Friday, December 01, 2006

The Bethke Curse

In conclusion, I want to point out that the previous six posts, taken together, constitute an excellent illustration of The Bethke Curse at work. I can spin out ideas like this all day long. I can imagineer wondrous things in amazing detail. I have no doubt at all that Harry Turtledove could milk this world for at least a six-novel series, if not more, and still leave the Iroquois-Incan conflict for the three-volume sequel.

But the market rewards writers who take their own ideas painfully seriously (or who can at least fake doing so credibly), and I am constitutionally incapable of keeping a straight face long enough to pull it off.

Case in point, I've been trying for two weeks now to come up with an Important Story to be told in this alternate world. But I keep coming back to this vision of poor Bartleby the Scribe, a slave in 13th century Londinium, who spends his days chained to his desk in a damp and drafty factory, scratching away with stylus on parchment and bashing out the further adventures of Capitaneus Kirkus, a heroic Roman naval commander on a five-year mission to sail beyond the edge of the known world, to find new slaves, and new lands to loot and conquer. But it seems that no matter where he goes, Kirkus is always discovering that the sinister and perfidious agents of the evil Mongol Empire have gotten there a step ahead of him, and so he is forever raising his fists to the gods and bellowing: