Genrenauts: The Complete Season One
Writer: Michael R. Underwood
Kickstarter Fiction Omnibus: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/785306862/genrenauts-the-complete-season-one-collection
What is Genrenauts?
In Genrenauts, every story genre (Science Fiction, Romance, Mystery) is also a world unto itself, populated with archetypal characters and filled with the tropes we all know and love. When a story goes-off track, you send in the Genrenauts. This team of narrative specialists travels across dimensions to find, evaluate, and fix broken stories before the ripples can manifest as violence and upheaval in our own world.
Why Should We Pick This Up?
“A wonderfully executed idea that uses the strengths and background of the writer to great effect.”
–Paul Weimer, SF Signal
“The Shootout Solution is Genre blending fun.”
“My favorite new TV show of 2015 isn’t on TV, it’s in the pages of Mike Underwood’s Genrenauts. Deeply funny and creative, shrewdly insightful, and thrillingly paced, every pop culture diehard will want to keep living vicariously through the characters in this series.”
–Matt Wallace, author of the Slingers Saga and Envy of Angels.
“I have this sinking feeling that the Genrenauts series, with its raucous meta-commentary upon the stories of pop culture, is going to say important things that I might not be clever enough to catch the first time around because I’m too busy enjoying the books.”
–Howard Tayler, Hugo Award winner and creator of Schlock Mercenary
Previously, on Genrenauts…
Struggling stand-up comic Leah Tang is recruited to join the Genrenauts, a group of storytellers that travel across dimensions to find and fix broken stories. Each other dimension is the home of a narrative genre, from Western to Romance to Science Fiction and more. And if they fail in their mission to put broken stories back on track, entropy from those destabilized worlds will ripple over to their home Earth with disastrous effects.
Tensions are high as stories have been breaking more often and going off-course faster than normal. In her first mission, Leah helps the team find the real white hat hero in the Western World and bring a bandit posse to justice. And then in Science Fiction World, part of the team rescues a kidnapped ambassador while Leah helps Senior Genrenaut Shirin Tehrani hold a fledgling alliance together using diplomatic wheeling and dealing.
Every mission promises a new adventure, and new threats. And sometimes the danger comes from the place you would least expect…
The Cupid Reconciliation – Genrenauts Episode Three
The Comedienne Returns
Leah Tang hustled into Genrenauts HQ at 9:08 AM and snuck her way to the ready room, exhaling in relief at having escaped King’s anal-retentive time-cop powers.
Strangely, no one else was there. This time of day at the team’s ready room in Genrenauts HQ, the ever-multi-tasking Roman de Jager should be kicked up one table over, leaning back in his chair to an audiobook or leaning forward over a comic. Team lead Angstrom King would be pacing, a tablet in-hand as he pored through reports. And Senior Genrenaut Shirin Tehrani would be reclining in the book nook, speed-reading a biography or history text.
Instead, the room was empty.
Leah left her bag and tablet on the table and started to wander the halls. They weren’t in Ops. Preeti and the other operators wiled away on their multi-screen displays, the big wall showing data feeds from all around Earth, and from beyond, data recorded on various trips and sent back by scouting missions. The team wasn’t where they usually would be, but she’d only been on the job for a few weeks, and maybe there was a monthly meeting or something that she was missing? Something she’d forgotten when she collapsed after swordplay night?
Leah froze, struck by a thought. She checked her work email, and saw nothing about a meeting, just the same assortment of forecasting and scouting reports.
However, she did have a text message, from Shirin. Shirin was older, basically the mom of the team, but in practice, she was more like the cool aunt who always had good stories.
“Come to Medical.”
Continuing, Leah rounded the corner and saw a crowd. The whole team: Shirin, dashing badass Roman, and King, the alternatingly stern and thoughtful Team Lead. They were clustered around their injured teammate Mallery York, freshly out of a medical gown and back in skinny jeans and a gauzy top, one arm in a cast. Leah had only seen the woman in her recovery room, wearing a gown and looking far less stylish than she did in the team dossiers.
All together, they looked like a totally odd but comfortable family of choice. And Leah was the new foster kid – still feeling out of place in everything.
Shirin noticed Leah come around the bend and waved her over. The team parted to give Mallery a clean view.
Mallery York was just a shade taller than Leah, taller still with heels. She had bleach-blonde hair in a progressive bob, and the kind of skin that looked like it would burn in the shade.
Heels, already? Leah thought, shuddering. One of the things that was not in the regs was a requirement to wear heels (unlike some jobs she’d had). Leah wore flats to work. And at home. Everywhere. But no, Mallery went straight from infirmary socks to 3” heels.
Shirin made the introduction. “Mallery, I don’t think you’ve properly met our new probationary agent, Leah Tang.”
Mallery’s face went from bright to incandescent, and she threw open her arms, adjusting for the awkwardness of the cast. “Probie! Welcome to the team. Sorry I wasn’t in any condition to give you a proper welcome earlier, what with the being shot and all.”
So, if she’s back on-duty, do I still have a job? Leah asked herself, even though King and all of the paperwork said that the position was ongoing, pending review after six months. But Leah had been hired partially to sub for Mallery, and she was just settling in to the role, but here Mallery was…
“I’m glad you’re on your feet again,” Leah said, politeness winning out. “How are you feeling?”
“Ready to climb the Great Wall, if it means getting back to doing something useful. I love reading and all, but we didn’t join the team to become literature professors, right?”
Mallery talked fast, accentuating speech with one hand, the other arm held in a fixed position by her cast.
“I hope Roman hasn’t been giving you too much trouble,” Mallery said, placing a friendly hand on Leah’s elbow. “He loves to play with the newbies. I remember when I was new, he stole the batteries out of everything I brought into the office and replaced all of the romance novels on my eReader with spiritual self-help books. Serves him right that I spent the next month boring him to death with Love Languages.”
