As might be expected from the guy who wrote Sword Noir: a Role-Playing Game of Hardboiled Sword & Sorcery and is now Kickstarting Nefertiti Overdrive: Ancient Egyptian Wuxia, I love a good mash-up. I use the term mash-up to refer to a creative work that blends two or more apparently dissimilar genres. The mash-up most genre fans would know would be Firefly, mashing-up space opera and westerns.
Now space opera and western are not terribly dissimilar, but Firefly included many of the trappings as well as the tropes of the western. The characters carried six-shooters and lever action rifles, they had costumes that appeared quite close of 19th century American frontier clothing, and pseudo-frontier language dotted their speech – along with Mandarin. While I often hear Firefly referred to as sci-fi with some western aspects, I think it is more fitting to call it a western in space.
That’s kind of splitting hairs.
Firefly melded two genres, but there is a wonderful French movie that mixes at least four – period drama, martial arts, horror, and romance. The Brotherhood of the Wolf is one of my favourite movies and an inexhaustible source of inspiration. It might not be the finest movie of its age, but it was my favorite movie of 2002.
Both of these examples use our expectations of genre to deliver onto us the unexpected. I actually avoided Firefly at first because I thought a western SF sounded kind of corny and only cottoned to its awesomeness after it had been cancelled. Thankfully, I embraced the Brotherhood of the Wolf while it made its limited theatrical run in Canada.
This playing with genre has inspired both my writing and my game design, but the playful attitude of genre kit-bashing of the Brotherhood of the Wolf had the greatest impact on Nefertiti Overdrive, which inserts high octane martial arts action into an ahistorical Egypt at the fall of the 25th Dynasty. I’ve taken the Brotherhood approach and used a period of history most modern people don’t really know, but of which many have a romantic understanding, and throw in some kung-fu fighting.
Because what setting isn’t improved with a little kung-fu fighting?