Friday, May 9, 2014

“Mashup”: The Future of Fiction? by Jacqueline Seewald

In 2009, the term “mashup” came into being. Mashup simply defined means taking two or more different genres and mixing them up. For instance,  Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, both by Seth Grahame-Smith, are good examples of mashup novels that take either historical figures or classic literature and combine them with horror. This form of hybrid work brings up intriguing questions regarding the future of fiction. Is this form of cross genre a good thing or is it merely pop culture at its worst? Short story writers have been combining genres for many years. Thus, the “speculative” fiction label often combines science fiction, fantasy and horror with  mystery, romance, historical and even literary elements. So this is not new.

 However, reviewers as well as readers are often confused when authors move away from pigeon-holed tried and true formulas for genre novels and experiment. Charlaine Harris, for example, tossed aside the usual rules of mystery writing and simply wrote what she really wanted to create--the secret to her superstar success. She wasn’t afraid to be different in style and subject and actually have fun with her writing. “Old school” mystery reviewers and writers frown on using paranormal elements. They consider it a kind of cheating. Charlaine didn’t worry about that. The results speak for themselves.

Kim Reynolds, my psychic detective in four mystery novels, tries her best to repress this ability but it keeps showing up and helping her uncover murderers. My mystery series is also strong on romance which is another no-no in old school mystery circles. But I look at novel writing as a dynamic, growing literary form. So I’ve been somewhat daring with it. This is also true in my romance novels as well. My heroes, for example, in my historic romances THE CHEVALIER and TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS are not paragons of virtue. They’re alpha males, strongly masculine but decidedly flawed. In my short fiction I often mix genres and write a combination of elements. In my recently published YA novel, THE DEVIL AND DANNA WEBSTER, I combine paranormal elements with everyday teen life, mixing reality and fantasy. In TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS, elements of the supernatural are combined with Regency romance, historic elements and people of those times.

In the 18th century, many authors experimented with novel writing, considering it a dynamic form of written expression. The writers weren’t afraid to be original or different. They created unique novels with unforgettable characters such as: CLARISSA, TOM JONES, ROBINSON CRUSOE, GULLIVER, JOSEPH ANDREWS, PAMELA, MOLL FLANDERS and my favorite, TRISTRAM SHANDY. There was diversity in character, style and plot type which inspired subsequent generations who followed. The mashup novel is yet another experiment with the novel form. Will this manifestation last? To my mind, that is not the significant question. Will the novel survive as a literary form? I think the answer is emphatically yes because it is an art form that allows for change and constant evolution.

Do you take chances as a reader or a writer? Will you read or write books or short stories that do not follow standard genre formula plotting and characterization?

To celebrate Mother’s Day, I’m giving away a review print copy of my mystery thriller THE BAD WIFE to someone who comments. If interested, leave an e-mail address along with your comment.


D. J. Blackmore said...

Thanks for enlightening me on mashup fiction, Jacqueline. I'm keen to read your own take on it.
D. J. Blackmore

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Thanks for dropping by, D.J. Glad you enjoyed the post.

Susan Oleksiw said...

Thanks for discussing this, Jacquie. I've been reading about it and wasn't quite sure how mashup fiction worked. I have read some mysteries with a paranormal element, and I certainly enjoy some science fiction or futuristic fiction too. Very interesting post.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Thank you, Susan, like you, I enjoy mysteries that have a variety of elements.

Bobbi A. Chukran, Author said...

Hi Jacqueline--Enjoyed your post! You know I love mashup fiction and I couldn't be happier to see more of it in the marketplace. You mentioned novels--there's been a lot of mashup plays in the theatre, too--especially in plays for kids. Last night I read a supernatural western story (with zombies), and it was GREAT. So I'm looking forward to doing more of this type thing, and hope that the readers love it, too.

LJ Garland said...

This is probably one of my fav topics, Susan! I write mashup fiction, too. It's interesting to read someone else's take on it. Enjoyed it!

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

What a fun post! I've never really thought about the topic much before, I'll have to do a bit of book exploring.

Mary F. Schoenecker Writes said...

Another interesting post, Jacquie. Thanks for your take on "mashup" fiction.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Bobbi,

I don't follow theatre as much as I used to, so I appreciate you keeping me up-to-date. Lots of mashup movies these days too.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, L.J.,

Glad you're a fan of mashup fiction too.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Marilyn,

I expect your next mystery will sport some zombies or vampires!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Mary,

Thanks for stopping by and commenting as well.

Marilyn Levinson said...

I never knew that expression. But I like the elements of mashup fiction. I always bring a romantic flavor into my mysteries. And I love a touch of the paranormal, too

Patricia Stoltey said...

I tend not to read stories with vampires, zombies, or werewolves, so I miss out on that type of mashup. But I do like ghost stories, so mysteries or other genres with ghosts would be fun.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Marilyn,

We agree on that. I still prefer the term cross genre fiction but mashup works well too.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Pat,

I favor ghosts over the other speculative manifestations myself.

bn100 said...

sometimes, depends on the book

bn100candg at hotmail dot com

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Thanks for commenting Bn.
Hard to know which books will grab readers and which won't. A lot depends on the preferences of the reader.

Betty Gordon said...

I enjoy cross genre works. In the past some editors/agents were prone to not accept cross genre works. It looks like those days are over! I, too, prefer the term cross genre rather than mashups.

My email is

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Betty,

I took heat from a couple of traditionalist reviewers because my mysteries are cross genre, but I think writers have to be true to their convictions.

Nancy Means Wright said...

Definitely an interesting topic, Jacquie. My favorite of all novels (or one of them) is One Hundred Years of Solitude by the late Gabriel Marquez (rest his soul), and that is surely an example of "mashup"--or should we call it "magic realism?" Same thing? Anyway, I love it when it's done right.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Nancy,

Thanks for your input! Happy Mother's Day.

Anita Page said...

An interesting post, Jacquie. I wonder how those editors and critics who object to mashup fiction feel about Hamlet.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Anita,

Good question!

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