Generator Hilarity: Five Things We Love And Hate About Menagerie

A word of explanation: Tonight I ventured into the bizarre and hilarious world of blog post topic generators. The way most of them work is that you input a keyword and they spit out the titles of possible clickbait posts based on your keyword. Because I am a well-known sucker for an online generator, I started to play with them using keywords from my own creative projects. Then I descended into madness.

We all (and by "we" I mean myself and perhaps a few people with weirdly specific memories) know "Menagerie," the largely meaningless codename for a post-apocalyptic retrofuture sideways Earth on which I set a great many of my stories. Everyone agrees that it's a great and terrible place. But have we really considered WHY it's both great and terrible? Probably not, because only I am sufficiently invested in this thing to ask that question. Fortunately, I am also sufficiently invested (and/or punch-drunk) to answer it in that time-honored format: the listicle.

So I give you Five Things We Love and Hate about Menagerie:

1. The laws of reality do what they want!

Why is this great? Because sometimes you can fly despite your wings being too small to bear your weight (let's be honest, though, if you have wings you are probably not a normal person and everyone here is side-eyeing you real hard right now). Sometimes something works when there is no reason beyond your belief and desire that it should work. Sometimes, the moon is a balloon and that's sort of cool.

Why is this terrible? The laws of nature are not your personal buddy. They do what they want, and sometimes what they want to do is ruin your day. I mean, most of the time it's easier for them just to go along and keep things running fairly smoothly, but who can resist the urge to screw up someone's algebra homework by temporarily altering mathematics? Not the laws of reality, that's for sure.

2. Fairies are invisible in some cities!

Why is this great? Because who wants to see fairies, is what I'm saying. They're weird, right? And they might ensorcell you. It's been known to happen. They're probably demonic! Some of the churches say they are. There's just too much that's uncomfortable and disturbing about fairies, and the less you have to think about that the better. The great part is that the less you think about it, the more it happens, because fairies are not literally invisible--people in some places have just been so committed to the idea that there are no fairies in their town that nobody who isn't a fairy (or gifted with the Second Sight, which is gross) can perceive them!

Why is this terrible? There is literally no way to ensure that there aren't actually fairies lurking around that you can't see because of the force of human pig-headedness. In fact, your inability to perceive them may make it harder for them to ensorcell you (maybe? Who really knows), but much, much easier for them to steal your baby. I'm just putting that out there. Maybe they're also watching you sleep. I'm just saying.

3. The instability of reality is responsive to human beliefs about reality!

Why is this great? See above. If you don't want to see fairies (and come on, who wants to see fairies, they're weird), you don't have to. Just move to the places where people don't want them around.

Why is this terrible? It doesn't work on an individual level most of the time. So the odds of you being able to believe your way into being wealthy are almost nonexistent, but the odds of your community believing the local urban legends into reality is pretty high. Also dragons are really susceptible to this so you had better hope that your community believes that dragons are benevolent creatures that don't have rows of razor-sharp teeth or a penchant for kidnapping people.

Finally, this creates vexing questions about whether the truth about reality is knowable or if our very attempts to know reality fundamentally alter it in some macro-level Heisenbergian nightmare. Which is like the epistemological terrors of the mundane world cranked up to eleven.

4. There are people who can travel in dreams!

Why is this great? It's like lucid dreaming only better, right? Pretty sweet deal, being able to get into other people's dreams and wander around in dream-stuff and make yourself a sweet, sweet dream form that is half vampire and half angel and half dragon with a six-foot flaming soul sword.

Why is this terrible? If you can travel in the dreams, you are clairvoyant and this means you also see fairies when they're supposed to be invisible, and are sensitive to magic in other ways, and you might actually have fairy blood. The end result of all of this, despite how cool it sounds, is that you are sort of a pariah. Because you're weird. WEIRD IS BAD AND DANGEROUS.

5. There's a network of quasi-monastic clown guilds that control significant portions of the entertainment industry!

Why is this great? If you're a clown, it's a pretty sweet deal. If you're a down-on-your-luck ne'er-do-well looking for a second chance, joining the clowns might be your ticket to a passable life. If you're a power-hungry maniac who also likes garish makeup, you literally cannot lose here.

Why is this terrible? If you have an irrational fear of clowns, or an irrational fear of guilds, you are probably going to have a really bad time.