Shortcuts Through the Ghetto
(1) Young woman moves into spooky old house in a small village filled with eccentric relatives and retainers.
(2) Spooky things happen.
(3) Heroine receives explanation from Local Crone, to-wit: "There are Pixies living in the bottom of your garden!"
(Or, for Pixies in the Garden, feel free to read Elves in the Attic, Fay in the Fireplace, Goblins in the Henhouse. Whatever.)
(4) Heroine slaps forehead, says, "Pixies! Why didn't I think of that!"
The rest of the book was the heroine dealing in fairly straightfoward fashion with the Pixie Situation.
All of which had me thinking, "Thank God we're in a genre novel!" Because if we weren't in a genre novel, the story would have featured a different Stage (4), in which the heroine decided that the Local Crone was batty, and gone about her life in a perfectly rational manner, setting out humane traps for whatever animals she actually thought were living in the garden, or maybe leaving around poisoned baits, and in the end being kidnapped by a tribe of enraged Pixies and turned into barbecue in the Otherworldly Secret Pixie HQ Beneath the Rhododendra.
But luckily for the protagonist, she was the heroine of a novel set in a genre in which people automatically believe the Local Crone, or the Wizard with the Pointy Hat, or whatever other elderly person may be in authority. Because as we all know, old people are benign, or at worse disinterested, and aren't crazy, and never lie, and always know more about what's going on than we do, and never try to take advantage of a young credulous person for financial gain or mere viciousness, whichever might apply.
And being in a genre novel also saved us about 50 pages of argument reading more or less like this:
LOCAL CRONE: Pixies!
HEROINE: No way!
H: No way!
Phew! Aren't you glad we don't have to read all that?
It's not like fantasy has a monopoly on that kind of thing. If fantasy takes place in a world where Pixies live in the garden and batty old ladies are Secret Masters of the Universe, genre romance takes place in the universe in which the heroine and the hero lock eyes on the first page, obsess about each other for 450 misunderstanding-prone pages (which may include Hot Sex), and then have an HEA. Because once they commit to each other, as we know, all their problems are over!
Cozy mysteries take place in a world in which rich toffs with eyeglasses, or weird comic-opera Belgians with mustachios, can barge into a criminal investigation, and the local police welcome them with open arms! (Cozy mysteries, alas, never feature Hot Sex.)
Hard-boiled mysteries take place in the world where half the police force is on the pad.
And science fiction takes place in a world in which someone can say, "I've just invented a star drive that will allow me to travel to Betelgeuse in 4.3 minutes," nobody ever says, "That would seem to violate many commonly understood laws of physics. I'd like to check your calculations!" (They never even say, "Good work! Let's have Hot Sex!")
Genre feels free to cut out all the boring, mundane stuff, and get to the part that turns the readership on. (Which is very often not Hot Sex, go figure.) We skip the part where the old lady tries to convince a modern young person of the existence of Pixies, we skip most of the really complex stuff that happens during courtship, let alone all the complex stuff that happens after marriage, we skip the scene where the weird Belgian tries to talk his way into the investigation, and science fiction skips, well, a lot of the actual science, especially if it's inconvenient. (Lord knows I do.)
I think I'm probably an unusual reader, though, because I tend not to like these shortcuts so much. I actually enjoy the bits where the the cool, weird stuff of genre rubs up against the real world. I think it's nifty when the scientist has a brilliant idea, but the bureaucracy won't let him fund it; I think it's great when the junior officers know how to handle the crisis, only the admiral thinks they're wrong and orders them to do something that will only make the situation worse; I like it when the one person who knows how to deal with the Pixie Situation finds himself interviewed in a padded cell by the nice doctors at Bellevue.
Introducing all this fine grit into the well-oiled machinery of genre makes me think the work has something to do with the world I actually live in--- because, let's face it, I can never in real life get my personal machinery completely grit-free. (Which has unfortunate consequences during the Hot Sex, but let's not get into that.)
Plus--- on the fictioneering side--- Reality simply becomes another obstacle that the protagonist has to overcome! And when that happens, it's much, much cooler!
Reality! It's the new black!