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Using yourself as a character

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  • Using yourself as a character

    I'm asking about this because it is a technique that apparently Stephen King is going to employ as he closes out his magnum opus, the Dark Tower series. You used it to great effect in War Amongst the Angels, which finished off your Eternal Champion sequence in much the same way that King's Dark Tower series is going to provide closure to his body of work. He already introduced the concept of one of his characters finding a book by Stephen King that has that character in it. What is your opinion on how this kind of meta-fiction should be handled? It seems possible for instance, that Elric could actually find a book about Elric in one of his Thousand year dreams, if he happened to be dreaming himself into "our world" in the late 20th century. Would the explanation be that in a multiverse of limitless possibilities, there exists the likelihood that what is fiction in one world is reality in another? Seems like all kinds of potential pitfalls in using yourself as a character in your fiction.

  • #2
    Inserting oneself

    It's been done quite a bit, of course, in one form or another. I suppose you could argue that the likes of Defoe started it all by actually pretending to be the people they were writing about so as to add authenticity to stories intended to convince the public, but that's not quite the same thing, I know.
    It's a reasonable technique but probably shouldn't be used unless you feel it's absolutely necessary. I'm not familiar with King's work, but can understand why he might want to use the technique to give an overview of his work and perhaps ask the reader to consider the other reasons (other than simple storyline) he had for writing the work. I think it's a way of signalling to the reader that you are exploring certain themes and ideas and asking that reader to inspect the stories for further substance. Again it's easy to see why King might wish to do that, since he clearly wants to be taken seriously as something other than a rattling fine story teller. That is probably my motive, too, come to think of it! Are you saying in post-modernist terms 'it's only a story' or are you pointing to what you might call the modernist elements in the story saying 'it's more than just a story' ?
    Bit confusing, eh ? I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this.
    All best,
    Mike

    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
    The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
    Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
    The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
    Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

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    • #3
      I guess you end up with sort of a loop, such as Elric finding a book about Elric finding a book about etc. That sort of potential paradox. What would that revelation mean to him?

      Or, what if Elric showed up at your ranch? How would you react to meeting face to face with a "character" from your literature?

      I guess it is ultimately a way of questioning reality, which is indeed, looking for a deeper meaning. Which is real- the author or the story? Mindblowing stuff. Any other books you can recommend which explore these kinds of themes?

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      • #4
        Yes, I've used this to some extent. I've wondered myself how I'd feel about Elric turning up at my place. We keep the Raven Armoury sword in the broom (ex gun) closet because I'm always afraid if I leave it out it will get the cat while I'm not looking! I don't think I'd be surprised, which worries me a bit! My own characters are so real to me that I think that's why I'm always pointing out, from the very first stories, that we are 'players on a stage' -- i.e. playing a game which is our destined role. Not destined by gods or Fate so much as our cultural roots and surroundings. These are common philosophical questions, of course, and in particular relate to my fascination with existentialist ideas. I'm fond of most of those philosophers from Kierkegaard to Sartre and, of course, Nietzsche's ideas play an important part in my idea of the hero. That these ideas were corrupted by Nazi idiots isn't really his fault, though it might be Heidegger's...
        In fictional terms, I've tried to deal with this idea a bit in the current trilogy beginning with The Dreamthief's Daughter. Elric does meet himself, in the form of Ulric and possibly even gets a glimpse of himself as his own son. Given that in one manifestation he is also marrying his own daughter, this gives him more than he needs to get his head round! I tend to leave it to the reader to think those implications through, rather than spell them out. As in another answer I've given today, about Norse mythology, I'm not linking anything to specific ideas or myths, but I am using those same resonances.
        I must admit that the feeling one has as an author is often that the story is more 'real' than you are. This leads to the notion that reality can in fact be created by the will, which also leads you into disturbed waters -- towards the fascist notion exemplified in 'Triumph of the Will'. I suspect that certain neocons are toying with those notions themselves at the moment. Of course reality has a way of messing those notions up -- Hitler's Thousand Year Reich lasted thirteen years, which is about as long as any imposition upon reality tends to have when it's that grandiose.
        When politicians become used to winning power through the power of their vision or their arguments, it isn't hard to take the next step -- and the next step, oddly enough, often seems to be making war. Real war, as we've seen recently, is not the same as real politics. You can mock up a
        version of reality which voters will by, but it's much harder to do it where real guns and real people are involved. So there's always a moral element in this discussion, I think. That's what I like about Jonathan Carroll's novels, and also Alan Wall's. They lack the melodrama of my fiction, but you might find them to your taste. Philip K. Dick, of course, explored these arguments as, allegedly, do the directors of the Matrix series. The notion of a man meeting his doppelganger has been around for some centuries, noteably in German literature of the early 19th century, but perhaps one of my favourite examples of this is the Burning Man in Alfred Bester's wonderful sf novel Tiger, Tiger (The Stars My Destination in the US edition). I'm sure other readers have good examples, too, and maybe could post them here ?
        All best,
        MM

        Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
        The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
        Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


        Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
        The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
        Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

        Comment


        • #5
          You know it did cross my mind that Ulric was in essence marrying his own daughter in marrying Elric's daughter! Maybe they will move to Alabama? Or is there a place in Europe that is considered "redneck"? Just kidding, don't hate on me, Alabamians!!!

          Thanks as usual for your answers!

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          • #6
            I think that, perhaps, L. P. Hartley made a funny little comment on these issues in his short story "W.S."
            "If the environment were a bank, we would already have saved it." -Graffitti.

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