Let’s not forget to acknowledge Alexandre Dumas this Black History Month
The writer of two of the most well known stories worldwide, The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo was a black man.
Let’s not forget that he was played on screen by a white man. And the fact that he was black is barely ever mentioned or the book he wrote inspired by his experiences.
Other things not to forget about Alexandre Dumas:
- chose to take on his slave grandmother’s last name, Dumas, like his father did before him.
- grew up too poor for formal education, so was largely self-taught, including becoming a prolific reader, multilingual, well-travelled, and a foodie, resulting in his writing both a combination encyclopedia/cookbook (which just— is fucking outrageous to me) AND the adaptation of The Nutcracker on which Tchaikovsky based his ballet
- he also wrote a LOOOOT of nonfiction and fiction about history, politics, and revolution, bc he was pro-monarchy, but a radical cuss, and that got him in a lot of hot water at home and abroad.
- even beyond that, he generally put up with a lot of racist bullshit in France, so he went and wrote a novel about colonialism and a BLATANTLY self-insert anti-slavery vigilante hero (which he then cribbed from to write the Count of Monte Cristo, the main character of which, Edmond Dantés, Dumas also based on himself).
- (…a novel which also features a LOAD of PoC beyond the Count, and at LEAST one queer character, btw, bc EVERY MOVIE ADAPTATION OF ANYTHING BY DUMAS IS A LIE; seriously, at LEAST one of the four Musketeers is Black, y’all.)
- famously, when some fuckshit or other wanted to come at Dumas with some anti-Black foolishness, Dumas replied, “My father was a mulatto, my grandfather was a Negro, and my great-grandfather a monkey. You see, Sir, my family starts where yours ends.”
- for the bicentennial of his birthday, Pres. Jacques Cirac was like, “…sorry about the hella racism,” and had Dumas’s ashes reinterred at the Panthéon of Paris, bc if you’re gonna keep the corpses of the cream of the crop all together, Dumas’s more widely read and translated than literally everybody else.
- and they are still finding stuff old dude wrote, seriously; like discovering “lost” works as recently as 2002, publishing stuff for the first time as recently as 2005.
In related news (related because it was a book I got from my brother some Christmas) I’ve started reading A Visit From The Goon Squad, I’m 200 pages in, and I still can’t bring myself to care much about the characters or where exactly all of this is supposed to be going. (If, indeed, it’s going anywhere at all.)
It’s a “realistic” description of mostly middle class New Yorkers who are connected to each other through either business or their personal lives muddling through the years and some of them fucking up and either not realising their dreams or doing so and becoming dissatisfied. (By realistic I mean they read pretty much like real people, not that the potential level of cynicism is realistic.) It has a non-linear timeline and switches between perspectives (1st/2nd/3rd person) for different people’s segments, which I suppose wins it a few points. But it’s kind of, how would I say it, dull. Even mixing it up in the technical aspects (timeline and perspective) doesn’t change anything about the fact that it seems to be a series of interlocking character studies. To be frank, it’s about people living their lives and doing nothing much in particular that really interests me.
In addition I managed to misread “life improving” for “life affirming” on the cover while skim reading the reviews and noticed later and realised I’d fucked up. “Life affirming” seemed like an assessment that might have a pleasant overall payoff even if the novel wasn’t incredibly riveting. I now suspect that I may be in sad literary novel territory where most of the characters end up unfulfilled and with lukewarm enthusiasm for their “comfortable” lives.
i’ve been reading a book of award winning literary short stories and a book of kinda trashy post-apocalyptic speculative fiction short stories and guess which book displays more jaded contempt for humanity hint it’s not the one with all the nuclear fallout
I don’t want to say that sci fi/fantasy is Just Better. But a lot of the literary fiction I’ve read likes to rip your guts out through your stomach and leave you nothing to patch the wound up with afterwards. As if that kind of emptiness is somehow more profound than other emotions.
I don’t read as many short stories as I should but this kind of thing is something I thought a lot about when I was finishing my big fic—the ending is horrible, there’s nothing uplifting in it whatsoever. I kind of stared at it a while and decided I didn’t want to be that kind of writer. I can’t speak for other authors but it left me feeling a bit gutted and harrowed. I wonder why they write like that.
I wish to take this moment to advocate for Gardner Dozois’ SFF short story compilations.
You get trashy, you get uplifting, you get harrowing, you get serious, you get silly, you get the whole delicious gamut. Dozois’ “Mammoth Book Of Best New SF” is onto its 26th volume by now, and is cheap and good and a nice way to meet new authors including upcoming and aspiring female SFF authors and authors of colour as well as established major names like Lois McMaster Bujold and Greg Egan.
Also he’s just done an anthology called Dangerous Women, which I need to get my hands on because it’s got a shitton of my favourite writers plus a bunch of new ones, all doing short stories about kickass ladies. And it will not, I can guarantee without reading it, leave that “so… everyone’s dead and everything’s futile and life is awful. Right, then.” feeling you get from Serious Lit Fic.
Screw ‘profound literary emptiness’, and doubly screw anyone who tries to pretend it is superior.
Recommendation enthusiastically noted!
They might be a good follow up to How To Live Safely In A Science-Fictional Universe, which is on my shelf back home and I intend to finish, although I find it a draining read. It feels like the direct offspring of sci fi and sad literary fiction.