Travesty (n): A literary composition which aims at exciting laughter by burlesque and ludicrous treatment of a serious work; literary composition of this kind; hence, a grotesque or debased imitation or likeness; a caricature. (Oxford English Dictionary)
In the creative writing class I’m teaching, I set up a class exercise consisting of editing four pages of Atlanta Nights. That’s the book invented by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America to sting a notorious vanity press. The MSS was mailed as if from a novice writer. The vanity press sent back a congratulatory letter stating that their editors deemed the book worthy of publication. Yeah, right. Atlanta Nights was created by a gaggle of SFWA members who wrote a books’ worth of fiction of supreme badness. The sting worked and got a lot of bad PR for the vanity press and good PR for SFWA, which then self-published the book through Lulu.com. The book is a gold mine of shattered rules of plot, characterization, grammar, and good taste. My editing class paired off and edited like mad. One of my points in the exercise was that it can make sense to cut first and only fix the mistakes in what’s left. Atlanta Nights illustrates that concept beautifully. The book has more pointless padding than an overstuffed armchair. Rafts of details that could be painstakingly edited are embedded in sections that it would be better cut out to get to the actual plot, such as it is. The supposed author of Atlanta Nights was Travis Tea.