There was a documentary just now about the popular German 19th century writer Karl May
, who stands out for having colourfully and very successfully written about things and places he only knew from books, more or less pretending that all those invented adventures had been his own when during that time he'd actually been in Saxonian jail for having been a con man -- some of the things he did actually sound rather like something Moist von Lipwig might have done.
There are issues of the dreaded cultural appropriation things around what he wrote, and also strong slashy undertones, but that's not at issue.
What astonished me was the way the documentary makers went around in the man's library that is still in the house he built from the truckloads of money he made with his novels, pulled out books and went 'Oooh! It is all in here! He read books about it and then used what he learned from them! Amazing! Look, here are his notes in the margin!"
I have got news for you. That's what we all do when we write about places where we can't go, or times we can't unfortunately not travel back to. 17th century sailing ships, both of the naval and the piratical kind? Scythians wandering with their wagons? 6th century Rome in its death throes? St. Petersburg in 1916? Mount Athos, especially if you're female?
It's called research, dudes, and combining research with imagination is what allows us to tell captivating tales that feel real and gritty, even if they're not, and we've made it all up.
Okay, we don't claim it was us who did all that. If we do, nobody usually believes us, and our main charrie will be branded a Mary Sue. Actually, to be quite blunt, May's first person narrators 'Old Shatterhand' and 'Kara ben Nemsi' are the biggest literary Marty Stus ever written.
But still, my mind boggles at the thought that these documentary film makers thought that 'research + imagination = storytelling' was anything to be very astonished about, in turn.
In other news, I was just defrauded out of an entire hour! This will force me to reset ALL THE CLOCKS in the house and make me intrinsically late for days on end. And I need to catch a train on Thursday. Waugh, world, why can't we stop doing this? It has been proven it's useless.