Sometimes I don't know why I bother! Let's face it, most people lead lives which are, to all outward appearances, pretty boring.
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The trouble with writing fiction is that, as a famous novelist once said, reality is under no compulsion to make sense or be plausible. Those of us who make stuff up. Values Features Classes Ceramic fuse Keramische zekering EV008882 Deckel f Clutch has just released Full Fathom Five on vinyl. Full Fathom Five was Clutch’s first ever release on it’s own label Weathermaker Music. Released in 2008, it.
They're not boring if they're you, but major life milestones (graduation from school/university, your first job, your wedding day, birth of a child, death of a parent) can be encalsulated in a single parenthesized list because they're so ubiquitous that most of us have some experience of them. The hyperfocussed realism of much literary fiction is simply an introspective examination of the minutest details of such ordinary lives, and while a good writer can make the ubiquitous or the mundane somehow spellbinding, those of us who are used to the spicier diet of genre fiction tend to need some additional seasoning. For example: take the embarrassing family dinner where the nest- flown kids return to introduce their significant others to the generation gapped parents. Many or most of us have lived through that experience, but it's if you try to put it in a work of SF and run it for a chapter or two you will lose most of your readers—starting with your editor—unless you reach for the hot sauce. Been there, did that in . Generally genre readers prefer, if not two- fisted action heroes, then at least people whose lives are less uninteresting than their (our) own. So we try to invent interesting protagonists, people thrust outside our own comfort zone who nevertheless are equipped to deal with the slings and arrows and ancient curses of a different reality.
But reality is always going to one- up you because it's under no requirement to make sense. Let us take, for example, a fellow called Ignaz Trebitsch- Lincoln (Wikipedia biography here), who was (variously) a Jewish, Presbyterian, Buddhist, spy, British MP, Nazi, propagandist, and would- be Balkan oil cartel mogul. Oh, I forgot to mention: claimed reincarnation of the Dalai Lama and Japanese- backed candidate for the Emperor of China. Ignatius was born to an Orthodox Jewish family in Paks in Hungary in 1. Hungary for London, fell in with Lutheran missionaries, and converted to Christianity. He joined a seminary, got in trouble, and was sent to Canada to evangelize the Jews of Montreal.
Whereupon he decided Anglicanism was more to his taste, had a falling out with the mission, and decamped for Britain. Talking himself into a position as a curate in the Church of England he contrived to get himself elected to Parliament briefly in 1. The outbreak of war saw him back in London and, when the British rejected his services as a spy, he promptly made contact with the Germans, who had no problem employing him as a double agent ..
Not making this up. High points of what happened after he was released from his prison sentence for fraud in Parkhurst Prison after the war? Well, his supernatural charisma failed him at one point: Adolf Hitler was not terribly impressed when they met in 1. Drifting from one right- wing rabidly anti- semitic group to another (and serially betraying them to the highest bidder) he finally ran out of friends in Europe and fled east.
In China he initially worked as an arms smuggler for various warlords before converting to Buddhism, rising to the rank of abbot, and establishing his own monastery, where initiates were required to hand over all their possessions to the abbot (who spent his spare time seducing nuns). He seems to have contracted a strong hatred for the British government along the way, which possibly motivated his transfer of allegiance to the Japanese empire in China .. The records don't suggest that he was physically violent (although his relationships with women were exploitative at best and almost certainly psychologically abusive), but he had an alarming ability to talk himself into anyone's good books. If the Kapp putsch had been successful he might well have gone on to be a sort of proto- Goebbels for an early Fascist post- war regime. If he'd been slightly more successful in obtaining backing from the Gestapo in the far east he might have had the necessary backing to proclaim himself Emperor of China. And if he'd survived past 1. I am absolutely certain that Ian Fleming would have drafted him in as the role model for a Bond villain.
This was going to be a bumper- pack of implausible larger- than- life characters from history, but I sort of overran my target. If you want some homework, though, you could do a lot worse than read up on Julie d'Aubigny, Mademoiselle La Maupin (1.
Maximillian II Emanuel, Elector of Bavaria). As wikipedia notes, dead- pan, . Her Paris career was interrupted around 1. She beat them all, but fell afoul of the king's law that forbade duels in Paris.
Or, as Badass of the Week puts it, . If nothing in that sentence at least marginally interests you, I have no idea why you're visiting this website. Two serious points for any fiction writer emerge from this meditation on eccentricity. Firstly, any accurate depiction of mundane real- world life has to take into account the fact that reality contains multitudes, including outrageously and larger- than- life figures like La Maupin and Trebitsch- Lincoln. You can write hyperrealistic literary character studies of protagonists who are utterly barkingly implausible except insofar as they are based on real people; or you can write escapist genre fantasies about utterly plausible normal people thrust outside their comfort zone (a vampire! Except he just happens to be a low- level banking IT dogsbody turned civil servant). What you can't do is one- up reality, because reality has a bottomless magic wallet full of colourful surreal excess.
Secondly, if one wishes to add spice to a work of escapist SF or fantasy, sometimes we can do better by looting the historical archives than by trying to roll our own characters. La Maupin would work perfectly as a foil for the protagonist of a secondary world fantasy yarn (set in I- can't- believe- it's- not 1. France, with added magic), or perhaps even as the protagonist herself. Trebitsch- Lincoln is of course the Bond Villain Who Got Away (because Ian Fleming forgot to write about him), a Bizzaro- world hybrid of Doctor No and Ernst Stavro Blofeld (and, on reflection, it's possible that Fleming did know of him; it has been several decades since I read the original novel of . But if we employ characters like this, we have to dial back on the weirdness of the setting, lest the dish come out excessively spiced to the point of implausibility. Better, I think, to dump the protagonists of a literary novel out of their comfort zone in the deep end of a space opera, than to try to write La Maupin in orbit.
So: who are your favourite barkingly implausible historic characters—not currently alive, please, that would be tasteless—and how would you deploy them in fiction?
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