Tuesday, September 6, 2011

All you have to do is write it

Captain NemoBefore I began writing, I thought the hardest part of being a writer was coming up with the ideas. I didn't realized that all the work - turning the idea into something interesting for other people, thinking about character, and theme, and plot, oh, and actually writing it, all came after.

So I was particularly intrigued by the concept of Captain Nemo: The Fantastic Adventures of a Dark Genius, the latest novel from Kevin J. Anderson. In Anderson's book, André Nemo is a real person, and a friend of Jules Verne's. And all of the extraordinary adventure tales Verne writes are based on the actual adventures Nemo lives.

Or perhaps I should use a terribly awkward modern word to describe the relationship between the two men, and say that Nemo and Verne are frenemies. Anderson's Verne is deeply jealous of Nemo. He should be - Anderson writes in the traditional pulp style of Verne's adventure tales, and so Nemo is not only a genius and the smartest and most talented person in any situation, but because he is also the hero, marvelous events continue to happen to him. Women love him, and men follow him. Nemo has all of the adventures readers of Verne would expect him to have, and Anderson leaves many Easter eggs in the text - clever references to the real Verne's books in the course of Nemo's life.

The thing that really interested me - particularly as someone who has, fictionally, played with the idea that sometimes an author's creations are not fictional - was the way seeing Nemo as a real character made me think about Jules Verne. To be specific, the way it made me think about Anderson's version of Jules Verne. As much as Anderson's Nemo is a heroic genius, his Verne is a small-hearted man, sick with jealousy of his braver friend, more jealous still over the fact that the woman they both love is in love with Nemo. And more importantly, Anderson's Verne is a collosal failure as a writer, at least until he begins stealing Nemo's adventures and fictionalizing them. Once again, Nemo is the genius, and Verne, the distant also-ran. Without Nemo, Verne would be nothing. It's an interesting take on the relationship between author and text, and the weight and value of ideas.

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