Annotation Alcatraz Chapter Six
Kindly pretend that you own a mousetrap factory.
This mousetrap example is exactly the sort of thing I can do in a children’s book that I haven’t ever been able to make work in an adult book. I’m not sure why it feels so good in this format, while doesn’t quite fly in an adult book. Maybe it’s because when you write humor for the adult sf/f market, it seems like you can only do humor. You can’t have a hybrid story like this. Pratchett comes the closest, and I think his novels are legitimately good stories with good humor in the mix. But everyone else who writes humor seems to get dismissed as “just” humor. Their books don’t get much attention.
Here, however, I could–I thought–make a book work with good worldbuilding (if a little funny at times) and powerful characters who have actual character arcs in a book that is–essentially–a comedy. I think it’s because in the children’s field, books don’t need to be classified by genre. They already have a genre. They’re children’s books.
Either way, the humor in this book just works very well for me. It’s absurdist with a hint of satire, and it left me free to play with the form of the novel as well as the content.
Information. That’s the real power in this world.
Everyone is an academic. (Or, well, nearly everyone.) This is intentional. Grandpa Smedry gives us a speech here about information, and if I had to pick one theme for this book, his comments would be it.
Isaac Asimov once complained that fantasy was all about dumb barbarians killing smart wizards–thereby making the genre anti-intelligence. I’ve always found this a shortsighted way of looking at the genre. To me, it’s all about being clever. I wanted heroes who were academics. People who were what we would call nerds. And I wanted to show them using information–rather than weapons–to save the day.
I do worry, however, that Grandpa Smedry droned on a bit long in this chapter. It’s the last place where I think we have this problem in the book, but this chapter itself is essentially one big conversation while preparing to go into the library. Not a lot happens.
We get those sometimes in my books. Hopefully, they set us up for the drama and climaxes later on. We need to know the characters, and have a groundwork, for the quick pacing that happens from chapter seven onward.