By Steve Weddle
Over at the wonderful RIVER CITY READING blog is a discussion about too much pop culture in a book. Check it out.
A group of bullies are like the goons from Power Rangers.I've read much crime fiction that leans too much on the STUFF of the world, rather than the world. In order to tell you that the investigator is smart, the author has him listen to some obscure Bartok because we all assume classical music lovers are smarter than, say, fans of NKOTB.
People are staring like that scene from Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
A lucid dream like Vanilla Sky. Computer simulation like The Matrix. A fantasy life like that episode of The Twilight Zone.
It is relentless.
My problem with dropping in pop culture is that much of it feels dropped in, used as a short of shorthand for character creating, for building the world.
The other part I dislike about it is that it's a sort of "aren't I clever" wink to the reader about something cool and vague, the sort of reference Captain Rhatigan would make in the third season of Star Blaster.
I haven't read the book discussed over at River City Reading, nor have I read the author's earlier work. For all I know, I could love the pop culture references. I could feel as if I were in on it, if it were full of Tom Waits nods and references to early Starsky and Hutch episodes.
But that's the thing. We talk about this some in my short story class over at LitReactor. One of the worst things you can do when you're writing is to alienate your readers. If you're writing Star Blasters fan fiction and want to use references to that world, that's great. But, see, what I want from a book is for it to be its own world. I want the writer to take me to a place that's new, tell me a story I haven't heard before about people I can fall in love with.
Tell me a story, author. Don't try to prove how cool you are.