Remember how a few days ago in comments I was whining that I didn't feel like writing anything at all, that I couldn't even write fanfic because none of my fandoms were inspiring me? Well, apparently that was before I spent the last two days reading the two Dunnett novels I got off BookMooch.

[Poll #1158372]
Don't worry, though -- even if I do write it it won't be very long. Plus I probably won't even post the thing, because who else on my f-list even cares about Jay? Sigh.

Have no JJ icon. Must use Campion icon instead. Woe.
[ profile] hedda62, I saw these and, inevitably, thought of you. :)

Speaking of O'Brian, I just read "21" last weekend, and as with the case of Dorothy Dunnett and the missing last Johnson Johnson book (of which even less, that is to say nothing at all, exists) it seems somehow impossible to believe that this really is The End, and there will never be any more canon, and that if you want to know what happened to the characters you are just going to have to make it up in your own head.

But making it up just isn't satisfactory, not with either of those two authors. They're too singular, too inimitable. If JKR were to unexpectedly shuffle off this mortal coil (though I fervently hope she doesn't!) and leave the HP series unfinished, I think I might eventually find some fanfic or other, or if necessary write one myself, that would give me a sense of closure. But not with O'Brian or Dunnett.


Who Dunnett

Jul. 16th, 2003 06:24 pm
rj_anderson: (Saffron Cake)
Graphic image of Checkmate
Checkmate -- final book in the series!

Which volume of Dorothy Dunnett's LYMOND CHRONICLES are you?
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Does this mean that nine-tenths of the way through my life, people are going to want to throw me across the room?
"What's wrong? Has Francis been rude? Then you must try to overlook it. I know you wouldn't think so, but he is thoroughly upset by T--'s death; and when Francis is troubled he doesn't show it, he just goes and makes life wretched for somebody."
-- Dorothy Dunnett, The Disorderly Knights

You know what I said before about Snape reminding me of a Dunnett hero? Oh yeah.
I have just recalled one of the other shared elements I stupidly failed to write down when I was reading The Game of Kings: Dunnett, like JKR, makes reference to the twelve uses of dragon's blood.

Though in Dunnett's book, it's made clear that the term "dragon's blood" is a fanciful description for a considerably more mundane substance, and I suspect that "oven cleaner" was not one of the twelve uses she had in mind...

Mildly spoilerish thoughts about the Paxman interview with JKR )

Regarding tonight's release, I have a dilemma. If I go down as soon as the store opens to get my reserved copy of OotP, I'll have to stay up until midnight. And then once I get the book in my hands, I'm going to want to just take one little peek. And then I'll get no sleep at all and be fried and useless the next day. However, if I don't go down at midnight, I probably won't be able to sleep anyway. But I might surprise myself on that score, who knows, and then I could go down and pick the book up the next morning. Except I'm worried there'll be a huge lineup and it'll take me forever to get it, plus I'll want to spend the whole day reading it and my family will mope at me.

What to do, what to do...?
Aside from the fact that they're both female, both writers, and both connected to Scotland, I mean.

When I first read about the giant chess game in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, and particularly Ron's decision to sacrifice himself to win the game, I was immediately reminded of a scene in the fourth book of Dorothy Dunnett's series of historical novels about Francis Crawford of Lymond. The circumstances and execution (no pun intended) are different, and the idea of human chess is by no means original to either author, but I couldn't help wondering if Rowling had ever read Dunnett.

Then when I really started to notice Rowling's persistent use of unreliable narration, another Dunnett hallmark, I wondered again. I know that the idea of an unreliable narrator is also not unique to either author (in fact one of the best examples I can think of was written by Mary Stewart), but it's not just that. It's that JKR and Dunnett used the unreliable narrator in the same way and for the same purpose -- for instance, in the first book of both HP and the Lymond series, the reader is misled via the narration into thinking an important character is the villain when he is in fact a hero.

So that's two things they have in common. Here's another: one of the subplots in the first Lymond book has Francis's mother Sybilla and her friends pursuing the creation of -- guess what? -- the Philosopher's Stone. Again, I know that the Stone has been around for centuries and Dunnett certainly didn't invent it, but it intrigues me that once again there's an element common to the first books of both series. Also, another character in the first Lymond book, Janet Beaton, is a stocky, big-hearted woman with a sharp mind, formidable courage and a staggering number of children. Sound like anyone we know? Plus (as Natasha noted in the comments to the original version of this post -- thank you, Natasha), although no mention of this is made in the book, historically speaking Janet Beaton was accused of -- guess what? -- being a witch.

