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Belmont Club

See You In My Dreams

May 31st, 2013 - 11:04 pm

Brian Dunning wrote an article asking which of the following characters was real. See how many names you can correctly pick out without searching the term.  In some cases historians aren’t really sure  if the characters were real or not.

1. Beowulf;
2. Ulysses;
3. Sindbad the Sailor;
4. Uncle Sam;
5. John Henry;
6. Daniel Boone;
7. Pocahonthas;
8. Robin Hood;
9. King Arthur;
10.Robinson Crusoe;
11.The Man in the Iron Mask
12.William Tell;
13.The Pied Piper;
14.Sherlock Holmes.

Dunning says that historical existence is a chancy thing. “It makes you wonder if many years after you die, people will wonder if you ever existed or were just a story. In a thousand years who’s going to know how many Hollywood movie characters were based on real life people? Spinal Tap might end up being remembered as one of history’s great rock bands, and children might sing nursery rhymes about John F. Kennedy.”

How will they decide? Maybe  future historians can put the question of whether we actually existed to a vote. And if enough future people believe we existed well then maybe we did.   But if no one remembers us, perhaps we never did exist,  like Benghazi, a something which happened a long time ago that nobody can remember anything about.

JM Barrie, the author who wrote that “God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December,” argued that belief had the power to affect reality. But dreams retained a separate existence. When Tinkerbell was dying after drinking the poison meant for him, Peter Pan knew that the only medicine for fairies was magic.

Her voice was so low that at first he could not make out what she said. Then he made it out. She was saying that she thought she could get well again if children believed in fairies. Peter flung out his arms. There were no children there, and it was night time; but he addressed all who might be dreaming of the Neverland, and who were therefore nearer to him than you think: boys and girls in their nighties, and naked papooses in their baskets hung from trees.

“Do you believe?” he cried. Tink sat up in bed almost briskly to listen to her fate. She fancied she heard answers in the affirmative, and then again she wasn’t sure.

“What do you think?” she asked Peter.

“If you believe,” he shouted to them, “clap your hands; don’t let Tink die.”
Many clapped. Some didn’t. A few beasts hissed. The clapping stopped suddenly; as if countless mothers had rushed to their nurseries to see what on earth was happening; but already Tink was saved. First her voice grew strong, then she popped out of bed, then she was flashing through the room more merry and impudent than ever. She never thought of thanking those who believed, but she would have like to get at the ones who had hissed.

Yet what is magic for fairies is not necessarily elixir for little boys. Characters in fiction live in a world of their own. Here are two mini-short stories which illustrate how you can mix and match characters who would have existed or actually did live at the same time.

Sherlock Holmes versus Fu Manchu

Moriarty stepped out of the fog into the circle of lamplight where a lean figure awaited him, his features obscured by the upturned collar of  an overcoat. But neither had any trouble recognizing the other.

“I thought you swore to destroy me Holmes?”

“I did James. But I will put my oath aside for the time being to combat a greater threat — there is a greater threat even than you,” the tall detective added.

Moriarty made no answer to the slight jibe but followed Sherlock Holmes wordlessly through the swirling coal smoke and mist of London until they came to the West End.  There stood before them a house whose tasteful luxury testified to the importance and education of the owner within.  But nothing was in evidence but a strongly built, square man who stood at the entrance.

“Dear Watson! I am very glad you obeyed my injunction not to enter.”

“I had the devil of a time resisting the impulse Holmes.  Sir Reginald Soames and I and were in Afghanistan together.  If he needed my help … well no call for it came, but  there was an infernal scratching sound coming from inside. Hist. There it is again.”

“I assure you Sir Reginald has had no need for your help for some hours. I was sure of it ever since I got the note. But now that I and Professor Moriarty are here — the only two people in England who I would implicitly trust to proceed, we can safely open the door. Stand clear Watson.”

