Illogicon, Monster Earth and Things Not Being Coincidental

First off, my story Peace With Honor is now out in the Monster Earth anthology. Right now it’s just on Kindle, but it’ll be in print soon. I’ll be posting a Story Behind the Story blog entry soon, part here, then part on the publisher’s website.
Second, I’d like to say I had a ball at Raleigh-Durham’s Illogicon this weekend. The highlight (other than hanging with the multiple members of my writing group) was getting to listen to Tim Powers, author of Declare, Earthquake Weather, Stress of Her Regard and On Stranger Tides which Disney had optioned right after the first movie was a hit (despite the movie wildly departing from his story, he seems quite happy with the financial compensation). The panels I intended including “Humanizing Villains”, “Writing Strong Women” and “Fantasy in the Real World.”
For today, what I wanted to talk about was Powers’ comment that he gets his ideas simply by looking at history and assuming that when something weird appears to have happened, it really is weird. And that when some weird coincidence happens, it’s Not a Coincidence: If Einstein fell into a coma the same night as the Tunguska fireball hits (that is a made-up example of mine, I note), then clearly the Tunguska fireball somehow caused Einstein to go into a coma!
The more I reflect on it, the more I appreciate the advantages of this approach. In the first place, it explains why the presence of magic doesn’t change the world we know: It’s already built in. The events that we all learn about were the direct result of magic’s presence (as in Katherine Kurtz’s Lammas Night, where magic is the reason Hitler never commits forces to invade England).
Second, it appeals to the basic human impulse to see patterns in everything. It’s what conspiracy theories are built on, and a lot of End Times religious belief (the excellent book When Time Shall Be No More argues that part of the appeal is that it turns random historical events into a pieces in a grand and amazing trail that leads to Armageddon). Powers admits that when he’s working late at night coming up with his ideas, sometimes he’ll even find himself thinking A-Ha, This is the True Story! It’s that seductive.
And it does work for fiction. The Real American Hero shows how the first Gulf War was actually a fake propaganda war designed to get Bush I re-elected (this was dropped for a less politically explosive concept when Hollywood turned it into the movie Wag the Dog). Tribulation 99 is a DVD mockumentary that shows the Secret History of 20th Century America (do you seriously imagine a mere human could have been good enough to shoot JFK that way?). And of course, The Da Vinci Code strings a ton of history together and became a best-seller (even if Brown doesn’t come anywhere near my standard of fooling a well-read layman).
While my historical fantasy tends to run more to alt.fantasy, I’m going to keep this thought in mind for the future.

4 Comments

Filed under Personal, Writing

4 responses to “Illogicon, Monster Earth and Things Not Being Coincidental

  1. Pingback: When plots defy me | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: A world unlike our own (sort of another Illogicon post) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  3. Pingback: Indistinguishable From Science? | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  4. Pingback: Illogicon | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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