ME: I enjoyed your new novel, but there was one part that puzzled me.
HIM: What was that?
ME: The part about the squidlike alien beings who were fans of Sonic Youth. I mean, the book’s set in the far future— how did Sonic Youth get into the picture?
HIM: Oh that? That’s satire.
ME: Satire? Of what?
HIM: Well, you know . . . satire.
ME: But what are you satirizing, exactly? Sonic Youth? Sonic Youth fans? Squids? What?
HIM: Maybe you just don’t get satire.
ME: I get that satire is supposed to have a point. Satire is social criticism delivered through irony and sarcasm— what exactly is your target? What is the satire aimed at?
HIM: Well, y’know . . . us . . . science fiction.
ME: But what is your point in satirizing science fiction?
HIM: It’s all there on the page, dude.
ME: Are you saying that science fiction fans are like squids with iPods? Or that Sonic Youth is so dumb that only squids should be listening to it? Or that the readers are so useless they’ll accept any pointless thing between covers? Or are you trying to say that the subject matter of science fiction is as unlikely as squids listening to Sonic Youth?
HIM: I think you’re reading too much into it.
ME: Maybe so, but you say it’s satire, and satire is supposed to have a point. It’s not supposed to be a bunch of dumb stuff thrown together for no reason at all.
HIM: It’s got a point, dude!
ME: Well, it’s too opaque for me. Perhaps you can tell me what the point is?
HIM: Aliens! Sonic Youth! Tentacles! It’s obvious!
ME: No, not really. What is your target? What is your point? Cuz right now, it looks like you just threw stuff together in a way you thought was amusing. Which is just fine, if that’s what you want, but what you absolutely can’t do is call it satire!
Satire is a literary form meant to critique human nature and human society! It’s not the same as burlesque! It’s not the same as parody! And it’s not squids and Sonic Youth in the same picture, because that picture doesn’t make even a satirical kind of sense!