Jody Wallace grew up in the present day United States in a very rural area. Okay, not present day, but, you know, in the past couple of decades. She went to school a long time and ended up with a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing and loafing. Her meatloafs, in particular, are stellar. Her resume includes English instructor, technical documents editor, market analyst, and general, all around pain in the butt. Ms. Wallace’s approach to writing is to tell as many outlandish lies as she can get her readers to swallow. That trait is really on display in her SFR (Science Fiction Romance) spoof, The Adventures of Mari Shu.
About the series:
Mari Shu, a factory drudge in the year 4000-something, must choose how to protect her sisters, her purity, and her own conscience in a bleak futuristic society that’s been polluted by smog, rampant commercialism, tacky jumpsuits, sexual perversions, unjust socioeconomics, interstellar travel, and inconsistent use of the Oxford comma.
Parodies peel back the layers of a genre in interesting, and often hilarious ways. In the case of Jody Wallace’s The Adventures of Mari Shu, the laser-sharp focus is science fiction and sci-fi romance. This new series is an epic parody in the vein of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Only with more sexxoring and goo. The first two volumes, Earthbound Passion and Martian Conquest, have been unleashed throughout the galaxy.
So we could learn more about Jody Wallace’s new series, I met with her at the Olde Earth Parks and Rec Commission. While standing in a mile-long line to look at some grass, we chatted about widgets, *** seals, and criminal hovercycle gangs.
Heather Massey: Welcome, Jody! What are the basics readers need to know about your new series, The Adventures of Mari Shu?
Jody Wallace: Other than the blurb, the genre, and the fact it’s branching fiction? Probably…
- No, it’s not for kids just because it has a “choose your own adventure” structure. Please don’t let your children read this book.
- No, I don’t hate your favorite SF book/movie/TV series because it got a snarky nod somewhere in the various pages of Mari Shu’s adventures. In fact, I probably liked it.
- Yes, I know I misspelled penal as penile about a billion times when referring to the prison planet Venus. And I laughed every time I did it.
HM: Was the character of Mari Shu inspired by anything in particular? I heard she was based off of Maruchan’s shrimp flavored ramen noodles, but I could be wrong.
JW: As you know, Bob, in fanfiction there’s this pretty little gal named Mary Sue. She’s the epitome of all good things and supposedly functions as the stand-in for the fanfic author exercising her fingers and brain as she plots her way into her favorite stories. In genre fiction, like romance, when a female protagonist resembles that remark, she may also be called a Mary Sue. I like to think that my tittytular protagonist has all the qualities any Mary Sue could hope for, like blind familial loyalty, great yet unacknowledged beauty, virginity, guilelessness, flexibility, inborn and untapped sexual skills, and severe martyristic impulses.
As for the ramen noodles, only people on Mars get to eat actual ramen noodles, so Mari Shu wasn’t named after them.
HM: The Adventures of Mari Shu truly goes where no young, virginal futuristic heroine has gone before. The stories include mind-boggling sexxoring, nefarious villains, otherworldly worlds, and copious amounts of bodily fluids. It’s quite the collection of action, raunch, and raunchy action. Please share a brief sample of Mari Shu’s adventures (better make this one safe for work, though!).
JW: How about the previouslies I’ve composed for the beginning of Volume 3: Far Galaxies? Which makes this never before seen by anyone but me! And Heather, since she’s handling this article. To ensure this is work safe, I ***** out some words that may or may not be random.
Mari Shu Three Million Even, a worker in a widget factory in the far flung future, did these things at the beginning of the story:
- Received a pay cut from EvilCorp. Again. Because Evil.
- Trudged home through an ugly urban landscape, since “trudging” is more dystopian, *****, and onerous than merely walking and certainly more evocative than skipping or lollygagging or something like that.
- Got hit on by a fellow widgeter, a rare occurrence for poor Mari Shu with her unfashionably lush blond hair, big ***** and creamy, milky skin in a society that values dark, shimmering hair, *** ******, orange skin and stockiness. She turned him down.
- Mari Shu thought some stuffy stuff about how she’d vowed to her sainted grandmother that she’d never become a sexxorer and her mom had been a sexxorer and women in her social class–the millioners–have sealed up ***** and the author assured you that there was no reason to bother your pretty little heads about things like “menstruation” and “how did her mom have babies” and “********” and “stuff like that.”
- She arrived at her flat on the *****ing seventy-seventh floor where her sisters, whom she supports, waited eagerly for her and their dinner.
