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Thu Feb 27th, 2014

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08:13 pm - Wherein the old fogey fogues
Not sure where I saw the rec for George Mann's Newbury and Hobbes series, but I had high hopes of it as I continue my steampunk reading: hopes which were at once dashed by the opening chapter. Three soldiers in India are attacked by something that seems to be a zombie: 'The creature was like something raised from the depths of Hades itself. It was dressed in the torn rags of an Indian peasant and may once have been human (J note: when I learned sequence of tenses, 'may' in past discourse became 'might', but no one seems to care about that rule anymore) but now looked more like a half-rotted corpse than like anything resembling a man. The creature's skin was desiccated...' and so on clunk clunk clunk through the fight that follows: the 'horrifying creature' did this, the 'monster' did that, the 'creature', the 'monster', the 'vile thing', the 'creature', the 'thing'... and that's just two paragraphs' worth.

Mr. Mann needs an editor, but alas, it seems Mr Mann *is* an editor. Then why, I ask, does he write things like 'Veronica was hard at work, clearing the spare desk on the other side of the room, unpacking her small box of belongings and filing the many sheaves of abandoned notes she continued to find in drawers and random piles all around the office. She had... attacked the mess like it was some sort of villain in need of appeasing.'

I don't know if this is carelessness, ignorance, Humpty-Dumpty Rule, or straight Inigo Montoya, but between the clunk and the catachresis I find the book unreadable. And the odd thing, she says chauvinistically, is that Mann's English. He should have read enough required 19th century lit to know the words in context, and not just as something to be memorized for the S.A.T. (If you read enough 19th century lit- and if you're writing England-based steampunk or Holmes pastiche, that comes recommended- you also know that a gentleman doesn't say Hell! in front of a lady. Lord, what *do* they teach them in these schools?)

(3 comments | post comment)


[User Picture]
Date:February 28th, 2014 02:02 am (UTC)
It is possible that I am a somewhat biased sample on the subject of "what an English person should know about Holmes pastiche and manners of speaking therein". But that is absolutely true. A gentleman does not swear in front of a lady. That would not be done.

It's not even a question of what a gentleman might say in a moment of shock. At that point, and in that place, certain things are ingrained and one would grow up with them and have them thoroughly assimilated by the point that one is an adult.

Sorry, I am probably preaching to the choir here.
[User Picture]
Date:February 28th, 2014 02:35 am (UTC)
Possibly these writers assume that their A/U Steampunk Victorian world has different manners and mores as well as different technology, but I always get the feeling that they simply don't know what the manners and mores of the period are. In fact one must read rather second-rate writers to catch the swearing thing-- 'Lord Henry spat out a vile oath'- because I don't believe it even comes up in first-rate ones.

That being as it may, when you do Holmes pastiche-- get it right. No wiggle room there.
[User Picture]
Date:February 28th, 2014 03:07 pm (UTC)
That 'vile oath' thing might be in Sexton Blake, but not in Sherlock Holmes.

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