Take away the mustache and…yep, he still looks like a psychopathic, meglomaniac, genocidal dictator. Never mind, worth a try.
I’m going to break all the rules and do a blog about Hitler. In fact, I’m even planning to mention Hitler and Foxtel in the same sentence (ah… actually, I just did already). But not quite how you’d imagine this will work.
We recently signed up for Foxtel’s satellite service—and I’ll be blogging about that next time. Our problem is diminishing television reception. Because we live in the country, and among the picturesque hills and valleys of south west Western Australia—our television reception is utter crap thanks to the increasing number of neighbours and their bloody trees. Nothing short of some clandestine, late-night chain-sawing will fix the issue or a really, really big antennae will cost a fortune without necessarily guaranteeing it will work. Foxtel, on the other hand, at its lowest “bundle” presents a reasonably cheap alternative with limited free-to-air channels included.
So what’s this got to do with Hitler?
At the risk of angering some people, I’m going to suggest Hitler and the Nazi’s tyrannical, murderous, despicable reign of genocidal terror had a couple of positives.
First, Hitler and his whole gang of Nazi followers have provided for the world of fictional action and spy films, and books, the most politically-correct villain ever. Think about it. Most of fiction’s Really Bad Guys risk a backlash of people whinging that you’re marginalising a minority—like serial killers and those Nigerian guys on the phone. And next you’re expected to apologise to somebody about something. But if your Really Bad Guy is a Nazi, everyone’s cool about it. A sort of, “Yeah, fair enough”. No one complains, Nazi villains are always no-risk, politically correct evil dudes. Just look at the helmets worn by storm troopers—sorry, star troopers—in Star Wars. They ain’t baseball caps, folks.
Second, Hitler and the entire Nazi empire have provided endless grist for the documentary film industry. Without Adolf and his jackbooted lads there would be no SBS, let alone a History Channel. Foxtel’s “Documentary” package would collapse. There are documentaries about Hitler’s childhood, his politics, his shoes, his girlfriend, his dogs, his favourite pudding and that he wore his undies inside-out for luck before every invasion… alright, I made that last one up. But Hitler and Nazi documentaries are an industry all of its own, employing thousands of people over the decades. I’ll admit, I’m interested in this stuff. It was, for want of a more compassionate description, a fascinating period in history.
Now, you’d expect the first prerequisite for any documentary about Germany and World War Two is that the actor playing The Great Dictator should actually, at least vaguely, fucking resemble Hitler a bit, right?
Nope, apparently not.
It’s not like we don’t know what Adolf looked like. Okay, he doesn’t have a Twitter account (I hope, I’m not going to check) but there are plenty of pictures and movies. It’s not difficult to research what Hitler looked like.
Despite this blatant and easily accessible information, documentary producers insist on casting just any old noddy as Adolf and sticking a silly mustache on them. It’s like the mustache is all it takes.
Last week on Foxtel it was the “Battle of the Bulge” story. Hitler, planning his last great offensive, resembled Mr Spock with a Mars Bar glued to his top lip. Then it was “Nazi Megastructures” and Adolf, unhappy with the price of concrete at the Berlin DIY store, was possibly Meg Ryan—the mustache may have been real. Seriously, it’s like documentary film makers believe that Denzel Washington can do Hitler, as long as they stick a stupid mustache on his face.
How hard can it be to find an actor who at least roughly resembles Adolf? A bit short, a bit lined in the face, a bad comb-over… most of the judges in MasterChef will do the trick. Fucking Yoda is closer than some of these so-called Hitler doppelgangers. It’s ridiculous, annoying, historically inaccurate and just plain lazy on the producer’s part.
There should be some kind of test. Show the producers pictures of Kanye West, Donald Trump and Walt Disney. Ask them which one looks most like Hitler. Anyone who picks Walt Disney should get fired.
By the way, one of my horror books, Footprints in the Snow, is based in World War Two and during the Battle of the Bulge. It’s got your standard, nasty, homicidal Nazi sergeant and a ghostly abbey in the middle of a snowbound forest. But if you want real evil, wait until you meet the Mother Superior and the rest of the nuns.
It’s not free, but give me a break. At US$2.99 it’s only slightly more than the budget allocated for Adolf Hitler lookalikes in Foxtel’s History Channel documentaries.
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Sorry for not blogging awhile. I’ve been attending a friend’s wedding on the other side of the country and it’s taken weeks to catch up. So… what better a writing subject after a longish break than discussing toilets? More specifically, what we do in them and when. Which, according to 99.99% of fiction is nothing – and never.
You see, I was reading a Neville DeMille novel. I’ve been a fan of DeMille for years. In this particular book it’s a fairly typical “chase” story with our hero and a somewhat reluctant heroine racing across the country either fleeing from, or madly pursuing, some villainous dude and, of course, they regularly find themselves holed up in hotels taking stock of the situation. It’s during these occasions that our hero manages to slip into a nearby store and buy some clean shorts and a shirt. DeMille’s slight obsession with our hero’s personal hygiene was intriguing.
