While irony has a place in many genres, it is a fundamental element in satire. When properly used, it can enrich and add necessary depth to a work, offering commentary in ways that few other literary elements can. Irony expounds a premise through that which is not said, but rather implied by exclusion, creating a deconstructionist venue that might show more than simple description might tell. With that in mind, I offer the reader an exposition of irony through a close reading of an excerpt from my dramatic satire and dystopia, World-Mart.
World-Mart takes a critical look at corporate America, speculating the direction our country is heading in its promotion of big business and slow but steady quashing of the small but personal “mom and pop” enterprise. In this first excerpt, one of the main characters, Shelley, experiences her first lone shopping venture at the Food-Mart. Over the loud speaker, she observes, “‘Attention Food-Mart customers,’ the voice announced. ‘For today only, the canned meat product booth is having a buy three, get one free sale (limit two free items). And remember, a hard worker is a happy worker. Thank you for shopping at Food-Mart.’ (59). The main irony here is that Food-Mart is the only place where citizens can legally purchase groceries. By calling customers specifically “Food-Mart customers,” the establishment creates a false sense of value in their patronage, while actually mocking their value as consumers. The limit of “two free items” further exemplifies the actual devaluing of the customer.
Consider what follows: “And remember, a hard worker is a happy worker.” By inserting this message, Corporate again imports a false sense of value in the mundane everyman. While their actual role is minimal and disposable, the message to these people is in reality aimed at keeping the little man as complacent, yet efficient, as possible. The final sentence in this passage, “Thank you for shopping at Food-Mart,” is just as condescending. Given that there is no other place to shop, the token of appreciation is actually nothing more than a slap in the consumer’s face, lip service that says just as much about Corporate as it does those it would control.
Later in the story, main character George crosses a Corporate landfill, which includes an airplane graveyard. In this section of the novel, a juxtaposition of the real and the fantastic offers a glimpse of all that might be lost through current abuses of energy, waste, and power. George remembers airplanes, but only as a child. When he is faced with the airplane graveyard, he must reassess his memories, the phasing out of large, fuel-consuming vehicles that occurred during the time of his realization that fantasies such as Santa Claus do not exist in reality. By comparing both to God, there is the implication that the heart and soul of American economy have died with the death of free market and commerce, that corporate takeover have killed the average American’s dream of better things to come—that the average American’s free choice to believe in something greater than the reality standing before him, both limited and grim.
In the classic “show and tell” of literature, irony shows in ways few others might. It allows the reader to look at a given issue from a creative and open point of view, offering an opening for personal take and interpretation with its implied direction. Irony can be direct or implicit, best analyzed through the deconstructionist point of view, offering greater power to the reader in personal interpretation and analysis. Properly used, irony enables the reader to apply a given reading to his or her personal experience, enriching through implication rather than direct prose, allowing the reader to own the text and interpret it as he or she will.
George Irwin remembers a time before the Big Climate Change, back when the airlines were still in business and people still drove their own cars. The world has changed much over his lifetime, but he still believes in the American Dream. When an alleged terrorist act lands his wife in the hospital, however, George stumbles upon a Corporate secret that could mean the end of all civilization.
World-Mart is free on Kindle through this weekend. If you prefer paperbacks, the trade paperback edition of World-Mart is also currently on sale for 10% off the suggested retail price.
Thanks for reading!
Reviews and feedback have been pouring in for World-Mart—and much to my relief, most have been enthusiastic. I wrote World-Mart in response to the death of Kurt Vonnegut Jr., determined to create not only a dystopia for modern times, but a payment of homage to the genre. Tucked throughout the work, you’ll find allusions to numerous greats of science fiction past, hints to a future world that could easily come to pass, and subtle references to the death of an important and meaningful literary era.
Given the times, I knew I was taking a huge chance with a corporate American dystopia, especially one that both pays homage to the great dystopias of recent past and raises present day issues, so I’m delighted that so many readers have been able to understand and appreciate my intentions for writing it. Here are some of the latest:
“This book can stand with the Classics.” (5 stars) –Marilyn
“This book for me was enjoyable to read even if it didn't have a happy ending.” (4 stars) –Andrew F.
“This is a thought-provoking and quite frightening book.” (4.5 stars) –Kat
“Frighteningly wonderful. It freaked me the hell out and I hope that our society never becomes like it. Good job!” (5 stars) –Jesse
“Amazingly good a great view of the future bogged down in corporate redtape and micromanaged lifestyles. Great characters in a gloomy and realistic world.” (5 stars) –Mike
“A chilling vision of the future which is all too believable. The logical, if frightening, conclusion to corporatism, environmental destruction, and the 1% left unchecked. Ms. Lane's writing flows effortlessly, I read this straight through and could not put it down.” (5 stars) –Nick S.
“Would go nicely on a shelf with 1984 and Fahrenheit 451. I highly recommend this one.” (5 stars) –T. Zelazny
“A very good read. I thank the author tremendously and look forward to reading more from her.” (5 stars) –Andrea
World-Mart also recently placed in the top ten finishers in this year’s Predators and Editors Readers’ Poll. Here are the voter comments:
“Ms. Lane hit the nail on the head in terms of what a sci-fi book needs to be in today's literary world. Bravo!”
“It's the best book on the list. Mrs. Lane is so talented!”
“One of my favorite authors. I'm a fanatic for her writing.”
“World-Mart was an awesome book!”
“Loved this book. Dystopia at its finest!”
My thanks to all who have taken the time to read, review, and recommend World-Mart. For those who would like more information, or to check out more reviews, stop by Goodreads and Amazon.
Available in paperback and electronic formats:
It's my birthday weekend, and to celebrate, World-Mart and Myths of Gods will both be available absolutely free at Amazon's Kindle store January 13-17.
World-Mart is a modern, corporate dystopia that follows one family's struggle to hold together while the world around crumbles all around it. World-Mart recently received a 5-star review from the Kindle book review and also finished in the top 10 in this year's P&E Readers' Choice Poll.
Myths of Gods takes a critical look at religion through an infant God's eyes in a dramatic, dark, science fantasy satire spanning from the Big Bang to present day.
Get them while they're free--and don't forget to tell your friends!
My thanks to all who took the time to read and vote for World-Mart for this year's Predators and Editors Readers' Choice Poll. Out of a whopping 93 entries, World-Mart finished in 8th place--not bad for an indy book! Here are the top ten winners of the sci-fi/fantasy category:
1. Zero Time, T.W. Fendley, L&L Dreamspell, [link][comments]
2. Exiled: Autumn's Peril, Rosalie Skinner, MuseItUp Publishing, [link][comments]
2. Bloodbreeders Living in Darkness, Robin Renee Ray, Hellfire Publishing, [link][comments]
3. Spectra, Joanne Elder, MuseItUp Publishing, [link][comments]
4. Champion of Valor, Nicole Zoltack, Desert Breeze Publishing, [link][comments]
5. Time Pullers, Horton Deakins, 4RV Publishing, [link][comments]
6. Rex Rising, Chrystalla, Thoma, [link][comments]
7. Blood Divided, Kevin James Breaux, Dark Quest Books, [comments]
8. World-Mart, Leigh M. Lane, Cerebral Books, [link][comments] 9. Lucca: Warriors for the Light, Karen Michelle Nutt, Rebecca J. Vickery Publishing, [link][comments]
10. Pandora's Box, Gracen Miller, Decadent Publishing, [link][comments] View the full list of standings here.
Time to celebrate!
If you have not yet cast your science fiction/fantasy vote for P&E, my dystopia WORLD-MART could use your vote. Let me know if you need a copy in time to decide before the polls close on the 10th and I'll set you up. I do not want any cheat votes; I want to win this on my book's actual merit. Already read WORLD-MART and think it deserves your vote? Stop by the voting page and show your support. Thanks!
The dystopia is a dying art. Popularized by authors such as George Orwell (1984), Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451), and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (Cat’s Cradle), dystopian literature sacrifices the popular feel-good storyline and happy ending for provocative commentary and an argument for social or political change. Works following the dystopian model make use of social outsiders, antiheroes, and intellectual misfits. They make examples of their characters. Good people die. The corrupt do their worst. The world as we know it comes to an end.
These days, however, people don’t want to read anything depressing. They want good news. They want happy endings. They want to escape.
And that is precisely the problem.
We all have our individual tastes in fiction, and that’s fine. Just the same, we must take a closer look at the social complacency current trends reflect. More specifically, we must ask if these trends reveal simply a population looking for mindless entertainment, or if they might instead be an indication of something much more nefarious and telling.
The 1984 Effect is the connection I see between social complacency and trends in literature, most notably, the virtual death of dystopia and similar genres. I argue that we as a society have been brainwashed into believing escapism is the key to a healthy, happy life, and with that we have sacrificed free, progressive thought and intellectual stimulation. Like the characters in Orwell’s 1984, society has been taught to go with the flow, do what it is told, and question issues just long enough perhaps to see the political backlash and fall back quickly into line. Occupy Wall Street is the perfect example. Many of us want change, but lack the initiative, the tools, or the backbone to manifest it. Moreover, our minds are in the wrong place.
This is not the time for escapism, as tempting the bait may be. This is the time for assessment, reflection, and problem solving. This is the time to be reading the literature about the times. It is time we reject complacency and once again begin looking toward the future.
I challenge you, the modern reader, to embrace the dystopia and all that it stands for. Read for fun, but also read for progressivism and intellectual discourse. Consider the depth of the profound ending (rather than the happy one) and all it might do to effect the change we’re all so desperate for. Let’s make a difference in this world, you and I, one book at a time. After all, without taking a long, hard look at what needs to change, we will never make it happen.
Start your reading revolution with World-Mart, the dystopia of our time. Available through amazon in both paperback and electronic formats.
Interested in effecting change? Let's talk!
Huge congrats to Marilyn C., Andrew J., Jesse K., Sam B., and Robyn B. ... you each have won a copy of WORLD-MART! Your copies are in the mail.
My thanks to all 407 entrants to the giveaway. Good luck next time!
The divide between the rich and the poor spans the length of history. Why both can sometimes treat the other as if enemies from foreign nations is difficult to dissect, but it is evident from current and historical events that humanity continuously seeks out ways to segregate. We’ve seen people divide over race, color, language, religion, gender, and wealth. No matter which side one is on, there exists rhetoric that dehumanizes, de-intellectualizes, and points angry blame at the other.
Right now, the prevalent rhetoric is widening the class divide: the wealthy are soulless bastards who pathologically hoard money and material items; the working class is comprised of lazy freeloaders who feel entitled to regular handouts. Is either of these universally correct? Correct to any degree or not, does it justify the level of divide being felt right now between the upper and lower classes?
In my new release World-Mart, the class divide among the majority is separated by those who work among the masses, those born to work in manual labor, and the 1% who own them all. The story follows one family’s struggle to hold together when the class boundaries between them suddenly change.
10. The title sounds like a famous corporate “person.”
9. It’s only $4.99 on Kindle and other electronic formats.
8. You seek to make one Indy author’s day, one book at a time.
7. The story imagines a future in which everything is run by the Corporate Monster.
6. The paperback would look fantastic on your coffee table. I highly recommend it.
5. Ms. Lane’s other science fiction works have proven themselves as highly creative and well received through numerous glowing reviews and reader polls.
4. You would happily read any work that pays homage to speculative greats such as Vonnegut, Orwell, and Bradbury.
3. You like dystopia and feel it’s fitting we have one for our time and place.
2. It may be the only book you’ll ever recommend to your friends and loved ones that you didn’t particularly enjoy reading. As one Amazon Kindle reader wrote in his 4-star review:
Note: This is probably the most confused review I have ever tried to write! How can, "I didn't
like it," and "well done" be in the same review?? That cannot make sense. But it does!
Do I recommend this book after writing the above? Yes.
1. The ending will haunt you, and everyone loves a book that sticks with them like that.
Back when I was a child, not that long ago, small businesses were all over the place. There were grocery markets, department stores, and restaurant chains, but “Mom and Pop” were still everywhere.
My first job was at a family owned, full-line pet store. My boss taught me the importance of treating the customer right, taking pride in my work, always doing right by the animals, and being educated about what I was selling. The bottom line was important, but not as important as customer loyalty and product quality. Fast-forward twenty years and one would find me working as a manager at a corporate pet store chain. I found the differences between the establishments to be profound—and that bigger does not always mean better.
After an especially trying tangle against the corporate red tape on one side of me and low paid young adults slacking under my watch on the other, I remember deciding I was going to write a book that took place in a world where everyone was reduced to a nametag, khakis, and a polo shirt. In this world, no one took pride in what they did, so everything was of mediocre quality at best. The multiple levels of managers and associates made it impossible to accomplish anything efficiently. Everyone did all of their shopping at the Food-Mart, because that was the only place left for people to go. Churches were owned by Faith-Corp. People got all of their news from Info-Corp.
And then the terrifying thought struck me that we were already well on our way there.