Book to screen: could you? Should you?

Haven’t we all said “that book should TOTALLY be made into a movie” at one point or another?

Black and white ca. 1940-1950 image of a young black woman threading film into an old-fashioned projector.
Susan Baptist, a projectionist, shows training films for the troops as well as more popular motion pictures. From the Library of Congress.

Yep, me too. What’s strange is that I seldom say it about a historical fiction novel. Stranger still(?), I don’t actually watch that much historical fiction.

Of these three historical fiction novels that need to be adapted for TV I’ve not read a one of them. A damn pity because they sound great: Sparta vs. Rome, WWII crime, Tudor conspiracy. When I do watch histfic it’s usually either written for the screen (The VVitch, Bomb Girls, The Americans) or adapted from a book I’ve not read (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the White Princess, Outlander [well, I read part of this but never finished]).

And I’m admittedly terrible about keeping up with TV series. I start many but seldom finish due to time and attention constraints.

That, and I have a kind of reservation about converting books to movies. Two different mediums require two very different approaches to the same story, which is where the desire to be accurate to the original collides with the need to make a textual story visually compelling. Sometimes it’s just best to leave it alone. So when pressed to come up with books that I think would make great viewing I have to strain.

Successful page to screen adaptations exist. I own all of the Sarah Waters tv miniseries: Tipping the Velvet, Fingersmith, Affinity.  Does the The Handmaiden [trailer, YouTube] count? It’s an adaptation of Fingersmith set in 1930s Korea.

Wolf Hall, because I enjoyed the court intrigue and Cromwell’s subtle machinations. And the costumes were pretty accurate too!

I wouldn’t mind seeing Waters’ The Little Stranger (post-WWII gothic horror) put on screen. Possibly Kate Quinn’s The Alice Network (women spies in both world wars).

Don’t even ask me who I’d cast for any of these. I can barely envision my own characters!

What historical fiction would you LOVE to see on screen?

biweekly links 4-19-2017

All Tudor, all the time this week:

Crews damping down after ‘suspicious’ blaze ravages 16th century mansion: it breaks my heart that this is lost. As of this writing no word on whether the fire was intentional or not.

Rare Tudor organ on show at Romsey Abbey / Alumnus Charles Metz to perform Elizabethan music on period virginal April 19: that’s a reproduction organ and extant virginal. This kind of “hands-on history” thrills me.

How The White Princess is a Girl-Powered Game of Thrones: short version: the real Game of Thrones. George R. R. Martin borrowed heavily from the Wars of the Roses but the history doesn’t need much embroidering: woman has to marry man who just killed her uncle – the uncle who may have killed her brothers to take the crown for himself. Throw in conniving relatives and shifting alliances for spice and I’ll be watching.

your brain is lying to you

Or my brain is lying to me, at least.

Lying!
Because never skip an opportunity to use Saga’s Lying Cat. Via Comicvine.com.

I’m not talking about the subjectivity of reality or how much subjective experiences do/do not matter, but something far more mundane: generalized anxiety. I wasn’t diagnosed until my twenties but it’s been a problem all my life. All these stupid things everything does from time to time are my system defaults.  Short version: I can’t trust my intuition because it’s a paranoid idiot.

Not that it’s not fixable. With treatment I no longer jump at every damn thing but risk assessment isn’t a gut thing so I have to consciously overwrite my bad mental habits.

This is on my mind because I’m on several learning curves and the constant forebrain check of the stuff my lizard brain can’t handle has been exhausting. Doesn’t stop me fervently overthinking everything though, and the writing is falling into a spiral perfectionism paralysis. I’m digging out, but it’s taking time so I just listen to my internal Lying Cat hissing lying, lying, lying.

How does your mind lie to you?

keeping sane in a world turned upside down

This is not a political post.

Princess Leia with David Bowie lightning strike makeup, Rebel Rebel written below
Via Geektyrant.

Well it is, sorta. As an American I can’t help but be aware of the current political situation. As a liberal/progressive I can’t help but be horrified. I’m not going to go into details or debate – if you agree with me you probably share my concerns and if you don’t I’m not going to convince you of anything.

Far better writers than I have discussed the value of writing in fractious times and how to persist. Incredibly I’ve managed to keep my creative momentum and am still on track to finish my second draft by June. So this isn’t a “writing while stressed” post either.

No, this is about how not to let the current situation eat you.

Or eat me, at least. I have a great talent for getting so caught in worry that I freeze. True to form I spent the first few weeks after the inauguration beating myself up for not doing enough and chasing my tail trying to find something–anything–I could do so I wouldn’t feel so useless. I didn’t go to the women’s march (cold weather + my lungs = sinus infection until spring).  I missed out on bystander training. I hate cold calling with a passion I reserve for lima beans and sauerkraut.

But.

I now cold call my representatives once a day on issues that matter most to me. I’m looking for future training and warm-weather protests. I try to remember that I should do what’s effective, not what makes me feel better. As it happens I’m more effective at a constant crawl than a sudden sprint (kind of like writing. Or fencing. But I digress).

And I try to laugh, whenever possible.

So if I’m inappropriately silly from time to time, it’s just me sane-making.

What about you?

 

my apologies

If I’ve spammed anyone’s feed in the past few days, I want to apologize.

I’ve been updating tags on my posts to make them easier to search. All my research suggested I could do this without re-deploying old posts to my RSS.

However, fresh comments this morning suggest that this is not the case. For what it’s worth I’ve finished updates, I’m back to my weekly Wednesday schedule.

Again: deeply sorry, and I’ll do my homework better next time!

