Genres and Cake

07 October 2013


It occurred to me this morning, while I was having my daily wrestling match with this new book, which is the most annoying book I have ever written, and in fact the most annoying project I have ever undertaken, since I started writing commercially in 1998 or so, that genres and so on could be readily summed up with reference to cake.

Verily, I am having trouble with this book. But I take this as a very positive sign. I am being challenged by it.

Please God, let it be a good sign.


Cake. To be taken, in case this is not obvious, as a very childish exercise in narrative and style.

Drama: a young woman desperate to become a dancer is offered a job jumping out of a cake. Her friends and family are against it, but she determines to take the gig, enters the cut-throat world of cake-jumping and – after surviving sabotage and despair – lands a part in a royal gateau.

Melodrama: on her first appearance, the cake is stolen by her criminal ex-boyfriend and placed on the edge of a skyscraper. It emerges that her employer is her long lost father, still sought by police in connection with a brutal stabbing. When she jumps from the cake, she is caught by the old man who is then shot by the boyfriend and all three of them fall over the edge, to be caught in a net arranged by a local priest who is her long lost uncle. Her nefarious ex attempts to kill her once more and falls to his death.

Romance: she falls in love with a handsome pastry chef, only to leave him for a prince, only to discover that her prince is a loverat, only to discover that the pastry chef is also a prince, but he’s now marrying a princess, only in the end, of course, he doesn’t.

Thriller: in the cake, she overhears a murder.

Historical Romance: as Romance, but with leather.

Historical Thriller: as Thriller, but it’s a plot to overthrow the king. With leather.

Erotic: The cake is very, very sticky.

Dark Erotic: if she is not completely clean when she emerges from the cake, Master will use the Big Spoon.

Fantasy: it is the Lost Cake, and she is the only one who can wield it.

Gritty Fantasy: the Lost Cake is a con trick, she’s a shill, and now King Oblast is offended and is going to eat her.

Science Fiction: when she emerges from the cake she is on another planet, and must prove to the satisfaction of alien machines that she is a thinking being.

High Concept Science Fiction: before the conjunction, when the Builders of the Universe will return.

Pulp Science Fiction: or they will mate with her.

Literary Fiction: her religious mother has always forbidden her cake, and now she’s swimming in it they don’t talk. Meanwhile she may be a male banker in a coma.

Fiction in translation: Rubinizhov the cake maker goes to war, leaving her in a cake from which she cannot escape. Inside the cake she meets a succession of demons and animals. When Rubinizhov does, the cake shatters, and she emerges to find she is very old, then dies and turns into a butterfly with his face on her wings.

Horror: the cake jumps out of the dancer.

12 Comments to “Genres and Cake”

  • Jeanne said on October 7th, 2013:

    Fanfic: the cake is a lie.

  • MikeCamel said on October 7th, 2013:

    Zombie-fic: on exciting the cake, she discovers that everybody at the party is a zombie, and wants to eat her, not the cake.

    Space Opera: the cake is taken on board a spaceship, as part of a plot to kill the captain and steal advanced weaponry. Steven Segall features.

    Cyberpunk: on entering the cake, she can interact with the datasphere. The cake develops self-awareness, and the Singularity approaches.

    Steampunk: it’s a clockwork cake.

    Hey – I can _do_ this.

  • rushmc said on October 7th, 2013:

    I’d pay paper money for a paper copy of the Fiction in translation cake epic.

  • Molly said on October 7th, 2013:

    I’ll take a slice of Historical Thriller please ;-)

  • threeoutside said on October 7th, 2013:

    Brilliant! But now I want cake.

    (Got here via Scalzi’s RT.)

  • Setsu said on October 7th, 2013:

    Blog Comment: That cake was gratifying and delicious.

  • Raina Dezall said on October 8th, 2013:

    Okay. Seriously. Are you just showing off? You’re supposed to be working on a book and start off complaining about how said book is a pain in the ass but can write this fricking hilarious blog post like its a cakewalk. (No pun intended. Okay. Maybe just a little.)

    Very excited about new pain in the ass.

  • Wednesday said on October 8th, 2013:

    Eastern European Existentialist Parable: The dancer sacrifices her lover, her child and her career to bake the cake she dreamed of as a young girl during the war. After sixty years, she has perfected the recipe and throws an exclusive dinner party to unveil the result of her labor. The cake is delicious and elicits raves from the guests, but the dancer does not partake: she has developed gluten intolerance.

  • Suttope said on October 10th, 2013:

    Weird – the cake has been baked by cultists who are having a “the stars are right” party. Cthulhu awakes everyone goes mad and dies

  • Nick Harkaway said on October 10th, 2013:

    @Suttope (I never know why that sort of thing is supposed to be so weird.)

  • […] since it’s close to Halloween, but then my agent RT’d this gem by Nick Harkaway, “Genres and Cake.” Go read it. Go! In case you didn’t listen to me, in the blog post he takes a […]

  • Yancey Anderson said on October 22nd, 2013:

    Damn. Now I’m hungry and oddly aroused.

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