Wisecracking in the Face of Wonder

I recently tried to describe to my favorite type of story to someone. And I summed it up thusly: I like stories that feature wisecracking in the face of wonder.

This doesn't mean I like characters making fun of or mocking remarkable things. Well, too much, at least.

I like a group of friends that easily rolls with amazing things while a) being amazed but b) not losing their humor or humanness.

Examples? "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" is one; Arthur Dent keeps a mostly cool head even as strange things go down around him. Neil Gaiman's books, too, walk this path. Joseph Heller is another author I'm thinking about, and Kurt Vonnegut.

Movies? "Ghostbusters" qualifies, as does "Shaun of the Dead."

I also like a strong romantic element in this type of story, and comedy, too. And oodles of heart.

That. That's my favorite genre. A weird story where the weirdness does not dominate the characters but rather draws out or spotlights the human issues they deal with.

People first, weird stuff second. People rule the weird, not the other way around.

I like when those characters wisecrack and discuss their way through and around the strangeness or the supernatural elements or the magic or whatever is going down. There's romance and friendship and conversations and feelings, too, in the mix.

Hmm. So here's how I'll sum up "wisecracking in the face of wonder": The characters face each other. They only occasionally turn to face the weird thing they must confront. Because no external menace can be as intriguing to the people in the group as the other people in the group.

There it is. That. The people are weirder than the weirdness. Done. I think I'll say that next time.

(If you've read any of the Wilfair books, this must shock you that this is the sort of thing I fancy. I tease! This is me, gently elbowing you and winking. I wink a lot at you from this blog, don't I? I'm terribly forward. Forgive me.)

And now, speaking of "Hitchhiker's Guide," and its famous green icon, here's a "Don't Panic" cake I made for my husband's birthday. Perhaps cake is my favorite genre!


Kelly said...

I never really thought about it as a genre, but I love this kind of story.

Have you read 'Hold me Closer, Necromancer'? I think that would probably qualify. 'Attack the Block' as well, which is great for several reasons, but in particular the fact that I think it sticks to the 'People first, weird stuff second' rule, and has a lot of heart for a film whose advertising campaign was basically 'Chavs vs Aliens!!!'

Also, EPIC cake making skillz!

Amanda W said...

I love 'Hold me Closer, Necromancer'! I think you're right...definitely in this category.

Wilfair Book said...

Yes! "Hold Me Closer, Necromancer" completely fits.

And Kelly, we just watched "Attack the Block." Oh my gosh. That movie! It's really getting buzz 'round these parts. (Yes, I realize I just used "buzz" but since I live in Hollywood I'm contractually obligated to drop it 3-4 times a day.)

Thanks on the cake. I usually make very, very plain cakes, so this was outside my lines. The gum teeth made it easier!

bess said...

This reminds me of a wonderful scene in Buffy (forgive me, I don't recall the exact circumstances) where one character is telling a new person about the secret work of vampires, Hellmouth, etc. that they're all fighting and - instead of being shocked and scared- the character (I want to say Oz?) is totally nonplussed and says something like "Oh yeah. That actually explains a lot". Cracks me up.

I just saw a similar scene on Misfits the other day. If you haven't seen this show about a bunch of British "young offenders" who get struck by lightening while doing court-ordered community service and gain superpowers, you should. It's a bit raunchy but clever and hilarious.

Wilfair Book said...

I've heard great things about "Misfits," Bess! If you like it I will check it out. The lightning-superpowers thing makes me pre-like it.

Raunchy and rude, done cleverly, tickle me no end.

do dah said...

love, love, and love. also love necromancer... it's actually my other current happy place, along with wilfair. apparently i want to be a slightly supernatural 20-year-old?

Wilfair Book said...

do dah, perhaps you already are slightly supernatural. What's your superpower or ability? I bet you have at least one, latent or not.

kitzie said...

I so agree with you guys about "Hold Me Closer Necromancer". <3SAM<3

And so wouldn't have pegged this into a genre, but now that you point it out, I see just what you're saying! I have not read Hitchhiker or any of the authors you mentioned, though. I'm thinking I ought to broaden my horizons if their books are about the cool kids (you know, or grown-ups, or whatever).