There are three possibilities here, at least that I can think of:
  • one, that JKR has never read Dunnett and any apparent similarities are pure coincidence;
  • two, that JKR has never read Dunnett but she and Dunnett were influenced by the same literary and historical sources;
  • three, that JKR has read and liked Dunnett's work and was inspired by it. And this is my personal theory, at least until I see a good reason to think otherwise.

    By saying that I think JKR may well have been inspired by Dunnett I don't mean that I think she copied Dunnett in some lazy or unoriginal fashion -- the HP books and the Lymond series are far more different than they are alike, even in their handling of the elements I've noted above. But perhaps JKR found her imagination stirred by the Lymond books and her approach to writing influenced by observing Dunnett's memorable and successful techniques. By the time JKR got around to writing HP the connection to Dunnett could even have been subconscious -- after all, the Lymond books were written before JKR was born, so she could have read them in her teens, well before she came up with the idea of HP.

    It's just a theory, of course. And if JKR ever says "Dunnett who?" then of course the theory will be defunct. But I'm going to keep my eyes open as I go through HP canon and the Lymond books (something I didn't plan to do simultaneously, but I'm rather pleased it's worked out that way), and see if anything else jumps out at me.

    I think what I like best about the possibility of a Rowling-Dunnett connection is that it probably means good things in the end for Snape. Which is not to say he'll necessarily survive the series, but if he's anything like one of Dunnett's antiheroes (and he certainly rings that bell for me), then we're bound to learn some things about his character which will mitigate our earlier impression of him and draw out our sympathies toward him in a new way. JKR has already said that we will "get" Snape, in the sense of understanding him, in Book Seven, if not before. I'm really looking forward to seeing what she means by that.

    Thanks to Erica and [ profile] ajhalluk for their comments, which made me go back and edit this entry for clarity. I hope this makes it seem a little less like I'm jumping to specious conclusions.
  • So here's my list of the literary characters I crushed on, roughly in the order I encountered them:
    - Peter, Caspian, and Rilian, from the Narnia books
    - Will Stanton and Bran Davies, from Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising
    - Ged, from Ursula LeGuin's A Wizard of Earthsea
    - Mary Stewart's versions of the youthful Merlin and Mordred (and most of the heroes of her suspense novels too, come to think of it)
    - Sherlock Holmes
    - Johnson Johnson, the portrait-painting, bifocals-wearing spy/sleuth from Dorothy Dunnett's mysteries
    - Remus Lupin (but only in canon, not in any fanfics I've yet read)
    - Gregor Vorbarra, Duv Galeni and Simon Illyan from Lois McMaster Bujold's SF novels
    I just know I'm leaving out somebody important*, but oh well.
    *No, not Wimsey -- I like him just fine, but I never crushed on him. And believe it or not, Snape is not one of my crushes either, at least not in the same way as the others listed here...
    Digging through my archives of old posts to HP4GU, I found an interesting little tidbit:
    > If you could ask [J.K. Rowling] *one* question, what would it be?

    My first place question would be, "Have you ever read Dorothy Dunnett, and if so would you consider her an influence on your writing?"

    The second place question would be, "Did you have Alan Rickman in the back of your mind when you created Snape?"

    Of course, she would not be at all likely to answer either of those questions directly...

    I'd forgotten about the Dunnett angle. But now I recall that there were two distinct things in JKR's writing that made me think there might be a real influence: the "live" chess game the Trio plays in PS/SS, especially the part where Ron sacrifices himself so the others can win; and the way JKR uses unreliable narrators and informants to skew the reader's perception, particularly with regard to characters such as Sirius and Snape.

    Man, now I really want to ask JKR that question. [ profile] melissa_tlc, take a note of it, will you? Just in case you do get that opportunity a few months down the road... :)

    A bit of Dunnett/HP humour, slightly spoilerish... )
    "Considering the recent advances in optometry and laser eye surgery, it's a mystery to me why anyone would still be wearing bifocal glasses. Especially when that person is an agent."

    Yes, that's right, it's a Johnson Johnson fic... narrated by Sydney Bristow.

    I'll never write it, of course. Even though it would be a perfect crossover.

    What I am writing, however, is a bit more practical. Vaughn fic. About the Alice thing. Just because.


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