Magical Realism or Horror: Genre Confusion in the Novel THE SIZE CURSE – Steve Grogan

Steve Grogan is an ongoing contributor to Writer to Writers. He has published several short stories on the site, which can be found on the main page under the heading “Steve Grogan’s Fiction.” He has had several poems and short stories published over the years, some of which are available on Amazon. (See the announcement at the end of this post.)

He is the writer and creator of the ongoing, zombie, post-apocalyptic, Romero-meets-Dungeons-and-Dragons webcomic REDemption. Alternatively, Steve describes the comic by saying, “It is to zombie fiction what KILL BILL was to kung fu movies: everything I love about the genre housed under one roof and mixed with my voice.”

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Yes, this novel is another story that I feel needs a preface. I hope you made it through “Maybe the Dream Knows What’s Real” and are willing to accompany me on this ride because it’s just as wild, but in different ways.

I can’t really tell you where I got the idea for the story without giving the whole thing away before you’ve read a single word. Maybe it’s best for me to just say it this way: I believe it happened one day when I was watching TV, and I happened to look at my bloated beer belly of a stomach. It made me sad, and I thought, “Why can’t I have a damn six-pack? I’ve worked so hard over the years, trying to eat right, kicking my butt in the gym, and I still have this enormous bulge…even though my arms, legs, and back look fit!”

Then I thought about how there are so many people in the world who wish they are something they’re not: taller, more handsome, blonde haired, blue eyed, and so on. Obviously some of these things you can change (like with hair dye and colored contacts), but not everything. People waste their entire lives being miserable over what they don’t have instead of being glad for what they’ve got.

That was the train of thought that led me to the main problem faced in THE SIZE CURSE, although I’m going to stop talking about it there. I can’t go any further without giving it all away. All I will say is that this curse is something that forces our Narrator (who is nameless) to live the life of a shut-in. Years after he gets cursed, Narrator starts to keep a journal. He documents his life from the beginning until the present, searching for a reason why this has happened. He thinks if he finds the “why,” then he can undo the curse.

I’ve been a sucker for the journal format of writing for many years. I have used it off and on, but for some reason I feel like I perfected the approach with this story. Now that I have a firm grasp on how to use this structure, I am anxious to see what happens if I go back and apply this newfound skill to old stories. Exciting times lie ahead…well, for me anyway.

Although this is its first time getting published, it is not the first time this story has been exposed to anyone. You see, after I finished it, there was one section of the novel that didn’t sit well with me. To be honest, it just read like filler. Unfortunately, this impression didn’t hit me until AFTER I’d written the offending passages, which wound up totaling 8,600 words; that was roughly 15% of the entire length of the novel. I knew if I removed it, then I would have to replace it with something, but the question was, “What did I replace it with?”

In desperation I went to other writers in various writing groups. These proved to be of no help at all. My story was too non-mainstream for other writers, and I realized rather quickly how unique I am among my peers: if you were to ask me to help revise a story that I don’t usually read or write, I would NEVER say to you, “No thanks, I don’t know much about the romance/war/mystery/thriller/YA genre.”

Here’s my stance on it: FUCK the word “genre.” That’s a dirty, filthy word used by money-hungry book publishers who don’t care about the art of writing. All they care about is cashing in on a trend. “Genre” is just a label they use to figure out where you fit on the bookshelves, or what tag words need to be used in a search engine. In reality it means next to nothing.

However, most writers don’t feel this way. They have become hypnotized into enjoying their little pigeon hole, thank you very much, and there’s nothing you or I could do to change that. Therefore, I got no help. In fact, one writer was even offensive enough to utter this one: “As I read it, I kept wondering, ‘Why would anyone write a story like this?'”

Was she kidding me? So…certain stories are off-limits and should just flat out NEVER be written? There are authors out there who incorporate real-world atrocities like the Holocaust into their novels, but I’m crazy simply because of the type of FICTIONAL adventure I created for my narrator?

I responded emotionally to this author, asking, “Why would you write the kind of stuff YOU write? From what I have read, Danielle Steel did your material decades ago, and she wrote it much better!” It was the wrong thing to say, and I can see that now. Her objection to my material had nothing to do with me and everything to do with HER biases. There was nothing personal about it, and I am glad to say I’ve done a lot of growing since then.

For years I described this novel as “magical realism” in that most of it is grounded in our modern world; the only thing unusual about it is the size curse. However, over time I realized this wasn’t getting me anywhere. Literary agents wrote me back and said, “You can definitely write, but I’m not a fan of magical realism.”

Over time, I came to realize the sad truth: if I were to get this novel placed anywhere, then I would have to play the labeling game and call it a “horror novel.” Not that I mind horror. My first favorite author was Stephen King, followed by the likes of Clive Barker, John Skipp, Craig Spector, Kathe Koja, and more. So why not?

Then, as luck would have it, I stumbled upon this site. After getting some work published, I asked the site admin if he would mind publishing my novella and novel in serialized form. He said he would be honored. And the rest is history.

Therefore, without further ado, I welcome you to the pages of my novel THE SIZE CURSE, starting next week. It is many things: a rambling novel, a frightening novel, a horrifying novel, a funny novel, a “stream of consciousness” novel, and last but not least, it is a MAGICAL REALISM novel. In closing, I would like to offer a hat tip to our fearless leader Mladen Reljanovic and countless others like him, who provide a platform for those of us who like to think outside the box. He gives us a chance to hold up our middle finger to a system that chokes originality in favor of the almighty profit.

Enjoy the reading!

 

~~~~~Steve Grogan

 

Author: Redemption Comics

Steve Grogan was born in the often-filmed city of Troy, NY. He has written in a variety of formats (novels, short stories, poems, screen and stage plays, blogs/articles) and genres (horror, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, drama).

Steve is also a father, a boyfriend, a musician, a fitness fanatic, and a martial artist. He has been studying Wing Chun Kung Fu since 1995, and he maintains a blog/YouTube channel that describe his training habits, epiphanies, and advancement. It also candidly discusses his stumbling blocks, such as his struggle with nutrition and mental health issues.

He is no relation to the New England Patriots quarterback from the 1980’s.

2 thoughts on “Magical Realism or Horror: Genre Confusion in the Novel THE SIZE CURSE – Steve Grogan

  1. Good going, Steve, I’m in full agreement with you on writers and genre obsession. And I would read this book, in fact adding it to my list. It sounds Stephen King-esque in story (if I have to come up with a comparison) and he is far from just a horror writer, in fact your label of magical realism immediately made me think of him. Good luck with it!

    My novel has been deemed to be like Maeve Binchy, which I felt was odd, then literary fiction and like Ann Tyler, who I will have to investigate…so I’m not taking much notice of genre pigeon holing either.

    1. Lynne,

      Thanks for your reply! Honestly, when I wrote this story, I was thinking more along the lines of Gabriel Garcia Marques, Kafka’s METAMORPHOSES, or even THE TIN DRUM by Gunter Grass. As I said in my introduction here, I believe it belongs in what used to be called the “literary” section of your average bookstore, but I had no takers until I found this wonderful site. I hope you enjoy reading it!

      As for your writing, I have not heard of Maeve Binchy or Ann Tyler. Looks like I have to do some investigating too!

      ~~~Steve

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