Wilfair Book said...

For sure, "Hitchhiker" is this amazing phenomenon unto itself. I want recs, too. Some of the stuff I love in this genre is a few decades old. Which rocks, but I want to broaden my horizon.

As for classifying the genre? The town I call home might broadly call it "high-concept comedy."

When I describe the Wilfair books to people I'm like "yeah, so they're sort of these romantic talky humorous magic realism love stories that embrace science and ideas and progressive views while also flirting with metaphysics. There are doughy looks between people and the peeling of evening gloves. Think amiable chasteness with a deep hot and sweet streak."

And then the person I'm talking to says "so a high-concept comedy then?"

I need to refine my elevator pitch. :)

Wilfair Book said...

The asterisk, though, is that high-concept comedy doesn't necessarily have to be weird or supernatural or what have you. It's a broad catch-all, in some ways. "Nine brothers taking over a failing florist shop" might qualify.

Hence, my desire to have a genre name that's a bit more pinpointed.

kitzie said...

I'm thinking this fits in with yesterday's tv chatter too. Community and Parks and Rec would totes fit this. Probably Downton too. It's not across the board, but some characters on the Walking Dead. I'm thinking we ladies who love Wilfair might have a bit of something in common...

(I'm sitting at a computer right now making a picture with some DNA. Somehow I find this convo vastly more compelling than atgc. I wonder why???)

Wilfair Book said...

Totes fits with yesterday's TV chitchat. I think we must gravitate to the same things. Makes sense. And as far as discussing any other properties here, books, TV, films, what have you, I. Am. For. It. I'm a fangirl, through and through, and write about pop culture quite a bit for my job. I'm the lady to talk at length about anything with, because I probably have an opinion. Just being honest.

Now you have me thinking about DNA, which sounds mind-boggingly fascinating. Is it all strandy and brightly hued and pretty, like in the textbooks?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

kitzie said...

Now you have me thinking about DNA, which sounds mind-boggingly fascinating. <=Yes, but can also be plain mind-boggling too. Like right now.

Is it all strandy and brightly hued and pretty, like in the textbooks? <=not so much, but wouldn't that be nice??? Mostly it looks like this for me (in red text just now): atctaacatg...for about 2000 bases. I'm looking for certain patterns and highlighting them.

It does fluoresce though! So when you get a bunch of it in one spot, it'll glow in UV light. Like some diamonds. I do imagine it strandy too, but that's when it would be very invisible.

Okay, I'll stop being boring now. :)

Wilfair Book said...

All so interesting to me. Plus you said one of my keywords: "fluoresce." That's all I need to know.

You can't know how often I Google fluorescent fish and rocks just to admire them.

Kelly said...

Bess, that scene in Buffy, it was definitely Oz. I think that may have been the exact moment that cemented my undying Oz crush!

And Misfits! Love that show so much, I'm not sure there's anything else on TV that's capable of being jaw droppingly gross and impressively thought provoking in the same scene.

It makes me very happy to hear that Attack the Block is getting buzz. It went pretty under the radar when it was released here, but it seems to slowly be gaining a little bit of cult status now. The film was such a pleasant surprise to me because of its crummy marketing that I've taken to pushing it on all my friends, in a very forceful "YOU MUST WATCH IT, JUST TRUST ME" sort of way!

Caitlin #2 said...

Has anyone else here read "To Say Nothing of the Dog" by Connie Willis? I feel like that might fit into this genre and that folks might like it - not mention it has puffed sleeves and Victorian spiritualism and fluffy romance and time travel (!).

Also I love the Hitchhiker's cake! Totally amazing :)

Wilfair Book said...

That is one I've been wanting to read for a bit now. I'm writing myself a note to bubble this up to a new post soon, because I have a feeling it is a book people 'round here will like (or have already read).

Thanks for the suggestion, Caitlin!

And thanks for the props on the cake. Green frosting, everywhere. My Douglas devotion knows no bounds. :)

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