Mash It Up, an excerpt from my class on How to Write Retellings

Explicitly or subtly, writers are always building on the stories that came before us. For a couple of years now, I’ve been teaching a class on retellings at Cat Rambo’s Academy. It’s always a good time to see what people come up with.

Here’s an excerpt from the class, on one of the many strategies for retelling stories — the mash-up.

Craving some hard science fiction spaceships, or some Western cowboy hats? You don’t have to move your story into space or a ghost town and write completely in that new genre—you can do both at once. Sometimes you have to get that chocolate into that peanut butter. Mix things because you love them, or because they go together, or because they should never go together, or because they went together in that weird dream you had the other night.

Some combinations play up the contradictions. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is funny because it makes you imagine all those staid regency ladies juxtaposed with B-horror movie makeup. The retelling thrives because the combination is both ridiculous and delightful.

Other match-ups are about synergy instead of clash. A common blend is fairy tale characters who are under criminal investigation. Fairy tale characters have made many appearances in court room dramas. These days, I mostly see the combination as fairy tales written in a Noir style. Although the genres don’t pair well to me, they appeal to many readers. Perhaps it’s a way to tease out the motivations and complexities of the original, simple stories. The author wants to know “why did this happen?” and poses a fictional detective to find out.

You can mash up whole genres–but you can also just mash individual stories. When superhero comics have big crossover arcs where characters from different parts of the universe all interact, they aren’t changing genre. They’re still superhero comics, just ones without their normally distinct lines.

It’s entirely possible to mash together as many genres and stories as you want. More doesn’t usually mean better–but it can.

If this sounds interesting to you, consider signing up for my class this Sunday, or checking out the On Demand version.

Writing Round-up and Eligibility Post for 2018

It’s that time of year again! Old snow, down coats, tenderly nascent blooming new year’s hopes which will inevitably be both fulfilled and disappointed… and year-end “here is what I wrote this year” posts.

This is both a list of my recent work, and also a list of my pieces that are eligible for the various awards like the Hugo and the Nebula.

I’m really glad to be writing more again. I mean, for one thing I’m writing at least twelve pieces of poetry and/or flash fiction a year, because of Patreon. (Obligatory plug: You can get one new piece of my work each month for $1!) Some of my work has been noveling, and some isn’t out yet, so it’s not all visible in this list– but I am really happy to enjoy prose again.

This year, I’ve been thinking a lot, and writing a lot, about disability. I feel like my interests right now are moving into this really internal, psychological place.

Here’s what I’ve written that is eligible this year:

Short Story:
“Birthday Girl” (2,800 words) in Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction, Sept 2018.
A bipolar woman attends her niece’s birthday party a year after her sister cut off contact.

Read the story here.

Bella and her sister stood awhile in silence, toeing the dirt. Her sister crossed her arms over her chest. She kept trying to smile, but awkwardness wiped it from her face.

Bella’s sister spoke first. You didn’t make her sick.

Bella snapped back. You’re the one who said I did.

 

Novelette:
“Seven Months Out and Two to Go” with Trace Yulie (8,400 words) in Asimov’s, Feb 2018.
A pregnant rancher mourning the loss of her husband has an alien encounter.

The story is not online, but Trace and I did a Q&A about our collaboration here.

“Red, what are you doing out here in the dark? How did you get out? Is the calf in trouble? Get back to the barn so I can look at you.”
Big Red turned toward her, and impossibly, her silhouette morphed and bloated. Legs absorbed into a huge, gelatinous ovoid taller than Kate. Light pulsed within its mucus-like, translucent flesh, rippling and glaring and burning.
“Home,” said a voice, or perhaps voices. The strange, distorted sound was an uncanny chorus. Kate’s heart drummed in response.

 

I’ve also been posting short stories, flash fiction, and poetry on Patreon. Anyone who pledges $1 a month gets new words every month and access to all the previous content. The stories I’ve posted in 2018 include:

“When I Sit on the Fish Tank” Parts One and Two: A cat and her obsession.

Love Is Hot and Brief”: The star-crossed romance of coffee and cup.

The Diary of a Woman Outside Time”: Life, fragmented.

The Stubborn Granny”: Sometimes the Grimm fairy tales are too grim. A rewritten tale.