I was watching the extras of the Lord of the Rings Return of the King DVD and there's a long documentary where a group of “experts” on J. R. R. Tolkien attempt to show that every character, location, and incident in LotR has a parallel in Tolkien's life. You know, the orcs represent the soldiers Tolkien fought in World War One, there are four hobbits because Tolkien had four close friends in college, and so on and so on. I think Gollum was Tolkien's third cousin or something. Personally, I don't think every single aspect of an author's work is autobiographical and I get a little annoyed with this sort of amateur psychoanalysis.
But, Charles, you say, YOU are a writer so of course you don't like that sort of thing. It would mean everything you write reveals deep hidden secrets. To which I say, Pthhhh.
However, since I do write, let me use something of mine to explain my point. My most recent short story was called The Dead Remember and it was about a guy named Alexander Gordon who fought a bunch of zombies in a world not unlike Robert E. Howard's Hyborian age.
Now, lets see. What did those flesh eating zombies represent? My debts? Um...people at work? Well no. I wrote about zombies because I had just read a Karl Edward Wagner story about zombies and a Joe Lansdale story about zombies, and I thought it might be fun to write about zombies.
Okay, next thing. The zombies were the resurrected remains of tribesman, kind of like native Americans. Now what deeply rooted psychological thing made me write about them? Oh, and they had been killed by the local army who were kind of like the U.S. Military during frontier days. What did that represent? My long held problem with authority figures? My distrust of the government?
Actually I had been watching season three of the old TV series Kung Fu, and one of the episodes was about a massacre of an Indian tribe. I needed zombies and I thought, hey, what if that tribe came back from the dead to seek vengeance on the guys who killed them?
So there you have it. Kung Fu, Karl Edward Wagner, and Joe Lansdale = my story.
But what about the protagonist, Alexander Gordon? Surely that means something. I must have delusions of grandeur since I named the hero after the man who conquered the world. I mean all protagonists are just wish fulfillment version of the their authors, right?
Well okay, you got me on that one.
Actually, I named him after Francis X. Gordon, one of REH's lesser known heroes. One of the Francis Gordon stories is called The Lost Valley of Iskander. Iskander is a corruption of Alexander. Thus Alexander Gordon.
And all you Tolkien experts? Get a frikkin life.