Andrew Ducker (andrewducker) wrote,
Andrew Ducker

On Metafiction (specifically The Unwritten and the Neil Gaiman episode of The Simpsons)

Also in the mailbag this week was the latest collection of The Unwritten (book 4). It's written by Michael Carey, who has been a favourite of mine since he did such a marvellous job with Lucifer (which was the final comic that I collected in individual issue form, continuing to trek to Forbidden Planet for floppy paper things long after I'd shifted to trade paperbacks for everything else). And it's a story about what it's like to be part of a story. Imagine for a moment that your name was Harry Potter and your mother had written a series of bestselling novels about a wizard with the same name. Or (to use the real life case which apparently inspired the creators) imagine that you are Christopher Robin*.

And then imagine that said parent vanished several years ago, leaving you embittered about a fame that you feel no connection with. And then some very strange things start happening. The first book starts slowly, and I might not have made it swiftly to book two, except that the final chapter (issue 5) suddenly vanished off to look at the life of Rudyard Kipling, some shady people who are also connected to the main plot, and a conspiracy that seems to go back a very long way indeed, of people who bend fiction to their own uses.

Carey seems to be having so much fun with the whole thing that it's hard to worry about the slow start - once he gets going the book goes off in some odd directions, dropping in on the german propaganda machine for a couple of issues, dealing with the strangeness behind writing children's fiction, or looking at the different kinds of horror. The issue about a mysterious character that's told as a Choose Your Own Adventure and leaves you both illuminated and unsure is particularly well done. The latest collection "Leviathan" starts off centred on Moby Dick and then goes to far more interesting places that I can't tell you about without spoiling things for you.

It's not a masterpiece - I doubt that it will last in the same way that, say, Sandman has. But if you're interested in fiction then I'd definitely recommend giving it a look.

I'd also recommend the Neil Gaiman episode of The Simpson: S23E06** "The Book Job". It casts an amusingly cynical eye over the young adult book market, and somehow melds it with an Oceans Eleven approach. I'm not sure why it works, but it really does, and weaves Gaiman into the plot far more than most of the celebrity cameos that I've seen. Definitely worth watching with the pause button to hand, so that you can take in the book titles.***

*"It seemed to me almost that my father had got where he was by climbing on my infant shoulders, that he had filched from me my good name and left me nothing but empty fame"
**I found it hard to believe The Simpsons has been going on so long that people could be born five years after it started and still be eligible to vote.
*** My second favourite was "Are you there Glycon? It's me Alan Moore."

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