 

I got nothin’

I’m giving myself permission to skip a proper blog post this week.

Between day job, fencing, holiday preparation, critique group, and attempting to finish marking up the first draft Real Soon Now I just don’t have anything prepared.

I’m not ignoring last week’s Twitter plea for post suggestions (thanks Heather Rose Jones and Lucy Kemnitzer!) but I want to do them justice.

Next week I’ll be back with my usual biweekly link dump and hopefully have something more substantial for the 21st.

how to talk about weird things (really, HOW?)

Despite my lifelong interest in the strange and unusual it took me a relatively long time to realize just how strange that is to (some) other people.

Growing up in a family where such inquiry was commonplace and getting the requisite pat on the head for my childhood faked Bigfoot plaster casts etc. it wasn’t until college that I started getting blank silence, laughter, even hostility. So I learned to shut up if I didn’t want to get into long-winded explanations of why I wasn’t a conspiracy theorist, UFO cultist, or what have you.

Alternative religion historian Mitch Horowitz’s discusses the hazards of discussing the occult in the media and many apply to discussing in company as well: the unknown is acceptable as long as you’re flip about it but any hint of serious interest gets conflated with blind belief, and hence, ridicule. This scares off intelligent inquirers and the truly off-the-wall rush in with their pet theories, perpetuating the association with crackpots.

Angry alien says to fellow aliens:
The acceptable face of  the weird. Don’t get me wrong, I find stuff like this funny too. Via.

Which is a damn shame because underneath the silliness and hysteria are some genuine questions like what really happened? and why do they keep on happening? and how do experiencers integrate their experiences into their daily lives?

Though I’m in the business of speculating I try to be aware that I am doing just that – speculating. I’m no scientist (or trained in rigorous scientific method) so I can’t make authoritative statements about the objective reality of strange phenomena. Nor can I discount or ridicule other people’s experiences – I don’t walk in their shoes.

But I can say: it’s ok to engage the weird. It can be done without sacrificing critical thought, though it is difficult. Investigate without assumptions and be ready to accept that you don’t know and may never know. Most of all, anyone who insists they’ve got The Answer(TM) doesn’t.

the inevitable post

Because you can’t write about John Dee for very long without addressing the Voynich Manuscript, the “book nobody can read”.

page of medieval manuscript showing red and blue flowers and strange script
A page from the mysterious Voynich manuscript, which is undeciphered to this day. Courtesy Wikipedia.

In an early draft of the novel I had Edward Kelley stumble across this strange tome in Mortlake’s library, but I ended up cutting that scene because Dee likely never owned it. Bursting further myths, he didn’t create it either – it’s carbon dated to the early 15th century, well over a hundred years before Dee’s time. Nonetheless as a mathematician and steganographer he certainly would have found it interesting. Hell, I find it interesting and I’m just an ordinary schlub.

The manuscript got its popular name from Wilfred Voynich, the bookseller who purchased it in 1912. Before that it passed through many hands and it’s origin is unclear. It currently resides in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale, and is available for viewing by appointment only (though they did loan it for an exhibit in DC, see below).

It has a bit of everything, from apparent star charts to plants to segmented pipes or containers to swimming naked ladies. And of course, lots of indecipherable text (available as a TrueType font, if you’re so inclined).

As such, speculation on what the text might be and by extension what the book is about runs rampant. CipherMysteries.com provides a rundown of the most popular theories, which include everything from blatant hoaxing to alien tech. Certainly it seems to have elements of astrology, herbals, and possibly alchemical recipe books (all those pipes), but doesn’t resemble any of these exclusively.

Decryption obsesses many – even the NSA (PDF) took a crack at it. In 2014 Stephan Bax at the University of Bedfordshire in England deciphered ten words for plants and an astrological sign. Just last week Gordon Rugg of the University of Keele declared it a hoax; other parties disagree.

I was fortunate enough to see the real deal when it was on display in the Folger Library’s Decoding the Renaissance exhibit. Somehow I thought the fuel for so much speculation would be bigger – it’s about the size of a modern hardcover novel. The vellum shows few erasures, so someone understood the strange text well enough to write it with few mistakes. The colors are still vivid even after ~600 years, but the illustrations seem hasty and awkward, particularly the human figures.

My own take is… I don’t know what to think. I’m no cryptographer so I’m not competent to judge the plausibility of the various theories (though I’m pretty sure aliens didn’t write it). If it’s a hoax it’s a good one to fascinate so many for so long. If it’s a code I have to wonder what the author(s) were hiding. In any case, someone went to a lot of time and trouble to create it. Again, the real story is about people and their motives and perceptions.

Current research and the upcoming publication of 898 “clone” manuscripts going for $8000 each (and a Yale University Press edition priced for us ordinary mortals) should keep the Voynich Manuscript in the news (well, the news I read) and send researchers down the rabbit hole for years to come. Me, I’ll just peruse Yale’s scans and consider the fiction fodder.

biweekly links 6-29-2016

Short one this week as I was out-of-town (wasn’t doing book research, but inadvertently found some anyway!) Enjoy:

The Fool card from the Rider Waite tarot deck
The Fool from the Rider-Waite tarot, courtesy Wikipedia.

biweekly links 3-9-2016 – now with more witches

Woodcut of witch:
Cover of a 1643 that likely inspired the spelling. Found on Pinterest.

Never thought I’d be a fan of a horror film but “The Witch” (or “VVitch”, as it’s appearing in most promo materials) is special: it is fantastically historically accurate (they even speak Shakespearean English throughout) and the horror is slow and subtle. Spoilers abound: