Sime~Gen and Horror
by Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Sime~Gen is NOT horror-genre, however it could easily be written as such. If so, this might be a useful scene.
Horror genre is predicated on the assumption that the "hero" (or protagonist ) can't win - escape maybe but not win. That the universe is such that nobody can really "win" -- that we're helpless victims of the Evil inherent in human nature.
So - inventing a Sime town (which in my Sime~Gen universe would be teetering on the brink of extinction from disease) where they "dump" bodies in a garbage dump, would certainly make the basis of a horror story which would be Horror Genre for any reader living as Sime or Gen - or Ancient.
However, if I were trying to write about that, I would make it an open mass- grave - an open trench with layers of bodies and layers of sodium hydroxide or some-such chemical (depending on where they were and how expensive the local caustic might be).
Maybe the story would be ABOUT an election in the town pivoting on the issue of what chemical to use on the bodies, or how to dispose of them so as not to cause disease.
Jean was talking a while back on this List (maybe before Mike joined) about the obvious tactic of feeding dead Gen meat to the live Pen Gens. So at least some of the bodies would be butchered and the meat smoked or preserved in some fashion. That still leaves tons of offal, you know. And we got into a long discussion (fascinating one) about diseases communicated by feeding carcasses of domestic animals to the living animals -- apparently a common practice today with cows and chickens. (I didn't know that and found it fascinating and stomach wrenching).
So there's a POLITICAL issue involved here - how much of our taxes should be devoted to disposal and how much to QUALITY KILLS. And who pays? How much?
And then there's the graft that has to be a part of such a Pen system.
Now, to the LESSONS ON GENERATING PLOT VIA CONFLICT:
Once you have the theme and genre nailed, and the "gimmick" - you need to invent CHARACTERS who have personal agendas etc.
BEFORE you invent the characters, you have to define your conflict so you can invent a character on each side of that conflict line and set them against one another -- and watch what happens.
So in this case, you need a POLITICAL CONFLICT that has to do with the TRUTH about which decomposing chemical works best for the least money.
Suppose one person running for Mayor has a brother in the chemical business who can and will provide the chemical to the town at a discount -- giving the Mayor-elect a kickback.
Suppose, opposing him is a scientist-type who doesn't want to be Mayor but just wants a safe clean place to raise his/her kids.
The scientist-type is arguing "choose the best chemical - and here's evidence about which is best." The Mayor is arguing, "choose the cheapest -- it's not fair to ask poor people to pay more for rich people's children's health" -- and the fact is the "poor" have fewer kids, care less about them because most of them are accidents which they abandon ASAP, and resent anyone who thinks their lives ought to be disease free because no matter what, the poor will die young of ghastly disease or kill-disorders.
So the Mayor-type is going to be popular with a lot of voters.
The scientist type is going to be popular with the best educated, healthiest , well-fed voters. There's the seeds of a civil war here. Since it's horror-genre - it has to come to a chase through the night, with lots of people with torches. Maybe a changeover kid crawls out of the caustic strewn pit having been tossed in and left for dead -- and the poor kid is scarred for life from the burns - or blinded or something. Maybe it's one of the kids of the rich scientist- type.
THE PLOT - to resolve (because in our modern world this paradigm hasn't resolved and doesn't have a resolution any reader would see as a resolution) WE NEED A THIRD ELEMENT that changes the Situation. So we call in a third element with a third chemical or third chemical-source - or another method of body-disposal such as recycling the meat to the live pen Gens.
That third element can win the election, or become the ally of one or the other faction.
The resolution has to be that the graft-taking politician gets ridden out of town on a rail when it's discovered that he's only interested in getting his kickback and then will abandon the town before next spring's plague.
The reason I haven't written THIS story as Sime~Gen myself is that there's no Sime~Gen in it - and no sf.
The TEST for genre (be it Sime~Gen or ST or SF or whatever) is that if you can take the Sime~Gen, or ST or SF, OUT of the story and still have a story - - it didn't belong to the genre to begin with.
In this case, it's purely a political CONFLICT with a POLITICAL theme - and could occur in any universe, including our own, at any time in history. Therefore it's not Sime~Gen - and this above is just a plotting exercise such as I assigned all you workshoppers to do dozens (maybe hundreds) of. I expect you've been doing your homework because the next round will call on all your PLOTTING SKILLS.
Live Long and Prosper,