Monday, January 18, 2010

Odd Combinations

I was staring into my freezer the other day at what little remained of the mint chocolate chip ice cream. (Which is no longer green, much to my disappointment. Granted, I think the coloring is purely a result of food dye, so it doesn't need to be green. Nor does white mint chocolate chip ice cream taste any different, at least according to my mouth. However, it was missing... something. More on that in another entry, I think.) There wasn't much left, maybe a scoop and a half, which is about all I eat anymore anyway in keeping with my general philosophy on "moderation in all things." Which I abandoned New Year's Eve but hey, some occasions are worth it. This occasion, however, was mostly an "I feel like ice cream" occasion.

More specifically, I felt like an orange juice float. Now orange juice (or soda, but honestly I prefer juice) and vanilla ice cream is, as far as I am concerned, one of the greatest taste creations of all time. My wanting for one on this day came from having acquired a very simple recipe to create an Orange Julius at home without paying for the trademark. That said, I wasn't in the mood to bother with even the simple recipe - mostly on the strength of not wanting to dig out and then afterwards wash the blender. So I opted for a simpler float. Only the only ice cream I had in the house was the aforementioned mint chocolate chip.

Now, in theory, there was nothing about the combination that shouldn't have gone well together. I've had those chocolate oranges, which are great, and orange mint, and chocolate mint. It was just putting all three of them together, in the forms I had, that might have yielded strange results. Erring on the safe side, I opted to try it first with a spoonful of ice cream and a shot glass of orange juice. Which is the most action my shot glasses have seen in quite some time. Anymore I think they're just decorative in my house.

The combination, as odd as it might have sounded at first, came out very well, and it got me thinking about other slightly odd combinations, but in writing. Now as what few followers and/or faithful readers I have here will already know, I tend to write things that fall into the interstices between genres. There tends to be a bit of dark humor and comedy that creeps into things, even if I'm writing something that might ostensibly be horror. My ongoing works are also a mix of science fiction and other things, as I busily write along creating my own genres. Sort of.

I'm not the only one who's done this, though, and certainly not the most famous example. The best example that comes to mind for me is when Dean Koontz penned a children's book. Now Koontz is one of those authors that I invariably read while freely admitting that his catalog is somewhat hit or miss for me. (Though I recommend the "Odd Thomas" series to anyone.) He is also, along with King, one of the few authors I have ever read who have managed to scare me just by reading a book. I don't remember the title, though I think it was "Night Chills," and it had to do with rats. Large quantities of evil rats, in the dark, crawling over everything, and peering out from shadows so you could only see their eyes. Gives me shivers just thinking about it.

Yet not only did he write a children's picture book, he wrote one about Santa Claus. Having read it, I will affirm that it works well as a children's book and a piece of horror. Slightly more humorous in that vein is a book we have home from the library in the Skippyjon Jones series. It's not really horror, per se, but parts of it lean toward that end, and yet, again, the combination works really well.

Horror and comedy have also been put to good use, even if sometimes it's black humor. The zombie sheep movie was... well, just hilarious on the face of it. Zombie sheep? Who comes up with these things? Shaun of the Dead also falls into this category.

Odd combinations can also get you reading other genres you wouldn't normally venture into. I picked up a romance novel once thinking it was something else from the description. It was, but it was also clearly romance. It was also a good read. (And the sex scenes steamed up my glasses.) I didn't continue to read the author because her emphasis was on the romance genre and hence her plots were somewhat formulaic, but it broadened my horizons some. (Literary-wise, mind you, not karma sutra-wise.)

Often times these ventures get labeled cross-overs, but I don't think that really fits. Especially when it's what the author regularly does. "Cross-over" to me implies a once only foray into a genre. Lack an actor who normally does action flicks attempting comedy or romance or something. I'm not saying there needs to be a new terminology, at least not yet, but I think there ought to be more room to exist between the labels. We tend to have to package things as "either/or" in order to convey what it is, and tend to rely on the old adage that as long as it's good it doesn't matter what it is, but it does matter what you call it, especially when you're trying to get someone to try it.

As for me, I'm off to buy more mint chocolate chip ice cream.

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