Because we’re such big fans of Geekomancy author Michael R. Underwood, we invited him over to XOXO to talk a little bit about his new Genrenauts series with Tor.com. As usual, penning up some highly entertaining SF/F tales that also play with our notion of story, characters, genre, and pop culture. Exciting things are afoot at the desk of Mr. Underwood . . .
If you’re a long-time XOXO After Dark reader, you may remember my Ree Reyes series – Geekomancy, Celebromancy, Attack the Geek, and Hexomancy. The Ree Reyes books are all about fandom and SF/F geekdom being a magic system. It’s fun, pop-culture-aware action fantasy with a touch of romance and a double dose of geekdom.
My new series, Genrenauts, focuses on a team of storytellers that travels across dimensions – each other world the home of a narrative genre (Science Fiction, Romance, Fantasy, etc.) – in order to find and fix broken stories. If they fail, the ripples from the broken stories crash into earth and cause devastation.
If the Ree Reyes series is Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Clerks, Genrenauts is more like Leverage meets Jasper Fforde. It was specifically designed to appeal to Ree Reyes fans while also going broader in terms of appeal and letting me give myself new challenges as a storyteller.
Here’s how that breaks down:
Genrenauts features an ensemble cast rather than a single POV. The lead of the first episode, Leah Tang, is both like and unlike Ree Reyes. Both are under-employed geeky twentysomethings, but while Ree is impetuous and writes checks her actions can’t necessarily cash, Leah is more pragmatic, defying her family to pursue her creative passion but working a sensible day job along the way. Leah’s more of an everywoman, where Ree step-by-step embraces the mantle of Urban Fantasy Hero and City Defender.
Beyond the leads, the ensemble in Genrenauts includes Roman de Jager, an ex-paramilitary operator, Mallery York, a talkative actress-turned-Genrenaut, Shirin Tehrani, a former intelligence operative from Iran, and Dr. Angstrom King, the team lead, a professorial type who can be supportive one moment and uncompromising the other. Each has their own genre specialties and their own approaches to finding and resolving story breaches. With Genrenauts, I’m able to balance the POVs to separate the story into multiple threads as well as showing contrasting views of the events in the story. Single POV is great for deep characterization, but not very good for tackling an ensemble narrative.
The Ree Reyes books focus on geekdom in specific: SF/F comics, TV, movies, books, etc. They’re about being a geek, about passion for individual properties and characters and the power it provides.
Genrenauts as a series is more about genres and storytelling in general. It’s about the social and personal use of stories overall, the different ways that we use stories societally. It’s more about fitting yourself into an ongoing story and changing it from within, vs. the Ree Reyes books, which are more about re-creating a story or tapping into its personal meaning. Both the Ree Reyes series and Genrenauts are episodic, but Genrenauts is even more so, since it’s designed with a UK-style TV series format: six episodes per season and a plan for five seasons in total. Each episode is its own adventure as the Genrenauts travel to different story worlds on missions from the Genrenauts High Council.
Another way of comparing the two is that Ree Reyes series is more about personal meaning of stories, and Genrenauts is more about the social meaning of stories.
Both are geekier than your average SF/F, and both feature quipping and snark, as well as a healthy dose of action/adventure with a dogged optimistic streak. If you’re a fan of Geekomancy and the Ree Reyes books, I hope you’ll give Genrenauts a shot. And vice versa.