Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Die, Cliché, Die!!


Rock Hardpunch pulled away the bomb casing and saw a mass of wires nestled around the countdown timer. The time to planetary self-destruct was below 60 seconds.

In Rock's earpiece, Hack Sydekick said in his most nasal, urgent voice: "Rock, you must cut the red wire! Find the red wire and cut only that one! Or the whole planet blows up!"

Rock reached for his multi-purpose knife, when suddenly it dawned on him...

Oh crap, he thought, I'm colorblind.

Read the free issue #4 of SUBTERRANEAN Magazine. The free issue is dedicated -- in stories and essays -- to the subject of Clichés in science-fiction and fantasy.

In her in-magazine essay "Remarks On Some Clichés I Have Known Too Well," Teresa Nielsen Hayden writes:
"Here's a cliché I can reduce to a rule: when a character is a member of a minority social group and was raised in that group's indigenous mystical tradition, but then went on to receive advanced training and have a highly successful career in mainstream science or technology, the conflict at the climax of the story will not be resolved until they abandon all that scientific training and call up on the power of their tribal spirituality.

"(If I were a literarily ambitious member of the First Nations, I'd be tempted to write a story about a white nuclear engineer who can't get an incipient reactor containment incident under control until he downs tools and calls on Saint Anthony of Padua.)"
Use the Force, Oppenheimer. ;-)

I've been guilty of a few cringeworthy clichés in the past (as proven here), but I try to be more careful nowadays. I pledge:

1. To never write a story about someone getting Three Wishes;

2. To never cop out with the "It Was Only A Dream" ending;

3. To never never EVER write a story with the "Adam & Eve" twist (two characters discover they are Adam and Eve, on Earth or some other world).

But why bother...? This isn't going to deter hordes of writer wannabes from thinking, "I can come up with a NEW twist on the Adam & Eve story!"

Your problem, young whippersnappers, isn't that it's 100% impossible to come up with a fresh take on the hoariest old clichés.

Your problem is that hordes -- real, living, slobbering HORDES -- of newbie writers will think exactly as you do:
"I am unique! I have come up with an entirely new version of the Adam & Eve twist!"
And then they send the exact same story to the overworked Editor, who rejects them all. The End.

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