Holmes turned the unlocked knob but pushed the door open with his walking stick. It swung upon its hinges to reveal a ghastly sight. Watson drew back and suppressed a gasp.  For there on the floor lay Sir Reginald Soames, his sightless eyes staring at the cut-glass chandelier on the ceiling. But it was not the dead man on the floor that riveted the attention. All over the corpse, some even swarming out of his open mouth, were hundreds of gray, loathsome spiders each of which stared at the trio through dull red eyes.

Phoneutria nigriventer,” intoned Moriarty, as he closed the door again with crook of his umbrella.

“Yes, my dear Moritiarty. I knew your entomology would be up to it.”

“No mistake about them, Holmes. The Brazilian Wandering Spider. Deadly venomous,” the criminal genius answered. “Who is the interloper on my turf, Holmes? I will assist you in putting an end to him not from moral scruple, but out of a desire to rid myself of a rival. Who is it?”

“Imagine a person, tall, lean and feline, high-shouldered, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan, a close-shaven skull, and long, magnetic eyes of the true cat-green. Invest him with all the cruel cunning of an entire Eastern race, accumulated in one giant intellect, with all the resources of science past and present, with all the resources, if you will, of a wealthy government– which, however, already has denied all knowledge of his existence.”

“There is only one man who fits that description,” replied Moriarty. “Fu Manchu the devil doctor.”

“That is him. And it will take both of us to have any chance of halting him,” said Holmes.


Jose Rizal Versus Dracula

The Jesuit had reached London at last. The voyage had been interminable and might have even been longer were it not for the newly constructed Suez Canal.  There was the long crawl through the Malay Barrier followed by the storms of the Indian Ocean, then the slow chug up the canal into the Mediterranean.  By the time the steamer had exited the Straits of Gibraltar and entered the choppy Atlantic ocean, the Jesuit was almost looking forward to landing in England, though his knowledge of English was almost non-existent.

He knew no English, but he would be met.

The young, vigorous clergyman deduced that he was wanted not for his literary Spanish, nor his not inconsiderable knowledge of chemistry. No, his friend wanted him above all for his skill in arnis, an ancient Malay martial art, which when added to his fluency in European sword fighting, made of the young Jesuit a formidable man at close quarters combat. He and his friend had once held off two dozen Moros fighting back to back in Dapitan, Zamboanga.

But why was he here? All he knew was that his questions would soon be answered.

His friend was just as he remembered. About five foot three in height, of very muscular build, dressed properly, even foppishly, in the latest German fashion.

“Hello Jose,” Cazals said. “A que diablos juegas?

Jose Rizal flinched at the choice of words. ”Ah diablos, devils. That might be nearer the truth than is good for us, mi amigo. And in truth I have asked you here because as an ordained priest you can consecrate Holy Water.”

“What the dickens are you talking about?”

“The London authorities are baffled by a peculiar series of crimes and via the faculty at Heidelberg have called me into it. They involve — I will explain later — a number of murders of women in the poorer parts of this great city. Inspector Lestrade thinks a peculiar foreign count is tied up with it somehow.”

Rizal bade him put aside his questions as they boarded a cab.

“Before we get to the details,  let me introduce you to our other partner in this project. He is at this very moment in his workshop modifying a 8 gauge shotgun into a repeating firearm for the peculiar purpose of launching wooden stakes from a tubular magazine. All we need now is some Holy Water.”

“Do I know this man? This partner who is making a gun which fires wooden projectiles?”

“You will not have heard of him. But though young he is already famous America. He is a Mormon, not a Catholic, I am sorry to say, who goes by the name of John Moses Browning.”

The cab was crossing the district of Whitechapel when a scream pierced the night. In the murk the two friends saw a woman in shabby clothes running through the street pursued by something. Rizal swung open the door and dropped to the pavement. He called out to Cazal.

“I’ll meet you at Browning’s.”

“The devil, I am coming with you!”

