Thursday, 11 June 2015

Fictions Within Fictions

Adventure fiction sometimes refers to adventure fiction. There are two ways to do this:

(i) one fictional character referring to another, e.g., James Bond saying that he likes Nero Wolfe (Bond does say this);

(ii) fictions within the fiction.

(i) Usually, when a fictional character refers to, e.g., Sherlock Holmes, we understand that Holmes is as fictional to the character referring to him as he is to us. There are exceptions. For example, Holmes is real in Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series and in CS Lewis' Narnia Chronicles.

In SM Stirling's In The Courts Of The Crimson King, an archaeologist is unhappy when his exploits on Mars begin to resemble those of a certain whip-wielding cinematic archaeologist and, when held captive, he reflects that adventure fiction heroes locked in dungeons always escaped instead of having to be rescued...

(ii) Fictional characters can also refer to fictions that exist in their world but not in ours. Flandry says:

"' undertaking such as [Magnusson's] would be the most audacious ever chronicled outside of cloak-and-blaster fiction.'" -Poul Anderson, Flandry's Legacy (New York, 2012), pp. 450-451.

In a completer History of Technic Civilization, we would like to read:

one of their cloak-and-blaster novels;
media coverage of the Mirkheim crisis;
one of Andrei Simich's poems about a hero of Dennitza;
and a lot more.

Shakespeare presents more than one "play within the play." In Alan Moore's Watchmen, a comic about superheroes, a boy reads a pirate comic and we read it over his shoulder, becoming as involved with the fiction within the fiction as we are with the fiction. In our world, i.e., on Earth Real, Watchmen was dramatized as a feature film and the comic within the comic was dramatized as a short animated film. Following these Shakespearean and Moorean precedents, Anderson might have presented a cloak-and-blaster novel to be derided by Flandry for its inaccuracies and implausibilities.

Busy long weekend starting tomorrow so maybe less posts.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

In Chapter 15 of ENSIGN FLANDRY, after Flandry and Persis d'Io had escaped from Merseia, the latter was complaining about the limited materials for entertainment aboard their boat. Persis declared: "Do you recall what we have aboard for entertainment? Four animations: a Martian travelogue, a comedian routine, a speech by the Emperor, a Cynthian opera on the twenty-tone scale. Two novels: OUTLAW BLASTMAN and PLANET OF SIN. I have them memorized. They come back to me in my dreams."

Here we see a character inside a fiction referring to two fictional novels which are real to her but doesn't exist in our world. Almost certainly, these books are examples of the kind of cloak-and-blaster novels Flandry derided many years later for their inaccuracies and implausibilities.

And I would have liked to have known more about Emperor Georgios speech!


Paul Shackley said...

Thank you for recalling the two titles.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Anytime! And maybe Poul Anderson referred to fictions within others of his fictional works. Something to look out for.


David Birr said...

H. Beam Piper included a "fiction within" in his novel *Uller Uprising*. *Dire Dawn* by Hildegarde Hernandez actually plays a significant role in Piper's story, because Hernandez was big on making her "historical novels" (described by Piper's characters as actually pornography) as accurate as possible -- to the point that *Dire Dawn* contains accurate information Piper's heroes need.

Piper includes a synopsis of the "novel": "the heroine is a sort of super-Mata-Hari, who is, alternately and sometimes simultaneously, in the pay of the Nazis, the Soviets, the Vatican, Chiang Kai-Shek, the Japanese Emperor, and the Jewish International Bankers, and she sleeps with everybody but Joe Stalin and Mao Tse-tung.... I must say, Hildegarde has her biological data very well in hand, too."

Even the cover picture is described, with a marvelous turn of phrase: "...a slightly-more-than-bust-length picture of a young lady with crimson hair and green eyes and jade earrings and a plunging--not to say power-diving--neckline that left her affiliation with the class of Mammalia in no doubt whatever."

Also, the main character of Piper's short story "Time and Time Again" was a successful writer, with novels titled *Children of the Mist*, *Rose of Death*, and *Conqueror's Road* mentioned.

Paul Shackley said...

Thank you. I appreciate this kind of info share.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Birr,

I had to laugh a little over your description of Piper's super Mata Hari and her implausibly varied employers! And the bit about her "plunging--not to say power-diving-neckline that left her affiliation with the class of Mammalia in no doubt whatever" was amusing.

Your comments reminded me of Stephen King's short story "Umney's Last Case," about a fictional hard boiled 1930's detective forced by his author to swap worlds in 1994. Umney came to loath our world for having things like AIDS and shingles. To say nothing of being forced to learn how to toilet train himself--in his fictional world people did not need to urinate or evacuate their bowels! All this made Umney determined to get back to his world and avenge himself on the author who had stolen his role and name.