The Genre Protocol


While I'm not as fluent as the average protocol droid, I am constantly stating my positions on channels that more people seem to be tuning in on.

While I’m not as fluent as the average protocol droid, I am constantly stating my positions on channels that more people seem to be tuning in on.

The witness will take the stand. Do you swear to tell the truth the whole truth, so help you God?

I will.

Please say “I do.”

I do.

Be seated. Mr. Arnett you’re testifying today about your preferred genre. Do you understand your rights as they have been explained to you?

Thank you, your honor. I do.

The prosecutor approaches the witness box. He’s older than me, his hair grayer, and he’s clean-shaven. Respectable-looking. Good suit.

Mr. Arnett – I understand you consider yourself a — Science Fiction writer. Is that true?


And why is that?

The prosecutor is prancing back and forth in front of me like he’s on TV or something. I can see him puffing his chest up and out for the benefit of the jury. He seems to be making a lot of eye contact with the forewoman. She’s definitely hot, not my type but she’s good-looking.

I guess it’s probably because I grew up watching TV like The Six Million Dollar Man, Time Tunnel, and Star Trek. Going to movies like Star Wars and special matinees of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I read a lot of SF, too. Heinlein, Asimov, and the like. Lots of Twilight Zone reruns, too.

I see. Do you think that maybe programs like The Twilight Zone caused you harm?

I don’t understand what you mean.

Everyone here is likely familiar with the television show, it’s very famous. As a matter of fact it’s famous for being at once terrifying and hokey. Don’t you think that the bizarre concepts on the show maybe warped your young brain away from real literature, real books?

I have to think about this. I’ve heard that argument before. The crowd in the courtroom is stirring. Best to be honest.

Well… maybe for a while. I also read comic books –

Comic books!

Ahem. Yes, comics. The idea that such fantastic stories existed across such varied media and be created by so many people for boys like me. The stories were often based on classical literature though I didn’t know that at the time.

Yes, yes, yes. It’s understood that there was a lot of so-called science fiction in popular media back then. Do you think it kept you from reading more acceptable kinds of mainstream literature?

What? Like Shogun or Roots or spy thrillers? Bourne? Bond? I read Of Mice and Men in high school along with The Scarlet Letter and other ‘acceptable’ literature. I had one class where we were required to read Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, too.

He leans in on the witness box, as though he’s a confidant of mine. The crowd leans forward, too.

So do you think that your education lacked something? Maybe an appreciation for finer literature?

Not at all. I learned to love reading because of science fiction. Once I moved out of the house I read all sorts of books but still kept reading comic books and science fiction. Those are my roots.

The prosecutor strokes his chin and wanders around the courtroom until the judge asks him if he has any more questions. He holds up a hand and goes to his table, shuffles some papers, looks through his briefcase and finally pulls out an iPad. He swipes through some screens and shows it to me.

Is this your blog?


It says here that you write horror, too. It says here that you’re actually surprised you’ve written so much horror. Does that mean you’re not a science fiction writer?

No. It means that I identify as a writer of SF first and that I’m comfortable writing other genres, too.

But you actually produced comic books, didn’t you?

Yes. A long form SF story with a little horror and some thriller and other bits, too.

So why then do you continue to say that you’re a science fiction writer?!

My advocate objects that counsel is badgering me. The judge agrees and tells the prosecutor to wrap it up. He sighs heavily and sets his iPad down.

Mr. Arnett, can you tell the jury, very simply, what it is about science fiction that draws you to writing it?

It’s the possibilities of the future, of the human race. What could happen if people did this or did that? There are so many ways we can go. Exploring those paths is what interests me. Plus, science fiction has so much room for so many stories that I can write in that genre without stepping on the toes of anyone who’s gone before.

The prosecutor looks at me a long time, shrugs and waves a hand at me. The jury shifts in their seats.

No more questions, your honor.

The judge bangs his gavel and thats the end of it. It’s up to the jury now.

Jason Arnett is a storyteller living in Kansas and writing in the plains of the fantastic. Some of his work can be found at

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