The theater has been on my mind lately for a number of reasons. Most immediately is that the HA appeared in her school’s production of Willy Wonka. I attended the show yesterday, the final show of the three day run. Quite a lot of ferrying too and from from school and late nights. I think it fair to say that the HA’s reaction to the experience removes any concern I might have had that she’d pursue a career treading the boards. Later today we’re off to another form of theater, an iceskating show. Sigh. The things I endure for her.
The day prior I finished listening to the audio book of Christopher Moore’s Shakespeare’s Squirrels. Funny stuff: a spoof on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, replete with lines from many of the Bard’s other plays. It brought to mind Bernard Cornwell’s Fools and Mortals, a novel featuring Shakespeare and his company and the production of a play. That play is also A Midsummer Night’s Dream. That seems to be a popular choice for authors riffing on Shakespeare, for references, and adaptations.
What makes Dream such a crowd pleaser? I think that, set as it is an what is essentially a secondary fantasy world — despite the nominal setting near Athens and the employment of a Duke Theseus and Queen Hippolyta — Shakespeare was not beholden to history or following a known narrative borrowed from some other source. He could let rip. It is pure fantasy.
So, fantasy on stage. Why not? It got me to thinking about what stories might best be adapted to the stage. Fantasy writ large lends itself to spectacle, grand set-pieces and flights of imagination on a grand scale. This contraindicates the stage, with its limited space. So fantasy on a smaller, grittier scale suggests itself. Sword-and-Sorcery fits the bill. Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser spring immediately to mind. And why not? Fritz Leiber was, after all, a thespian. That must have had some impact, conscious or not, on his writing. All the elements are there: unique characters, sparkling dialogue, romance, duplicity, swordplay. What do you think, which story of the twain is best suited for adaptation as a play?
If you want to consider which of my works is best suited for adaptation to another medium (other than the one that already has been) why not pick up a few? Seriously: those ice show tickets were expensive. And not tax deductible.
Okay, enough of that pathetic display of mendicancy. On to the latest from Magnus Stoneslayer.
What is a pirate but a bandit with a ship, dear diary? I’ve been a thief, I’ve been a brigand, and now, I am a pirate. But, dear diary, I think there is a difference. Follow me here. Purse slitters, second story men, road agents, and bands of outlaws are all, to one extent or another, localized phenomena. They are problems of a specific city, district, or country. Each government, whether a town council, a tribal chief, or an emperor, must deal with the internal threat and look to its own devices to do so.
Not so with pirates. The corsair knows no boundaries. Every land touching upon his sea is subject to his predation. Every polity engaged in commerce by water is threatened. Every man is his enemy, every hand is turned against him. A captured pirate faces no tribunal, he will see no court or magistrate. A rope flung over the nearest yard arm will see him speedily to what even the corsair will admit in an objective moment is his condign punishment.
In short, from the point of view of a barbarian warrior, piracy is even more exciting than raiding caravans or scaling to second floor windows. The stakes are higher and the existence more free, so long as the barbarian in question (i.e, me) is captaining the swift raider flying the black flag and not taking orders; it would be less free were I pirate crew, what with following orders and confinement within the minuscule wooden wall of a pirate galley. But as captain, the ship isn’t confinement but conveyance, a capacious aquatic steed.
I feel quite at ease. It might seem odd that a savage from a landlocked, mountainous homeland would take so readily to the sea. I’ve not studied navigation. I’ve no experience with wind and tide. But other people do possess these skills. And I possess the skill of convincing other people that doing what I tell them is in their best interest. So navigation and wind and tide sort themselves out, as long as my sword arm remains as strong as my will to use it.
It is a glorious thing, dear diary, to be a pirate chief. As I let the gentle, creaking motion of my ship rock me to sleep, I bid you a fond good night.