Saturday, May 3, 2014

I Become a Drone

So, as I've already posted, weekend before last I went to NorWesCon, the primary draw being a panel celebrating the works of the great, inimitable  P. G. Wodehouse, which turned out to be great fun: A Good Time Was Had By All.

Earlier in the day, I'd been approached and honored by an invitation to join the DRONES MODERNE, a group assembled by Pierce Watters in homage to Wodehouse's famous Drones Club, home away from home to such fictional luminaries as Bingo Little, Gussie Fink-nottle, Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright, and of course Bertie Wooster. This new Drones club is mostly comprised of literary types who cdn't throw a roll if a deadline extension depended upon it, so I hope to fit in nicely. Plus of course it gave me an idea for a fun little project, about which I'll write more if anything comes of it.

It being a done thing to pick a persona upon becoming a Drone, I settled on Capn. Mercer ('Mercy') Worplesdon, of the Worcestershire Worplesdons, the famed balloonist. Having spent the entire War being shot at, he has since devoted his time to overseeing the construction of mini-zeppelins on his country estate, convinced that what the world needs and wants is two- or four-seater personalized airships. And tigers, of course.

Being in a Wodehouse mood, since that con I've read both the locked-door mystery by Wodehouse I first learned about from the panel ("Murder at the Excelsior") as well as the recent new Bertie & Jeeves novel by Sebastian Faulks, JEEVES AND THE WEDDING BELLS [2013], which I also learned about there.  I'm sorry to say that while quite readable Faulks' effort is unfaithful to the original books in major ways -- for example, if having Bertie be truly in love, to have that love reciprocated, and to treat with entire seriousness that developing relationship.   So, enjoyable as light reading, but unacceptable as an official part of the series.

Which is too bad, because I've seen other works that do a great job of writing more Bertie and Jeeves stories, mostly in the form of affectionate parodies. For example, there's John Ellison's STIFF UPPER LIP, BILBO (a.k.a. THE ALTERNATIVE HOBBIT [1987]), which retells the story of THE HOBBIT as if Bilbo were Bertie Wooster; great fun. And then there's P. H. Cannon's SCREAM FOR JEEVES, which brings Bertie into the world of H. P. Lovecraft, the first (and by far the best) of the three stories in this slim collection, "Cats, Rats, and Bertie Wooster" being a hilarious take on "The Rats in the Walls".*

So it's possible to capture Wodehouse's distinct style, and make effective use of his iconic characters. It's just a pity that Faulks hasn't quite done so. Although I did consider it a warning sign that the back dust-jacket of JEEVES AND THE WEDDING BELLS contained half a dozen blurbs which, upon closer inspection, were decidedly problematic: two of the authors of said blubs being dead (once dead almost fifty years) -- it turning out that they were blurbs praising Wodehouse, not the actual book they accompanied. But at least reading this faux-Wodehouse inspired me to go back and read some of the real thing, which is always a pleasure.

--John R.
a.k.a. Captain Mercy

*although it's hard to resist a title like "The Rummy Affair of Young Charlie", Cannon's version of THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD

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