Sunday, December 6, 2015

Finding love in the strangest places...

Combining fiction genres effectively is a challenge for any writer, and a potentially rewarding one.  The challenge lies in letting your imagination soar while still respecting the boundaries of whatever genres you've chosen, even when the border between them blurs.  A publication like Mocha which combines fantasy, science fiction, horror and romance presents that challenge, and in some very offbeat and provocative ways. 

"An Improbable Truth:  The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" for instance, was a daring challenge to effectively combine the familiar style of the legendary Victorian sleuth with dark realms of fantasy and science fiction most people wouldn't ordinarily connect with him, and in such a way that the compelling magic of each would compliment the other.

Genre-mixing can be seen in the currently popular science fiction sub-genre I like to call YAPA (Young Adult Post-Apocalyptic.)  It takes the old sci-fi genre of "After Armageddon", the grim and bloody macho fantasies of survivors fighting over scraps in the rubble of our fallen civilization (a popular if schlocky subject of grade-B sci-fi films in the 70's) and combines it with the unlikely partner genre of young adult romance.  The heroes and heroines of today's post apocalyptic dark visions are young people fighting for their lives and souls against adult-run tyrannies of the future, and finding love along the way.  It effectively marries two very different genres, and provokes a bit of controversy along the way (as all good fiction should, in my opinion.)

 We recently saw the long-awaited wrap-up of the movie adaptation of the "Hunger Games" books.  The saga began with a tragic young love trapped within the seemingly  inescapable nightmare of a monstrous tyranny of the future in which the young are forced to kill each other in gladiatorial games.  The heroine is a normal girl.  All she really wants is to live her life, protect her beloved kid sister and be with the boy she loves.  The obligatory element of the young adult love story is there:  She's in love with two different guys and has to choose.  But, in the nightmare world she has to live in, which one she ends up with may depend more on the course of larger forces she can't control than on her own heart.  She's pitted against one of the two boys in the death sport which proves the first great test of their love.  The society they live in puts their love on display to sell an idea to the masses.  But, is that love real?  It proves to be only at the very end, and has an effect on a world so desperate for change that an individual act of love can literally change everything.  That's the challenge of all good science fiction and fantasy:  to create a character with whom anyone can identify, and make the reader imagine him or herself in a world where none of the familiar rules and boundaries apply anymore.  More than that, to directly connect one with the other.

The saga evolves into a tale of revolution, the young heroine who survived the games and then destroyed them becoming a reluctant but effective spokes model for a populist revolution.  The story continually and effectively dovetails young adult romance with political and social allegory, as the heroine finds herself just as exploited as a televised image by the revolution as she was by the regime.  Her love again faces the critical test, and proves the one unshakeable reality in a world built on lies when she goes against the orders of the revolutionary leaders in rescuing the boy she loves from the regime.  Only to find he has been brainwashed by the enemy, his mind poisoned against her.

As the story continues, the revolutionary war escalates in bloody carnage and brutality,  conveying the grim reminder that life isn't like fiction where the righteous revolution topples the tyranny and all live happily ever after.  The new regime is often just as bad as the old.  Here again, the young love story interweaves with the tale of future war as one of the heroine's two loves becomes a commander of the revolution, the gentle, handsome boy she once loved now a ruthless butcher plotting calculated mass casualties without a glimmer of compassion or conscience.  While the other is fighting an internal war for his own soul.  He doesn't know which of his thoughts and emotions are real and which  where programmed into him by his former captors.  The heroine refuses to give up on him, no matter what.  Again, love is put to the test by larger circumstances, the imaginary world becoming the crucible for that love.

In the end, something resembling a happy ending is finally carved from the tragedy, and even a glimmer of hope for the human condition shines through.  Love proves humanity's one slim hope for redemption. To combine the classic elements of diverse genres:  teen romance, high adventure and dark political allegory -- yes,  a challenge worth doing.   I hope we see more of it.  And, if more such challenges are forthcoming from Mocha, I for one will do my best to answer the call.

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