“There’s no time to lose. Do as I say.”

Then Rizal sped after the sound of the retreating footsteps.  It was not long before he came upon the woman, down upon the filthy gutter, alive but not, unless help were forthcoming,  for long.  A gigantic figure stooped over her with a 12 inch knife.

“Drop the knife,” Rizal said, as he drew out his walking stick.

The dark figure turned menacingly round. “Who says? So you understand English?”

“Yes. And German, French, Spanish and a smattering of other languages as well. I am a doctor of medicine; a writer of some note. But I also have some fame a sword-master. May I introduce myself? Friends call me Jose Rizal.”

But there was no answer. No sooner had the small man spoken then Jack the Ripper lunged.

The Master of our Dreams

You can’t mix and match real things the way you do in fiction.  The power of fiction lies in knowing that it is. Things get dangerous when made up stories are used to control actual reality or to substitute for it. Perhaps the least attractive thing about the administration is that it isn’t content with collecting the public’s taxes; or with just governing. It wants to be in charge of our collective dreams; as if there were a deep, almost unhealthy desire  to control the narrative, so that by controlling belief it could control the waking world.

This takes the form of a constant attack on the national myths. It doesn’t know how to govern, but it knows how to campaign. Whether the issue is guns, marriage, abortion, culture, religion or the actual factuality of events, the administration is tireless in its efforts to explain what we should think; to accompany us in our dreams. Almost as indefatigable as Freddy Kruger.

The struggle between the White House spin apparatus and journalists over the issues of wire-tapping, over who may be accredited a journalist and what may or may not be said “on the record” is really one aspect of the wider struggle for our dreams or what used to be called our soul. The President is really rather more hungry in this respect than he should be. No one ought to have an appetite for the things he hankers for.

If he spent less of his time fixing the narrative and more attending to business it might be better. The President was elected the chief executive. His province should be nonfiction, not fiction. He ought to leave the remembering to the public.

The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99
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Top Rated Comments   
Fiction becomes reality in the dreams of the readers who can learn and then act. A child can grow up to become a bit of an Odysseus, or a Sherlock, or a William Tell or a Lionheart. We can choose. Some choose poorly. Some grow up with Mithrander and Frodo inside and some with Saruman and Sandyman.

The Left and Islam have much in common. One thing they share is a mechanism for scrubbing memory to control and limit choices. Consider the roles offered in popular narratives. What grows in the memories of the children?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
These Liars do not have the collective wit to invent a story to cover all the lies, mistakes, and sheer idiocies they have been committing, nor to keep all their thug-minions reliably repeating their assigned portions of the fabricated narrative.

They haven't ANY OF THEM the courage and commitment to keep the damn thing consistent.

Every re-telling attempts to circumvent and accommodate the latest-breaking revelations that cannot be suppressed or explained away. Obama lacks sufficient dancing skills to tap dance his way through the expanding minefield. He also lacks sufficient digits and limbs with which to point at hapless underlings to designate THEM as the actual perpetrators of whichever vicious government abuse has most recently been brought to light.

Besides all that, he is snared in the logic-trap of his presidential role: to keep insisting that UNDERLINGS made and acted on policies that everyone realizes are the prerogative of the Chief Executive, proves he's utterly incompetent at both leading, and selecting competent and law-abiding assistants. Otherwise, it MUST be assumed the tidal wave of felonies perpetrated IN HIS NAME have been done with his full knowledge and approval.

We Have been assured, after all, by his staff that the current occupant of the Oval Office is the most intelligent and effective president of all time.

Can't have it both ways, eh?

The cockroaches that comprise this administration scuttle pretty handily each time the light pops on. But their fundamental weakness is that their training and experience in thuggery has been within the relative safety of Chicago. Because their corruption's hegemony never extended far beyond the Chicago-Springfield axis, these half-assed crooks have never realized the supremely bloody viciousness that it takes to rule an entire nation the way Chicago has been run.

