Fictional people are stealing our jobs and women
By Nury Vittachi
ZOOMING up the New York Times bestseller chart this week is a romantic novel called Charm by Kendall Hart. Nothing odd about that.
Except for the fact that she doesn’t exist. Kendall Hart is a made-up character from a TV show.
I pointed this out to my publisher, who couldn’t see anything wrong with it. “Look,” he said, huffily clicking on the computer. “Here’s a video clip from the TV episode in which you can see her write it.”
This of course proved nothing except that the logical thought processes of publishers are a mystery more arcane and complex than Einstein’s dreams or my wife’s purchasing decisions.
Now I don’t know about you, but I have a serious problem with non-existent people doing stuff in the real world. This is our world, dang it. We spent years building it. I object to fictional people coming over here and taking our jobs, sleeping with our women and so on.
I was fuming about this when I got a letter from the person who buys my novels. “To be honest, I don’t really like your writing that much,” the man wrote. “But I like Mr. Wong’s. Where can I buy his book?”
I made the mistake of mentioning this to my publisher. “This person wants to know where to buy a fictional book written by one of my fictional characters,” I said. “Like duh.”
“What a great idea,” he said, completely missing the point. “I could publish Mr. Wong’s book. It could hardly sell worse than yours.”
At first I thought he had been taking illegal substances (mandatory for publishers who want to stay sane), but he was serious. “Look at this,” he said, pointing to his shelves. “A Series of Unfortunate Events was written by Lemony Snicket, a fictional character in the story.” He showed me two books written by fictional authors from the world of Harry Potter. Kennilworthy Whisp wrote Quidditch Through the Ages and Newt Scamander wrote Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them.
“Why hasn’t JK Rowling sued them, like she has sued everyone else?” I asked.
“You can’t sue fictional characters,” he said. “And even if you did, what would you get? Fictional dollars?”
Intrigued, I did some research. The author who has most been tormented by his creations coming alive must be Chicago author Edward Gorey. He had a habit of dreaming up characters whose names were anagrams of his own name. His publishers soon started releasing books by Ogdred Weary, Mrs. Regera Dowdy, Raddory Gewe, Dogear Wryde, E. G. Deadworry, D. Awdrey-Gore, Wardore Edgy, and Madame Groeda Weyrd. Some of these outsold Gorey’s own books.
Further investigation revealed that Ogure Ito, credited with having produced several top Japanese manga books, is also fictional. The name Ogure Ito is really just a Japanese-accented spelling of the English phrase “Oh great.” Apparently the publishers did not realize that when English speakers say “Oh great” they actually mean the opposite, as in “that’s really baaaad”. (Which is what English-speakers say when they mean something is really good.)
Oh well, if you can’t beat them… I told my publisher that I intended to write my next book under the name of my fictional detective, Mr Wong. "Fine. The book will be issued under his name,” he replied. “As will the paycheck.”