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Pseudo time travel... - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Pseudo time travel...
In Generation Me, Twenge makes a joke about historical movies that don't say they're time travel, but clearly are, as the whole point is to bring modern sensibilities to a time that's not now (eg, she mentions The Majestic, in which a whole town decides, in the '50s, that it just doesn't care if Jim Carrey is a Communist).

Pseudo time travel. It needed a name.

I just got in a book called Romeo's Ex. I haven't read it yet, but my pseudo time travel (PTT) alarms are going off, as the cover copy talks about how Lady Rosaline (yes, the girl Romeo's crushing on before Juliet) "won't let anything or anyone get in the way of her future as a healer." Until she falls in love with Benvolio, of course, who understands her and treats her as an equal and speaks plainly to her (as opposed to that horrid Romeo), and the two of them try to find a way to heal the Montague/Capulet problems together...

I guess it irks me because I was mostly picking it up to see how other authors handled the Shakespeare Conundrum--you can't be both faithful to the canon and faithful to history in a lot of cases because Shakespeare really didn't worry about whether clocks would strike in ancient Rome or not. So, should a writer honor the existence of striking clocks in Rome? Or should she honor history by fudging Shakespeare? Which way would it break?

I was very curious, especially about R&J, because I've had a nagging concept about Friar Lawrence, but have been afraid to tackle it because I'm not an expert in Renaissance culture and don't know much about how a Franciscan friar would have lived then, and what I have learned hasn't entirely gelled with what we saw of Lawrence, and...

Well, maybe I should feel encouraged instead of irked. Apparently, I could have him wearing blue jeans and doing his best to encourage the church to allow priestly marriage, while he's assisted by his secret wife, who's in the process of inventing an airplane, and still get published with good buzz from PW, SLJ, and BL.
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sreya From: sreya Date: March 7th, 2007 08:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
LOL! Well, sounds like Romeo's Ex isn't faithful to history OR to Shakespeare, so...

Anyway. I'd say if you wanted to write a derivative from Shakespeare, than you should pay more attention to his works than to history. After all, the point is to draw from the play, not the period - otherwise, why not just write straight historical fiction?
lizbee From: lizbee Date: March 7th, 2007 09:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
There's a slew of books like Dating Hamlet and so forth, which are essentially teen chick-lit starring the court of Elsinore. I suppose that's just the current fashion.

There's a novel called Ophelia by Lisa Klein that I rather liked -- it plays fast and loose with history and Shakespeare, but one has the impression that the author knows exactly what she's doing and why -- and the results are good enough that she gets away with it.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 7th, 2007 10:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Romeo's Ex is by the same author as Dating Hamlet. We got Ophelia in the mix today as well; maybe I'll give it a shot.
lizbee From: lizbee Date: March 7th, 2007 10:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have a slightly more detailed review here if you're interested.
matril From: matril Date: March 7th, 2007 10:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Pseudo time travel. I like it. Er, the term, not the actual thing. It shows up in just about all historical fiction, even when the author does research. Self-aware anachronisms don't bug me too much; that is, when there are blatant modernisms that author seems to insert almost as a way of winking at the readers. That's silly, but at least they're aware of it. Basically, they're saying that accuracy is not the biggest priority, and I can deal with that. What I hate is the when the author seems to earnestly believe that there's nothing anachronistic about a character living in, say, the 1500s, who seems to have stepped straight out of the 21st Century. It reeks of a cultural egotism, like our century is just so cool that a character in history can only be sympathetic if they follow all of our modern norms. :P
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 7th, 2007 10:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
Actually, I can see someone writing a book where Friar Laurence is being helped by his husband and no one in his time period finding that remotely odd.

Ellen
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 7th, 2007 10:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
True. And the two of them will be trying desperately to counter an altar boy scandal.
kiwi_kimi From: kiwi_kimi Date: March 7th, 2007 10:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
I find that it does take discipline as a writer to avoid socio-historical anachronisms. "My" period is late 19th-early 20th century New Zealand. It's easy enough to have a poorly-educated, unsympathetic character come out with period-appropriate attitudes; much harder when I have a well-educated, generous, thoughtful and loving father simply assume that his daughters should be contented with a narrower range of choices than his sons. It doesn't make him "bad"; it makes him an unexceptionable man of his time.

