books · features · shanti

The Bookish Planet-Generica.

Good morning Virtually Readers! Today, I am pleased to welcome you to….Generica! We’ve caught glimpses of it in our guide to High School and Summer, but Generica is bigger than both of those places. Generica could be anywhere! It’s probably a medium sized town in America with a big enough high school that not everyone knows each other, lots of football games, and is basically a suburb with not personality because the characters are the personality. This is gonna be great! (and hopefully not too short—but there isn’t much to say about Generica)

bookish planet

Description: There’s really not much to say about Generica. The town may not even be named. It probably has a high school for its characters to spend time in. There will be houses where teenage parties are held (parents out for the weekend, drinking and wild times etc.) There might be football games sometimes, and for some reason the whole town cares about them. Sometime kids go to the mall, because consumerism is entertainment. But there is nothing to distinguish Generica from any other Generica, and this is it’s downfall.

People: Almost every single contemporary character of all time, including Mim from The Secret of a Heart Note, Taylor from The Way to Game the Walk of Shame; Chloe from 6 Months Later; Skylar from I’ll Meet You There; Unknown from The Perks of being a Wallflower; Kate from What We Saw; Dave and Julia from Never Always Sometimes; Sydney from Saint Anything; Devon from First and Then; Taylor from Second Chance Summer; Samantha, Jase, Nan, Tim, and Alice from My Life Next Door; Janie from The Face on the Milk Carton; and Digby and Zoe from Trouble is a Friend of Mine. There are many others.

History: How long have bland medium sized towns been around in literature? I don’t know. Probably a long time, and that’s the point. The town is a convenient backdrop to the more exciting business of the plot and the characters. So who cares if it’s bland?

Where to stay: Let’s face it: you don’t come to Generica for the sights. You come to see your friends, and you’ll probably be staying with them too. If a hotel is even mentioned, it’ll be because prom is being held there or something. Hopefully you can crash in someone’s house.

Language: There is nothing distinctive about the language. The kids use popular slang, definitions for which can be found by any bored author on urban dictionary. If Generica is so luck as to have *gasp* non-white, suburban, cisgendered, middle class, Christian background people in it, they may use some slang so that it’s obvious that they’re  *different*. If this happens try not to be too shocked—the author isn’t racist, just narrow minded. (note from non-sarcastic Shanti: this is a gross overgeneralisation and by no means true of all authors). The point of the language is not to date the book too much, and most of all, to not make it clear at all where this Generica setting could be.

What are your favourite books with a generic setting? Does this annoy you, or are you okay with it? Tell me in the comments!

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5 thoughts on “The Bookish Planet-Generica.

  1. I usually don’t read contemporaries, which seems to be the main place “Generica” is used. I can’t really think of anything off the top of my head. I feel like I would use Generica, as an author, though, because I wouldn’t want to say something is there when there is actually something else there. However, I would agree that books have had some more success by being set in real small towns, with Forks (Twilight by Stephenie Meyer) as an example.

    The other place I think I see these tends to be in literature, but usually in those ones, it is in an attempt to make a point. I mean, lots of writers just use New York, which is annoying on many levels, but can make sense depending on what social area they want to criticize. But in White Noise by Don DeLillo, for example, the setting literally is a generic midwestern town, but that is because he is exploring postmodern themes—specifically, that the very lives we live and the consumerism we accept and the people we live with are ALL SO GENERIC IT IS TERRIFYING. But in that case it makes for a great piece of literature that has won awards and stuff.

    So… Yeah. I dunno. I think that the value of Generica can be dependent on how well it’s executed and the message it’s trying to send out. Generica in an attempt to be relatable or to avoid research on an actual place is not good. But Don DeLillo is good. *nods* I know things.

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    1. Yeah, that makes sense. Generica exists for a reason, and in a lot of contemporaries, it means that it could be your town that it’s set in. Contemporaries really want to be relatable. I thought Fangirl was really interesting. Without a name, it would have *seemed* like Generica, but it was actually set in the quite specif university of nebraska, Lincoln campus. I do get a bit sick of New York; I think movies and books idealise it a lot. White Noise sounds interesting, and I do understand how Generica could be very effective from a post-modern point of view. You do know things!

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  2. Omg I am so annoyed of all these generic settings, and mainly all contemporaries are included in this. It literally annoys me up to no end. Also, why isn’t there more diversity? Just the usual white cast. *yawn* I love these posts of yours, they are so freaking creative!

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    1. The generic settings irritate me immensely. There’s so much of the world (aka most of India) that just never shows up, and then they give us this bland American town. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

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