Sunday, April 1, 2012

Idea Garage Sale: April Fool's Day

Here's a question: Why, out of all the holidays, is there no such thing as "an April Fool's Day book?"

C'mon, it's obvious. A day devoted to practical joking, a day when hoaxing is respectable? How perfect does it get?


1) The straightforward "non-fiction" book on an imaginary subject; something that takes the premise that a particular imaginary condition is not imaginary at all, and lays out a sober argument concerning it. Like Peter Dickinson's The Flight of Dragons.

Which, by the way, is a beautiful book, and if scholarly journals and crackpot theorists laid out for illustrations like those, they'd get a wider readership. You'd have to take care, when writing one of these, to pick a subject that is commonly acknowledged as imaginary, though; Dickinson's tone is indistinguishable from the arguments of the better class of cryptozoologists and UFO researchers, who are making serious arguments on subjects they take seriously. You don't want your April Fool's Day book to muddy the Fortean waters twenty years from now.

Or maybe you do, but I think it'd spoil the joke.

2)Non-fiction accounts of hoaxes and practical jokes. It's not hard to find adult non-fiction on topics like The Great Moon Hoax, but such things are sadly lacking for children; and it's a surprising oversight. Who enjoys a good prank more than a kid? Who is in more need of gaining the critical tools necessary to distinguish fact from fiction from lies from hoaxing? April Fool's Day would be an excellent marketing tool for selling books that entertain while exposing the ways in which our minds process and accept or reject information, and how these are exploited by people with particular agendas, from proving a theorem to selling a product.

3) Fiction about pranksters, centering around April Fool's Day in the same way that fiction about ghosts often centers around Halloween. Variations on the Boy Who Cried Wolf. Picture books about Trickster culture heroes - Coyote, Rabbit, the ubiquitous Jack, etc.

Most stories about pranks are necessarily short form or episodic, and older readers are currently addicted to plot - even TV series, which typically can't sustain them to the end, seem to feel obliged to have some overarching metaplot - but there's no reason we can't build long-form plots around a core idea of pranking.

Say you have an habitual joker who, when he gets up early on April Fool's Day to sneak out and set up some of his more elaborate pranks to go off later in the day, encounters The Other. A threatening Other, the UFOnaut or Wicked Fairy Prince who poses a threat to the cozy domestic environment within which Jack the Joker has been functioning comfortably his whole life; one who is turning Jack's jokes deadly. He can try to warn people, but it's Jack and it's April Fool's Day - nobody's going to believe him if he says water is wet! So he has to go into a solo battle of wits against this otherworldly threat, using his hoaxing and practical joking skills in deadly earnest; and incidentally getting into deeper and deeper water with his friends, family, neighbors, and authority figures, who are fed up with him and his endless silliness.

Or say you have a practical joke war going on; two teams, a couple of old men who have been pranking each other turn and turn about their whole lives and have enlisted their grandchildren (much to the dismay and disapproval of their children) in it; or playground rivals. Something happens, an accident or a third-party wrongdoing that each team blames on the other, and the jokes gradually get less funny and more serious, until somebody realizes that it's getting out of control and has to set about stopping it.

Or -

No, that's enough. Those two notions are very bare-bones and deserve to be thought about in more depth before being dismissed out of hand.

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