Historic Figures as Fictional Heroes


What if the great writers who gave us so many wonderful tales of the imagination actually lived some of those fantastical adventures themselves? Such is the premise for what is becoming a twist on the alternate fiction genre. Remember the movie Time After Time, in which H.G. Wells (played by Malcolm McDowell) uses the time machine from his classic story to go after Jack the Ripper (played by David Warner)? Kevin J. Anderson does one better in his novel The Martian War, which will soon be re-released as Mr. Wells and the Martians -- the legendary pioneer of science fiction becomes an eyewitness to an attack on Earth from Mars, and mingles with characters from his other books, The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Invivisble Man, and others.

Anderson does it again in spectacular fashion in Captain Nemo: The Fantastic Adventures of a Dark Genius, this time with Jules Verne as a dreamer alongside his childhood friend Andre Nemo (from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Mysterious Island), who goes on adventures that fans of the French founder of speculative fiction will find familiar. Anderson deftly captures the tone and style (and all of the thrills) of Verne's stories. I would love to see him come up with similar tales of other classic writers -- Mary Shelley for example, or Robert Louis Stevenson, or Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Want to read about other great writers of yore in heroic escapades of their own?  Paul Malmont has a couple of interesting books you might enjoy.  The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril features two famous pulp fiction writers, Walter Gibson who created The Shadow and Lester Dent who gave us Doc Savage, teaming up in their own action-packed 1930s adventure. Robert A. Heinlein and L. Ron Hubbard join along the way. Malmont jumps ahead a decade in The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown, set in the early 1940s, in which Heinlein returns and is recruited along with other science fiction masters -- Isaac Asimov, L. Sprague de Camp, Ray Bradbury, and Kurt Vonnegut -- to battle Nazi Germany. Albert Einstein is part of the excitement too.

Have you seen the graphic novel Kill Shakespeare?  The immortal Bard, William Shakespeare is a powerful wizard, and the heroes and villains from his tragedies and comedies (Richard III, Lady Macbeth, Romeo, Juliet, Othello, Iago, and others) are searching for him and his magic quill. 


Writers aren't the only ones having all the fun.  Seth Grahame-Smith's best-selling Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is being turned into a movie. One of the greatest presidents in U.S. history is re-imagined as a vengeance-seeking defender against the bloodsucking undead. It's part of the recent horror-and-classics mash-up trend, which Grahame-Smith helped invent with his other title Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Others have followed, such as Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Ben H. Winters, Jane Slayre by Sherri Browning Erwin, and Little Vampire Women by Lynn Messina, but Abraham Lincoln isn't a literary character in a public domain reboot, he was a real person who still graces our currency, whose name is on our buildings, monuments, and tunnels. Now, he's a kick-ass superhero, destroying vampires.

Harry Turtledove may have had Franklin D. Roosevelt as a supporting character facing an alien invasion in his Worldwar series, but these other historic figures mentioned above are the central focus of these new fictional epic adventures. Prepare to see the movie The Raven in which Edgar Allan Poe hunts down a serial killer. What other famous figures in history might be waiting in their graves to be resurrected on page or screen in far-fetched thrillers still to come?

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