Why whimsy in my writing?

Or “Sorry that I’m not sorry for getting up on my soapbox about writing, because this is my blog about writing (which is something, or so I’m told, I’m relatively good at.” Also, this may end up being on long-ass post. I’m still not sorry. Lastly: confetti and shit! This is totally my hundredth post on Misadventures in Fiction, and that’s really damn exciting for me.

I may have woken up with a touch of a hangover, and a slightly bitter taste in my mouth. My sister, her boyfriend, another friend of hers, and I went to Butcher and the Rye (a restaurant/whiskey bar in Pittsburgh, that was rather nice) last night, and I enjoyed three interesting mixed drinks. I swear this detail is relevant, and it’s not just a small reminder to myself on the matter of being more cautious with what liquors I mix (their blood and sand is delightful, by the way). Stepping back after finishing this post, I can honestly say it was just a framing device with the bitter taste, and a not entirely necessary mention of how I’ve grown fond of scotch in the past year. Hindsight and so on.

Moving along. I have been writing a good deal of fantasy since the start of this year, and I’ve recently returned to writing science fiction (with a humorous slant, of course, because I can’t take myself too seriously, and I expect not many other people can either). One result of this (ignoring the rather horrifying page counts I’ve produced) is I’ve found myself thinking back to a comment made in regards to my writing a while back. It obviously struck a nerve to some extent, and I’m sure that a few people who have heard me rant about this before will be wagging their fingers in my general direction later on (should they read this) for letting it gnaw at me now and again. I’ve mentioned it in other posts. The comment in question was part of a rejection, passed along by word of mouth, about how the piece I submitted was well-written. It was rejected because fantasy and science fiction are such antiquated genres.

I’d like to say I got back to writing this hours later, after waking up covered in ink from innocent pens I snapped in half during a blind rage, but thankfully that’s not the case. There’s something about that statement that makes me string together expletives like it’s my job (I nearly said gnash my teeth, but my own bullshit detector screeched so loudly it broke all the glass in the greater Pittsburgh area, probably). However, in the spirit of getting to the *real* point of this post, I’ll just very politely point to George R.R. Martin, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, (the late) Douglas Adams, and those are just to name a few. And, at the risk of sounding like a great and awful spite-monster: if/when I get a book published, I’ll be sending the individual in question a signed copy of said book with the offending quote written, followed by “Suck it” written in large, ornate lettering. Maybe a little more than a little bitter.

This all got me thinking about why I write the way I write, and why I write the way I write what I write (I know that’s truly verbose, but it sounded too fun to not write out entirely; it’s my blog and I’ll ramble if I want to (damn it)). Why fantasy with a humorous slant, or why sci-fi with a humorous slant? Why inject humor into everything?

You are what you read, and my brain is so saturated with the wonderful works of Terry Pratchett, Christopher Moore, Douglas Adams, and so on and so forth. I like to think I’ve got a decent sense of humor, even if that sometimes translates to me being a bit of a jackass. When writing, if I just word-vomit along for a while there will invariably be some silly comment or wink-wink-nudge-nudge dialogue thrown in. It just happens, and there’s almost no avoiding it because it’s just a part of my voice as a writer. Professors have praised it, and professors have ran red pens through it (Technical Writing and I did not get along very well because of this). When I write without humor, I can’t read the end product without getting an air of stuffiness. It’s like the writing takes itself too seriously without the comedy to help it along, and that’s something I can’t have. People already seem to think I’m pretentious, so I don’t need my writing to come across as snooty or aloof.

Feel free to argue this next point, but I feel like a little whimsy is necessary in writing. Don’t get me wrong: I love a good dystopian setting as much as the next brooding cynic. They’re interesting, albeit grim, looks at how the world, or some other unlucky world (fingers crossed for some planet other than Earth being plunged into a tyrannical city-state style rule), and they can be pretty damn thought-provoking. I also have to set them down and walk away now and again, more often than not, to cheer up a little. It falls back in line with me being unable to write too seriously. That’s not to say dark and gloomy futures can’t have whimsy to them, but I’ll be the first to say I would probably shit it up pretty well to the point where it’s less “look at these bad things that could happen in the future because of reasons” and more “giggle giggle snort look at these silly robot overlords and how we screwed ourselves into a horrible future as meat-slaves to their every whim”. There’s so many dystopian futures, filled with doom and gloom and messages of foreboding, and I feel there needs to be more balance brought to the literary table. However, in line with my frustration over being told sci-fi and fantasy are antiquated genres, I still encourage writing wherever your creativity leads your pen or keyboard, because to hell with what other people say. Don’t let me be the jackass who makes you question writing a certain way.

Ultimately, I like taking these what-if situations presented in fiction, especially sci-fi and fantasy, and have as much fun with them as I can. Why can’t the princess hold a dragon hostage until the kingdom bends to her whims? What if the evil sorcerer is really just cranky, but misunderstood? How many aliens are really just as bored living on their home worlds as humans are with Earth? I could go on and on. The ideas happen, and, barring any laziness, I just have to run with them. Sure, I could just as easily try writing straight-up, this-is-very-serious fantasy or sci-fi, but I just can’t help slipping in the occasional written whoopee cushions here and there.

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