Defying Description

Whenever I tell someone new that I’m having a novel published, the question is inevitably asked:

“Oh?  What’s it like?  What’s it about?”

And I get to sit there for a second like a twit trying to come up with a concise, clear way of describing it.  I usually go with something like, “It’s a hard-boiled detective novel with bizarre sci-fi science elements and ninjas.  And an ape-in-a-suit named Vinny the Pooh.”

I’ll tell you, the weird looks I often receive in return aren’t reassuring.  Maybe my description is lacking?  I struggle with describing my creative endeavors, whether they’re comics or stories or poems or songs or freestanding dioramas portraying the inevitable betrayal and death of a beloved Joss Whedon character in one of his shows.

Part of me wants to be able to just say, “Here, read the first chapter.  That’s what it’s about.  That’s what it’s like.”  Unfortunately, I can’t carry around copies of the first chapter for that specific purpose; I’m pretty sure the administration would start to give me funny looks if I upped my copier use that much.

It’s probably best if I just come up with a snappier, more effective description.  I’ve been trying out the term speculative noir to describe the story, though that’s drawn some confused looks, too.

I like the term, though.  It encapsulates basically everything you need to know: speculative fiction is all about near-future tech and science and society, and the weird ways things are similar to and different from the future.  Noir, of course, hearkens back to the works of Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler, or films like The Maltese Falcon (a Hammet story, if you don’t know) or Touch of Evil.  There are shifty characters, individuals with dark secrets, and a central character who doesn’t so much have a character arc as he has a drinking problem and a curiosity that he can’t shake even though it threatens to get him killed all the time.  And hell, that’s Eddie Hazzard through and through.

Sure, I still have to explain what I mean with speculative noir, but once I have it does a pretty good job of getting my idea across.

Of course, I still have to mention the ninjas.  Because, c’mon, ninjas.

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