ways people use genres in general; playing them straight, satirising them, and deconstructing them. Each has merits, and none are set in stone. That's what lovely about them!

This time we're looking at satire. What is satire? According to the definition provided by Wikipedia, satire is: "a genre of literature, and sometimes graphic and performing arts, in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government, or society itself into improvement. Although satire is usually meant to be humorous, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit to draw attention to both particular and wider issues in society". Well, that about sums it up. And by its very nature, satire can be hard to pin down as a single genre.

As with most aspects of fiction, satire is something which can be done right or wrong depending on whose reading it. Some people will of course be terribly offended, while others with clap with joy. The mixed reception is perhaps best exemplified by many works of French author and essayist Voltaire. An open critic of the then-prevalent Ancien Regime, his novella Candide provoked both support and criticism, and is considered a classic satire of the social norms of the time. Playing out as a picaresque novel, it lampoons the conventions of the adventure and saga genres while also making valid points about society in France at the time, which was heavily class divided and ruled through an absolute monarchy. I fully intend getting my own copy of Candide at some point.

Classical writers excelled at heavily critical works which can stray into the realms of satire; Horance pioneered it as popular entertainment, and later the Roman writer Juvenal (who became the inspiration for the word "juvenile" for obvious reasons) gave us. Other notable later writers include Alexander Pope with his parody of Homer The Dunciad (an attack on the society of Queen Charlotte, wife to George II thought by her critics as the monarchy's guiding hand), Jonathan Swift's novel Gulliver's Travels (in its original pre-Disney form a scathing satire of the English political system in Georgian England), and several works by Mark Twain.

In modern times, satire has taken different forms and tackled issues of the time, a theme that runs through the entire body of satire as a genre convention. A notable example is Catch 22, a novel by Joseph Heller which refers to -- quoting Gilbert and Sullivan for a moment -- "a most ingenious paradox", or a double bind if you like. An airman wishes to get out of a dangerous mission by being declared mentally unfit, but their wish to be taken off that missions shows they have a rational wish for self-preservation and so can't be classified as mentally unfit.

Leaving the realm of the written text into things like opera, we find several satires there as well. Gilbert and Sullivan for one. Well, technically it was Gilbert who did all the satires. Sullivan didn't like it, which partially led to the pair splitting up. Gilbert's plots mocked many conventions of British life during the Victorian era through unlikely and unreasonable situations. Each opera sent up something different; The Mikado focused on the English political system, H.M.S. Pinafore lampooned the rigid class system, and The Pirates of Penzance made merry with the idea of apprenticeship and a sense of duty and loyalty to one's profession -- however much it may be abhorred.

Television satire comes in many forms, but the form I'll focus on here is Yes, Minister and its sequel Yes, Prime Minister. This television series ran during the late 1980s, and acted as a ruthless satire of the governments first of Margaret Thatcher and then of John Major. Main protagonist James Hacker M.P., later elected Prime Minister in a situation similar to the recent ascension of Theresa May following Cameron's resignation, is in a battle of wits and policies with the Permanent Secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby, watched and more than once engaged in on both sides by Hacker's Principle Private Secretary Bernard Woolley. The series' comedy stems from Hacker trying to make changes to the established governmental and ministerial systems, and Sir Humphrey's determined efforts to keep things static. It's wonderfully funny, but is like that because it's lampooning how the British political system actually works. Later, it goes into the role -- or perhaps lack thereof -- of the Prime Minister.

Movies also have their fair share of satire hidden among the blockbusters and art pieces. These can range from Terry Gilliam's darker absurdist movies such as Brazil; the adaptation of Starship Troopers, which combines its summer flick action scenes with scathing satire and criticism of both the American military and the use of war propaganda; or comedic affairs such as Murder by Death, which takes apart and parodies the accepted tropes of detective stories from both the British Golden Age and the American Crime Noir movement.

Satire in video games can transcend what other media can accomplish due to the interactivity inherent to gaming. Due to the relative youth of the medium, it's also much rarer than in literature, movies and television, and also end up making more potential missteps. A notable example of video game satire is The Stanley Parable. In this game, you -- the main character -- are guided through a short story scenario by the narrator. Even the slightest deviance from the path causes the narrator to comment on the situation and do everything from gently persuade to passively abuse you. It points out the convention of a guided path through games that many take for granted. Other games that call out such conventions include Drakengard 3 (through the snarky comments and the actions of main heroine Zero and her disciples) and Danganronpa V3 (the reasons of which I won't spoil here).

Well, that's all I wanted to talk about here. Now I've covered both playing a genre straight and satirising it, I'll move on to one of my favourite approaches when done right - deconstruction. Until next week, enjoy!

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Using a Genre; Straight, Satire, or Deconstruction - Part 1

In this series of blog posts, the first in some time due to a variety of factors, I've decided to focus on the three major ways people use genres in general; playing them straight, satirising them, and deconstructing them. Each has merits, and none are set in stone. That's what lovely about them!

Playing it straight is something every author that has ever existed has done at some point. Whether it's through practice writing, or their published work on any scale, they will take a particular genre and use the straight approach for its portrayal. To be clear, this doesn't mean that someone has to play this completely seriously, or just focus on a narrative. There's a difference between satirising or deconstructing a genre and using it to communicate a particular theme or point. You can do one without doing the other, as many authors have proved. All genres are subject to this, but some show the distinction more than others.

The Lord of the Rings is one of the most notable pieces of fantasy fiction that is played straight. As old readers will know, my feelings on Tolkien are somewhat mixed. But even I'm going to admit that his work is more than impressive. It has scope, intrigue, drama, and a story that has inspired generations of writers following him for good or ill. He includes elements of comedy in the first book, but otherwise the story is serious, portraying the terrible events and troubles facing all sides defying Sauron's bid for global power, much simplified but still more than evident in the movie adaptation.

Many works of science fiction also play things straight, with those who adhere to scientific principals in most of their works being clearer examples than most. Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Azimov both create set worlds which often feature rigidly realistic rules (for their time) when it comes to space travel, scientific advancement, and artificial intelligence. The Robot novels by Asimov not only focus on complicated - or at least unconventional - murder mysteries, but also look hard at the social and technological differences between Earth and colonies on other worlds, and in later books how colonial planets such as Solaria and Aurora differ from each other.

Romances on all levels can involve any amount of raucous comedy or social commentary. Jane Austin's books are full of both witty dialogue and sharp criticism of the culture of her time, the class-driven society of Georgian England when what can be recognised as the prototype middle classes were emerging. Romantic elements are also added to a large number of stories, whether it's straight or LGBT, without it going into the realms of satire or deconstruction. Agatha Christie - while principally a writer of mystery - is somewhat notorious regard to romance, sprinkling in romantic interest and occasionally making improbably, questionable or even wince-worthy matches between surviving characters.

As with any form of fiction, movies, television and video games also share the differing takes on genres, and consequently have stories that play genre conventions straight. The majority of film noir such as The Maltese Falcon, Double Jeopardy and The Big Sleep are played straight and portray a depressing reality our detective (or in some cases murderer) protagonists negotiate during their journey. Video games can end up being criticised for taking themselves to seriously with their subject matter (many Call of Duty games and their competitors/clones are tripped up by this), while in other cases such as Fire Emblem and indeed most RPGs this seriousness is taken as a genre standard.

As with most subjects people write about, there are just too many to list within a single piece or even a series of pieces on the subject. So I think we'll leave it here for now. Next week, we'll be looking at approaching a genre from the angle of satire.