Monday, September 23, 2013

Setting and its Suitability to a Genre

So far this semester we've read several stories set in New Mexico--an action/adventure in Butterfly Kisses and a mystery in A Box of Pandoras. I'm not sure about Melinda Snodgrass's Box Office Poison, but I've begun reading her novel The Edge of Reason for next week, and it's turning out to be a magic-based fantasy (epic?) set in Albuquerque. From the time I realized this I've been stuck on one thought: Really? In Albuquerque?

How much do you think a setting like Albuquerque is suited to a genre like fantasy? How would a story of that genre have to differ from one set in New York or London or New Delhi? Personally, the thought of a magical battle for the fate of humanity being set in Albuquerque has been jarring--it just isn't as natural for me to imagine it here as it might elsewhere. Could you imagine this city being host to an alien invasion or home to a super hero? On the contrary, I thought Santa Fe made an interesting and suitable setting for A Box of Pandoras because the juxtaposition of rural and high societies in that context added to the story's complexity.

What genres do you think suit or don't suit Albuquerque, if any? Or is it just a matter of how the story is told, regardless of genre?


  1. I agree with you, Craig! I think it comes down to the fact that we think of ABQ as "home", and nobody sets magical battles out here in the DESERT (for pete's sake...)! "I mean, c'mon, we're boring, there's nothing in the city except art and the mall!" I like to take a step back and ask myself what other cities are lacking that we in fact have. The fact is that we have a very picturesque and altogether incredibly scenic city that is full of a colorful culture as well as a beautiful history. Not that every other city in this country is dry and boring, but I think to "outsiders", we're a pretty attractive touristy town.

    Then I think of Breaking Bad (I know, but I love the show, so I have to bring it up!) and I remind myself that even creator Vince Gilligan did not imagine the show being played out here in ABQ, NM of all places, but later he mentioned that he "could not imagine the show being played out in a better city", that there's a kind of magic that emanates from the city. What's brilliant about the show is that our city becomes its own character in the show - turquoise skies, desert sand, the Rio Grande, the Sandias, orange sunsets, a bright sunrise - the stage is set for anyone to place their characters in this city, in whatever medium they so choose, be it film or paper. That's what is so fantastic about ABQ, and I think that's what attracts others to it. Sure, you could set your story in a big, popular location like New York, but doesn't everyone set their stories in a big, popular, cosmopolitan city?

    I like that you bring up Santa Fe though, it seemed to fit the story of "Box of Pandoras" perfectly. Interesting question, thanks for bringing it up!

  2. I know exactly what you mean. Albuquerque seems like an odd place as a setting for a fantasy. However, I think it is certainly possible for a fantasy to be set in the state, Thor (though not really fantasy) comes to mind. If you have watched the movie, the first scenes are here in the state.

    The cool thing about New Mexico is that we have a desert and vast empty spaces. In addition, we are home to Sandia labs, Trinity Site, white sands, and Roswell! If there was to be an alien invasion, I think the probability of it happening here are great. There is so much folklore around our state and a lot of it has to do with the multiple cultures found here. For example, La Llorona is prominent in the Hispanic culture or even scarier, the Cucui. Native Americans also have their own legends, like the Hobbomock, an evil spirit sometimes compared to the devil. I could name so many more that could give way to some sort of fantasy written around them.

    If you think about it, just the fact that the atomic bomb was tested here can give a writer multiple ideas about a fantasy set in the state. How cool would it be if it turned out Sandia Labs was harvesting aliens and they got out? Or that for some reason mutant animals start to come out of white sands and fight off mutant animals from other places in the world but the battles are set in our state? I think I could come up with some fantasies that could be set in our state.

    Now that I think about it after writing this posts, I believe there are not enough fantasies set in our state. We need to change that.

  3. I think we think ABQ is not a place for magic or fantasy, because we live here and know that no fantasy stuff happens in our own backyard. But I think like Jaime and Karla said that if you have a good story line it can be made here in ABQ. True ABQ is not a fast paced city, but it is more a cultural place and beautiful sceneries and historic settings. Like Karla said we have much folklore here that can be made into stories and they are perfect for the ABQ setting.

    I believe more settings need to be set in New Mexico. We have our own history and some mysteries of our own that the rest of the nation doesn’t know intimately.

    I really enjoyed Box of Pandoras setting in Santa Fe. I never thought a murder could be there and to tie in with Hollywood type silver screenings.

  4. I think it is hard for us to imagine a story set in Albuquerque because we live here. We have firsthand experience, so it is difficult to let our minds accept whatever the author is saying. Someone brought up Breaking Bad, and as much as I love the show, there were a few times where I saw pieces of Albuquerque and I was questioning if that would actually happen in that area or I was actually distracted trying to figure out where they were.
    That being said, I don’t see any reason a fantasy couldn’t be set in Albuquerque. We have wilderness right outside the city, valleys, mountains, a river, multiple arroyos/ditches, the Bosque, the foot hills; all could be settings for a fantasy. Not to mention all of the tribal lands!
    If you go outside Albuquerque to NM, then it becomes easier, because as a few people mentioned already, we have vast desserts, white sands, the trinity site, Sandia national labs (actually that’s in Albuquerque…) Los Alamos national labs, Roswell, Area 51(?), Carlsbad caverns, even the border between NM and Mexico could be used (Men in Black anyone…). I think the point that we have concluded is that there are not enough fantasy stories set in NM, and we need to change that!


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