“You talked about, yuck, romance novels?” Janie asked. “That’s gross! What do they have to do with that stupid play about Italians going into suspended animation? You think I can get an A+ if I insert something intelligent instead? I could talk about Chess or City of Steel or outward influence on my next English exam. Yes, outward influence. Those crazy dueling families in Romeo and Juliet do things to get spread-out advantage far away. That’s outward influence, just like in stones. And at the end of Hamlet everyone is in zugzwang, and they all move anyhow, littering the stage with bodies. That’s what I should have said, they’re all in zugzwang, and then for sure I would have had my A+.” Janie decided not to notice her parents shaking their heads.
“I lucked out,” Brian said. “I guessed Romeo and Juliet had something to do with romance novels. I can’t tell what. I wasn’t really sure. But, Dad, why is fiction called ‘genre fiction’? Why not just ‘fiction’?”
Patrick looked at his wife. “Yes, I think they are old enough,” he said. “We’ve had those discussions, after all.”
“Very well.” Abigail looked to have bitten into a particularly bitter lemon.
“There is also ‘literary fiction’,” Patrick said. “Most people don’t like it, so while real, meaning genre, fiction gets the Nobel Prize for Literature, ‘literary fiction’ readers have their own awards, such as the Joyce and Hemingway Prizes. Joyce was famous for slapping together incomprehensible strings of words and claiming they were novels. He was quite mad. The ‘literary novel’ you will all be stuck reading, in twelfth grade, is Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. It’s a truly disgusting work, in which a young woman becomes a fallen roundheel and ends up bearing a child, when she is not married. Instead of having the child taken away to be raised by decent people, as would happen in the real world, she is allowed to keep the child, and matters go downhill from there.”
“Yuck!” Janie said. Her brother nodded in agreement.
“I have to read that?” Trisha tried to remember alternatives to taking twelfth grade. Dad had mentioned that Rogers Tech did not care if students had a high school diploma or not. That sounded helpful.
“What if I try inserting some of the instructions from one of your model ships…” Janie’s voice trailed off.
<Miss Wells?> The interruption was mentalic. The telepathic voice came with the image of a short woman wearing the pale cream with copper-green trim uniform of a FedCorps mentalist. Her black hair had a widow’s peak matching Janie’s.