Work in Progress: GENERICA

Generica cover page

I thought I’d take a break from my usual content to share with you the novella I’ve been working on.

Fantasy was my first love. Much of my teens took place with my nose in a doorstopper by Terry Goodkind or Terry Brooks. Indeed my first foray into writing long fiction was a clichéd high fantasy novel entitled Thalamus the Great. As I grew up, my tastes changed and I discovered surrealism, but there was always a place in my heart for those magical worlds.

My novella Generica is a love letter to the genre.

fantasy bookshelves

My fantasy library has diminished over the years, but some books I couldn’t part with


It is a story of a thousand iterations. Everyone who’s read a fantasy novel knows it. Rather than break free of the mold, I embrace the genre in all its clichés, celebrate its tropes. It is a parody, my first attempt at humor, and my most “bizarro” book yet.

Set in the stock fantasy world of Generica, we follow a cadre of stereotypes as they set off to retrieve the Dragon Amulet Sword and vanquish the Dark Demon Doom Lord. They must brave Scientologist goblins, emu-like Plot Wraiths, and their own doubts on the meaning of any of this.

But it’s more than that.

The main character is, in fact, me—Zé Burns (or a fictional representation)—and my odyssey to find why high fantasy novels are so similar. I obliterate the fourth wall, as I fight with my characters for control of the book. All the while, in the real world, I’m pursued by a clandestine organization that seeks to hide the terrible secret of the high fantasy novel.

* * *

Writing a parody is like navigating a balance beam, especially when you care about the thing you’re satirizing. You love and you mock, trying not to lean too far in either direction, while retaining those “zingers” and keeping it heartfelt.

Though I read dozens of fantasy novels throughout my youth, I wanted to get the intricacies right. I went back to my dusty fantasy shelf. A while back, I made the impulsive purchase of eighty-one Dragonlance novels. These lean to the generic side of the genre and proved invaluable in accumulating those little tidbits. Ultimately, it was my cliché-abundant first novel that supplied the greatest inspiration. Without it, I wouldn’t have known where to begin.

baad stacks

The 81 Dragonlance novels I bought on a whim were integral to my research

I’ve wanted to write Generica for over a decade now. By the time I sat down at the computer, most of it was already written in my head, allowing me to compose the rough draft in record time. But I made a fatal mistake: I hadn’t put much thought into the ending—arguably the most important part.

I’ve rewritten the ending six times now (rewrites, mind you, not drafts) and still I’m not content with the conclusion. I have never put more effort into my writing, more thought, more sheets of scribbles. I want it to reflect the pinnacle of my ability as it is now. But it never comes out right.

I was hoping to finish it by the Eraserhead Press open submissions this summer, but that doesn’t seem realistic. Weighed down by a special project (more details soon), I’ll be lucky to finish it by the end of the year.

It is my hope that all this mental sweat will result in my best work yet. There were many times I could have given up, settled for a cheaper, lazier ending. But that would be unfair to the decade of thought I’ve put into it.

I’ll keep you posted.


3 thoughts on “Work in Progress: GENERICA

  1. Pingback: Back to Bizarro | Zé Burns | Blog

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