To be honest, I’m quite happy to assume my heroes somehow deal with the sticky issue of soiled undies and even taking a dump somewhere without drawing my attention to the realities. I mean, during the God-knows-how-long trek by Frodo to Mordor to ditch the One Ring, was it mentioned at any time that he needed to nip behind the nearest Ent for a noisy Number Two’s? Nope, of course not.
Fictional heroes don’t do a lot of things. Like fart, scratch unseemly places, discreetly pick their nose when no one’s looking… which is a good thing, since most of this stuff comes under the “Too much information” category. Of course, there are exceptions to the unwritten, writing rule and some authors use such moments to advantage, but generally even our most flawed characters don’t require toilet breaks.
They don’t need a shower unless someone plans to stab them through the curtain. They eat about two meals per book. Many of them don’t have to call their mother. They rarely go shopping for normal stuff.
Wouldn’t it be a challenge to write a novel and include all the mundane, everyday things for the sake of authenticity? It’d probably get some kind of major, literary prize.
But no one would read it.
Want to know how to get a publishing contract? One of those six figure, dream of a lifetime deals? It’s easy – well, how to get one is easy. All you have to do is write the best book ever, ever written. The best, right? Publishers the world over will beat a path to your door.
So now you’re thinking, “Hah-ha, very fucking funny, smart arse”. But wait a second – what’s stopping you? All you need is a couple of fingers on the ends of your hands. You don’t have to be uber-fit, like a pro footballer. You don’t need any qualifications or some fancy education. The only equipment you should have is the cheapest, second hand computer, because word processing is no big deal. So all you really need is a good idea – and the determination to turn it into a book. You are utterly, completely responsible for how good that book can be and theoretically there is nothing to stop that book being the best ever.
Okay, it ain’t that simple, but you get the concept?
The reason I’m blogging about this is that on another forum the debate is raging as to whether self-published writers need their work professionally edited. A lot of them say, “I don’t need an editor. My books are selling well, so I obviously don’t need one.” What a load of horse shit. Apparently, if you sell books, it means your writing is perfect? Sentence structure is precise? Plotting and continuity is flawless?
People say you can get “too close” to your own work, but I look at it slightly differently. The thing is, you start to memorise your own work rather than read it, when you’re editing. Instead of reading the words one by one, as you would the first time you read something, your eyeballs start tracking over the text picking out familiar phrases and your memory fills in the rest – often incorrectly, for that matter. It’s why you can overlook an error time and again, and you can’t believe you didn’t see it. It’s also why putting a manuscript away for a while gives you a fresh look — in fact, it’s your memory getting flushed out, not your eyes.
Just like writers, there are good editors and bad ones. If you find a good one, what you’re getting is an objective view of your manuscript in regards to structure, plot, characterisation… all those “global” kinds of things that might have you swapping chapters, changing character names and such. A good editor will also apply a deep knowledge of grammar and sentence structure that can add a certain polish to your writing.
So the truth is everyone can benefit from a good editor.
But is it worth it? That’s a different question. If you’re writing short novels (or even long ones) for your own fun, and you’re putting them out there on Amazon at 99 cents for the world to hopefully discover – but you’re not stressing about becoming a best seller, then it’s not going to be economical spending anything up to $1000 for a professional editor. You can do your best, get people to proofread your manuscripts, maybe find some “test” readers before you actually publish… a lot things without paying for professional help.
A lot of authors get away with not using an editor. People buy their books. They might even have a fantastic grasp of the written, English language.
But never underestimate the value of a skilled editor. You’ll be surprised, if not downright upset, at how much you get wrong in your “perfect” manuscript.
I used to think that ebooks and electronic publishing were going to change a lot of things about the industry – and for sure, a lot of things have changed. But I was surprised to realise just how much more important a good title and a great Ebook cover have become. That’s kind of the opposite to what I’ve been expecting, since you also get a chance to sample the book, surf the website, read reviews… I’ve been thinking that titles and covers had been relegated to a very secondary role.
When you browse a bricks and mortar bookshop with printed books there’s the time and the joy of checking the covers, reading the blurb on the back… Actually picking up the book, right? When you’re browsing Ebook titles on a web page, especially on a tablet device, the book cover and title get about 1/10 of a second look-in, before your mind becomes interested or you reject the novel out of hand.
Good grab-you-by-the-eyeballs book covers and intriguing titles are an absolute must, if you want to compete on the virtual bookshop shelf. Its all about getting someone’s attention almost instantly, before you lose the opportunity. You don’t get a second chance.
Food for thought…
People have been asking me for years to write a “funny” book. It’s not easy, because everyone has a different idea of exactly what “funny” is, but I have had a project lurking on my computer for some time and I’ve been putting in the effort to get it out there as an ebook and see if… well, anyone laughs. The working title is “Life, and Other Annoying Moments” and it’s in the final stages of editing. Then I have to make a cover, convert it into a right formats… but it’s not far off. Hopefully within a week or so it’ll be available at Amazon and Smashwords. I’m not sure about the title though- it might change.