The cyberpunk short story is coming along well. I got about 6,000 words of it written this weekend. I’m a little uncertain how it’s going to end, but I don’t intend for it to be more than 12,000 words or so.
I can’t claim that it’s a brilliantly original story, but that’s intentional. I have a tendency to get frustrated with stories I read (or movies I watch) in a particular genre, because they’re often almost what I’m looking for, but never quite right. Often, they’ll have one fatal flaw, which mars an otherwise good story. The film I, Robot is a good example. Never mind the fact that it had nothing to do with Isaac Asimov’s short story collection, I, Robot (the screenplay was written first, having nothing to do with Asimov, then somebody decided it should be renamed and tweaked to become an “Asimov” story). It was a well-done mystery concerning robots in the near future. But it had one totally ridiculous element that ruined it: the main character had a ridiculous hate on for robots, based upon a situation that would have made any rational adult realize that robots are coldly logical and can’t act irrationally. Yet, somehow he learned the exact opposite from his experience, and is convinced all robots are psychopaths. It didn’t matter that he later turned out to be (partly) right in his suspicions. It was preposterous that he should think that way, to begin with. And the writers should have fixed that before the film ever went into production.
End of rant.
Anyway, a number of my stories, over the years, have been what I’ve heard described as post-modern stories. That may not be the correct term, but what I’m talking about are stories that distill the essential elements of a genre and try to present a “typical” story, but with a slightly new, more self-aware slant. In most cases, what I’m adding is the idea of a gay central character.
I’m hardly the only author/filmmaker doing this. I’m seeing it quite a lot, these days. But I try to do it well, and hope I create stories worth reading and films worth watching. I’ve written a gay Victorian Christmas romance, a few gay werewolf stories (which weren’t quite the cliche they are now, back when I wrote them), gay Viking stories, a gay fantasy novel (soon to be a trilogy, I hope) and gay distopian science fiction. Often these stories make heavy use of what are unkindly called “cliches,” but might be more accurately described as “tropes” — the elements that everyone expects to see in these genres.
For a werewolf story, these tropes involve being bitten by a werewolf, the transformation into a wolf form, often phases of the moon being involved and the character attempting to come to terms with this new double life. (Werewolf stories make perfect allegories for repressed sexual impulses — sexual, because the werewolf is generally naked — bursting through the more rational, civilized facade a character wants to present, and therefore they are perfect as an allegory for homosexuality.) Stories which deviate from these tropes too much, in an attempt to be original, are often unsatisfying for fans of the genre. Movies in which the “werewolf” doesn’t actually turn into a wolf are disappointing, and nobody likes it when the transformation scene takes place offscreen.
In Cyberpunk stories, we have a number of tropes, such as the hero jacking into the “matrix” or “grid” and flying around in a 3-D “cyberspace” to hack into corporate computers and steal data. Society is generally a form of corporatism or free market economy run amok, so that corporations have become a law unto themselves and can kill whomever they like in their wars with one another, and anybody who doesn’t work for a corporation is reduced to living in squalor. Again, the element that I’m adding to this is simply that my net-runner is gay and falling in love with the “street samurai” he hires as a bodyguard. However, I haven’t really seen it done before.