There really are a lot of people in this country that WILL NOT BE BOUGHT OFF, and they WILL NOT BE INTIMIDATED.

The thugs-in-knee-pants keep mistaking the country's forebearance with fear.

It may become unpleasant when the cowards in the administration finally realize this.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (20)
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It's said that Fu M's creator eventually turned him into an anti-communist.

One concern when playing with other authors' characters: copyright law!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Try some of Fred Saberhagen's "Dracula" novels, Wretchard.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Browning was at first dismayed when Cazals informed him the count had several dozen vampires in reserve ready to take part in his final attack on Buckingham Palace. The gun he had given to Jose Rizal might stop one -- or a brace -- but not dozens. Any other man but the gun genius would have been stumped.

But soon Browning's mind had taken the measure of the problem. What if he could harness the expanding gases from the barrel of recharge the the gun. Then the firing action of the gun would only be limited by mechanics. There under the impetus of necessity, John Moses Browning first conceived of the automatic machine gun.

Working feverishly he constructed a working prototype. It's cloth belt was loaded with hand-made rounds. He worked tirelessly with a file and grinding tools until the contraption worked reliably. The result was now mounted on a tripod overlooking the parade ground. It was water cooled, fired 250 rounds per minute of wooden-tipped .35 caliber bullets and was trigged from a spade grip. And the grip was in his hands.

Let the dozens of vampires come, Browning thought as he scanned the grounds. Let them come.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Now professor Moriarity, I have you in my clutchessss," Fu Manchu said, lengthening his sibilants to an obscene degree. Moritarty looked out on the corpses of his henchmen, picked killers every one, the cream of the European underworld, and for the first time in his life, felt the twingle of fear.

"My dear Moriarty" -- the giant had an incongruous delicacy about him -- "you are a learned man. But I doubt if even you have heard tell about the Drum of Leeches. Are you aware what sort of leeches?"

"Some variant of the hirudo, I suspect," continued Moriarty, his voice conveying far more bravado than he felt.

"A special kind of hirudo," the devil doctor continued, as if savoring every word. "The sort of bloodsucking leech that likes to crawl down your windpipe, or into your nasal cavity, into your eyesockets and every other orifice of the body before beginning his feast!"

A shudder ran through James Moriarty. Where was Holmes? Could the Baker Street detective have betrayed him? Moriarty felt himself clinging to the hope that Sherlock Holmes was too English, too civilized, too much a man of honor -- in short everything unlike himself -- to abandon him to suh a gruesome fate.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Cazals," he whispered, "take the eastern corridor."

The Jesuit vanished down the lighted corridor, stepping over the corpse a Guardsman, whose throat was ripped out. Cazals was armed with a modified arnis stick, sharpened to a point at each end. He had already dispatched two of the count's minions with the weapon. With a flourish the Jesuit stowed the stick under his arm as he pushed open the door to the dining chamberlain carefully. A man servant lay sprawled on the white linen in the attitude of death.

Meanwhile Rizal stepped into the the wing that contained the Queen's apartments, the Browning Vampire Gun at the ready. In concept it was simple. Eight gauge, according to Browning's calculations, was the minimum thickness of a hardwood plug that had to serve as a bullet accurate over fifty yard's distance. The mahogany plug was encircled by soft copper bands which bit into the lands of the modified shutgun barrel to impart a spin.

He had one in the chamber and three more in the tube beneath the barrel. Suddenly Rizal became aware of a patch on the ceiling. He looked up, the muzzle of the Browning gun following his gaze. The darkness dropped to the tiled floor not 15 years before him.

Count Dracula had a complexion that was almost white. It set off the red and black line of his mouth to ghastly effect.

"Guns have no effect on me, you fool!" the vampire hissed.

"What makes you think I am a fool?" asked Rizal. "What makes you think this is an ordinary gun?" he added, as he lined up the barrel on the count's chest and pulled the trigger.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Warner Oland played the best Fu Manchu, in my opinion.

Must disagree with Sherlock Holmes though. A true racist caricature of the English.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I meant Christopher Lee... Warner Oland played Charlie Chan. How come nobody corrected me?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Fu Manchu was played by Warner Oland in the Paramount productions, together with Anna May Wong.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment

I spoke to an elderly man recently, and he told me he was ready, his good suit was pressed and the organ music selected, but he worried he might not be remembered. He had written no books that someone might come across a hundred years hence and bring him to life again, however briefly. He had written no music, given no speeches, and even his children and grandchildren, he thought, might not remember him as he was, or remember him at all. He took a folded, well worn piece of paper from his wallet. “I read this every once in a while,” he said, handing it to me. “Know it by heart.” I began to read, but his quavering voice intruded, as he recited it from memory.

A thousand days, a thousand years
It matters not my friend
You’re gone when gone, despite the tears
But it is not the end
So long as one remembers you
So long that you shall live
A thousand years, a day or two
Whatever God shall give
Or if not God, the universe
Shall see that we survive
In truth, my friend, there’s nothing worse
Than being not alive

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
My first knowledge of the remarkable events surrounding the vampire count in London came about accidentally, while researching a refutation of Robert Belleisle's "Arming America", which as you will recall claimed that Amercans never possessed guns until the NRA sold it to them.

I was talking to former Chief "John" of the C*** police department about the subject when he mentioned the Browning Vampire Gun.

"The what?" I asked.

"The Browning Vampire Gun. At around the turn of the 20th century every town in America was secretly instructed to purchase one of these firearms. We still had ours as late as 1968."

"What did it do?"

"It apparently killed vampires. It's genesis grew out of a curious and dramatic confrontation between ... ah ... eh ... a vampire on the one hand and Queen Victoria on the other. The wielder was apparently a certain Jose Rizal. Have you heard of him? And he shot the vampire with the Browning Vampire gun."

And so began my slow discovery of the particulars of the dramatic events, the import of which would change the accepted history of those days considerably. Consider. Jose Rizal never died on Bagumbayan field. Dracula was real. And the British empire was literally saved by the creation of John Moses Browning. There's more. Swordplay, romance, derring-do.

But that was how it started.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Arming America" was shown to be a work of fiction. Bellesisles was fired from his academic position for making it up, inventing sources and then claiming a flood in his basement destroyed them.

In the case of this post, I hope it is clear which parts are written tongue in cheek. No should actually believe that Fu Manchu existed. But a lot of people actually believed "Arming America" which actually given a prize.

So what is truth and what is fiction in the world of the Narrative? Or does it matter any more?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Wretchard asks, "What is truth and what is fiction in the world of the Narrative?" I'm not sure where urban legends about secret survival fit on the history/fiction continuum, but Wretchard's remarks reminded me of several stories about faked deaths and "postmortem" appearances that have grown up around some famous/notorious persons. When I was a kid, there were rumors that Hitler had escaped from Berlin in 1945 and was living in South America; a similar urban legend that grew up around JFK was that he had survived Oswald's bullets but was horribly disfigured and was living in a secret wing of Parkland Hospital. I also remember Anna Anderson, who made headlines in the 1960s for her claim to be Anastasia, the daughter of the last Romanov czar. Jim Morrison is another celeb who was thought to have faked his death, to the point that some of his fans stalked his family in hopes of locating them. And then of course there's Elvis, who still hasn't left the building . . . It may be that the advent of DNA testing will squelch urban legends of this type before they have a chance to propagate, but then I suppose diehard fiction buffs can always claim the lab "doctored" the test results.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
google chrome still hates your site, and is telling people it doesn't exist. You might want to look into that.

as far as fantastic showdowns, I want to see Jabberwock vs Chupacabra.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Sovietization continues apace. We are all Nikolai Yezhov.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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