- In a very convenient way, her sisters revealed that they’d both allowed their landlord Gerald Scumbag to **** sexxor them, putting them at risk for deportation to the Venusian penile colony since female millioners aren’t allowed to remove their **** seals unless they become registered sexxorers.
- In a similarly convenient way, their **** Scumbag landlord raises their rent and Mari Shu realizes she’s got to figure out a new way to support herself and her sisters…
HM: Describe a few of the colorful characters readers can expect to meet in this series.
JW: Mari Shu’s sisters are relatively prominent in several of the Mari Shu volumes. Trish, the less bodacious sister, has a sharp intellect whenever the plot requires someone to have a sharp intellect. This was very convenient for the author at times. Cassie, the more bodacious sister, has a yen for Gerald Scumbag and goo tubes and makes bratty comments whenever the plot requires someone to make bratty comments. This was, in truth, more frequent than the plot’s need for someone sharply intelligent, all things considered.
The books also feature various scintillating heroes and heroines with whom Mari Shu might become romantically involved, should a reader pick the appropriate path. In volume 1, the darkly handsome Master, whom Mari Shu meets at the Sexxoring Commission, makes her an offer she can’t refuse that involves becoming his submissive. Or can she refuse him? That depends on the reader! The Master, it should be noted, gets very annoyed when other characters in the story refer to him as Jannifer, his given name.
In volume 2, Mari Shu becomes entangled with a cyborg billionaire of the Mars rover class named Vaughn whose shady past involves shady emo darkness and possibly an affair with someone shady who wounded his soul and now he cannot trust women. He too makes her an offer she can’t refuse-to work for him and infiltrate his enemy’s corporation. Or can she refuse? And if she refuses him will she fall into the clutches of the seductively criminal hovercycle gang that dominates Mars’ underworld?
HM: As you know, Jody, I had the pleasure of reading several Mari Shu adventures prior to publication (cue Pinkie Pie throwing confetti). I take my SF, romance, and any combination of the two very seriously, so when I describe The Adventures of Mari Shu as hilarious I don’t use the word lightly. The multiple layers of humor, parody, and satire in the stories fascinate me, so I’d like to take a peek behind the curtain. How did you make this story so gosh darn funny?
JW: By unleashing my inner a-hole? Repetitions of the phrase Venusian penile colony? Juxtaposition of common tropes and completely ridiculous, made-up words? Lots of trips to Wikipedia and IMDB.com to make sure my details were only partly accurate? Injudicious authorial intrusion? Writing really, really fast before the kids get home from school and ask what I’m laughing about?
HM: Describe a few of the SF and romance references readers will have fun spotting as they read.
JW: We could turn this into one of those car trip games. Can you spot…
Star Wars/Trek/Firefly/BSG/Etc. (These, IMO, are a given.) The Hunger Games. 50 Shades of Grey a.k.a. any Billionaire BDSM romance. The Last Hour of Gann. Transformers. Harlequin Presents novels. 1984. Solaris. Outlander. Space Ghost Coast to Coast. That one with the thing where they died when they turned 30. The Maze Runner. That one where the females were auctioned off. That one with the motorcycle gang. Most SyFy channel shows. Anything with cyborgs.
Honestly, sometimes my references weren’t book-specific as much as they were trope specific. I probably leaned more heavily on media of recent derivation, being the pop culture punk ass that I am. Ok, not really, I’m too old to be a punk ass. Anyway, if you know of an SF or SFR trope you’d love to see in a future volume, that can probably be arranged.
JW: Thundarr the Barbarian, Wonder Woman, Star Wars, and Fantasy Island. When I was in my formative years (do we ever really escape our formative years? I mean, I’m still forming.), I didn’t want to be rescued. I didn’t want to be the helpless damsel. Boring, boring, boring. I wanted to Save the World and Stuff. I wanted to defend myself and others from the baddies. I wanted to cast the spells. I wanted to figure out the puzzles.
I wanted to win the prizes and the honors. I mean, why not? Rah!
As a woman, though, I found that female protagonists I aspired to kick ass alongside were limited. If they did kick ass, there was always some dude kicking more ass nearby, probably in front of them. The addition of the speculative elements like SF to plots seemed to equalize that lovely patriarchal playing field a little, at least in my imagination.
Hence, SF and SFR.
Oh, and Lynda Carter. I played “Wonder Woman” a lot when I was growing up.
