The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Hidden Histories & Secret Wars

Posted by BigWords on August 1, 2009

Time slipped away from me, so this is the belated Saturday blog.

Hidden Histories

In the last post I covered how I pick ‘n’ mix history with story for effect. Here is where I show rather than tell, because that is (a) fun, and (b) hopefully useful.

This is from deep in the creative history pool of backstory, and it may not work for everyone. If I’m playing with ideas centred between the 20th Century and the modern era, it is the ‘shared history’ which affects the characters and stories. I’ll begin with the well-known case of Kaspar Hauser, who fits my fictohistory perfectly. On the 26th May, 1828 he appeared from nowhere, and within five years would be dead.

Other writers have used him as a metaphor for everything from the pointlessness of the human condition to the savagery of mankind, but I like to use him as an early example of an engineered person. His garbled accounts form a record of some sort of early social conditioning experiment, and I love the way he ties in to many other ideas which crop up throughout the fringe history of the era. It is almost as if he was born specifically to inspire writers for centuries to come.

So, if I begin with barbaric social engineering experiments, who can take the blame? Using the Knights Templar is annoying and lazy. They’re so overused as to be completely impotent as a threat, and I like to strike fresh ground when I think of evil organizations. Remember the tiny little fragment I used in the last post? Here’s a sample of the excerpt, because the bit I used yesterday wasn’t small enough:

Time was running out. Too much was already known, and The Architects were aware of his creation.

It’s a throwaway name, but deserves some expansion. Anything I use needs to have ties, just so the idea doesn’t feel orphaned. The name is cool, but not intimidating or dark enough on its’ own. It needs a full name, because the common use would be shortened, and it sure feels like shortened version on its’ own. Lets try – The Architects of the Future. Better. The concept of a group ‘engineering’ the path of humanity has shades of eugenics and totalitarian psychology, so it is fit for purpose right now. Anything can change at a moments notice.

With the need to understand the mentality of the people they will be governing, they would certainly have experimented on the development of the mind, tying in to Casper Hauser. It needs more links to the wider world, so I have to think of links. Henry More Smith‘s life story seems like a forerunner of the do-anything Doc Savage type, so I’ll enfold him in the timeline as another ‘experiment’, though one which has had more success.

The timeline is messy now, because he was born slightly before Hauser. I’ll fudge the problem of linear improvements in the process now, because no two people are the same. Using Hauser doesn’t negate the technique of mental and physical tempering, because one failure does not make an experiment nonviable. We haven’t seen the hands behind the string-pulling, so it is time to consider who would want to control the future. Time-travellers? No. Cheapening the idea with one single SF component amid the near-reality will be an irritating and irrelevant distraction.

Everything flows from psychology. If a character wouldn’t normally think of trying to prevent certain events, or to make some events come to pass, then they shouldn’t be forced into the position for dramatic effect. The only group who has the pull to organize social engineering on a large scale, yet remain a covert force, would be one with the complicit approval of a larger organization.The architectural theme might suggest freemasonry, but a group whose initiations are so ridiculous cannot be taken seriously as a threat to society.

In truth it doesn’t really matter if the real origin is pinned down or not, because the beauty of conspiracy theories is the contradictory and elusive nature of their existence. Real conspiracies are complex and muddled so a fictional one should exhibit just as many inconsistencies.

I can’t just announce them in the middle of the plot as a deus ex machina, or it will really jump out. It’ll be so blatant that you’ll want to scream and throw the book across the room. We need to see the effects of their actions across history, shaping events and making the rules up as they go. They can’t be moustache-twiddling neer-do-wells, ’cause real people don’t see themselves as villains. Everyone believes they are the hero, even as they are twisting the knife deeper.

More background…

Secret Wars

I’m stealing the phrase from a couple of comic-series by Marvel, because they hit the nail on the head with this idea. I need to introduce an ongoing battle between the forces of good and evil… Sorry, between the forces of the organization and those whose ideological viewpoint is diametrically opposed. So I’ll start big and get bigger, because thinking small never got a person anywhere.

Jack the Ripper was an agent cleaning up loose ends, maybe because the women knew about the children being taken by the society.

Not big enough? Then I’ll say that the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated because he opposed the Architects. Bigger? A group of scientists, engineers, philosophers and other leading minds kidnapped in the early part of the twentieth century as a arms-race in information as they plan the second world war. Big enough yet? I can keep adding to the back-story as I go, and with a fictional group I am free to create enmities with both sides of the political landscape.

So now there is an existing history, violent confrontation and a possibly unstoppable group.

There needs to be an end-game planned out, or at least some idea of where they will be taking their plans. That is escalation in action, as the events become more obvious and people are drawn in to their machinations. I’ll get around to the finer points soon, but there ‘s the matter of a man kidnapped from a boat in 1913 to take care of…

As the soldiers entered, clearing the rooms as they went, they noticed the old man. Skeletal, hunch-backed and straining to see in the light, he spoke in soft German tones.

“Is the war over?”

Gunfire filled the air.

Okay, so he made it to the end of WWII. He didn’t get out, ’cause that would have fucked up the actual history we have, but he did make it to the end of the war.

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