I’m currently reading Making History by Stephen Fry. Perhaps you know him from British shows like Blackadder, or even a recurring role on the American show Bones. He’s a brilliant comedian, actor, and writer. He’s unbelievably intelligent, erudite, and well spoken, to the point where even if he were to read a Garfield comic aloud he would sound like it was worthy of a Pulitzer. He’s also cursed with depression, but I do hope that on the whole he has more good days than bad. Bottom line, he is gifted in ways that make me greener than the notebook I write story ideas in.
Er… it’s quite green, I guess I should point out, given the fact that no one in their right mind would assume a notebook is green by default.
I met him once, actually… well, sort of. I mean I passed by him. I used to work in West Hampstead in London, and saw him getting out of his taxi. Not a taxi, his taxi. In a brilliant move on his part, he bought himself a black cab so he could take advantage of London’s chaotic-at-best road system. Many major roads have bus/taxi lanes, and if you knew how congested London’s streets can get, you’d want to own your own taxi, too. I believe he is licenced as well. In fact he brought his black cab over to America a couple years back to drive across the country in for a documentary series.
But I digress.
As I biked to work I saw him getting out of his cab and immediately recognized him. How can you not? The man is extremely tall and his face quite distinctive.
My jaw dropped, and Stephen, bless him, spotted this sign of the fan who is about to geek out and quite visibly rolled his eyes as if to say “Oh, God, not today of all days.”
I don’t blame him, not a bit. I’ve often wondered what I would do if I randomly encountered an actor or writer I admired and long ago decided not to go out of my way to bother them. I’m sure they get enough crap from people with less self restraint every day. Judging from Fry’s reaction, he’d had his fair share. So I kept biking.
But I’m still digressing.
Making History is about a young historian about to hand in his thesis and get his doctorate, he’s on his way up and the future is looking bright. His thesis is on one of the darkest eras of human history. Then he runs into a brilliant theoretical physicist who has an obsession along these same lines. After that, nothing is going to be the same for anyone again.
Now I’m only a third of the way through this book but I have an idea of where it’s going in broad steps. What impressed me most, however, was how Fry managed to keep me guessing for so long. Even when I realized where he was going, he had some major surprises in store. I’m sure there are plenty to come. I say little on purpose, because I want you to read this book and enjoy it as much as I am.
Not only from a plotting element, but in terms of character development, Fry is brilliant. He understands the dualistic nature of the internal monologue as it applies in reality and uses it to great effect for the protagonist – much of the story is told in first person from his point of view. We think we have a handle on his life and expectations through what he says and thinks himself, only for him to change that up later. Yet it never feels like a contradiction at all, we recognize it as the very normal way most of us behave as our moods change.
He even changes up writing formats as well. The protagonist is obsessed with movies, and so, from time to time, his telling of the story changes from first person narration to script format, to surprisingly great effect. His reasons for doing this make perfect sense – for him a movie is extroverted action while a novel is internal contemplation – and doesn’t detract from the storytelling at all.
And like many of my favourite authors, he does his homework as well. When dealing with history, just because you’re creating a fictional story is no excuse for lazy research.
I suppose the point I’m trying to make is – I hate Stephen Fry with the undying fire of a thousand suns.
Why? Because he’s one of those writers. Not just a great writer, but one who writes the way I wish I could write. There are plenty of writers out there I love and respect, but have no desire to write like them or about their subject matter. Stephen Fry is both. I love his style and I love his stories, and goddamit I wish I had written them first, but if I had they wouldn’t have been a quarter as good.
I’m sure he slogs it along like the rest of us writers but… no, wait, I’m not sure of that at all. Fry’s IQ as a child was tested as “approaching genius” which puts him over 160 from what I can tell. Mine on the other hand is around 130 (I’ve scored between 125 and 135 depending on the test). He is unbelievably quick witted and a fast thinker, so I wouldn’t be surprised if – to paraphrase his friend Hugh Laurie – he pounded out this story over the weekend.
We hates him, we hates the stephenfrys. Tricksy, snooty… false!
No, no, we loves him, we loves the stephenfrys. Good writer, makes us laugh, is friend.
(go read Making History)