Leah let the woman plow ahead, slightly awed. Some people were animated. Mallery was Pixar.
“Fair’s fair,” Roman said.
King cleared his throat. “That’s enough reunion. Let’s get back to work.”
Leah’s new job, only weeks old, was as a Genrenaut, one of a select group that traveled to parallel dimensions, each inspired by story genres, to find and fix broken stories. And it wasn’t just some kind of thrill-seeking exercise in storytelling. If they failed, the consequences were disastrous, not just in the world of the broken story, but on their home Earth, too. The official term was Semiotic-Thematic Spillover, but what that really meant was that broken stories elsewhere rippled over to change Earth – increase crime rates, set back space exploration, and so on. Every genre had its own disastrous effect on Earth if the world went off-kilter.
All of that meant that they basically had no room for error, and making sure their story fixes stuck was incredibly important.
In her latest mission, she’d helped diplomats seal the deal for a galactic alliance of species in the Science Fiction World. The Interstellar Treaty, only a week old, was already making strides and leading to booming business, new trade partnerships, and mutual defense pacts to deal with the marauding R’Gar. And in Western World, Maribel and Frank Mendoza were settling in to their new house, Maribel with the new Sheriff’s gold star pinned to her jacket, Frank assembling materials for his restaurant. Not bad for just a few weeks on the job.
Mallery locked on to Leah and chattered at her every inch of the way back to their ready room.
“How are you liking the job so far? I was so overwhelmed my first year. The reading lists, the training, and the missions. My first one, we went to the Noir region, and I was so excited to get to dig into the wardrobe. But newbies never get to dress themselves, so I got the stodgy spinster outfit. It was a gag, though, since I needed to be the Femme Fatale, we were getting a detective out of the bottle so he could solve the case, you see…”
And on she went. It was like she’d been storing up all of the words from several weeks of inactivity, and had to get them all out now.
Or maybe this was how she was all the time.
Leah took the conversational backseat, happy to let Mallery drive, sharing experiences from her days as a probationary Genrenaut. Leah tried to commit the pranks to memory, hoping to avoid or maybe turn the tables if Shirin or Roman tried to pull them out again.
Being the butt of every joke as the low woman on the org chart wasn’t the most fun part of the job, but it was a damn sight better than being ignored or viewed with side-eye suspicion of being an affirmative action hire by paranoid lifers like at her last job, working a reception desk in a soulless office. Thanks, Simmons & Sains!
“So tell me about your missions. I saw the reports, of course, but it was always so exciting for me to talk about my first missions. Did you really distract a gunslinger with a totally-improvised bit on your first trip out? I was such a bundle of nerves my first mission. You should have seen me in that dress.”
Mallery counted with her fingers, accentuated by a playful wink. “One, because it fit like a glove – Shirin is a miracle-worker, and two, I was so struck with stage fright, I might as well have been a freshman auditioning for a top ten theater program.”
Mallery took a breath, and Leah jumped right in like it was a game of double-dutch, taking her turn.
“It was the only thing I could think of, really. The baddie had a hostage, right, I peeked through the kitchen door and saw Maribel, our heroine, all stalemated with the Black Hat, and I knew I wasn’t a good enough shot to be sure not to hit his hostage, so I remembered that her brother had been using the stairs by the kitchen and made my way around.” Leah caught herself matching Mallery’ speed, talking like someone was pumping the oxygen out of the room and she had to talk fast while there was still time. Leah stopped, and continued, slower. “I took the carafe of lemonade with me, so I knew I was going to do something with it, but I didn’t want to just toss the thing at him, he’d probably flinch and shoot someone. I needed him distracted, so I just reached into my improv quiver.”
“Improv quiver, I love it!” Mallery said, slapping her uninjured hand on her hip.
The rest of the team settled into their places in the rec room, and Mallery joined Leah at her table.
“Are you a coffee drinker?” Mallery asked.
“Only by necessity.”
“Great. Make us some coffee, and I’ll think up some more tips for you before King whisks us away to some meeting about the socio-narrative implications of declining crop yields in Fantasyland or whatever.”
Leah chuckled to herself as she made the coffee. Making coffee had fallen to her at her last job, and the one bit of continuity was both reassuring and disappointing. The last time she’d been anywhere near the top of an org chart was college, as captain of her improv comedy troupe. But of course senior year was marred by the epic drama from when J.D. dumped Karen, then proceeded to try to sleep his way through the rest of the troupe. She’d had to boot him after he made a handsy pass at her after a Saturday performance.
So that was a bonus to being on the bottom of the heap – other people had to do the firing, make the choices on behalf of the whole team, take the flak for a split-second decision.
But King, he came off as flak-proof, like depleted uranium in a pressed suit.
Leah practiced the zen of watching coffee brew when King walked into the room, holding his tablet like a conductor’s baton.
“Eyes up, folks. We’ve got a breach in Romance. Scouting report is in your email, we’re scheduled for lift-off in thirty minutes. Roman, pre-flight. Shirin, wardrobe. Leah, you help Shirin. Mallery, you’re with me.”
Somehow, Mallery got even more energetic, punching the air. “You’re going to love this world, Leah. It’s like an endless Love, Actually, only the queer characters actually get a place at the table. And women get to decide things for themselves. It’s got problems, to be sure, just like romance here on our world,” Mallery walked over and poured herself a cup of coffee from the freshly-brewed pot as Mallery continued.
Shirin beckoned, waiting by the door. “Come on, newbie. It’s time to get ourselves some gorgeous Hollywood outfits.”
King said, “T-minus thirty, people,” as the group disbanded, each to their appointed task.