Thursday, April 28, 2016
Popular settings which have an impossible number of stories
However much we may love these settings, trying to collect several stories creates a bit of a reader's dilemma. Wanting to buy into all of them would be impossible in the mutually exclusive sense. If we get emotionally invested in any one of them, it would mean there's no way the others could have taken place. It may have to come down to choosing our favourite and sticking with it.
1) Biblical and Historical Novels
I'm talking about the type which adopt actual, historical figures from the Bible or later times as their main characters. If Nehemiah was staying with this particular family while he was organising the building of Jerusalem's wall, then there's no way he could have simultaneously stayed with these other people from a different novel. It's simply because he can't have been two places at once. If Mary of Bethany had a crush on a particular fictional man, then the attachment she made to another fellow in this other novel, when she was supposedly the same age, couldn't have happened.
The next setting is very far away and intriguing, and I've noticed it's had a lot of popularity in recent years.
2) The surface of Mars
It's a barren place in reality, but apparently a very fertile one for the imagination. One author may have it populated with the traditional little green men we see in funny cartoons. Yet another may imagine settlers from Earth venturing to create colonies there. A third author may choose to have aggressive Martians deciding to attack Earth (think The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells). And the fourth author may have just one hapless hero stranded on the Mars we know from photos and science books (think The Martian by Andy Weir). They can't all be true!
The third setting becomes impossible because of the sheer volume of literary characters who supposedly paid for passage. They couldn't have all fit.
3) The sinking of the Titanic
It was certainly a huge ship. Nobody who has watched the Hollywood blockbuster with its built to scale model could deny that. Just the same, the number of characters from different sources who supposedly set sail could surely fill a dozen Titanics. There are scores of main characters who either perish or get rescued. There may be even more side characters whose authors decide that having them board the Titanic is a convenient way to kill them off. All these doomed passengers are not merely in novels but movies, comics and soap operas set in the turn of the century. Who would have believed in 1912 that this sad setting would take off so many years later?
With the Titanic, maybe we can choose several of our favourite stories to be true simultaneously. It was big enough that the main characters of different novels would've been strangers to the others on board. I guess it's only when enough of them choose historical, named figures such as the captain and staff, that it gets mutually exclusive. Or maybe if there are too many fictional characters supposedly holding down the same positions simultaneously.
Anyway, I think books with well-loved settings are all great fun to read, and just because some novels cancel others out, it doesn't take away from the enjoyment of each one at the time. Maybe you wouldn't want to be reading two of them at the same time, but I don't do that with novels anyway. Why do you think some settings just fire off plot ideas for so many different authors? And while we're at it, can you think of any other settings which might fit this list?