Thursday, September 06, 2012

In the Memory of Ruins



I remember reading Dune by Frank Herbert years ago and loving the opening “quotes” he used to begin his chapters. These were all invented quotes from works of literature that Herbert created himself to give his world verisimilitude. Later, I found Lovecraft and his invented Necronomicon, and Robert W. Chambers and his imagined play, The King in Yellow. I saw that Robert E. Howard did this in horror stories such as “The Black Stone.”  I read Dean Koontz’s quotes from a “work” he called The Book of Counted Sorrows. I’m not quite sure why this kind of thing thrilled me, except that it suggested a much wider world than that contained within the stories by themselves.

When I wrote Cold in the Light, I decided to do this for myself. Each chapter contains an opening phrase taken from an invented book called In the Memory of Ruins. The piece that follows is one example, but there are also longer pieces from this “book” that begin the larger sections of Cold in the Light.

“Going up the river the explorers saw a raft,and on the raft a corpse's shell.  It came down with the current, from the far distant mountains where they were headed. Its passing left them cold with foreboding.”

One thing I did a little differently than I’d seen done by anyone before is that the chapter openings actually tell a story of their own that is separate and largely unrelated to the story of Cold in the Light itself. I tried to arrange for connections between the two parallel stories but wasn’t always able to achieve it. I do think there are places where a kind of resonance bleeds through.

What do you think of “invented” sources and quotes being used in fiction? Do you like it?  Does it irritate you?  If you read Cold in the Light, did you even notice the chapter opening pieces or did you skip directly to the story itself?  And if you haven’t read Cold in the Light, well why not? It’s only $2.84 on Amazon, and $4.99 on Barnes and Noble.

It’s available in print at both places for a bit more.


30 comments:

Chris said...

I love it. I haven't read Cold in the Light yet, but it's in my queue. I'll definitely be looking for the "story in the story" when I do.

One series I really love that does this is Christopher Farnsworth's President's Vampire series (one of my favorites going these days). Some of the pre-chapter things involve a fictional study of the "subject," who happens to be a vampire. As well as alternate history entries tying actual events to conspiracy theories, etc. Very, very well done.

Charles Gramlich said...

Chris, cool. I really like when this kind of thing is done too. I sort of wish someone would write a study on it.

The Golden Eagle said...

I really like seeing quotes in fiction. Especially if the characters are aware of the invented source material, it makes things feel more coherent.

Richard R. said...

It often makes me wish the invented book existed, as the quotes can be quite intriguing.

Deka Black said...

Me? i love this kind of thing in the stories i read. It makes the world that contains the story much bigger than the story itself.

David J. West said...

I love it and plan on doing more myself in the future.

I think the reason I like it so much is that it does give hints at theme, resonance and mood as well as opening up the tale to something even bigger.

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

I enjoyed Cold in the Light very much. I did not skip the openings. They blended well with the story. The trouble with some additions is they leave you wondering why they're there in the first place.

Charles Gramlich said...

Golden Eagle, I agree.

Richard R., absolutely. I know. And It has worked that way for others. I know folks who have tried to 'write' the books they have heard about through fiction.

Deka, exactly. gives that sense of a greater reality.

David J., I think we're on the same wavelength. :)

Bernard, that's true. There needs to be some rhyme and reason as to why they are part of the work.

Cloudia said...

those suggestions of a wider world are the very breath of literature's power!


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Travis Cody said...

I really like invented stories within a story. Tolkien was a master at it, creating poetry and songs.

I think David Eddings was also outstanding. He created an entire wealth of mythology and prophecy for the main story, and then published the prophecies in a completely separate companion text.

oceangirl said...

How are you Charles? I know I am the one with a little catch up to do! I love the "Going up the river.." piece. It kinda eerily sums up yet gently opens up for more.

eric1313 said...

It only adds to the work and deepens the art, provided it was done well. Sometimes those snippets are even more interesting than the main work, especially if you see multiple connections within the main story.

laughingwolf said...

loved em where i saw em

initially annoyed, cuz they were unrelated to the tale, then realized they added some class, depth, regardless

yes, enjoyed em in 'light', too

X. Dell said...

After reading a couple of the quotes from the chapter opening, I might have missed something, because I think I searched for In Memory of Ruins on Amazon.com.

X. Dell said...

After reading a couple of the quotes from the chapter opening, I might have missed something, because I think I searched for In Memory of Ruins on Amazon.com.

the walking man said...

i liked the "made up quotes" you used in Cold in the Light Charles, though if you hadn't said anything I would still be thinking there was some text out there called Book of Ruins"

I read everything on the page but most of the times the headers are easily forgotten when I get back into the chapter. Now I am going to have to go back and just read the quotes and see how well they tie together.

Charles Gramlich said...

Cloudia, yes indeed.

Travis Cody. I haven't read Eddings but I will give it a go. Yes, Tolkien did some wonderful stuff like that.

Oceangirl, the tie in with the main story is there in that one because of the promise of a journey that will end in threat.

Eric1313, I think so too. An aspect of creativity I enjoy.

Laughingwolf, it's always a delicate operation, I think, but can really add something if done right.

X-Dell, you know, I've actually considered self publishing that, but it would mean quite a bit of work to expand it.


Mark, that's probably what you want, for those things to only linger a bit and not interfere with the enjoyment of the primary story.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I don't mind them at all as long as someone doesn't claim they are from a real work of literature. With all the stuff going on now, I am not sure someone won't do that. Truth seems rather flexible lately.

Ron Scheer said...

Reminds me of Borges, Charles. His stories are full of that kind of legerdemain.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

A story within a story, so to say...Charles, I'm sure you pulled it off well in COLD IN THE LIGHT. I guess I'll know only after I read it and I certainly intend to soon.

Charles Gramlich said...

Patti, most of the time it seems pretty clear when it's not real, but I'm sure there are cases where it's not so clear.

Ron, excellent!

Prashant, I hope you enjoy!

oceangirl said...

Hello Charles, I had been on off, flip and then flop blogging :) I am taking in my blog private to make it a "real" break. It is a break, not a break up and hope to see you again soon. Take care and my warm regards to Lana.

Charles Gramlich said...

Oceangirl, I noticed that when I went to comment. hope your break is rewarding. It's a good thing to do on occassion.

laughingwolf said...

yup... done right, they are a nice topping to the main tale :)

mark, i agree....

Charles Gramlich said...

laughingwolf, exactly.

jodi said...

Charles, for some reason my comments do not always post on your site. What I said was-I love the quotes, but will sometimes rush through them if the read is especially good.

Charles Gramlich said...

Jodi, I have that problem sometimes too with sites, though usually with the ones that require captcha phrases.

Vesper said...

I like "invented" quotes but sometimes I feel frustrated because I would really like to read the whole "source"...

Charles Gramlich said...

Vesper, I know what you mean. I wish there was more created.

Angie said...

[catching up on RSS feeds]

I love fake quotes, assuming they're well done. The ones in Dune were very cool. Didn't Brust put some in The Phoenix Guard? I think so.

I've never done them myself -- haven't written anything they'd be appropriate to yet -- but some day. :)

Oh, speaking of add-ins, I also love footnotes in fiction if they're done in a humorous or snarky way, the way Pratchett does his. Great stuff.

Angie