If the author is playing with the Shakespeare conundrum deftly and deliberately, that's a different matter, of course.
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 7th, 2007 11:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Have you read George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire books?

It seems like all the people I know who have read them (all men, I'm not sure if that matters) see the female characters are weak or stupid just because they aren't bucking their social constraints like modern, ass-kicking heroines.

u_lurk
kiwi_kimi From: kiwi_kimi Date: March 7th, 2007 11:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
No, I haven't. Interesting comment from your male acquaintances.

I enjoy the challenge of writing strong women who do (mostly) stay within their social constraints. There are all sorts of strength.
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 8th, 2007 01:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
There are all sorts of strength.

I agree. (I realize my comment might have been awkwardly worded to suggest I agree with my friends... oops. The "are" should have been "as.")
lareinenoire From: lareinenoire Date: March 7th, 2007 10:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Twenge makes a joke about historical movies that don't say they're time travel, but clearly are, as the whole point is to bring modern sensibilities to a time that's not now

There's another term for it -- bad historical fiction. ;)

Though I do like 'pseudo time travel' since it really does bring the point home. I've generally seen it as the province of lazy writers who don't believe in researching properly. I suppose I can understand trying to make a character palatable to a modern audience, but few things annoy me more than being literally jerked out of a story by a blatant anachronism.

I'd say go for the R&J idea. Not enough people write about poor Friar Lawrence.
ncp From: ncp Date: March 7th, 2007 11:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
What's your opinion of Gone With the Wind? (The book, not the movie.)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 8th, 2007 12:00 am (UTC) (Link)
I think that it works, to some extent, because Scarlett does catch hell from her neighbors when she misbehaves, and Rhett, once he marries her, does his damnedest to make her into what she's supposed to be. An individual bucking an obvious social more is one thing... the whole of the south doesn't end up turning into the Scarlett O'Hara fanclub, and even Rhett, who supposedly loves her, views mealy-mouthed little Melanie as the "better" woman. Racially, while I'm sure there were worse people out there, the attitudes are the perfectly condescending sort you'd expect from people who thought themselves "good with" the slaves, and the slaves were just going along and living their lives and not plotting a revolution as would be expected now. That makes it a supremely uncomfortable book for me.
chocolatepot From: chocolatepot Date: March 8th, 2007 12:01 am (UTC) (Link)
D: D: D: I started reading the one about Ophelia - I don't remember the title. It's the same thing. She's also really into herbs (canon basis, I suppose, but it's sort of like when fanfic goes off of one little thing and decides that because Amy likes music she's the sort of character that the author writes poetic descriptions of playing the piano). The only thing I liked was that she was not Polonius's daughter.
sixth_light From: sixth_light Date: March 8th, 2007 02:18 am (UTC) (Link)
I read and really enjoyed Dating Hamlet, which someone mentioned upthread is by the same author, so I must track this down. Of course it's neither historical nor true to Shakespeare. But it's fun. And we're all so familiar with the plots of Shakespeare's great tragedies that it's especially fun to see them played with. Not great literature, by any standards, but I don't object to some froth now and then.
a_t_rain From: a_t_rain Date: March 8th, 2007 02:19 am (UTC) (Link)
I figure anything goes with Shakespeare-fic, because pretty much anything went on the Renaissance stage in general -- everybody played fast and loose with history as long as it made for a good story. I've seen a few critics argue that some of the more blatant anachronisms in the history plays, such as the tavern scenes set in an obviously-Elizabethan London, are deliberate and calculated, but I'm not convinced; this is a guy who wrote about seacoasts in Bohemia with BEARS, after all :)
akilika From: akilika Date: March 8th, 2007 02:57 am (UTC) (Link)
My junior year English teacher in high school claimed that Julius Caesar having his jerkin fastened (or whatever--definitely a jerkin, though, I think) was a means of giving the audience something to be familiar with, or something.

Honestly, I didn't believe it, either.
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 8th, 2007 11:13 am (UTC) (Link)
I also like the term 'Pseudo-Time Travel'. I think the authors who include the blatant anachronisms without intending them to be a joke for the modern reader should be writing fantasy instead of historical fiction. Have you read 'To Say Nothing of the Dog' by Connie Willis? She figured out an ingenious way to write an historical (and hysterical) comedy of manners while still being allowed a modern nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

'Dating Hamlet'??? Ugh, the title alone gives me shudders. :)

~DorisCrockford
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