Stuff from my head

Big Damn Heroes

Telling lies is a funny way to spend your life

Among the books I re-read fairly regularly are H Beam Piper’s (and others’) Fuzzy novels. The plots often turn on the Fuzzies’ inability to tell a lie; the first Fuzzy to do so is the one who first made contact with the humans on his home planet, Little Fuzzy. (There is a good reason for this seemingly uninspired name.) He does this in order to save a band of “wild” Fuzzies from danger, as they can’t comprehend what a “not-true thing” is. But we writers spend our lives telling not-true things, which is a bit of a funny thing to do when you think about it.

“I think of folklore in much the same way as a carpenter thinks about trees”—Terry Pratchett

I’m more of a woodcarver, tinkering with smaller things. Someone recently asked me what influenced my writing. The true answer to that is, every book I have ever read— whether I admire and enjoy them or use them as an example of what not to do. A writer, I guess, is part sponge, part magpie, and part craftsman. You absorb an awful lot of stuff and pick up many many shiny things before you find your voice. Some of the earliest things I absorbed were myths and legends., which had the result of making me almost more familiar with Norse and Graeco-Roman pantheons than the Christian one, although I use its mythos copiously as well.

“Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look beyond the ranges”— Kipling

Travel has been a great love for half my life, and has inspired many stories. Captain da Silva has voyaged to some of the same places, but (for example) never made it to Oz; on the other hand, I haven’t been to Shanghai, Rio or some of the rougher parts of Africa as he has.

I dreamed of travel as a child stuck in England while my dad, a soldier, was posted to Germany and Aden and Borneo. Names drew me: the Everglades, Rotorua’s boiling mud, Yellowstone Park, the South Pacific… Now I’ve been to Fiji and sat in the sulphuric steam at Whakarewarewa; time will tell about the rest.

Why I am a Browncoat

It wasn’t until I’d been blogging for some time that I realized why I am drawn to certain fictional characters, and that is how the Captain came into existence. Philip Marlowe, the wisecracking outsider, answers to no-one and nothing but his code of honor. Chandler’s style has informed my writing for some time, though not as overtly as it does with the Captain. Han Solo (and Indy, his alter ego): louche and insouciant, mostly one step ahead of the game, reluctant to get involved but pitching in when it counts.

And Mal Reynolds, operating in the gray area between legal and illegal, clinging to independence in a ‘verse that tries to suppress it, but mostly retaining his sense of humor even when things are bleakest. Mal alone has a family (Han acquires one when he pitches in with the rebels): his crew. His motley crew who are all strong personalities in their own right but— this is the thing— they follow Mal.

Remind you of anyone else? How about Col. Jack O’Neill? Leroy Jethro Gibbs? These guys, that guy, they’re my type. They’re variations on Luís da Silva, just as he is, if you like, a variation on them.


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