Guest Post: What’s in a Name? (+ Freaks Anon Giveaway)
FREAKS ANON GIVEAWAY
We’re giving away 2 copies of Freaks Anon by Matt Darst this month. Below, Matt provides some thoughts on genre classifications, the novel, and the changing nature of speculative fiction.
What’s in a Name?
To paraphrase author Charlie Jane Anders, the various genres in fiction are a lot like dog breeds. They’ve been engineered to promote very specific traits. For instance, good horror intends to scare its audience. In a sense, horror is the Rottweiler of fiction, a working group dog that seeks to terrify. Science fiction, on the other hand, is very different breed. Sci-fi imagines technological innovations and their impact on mankind. I’d liken the genre to the English bulldog, an animal today that has been genetically modified so that it looks and acts very different than its bull-baiting ancestors.
These genres and others can be great shorthand for readers and viewers looking for particular characteristics. The problem with genres, though, is that they can get tired. Purebred dogs, though loveable, are often susceptible to illnesses that don’t plague mutts. At its worst, horror can rely too heavily on gore, jump scares, or weary tropes. Other genres have their problems as well. Too often in sci-fi we find ourselves in a dystopian environment, traveling beyond the speed of light, being menaced by AI, or bumping up against an alternate universe. These themes are as unwelcome as hip dysplasia and other canine genetic disorders.
Writing across genre lines diversifies the gene pool. While these novels are just as loyal as their fixed genre peers, they offer a glimpse of something new, something refreshing. Crossovers can be chilling, inspiring, and even euphoric.
We’ve seen directors do this successfully. Take Alien. H.R. Giger designed something we had never seen before. Alien is sci-fi set in a haunted house. Or The Thing. John Carpenter pit Lovecraftian horror against the human race in a Cold War chess match. It’s a thriller as much as it is science fiction and horror.
So what did I learn from these films? It’s okay to write genre mash-ups. That’s a lesson that authors Charlie Huston (his Already Dead is the perfect mix of horror and noir), Michael Crichton, and Stephen King have underscored. Writers have varying interests. Why not encourage them to apply their diverse interests and views to their work? With that in mind, I began work on what would become Freaks Anon.
Freaks Anon is a supernatural superhero tale, a novel that’s as much urban fantasy and historical fiction as it is horror and sci-fi. It’s a nexus point between several passions, including music.
Turning back to Carpenter, not only does the director integrate a variety of genres and amazing visual effects (courtesy of Rob Bottin and Stan Winston), his collaboration with Ennio Morricone on the score helped create an even more comprehensive vision. Lately, there have been additional offerings in this vein. It Follows features an amazing soundtrack by Disasterpeace. Stranger Things preyed on our collective sense of 80s music nostalgia.
Freaks Anon is similarly inspired. So much of Freaks Anon is influenced by music that I decided to replace the typical chapter format with “tracks,” essentially creating a mix tape within the novel. Each song speaks to events or the theme of a chapter: The Church’s Ripple, The Jam’s Disguises, Bowie, The Walker Brothers, and dozens of other bands.
(Note: if I could somehow also include a visual element in my writing, I would. Design and music are like chocolate and peanut butter. You can’t get much better than the album art of Warhol or Peter Saville. Or the concert posters created by Mike Joyce of Swissted. Their work even inspired me to take a stab a redesigning some iconic film posters)
What does the future hold? Well, Alan Rinzler offered some thoughts on his blog for writers. “Genre is a convenience,” he noted, “a traditional device that the conventional process of commercial publication has been using awkwardly for centuries.” According to Rinzler, “The hegemony of genre categories is eroding. A book may well wind up on more than one shelf.” That’s a good thing for authors, especially writers like me, with a variety of interests and that don’t want to be pigeonholed or stifled by the trappings of a genre.
About the Novel
Rather that continue to talk in broad strokes about the novel, maybe it would be best to provide a back cover synopsis: Centurion is a wannabe superhero. Life is pretty hard for him, and it gets harder once his sidekick, Henry, dies. The police say Henry’s death was an accident, but Centurion knows better. Henry’s death is part of a bigger pattern. Someone’s murdering children, kids with extraordinary psychic and physical abilities, across the South and Midwest. He needs to find the killer…and fast. In Chicago, his prime suspect has already set her sights on a pair of new victims. But these teens aren’t like anything he’s ever seen. They’re special. Like Henry. Centurion will face spies, monsters, and the ultimate evil: the Chicago auto pound. If he doesn’t watch out, he might just find he’s the one in need of saving.
All proceeds from the sale of Freaks Anon will be donated to Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C).
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About Freaks Anon
Collection notices. Disapproving looks. Sleeping in a van. Life’s hard for wannabe superhero. Things get harder still when Centurion’s sidekick, Henry, dies.
The police say Henry’s death was an accident. Centurion knows better. His death is part of a bigger pattern. Someone’s murdering children, kids with extraordinary psychic and physical abilities, across the South and Midwest.
He needs to find the killer fast. In Chicago, his prime suspect has already set her sights on friends Astrid and Kim. But these teens aren’t like anything he’s ever seen. They’re special. Like Henry.
Centurion will face spies, monsters, and the ultimate evil: the Chicago auto pound. If he doesn’t watch out, he might just find he’s the one in need of saving.
All proceeds from the sale of Freaks Anon will be donated to charity.
Included with the novel is Matt’s dystopian short story Monument.
After law school, he decided to straighten out his life. He went cold turkey. He got a responsible job, a place in Chicago, and a dog. He surrounded himself with all the trappings of a normal life. Still…
Pen and pad call to Matt late at night, cooing his name, telling him to take another hit of fiction. Sometimes, when he’s weak, he heeds the siren call of the drug. He wakes from each blackout amid reams of freshly written pages, pages that have seemingly written themselves.