HM: One thing that makes The Adventures of Mari Shu unique is that it is, as far as I know, the only published science fiction romance of its kind. Authors like Lucy Woodhull (Ragnar and Juliet) and Gini Koch (Touched By An Alien) have written comedic sci-fi romances, but before now I’ve never read anything on the level of an outright parody. What are a few goals you wanted to accomplish by writing this series?
JW: I have no idea if this is the only romance of its kind. Digital publishing has ripped open the river of writerly wack, so I wouldn’t be surprised to find just about anything out there at just about every heat level known to humankind. R-34 and all that jazz.
As far as my goals, I mentioned that I find writing this series very amusing. I’d like to continue to amuse myself and hopefully others. I would also like to get some hate mail from people who don’t realize this is a parody. That would be delightful. I hope they give me permission to publish it. And if there’s any way this could morph into a series of graphic novels, I’d be all over that, because I think Claymation would be too hard. Or maybe a video game!
Ok, new goal. I’d like Mari Shu to be a best-selling App within three years. I’m used to falling short of my goals, so I have no problem putting this in writing.
HM: You’ve been a busy lady over the years. You have a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing. In addition to writing fiction, you once ran The Science Fiction Romance Newsletter. You’ve been active in RWA and have published loads of books, including the Maelstrom Chronicles with Entangled Publishing. You also own a cat, which as everyone knows is a full-time job in and of itself! Given your extensive experience in publishing, what advice can you give to cat owners?
JW: They really like it when you turn on the heating vents for the first time in months. If there’s no cat hair in something, you’re just not looking hard enough. Send me your cat photos.
HM: Is there anything readers should know about this series going in?
JW: This is a raunchy, potentially triggering, inappropriate, inaccurate, disrespectful, wacked out work of badly-plotted fiction. You have been warned.
HM: I think The Adventures of Mari Shu are laugh-out-loud funny, but in the words of the esteemed LeVar Burton, readers don’t have to take my word for it. Tell us about the reactions a few authors have had to your new series.
“Of all the books out there, THE ADVENTURES OF MARI SHU is one of them!” – Gini Koch, author of the bestselling Alien/Katherine “Kitty” Katt series, which includes Alien in the House, Best Futuristic Romance of 2013 from the RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice Awards
“I laughed! I cried!…When I was asked to write this blurb. I’m sure THE ADVENTURES OF MARI SHU is a great read. I mean, really, how bad *could* it be? But seriously, knowing Jody, it’s hysterical.” – award-winning author Cathy Pegau, who knows Jody.
“This book contains many words in varied order. These words make sentences, mostly. Many people are pleased by the word clumps contained herein, and have paid actual money for them. I have been too busy on a yacht with J.K. Rowling to read this book, but I’m told that Jody Wallace is pretty good at spelling. Can I get my $20 now?” – Lucy Woodhull, author of the funny sci-fi romance RAGNAR AND JULIET, which also features sentences, mostly.
“I haven’t read THE ADVENTURES OF MARI SHU, but I’m sure it’s great, based on the cover.” – The Anonymous Cover Designer
“I haven’t been so excited about a book coming out since… mine! And we all know MINE is going to be at least #10 on Amazon’s science fiction romance/spaceships/military/food/fruit/strawberry/fresh list!” – Sheryl Nantus, author of the “Tales from the Edge” series
HM: Give us a taste of what readers will discover in book #3, Far Galaxies.
JW: Aside from the previouslies I shared above, so far my scribblings in Volume 3 have incorporated a lot of Matrix spoofage plus The 100 plus some Solaris. Soon I will skewer Beth Revis’s marvelous Across the Universe, which both I and my oldest kid are huge fans of, so rest assured, I’m not picking on tropes I dislike. In fact, if I dislike something, I’m a lot less likely to want to incorporate it. Except for that one professor from grad school. He gets “incorporated”, all right.
HM: Where can readers find The Adventures of Mari Shu?
JW: Amazon and Smashwords, so far. We’ll see how far it travels across the retail galaxy!
HM: Thanks for letting me pick your brain about Mari Shu. And now for something completely different. What’s your third favorite gadget of all time?
JW: Crock pot.
HM: Ms. Wallace, thanks for your time, and for your art.
Dear readers, to learn more about this esteemed, goo-breaking series, visit the author’s The Adventures of Mari Shu page.
Heather Massey is a lifelong fan of science fiction romance. She searches for sci-fi romance adventures aboard her blog, The Galaxy Express, and is the Releases Editor of the Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly. She also writes a monthly steampunk romance column for Coffee Time Romance.