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  #1  
Old 12-05-2012, 12:33 PM
Kaio Kaio is offline
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Readers: 2 related questions about books

Per Wikipedia, "On occasion, authors insert themselves under their own name into their works, typically for humorous or surrealistic effect." Have you ever seen this? What book/author?

Second question: if you started reading a story where the main character's nickname is the same as the author's name, what would your reaction be? Would it affect how much you enjoyed the story, regardless of the writing quality?
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  #2  
Old 12-05-2012, 12:46 PM
Andy L Andy L is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kaio View Post
Per Wikipedia, "On occasion, authors insert themselves under their own name into their works, typically for humorous or surrealistic effect." Have you ever seen this? What book/author?
Isaac Asimov has characters in his Black Widower series and his Azazel refer to Asimov by name (generally disparagingly). Philip Jose' Farmer had a character named Peter Jairus Frigate (a fairly obvious pseudonym) in his Riverworld series.
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  #3  
Old 12-05-2012, 01:03 PM
Lynn Bodoni Lynn Bodoni is offline
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Heinlein had a character in "The Number of the Beast-" with a name that contained the letters of his own name, scrambled. In addition to Asimov's Black Widower and Azazel stories, he wrote at least one novel, Murder at the ABA, with a rather thinly disguised Harlan Ellison as the narrator and himself (undisguised) as another character.

I've also read a couple of books in which the characters were reading another book by the same author. Sorry, I can't remember the names of the books or the authors, they were definitely B-listers, though.
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  #4  
Old 12-05-2012, 01:23 PM
zombywoof zombywoof is offline
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Charles Yu's "How to Live Safely in a Science Fiction Universe" has a main character (a fictional one, not a direct representation of the author) named Charles Yu.
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Old 12-05-2012, 01:27 PM
silenus silenus is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lynn Bodoni View Post
Heinlein had a character in "The Number of the Beast-" with a name that contained the letters of his own name, scrambled.
ALL of the Black Hats in that book are Bob under his own name or a pen name, scrambled.

Clive Cussler has shown up as a grizzled old coot that Dirk Pitt encounters several times in his books.
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  #6  
Old 12-05-2012, 01:28 PM
Kaio Kaio is offline
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Originally Posted by zombywoof View Post
Charles Yu's "How to Live Safely in a Science Fiction Universe" has a main character (a fictional one, not a direct representation of the author) named Charles Yu.
Did this affect your opinion of the book when you read it?
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  #7  
Old 12-05-2012, 01:30 PM
Flyer Flyer is offline
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Clive Cussler is fairly famous for inserting himself into his books. He's done it something like 6-9 times.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clive_C..._as_characters

He ALSO has a strong tendency which I believe is unique, or nearly so. He writes his cars into his books. He collects and restores cars from the 1920s and 1930s, and he's written something like a dozen books where the main character is described as owning a car that Cussler himself owns.

Incidentally, his collection is open to the public on a limited basis. My parents and I went there once.

http://www.cusslermuseum.com/
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  #8  
Old 12-05-2012, 01:31 PM
Lynn Bodoni Lynn Bodoni is offline
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Originally Posted by silenus View Post
ALL of the Black Hats in that book are Bob under his own name or a pen name, scrambled.
You're probably right. I'm still trying to forget that book, so I try not to think about it too much.
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  #9  
Old 12-05-2012, 01:55 PM
Damfino Damfino is offline
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Yet another Asimov . His short story " The Endochronic Properties of Resublimated Thiotimoline " was a parody of a scientific research paper and dealt with a fictional substance that dissolved before contact with water. In one of the sequels to this story, a reference is made to the original description of its properties "by Azimuth or possibly Asymptote ."
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  #10  
Old 12-05-2012, 02:33 PM
zombywoof zombywoof is offline
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Originally Posted by Kaio View Post
Did this affect your opinion of the book when you read it?
No, to me it fits in with the other metafictional/experimental aspects of the book (the character meeting a time traveling version of himself, "How to Live Safely..." itself being a book within the narrative, etc.)
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  #11  
Old 12-05-2012, 04:04 PM
Silver Tyger Silver Tyger is offline
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The doctor and narrator in the K-Pax books was Gene Brewer, the same name as the author. I thought it was kind of gimmicky, but even though I enjoyed the books at the time, they're kind of gimmicky in many ways, so that was the least of it is.
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  #12  
Old 12-05-2012, 04:21 PM
jordanr2 jordanr2 is offline
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Paul Auster did this in City of Glass, and J.M. Coetzee did this in three of his fictional memoirs. I didn't find that it impacted my enjoyment of the work one way or the other: I suppose it complicates the relation between fiction and fact a bit, but I think that can be a compelling tension.
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  #13  
Old 12-05-2012, 04:29 PM
Yllaria Yllaria is offline
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Kurt Vonnegut not only appeared in Breakfast of Champions, according to wikipedia he was the book's deus ex machina. It's been too long since I read it, so I don't remember how he saved the day.
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  #14  
Old 12-05-2012, 04:31 PM
Max Torque Max Torque is offline
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Stephen King appears as himself in his Dark Tower series, somewhere toward the end (book 5 or 6).
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  #15  
Old 12-05-2012, 05:22 PM
Andy L Andy L is offline
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Heinlein referred to himself in the opening of "And He Built a Crooked House"

It used to be somewhat common for authors to explain how they acquired their stories by creating fictional forewords describing themselves finding some old manuscript - The Scarlet Letter starts that way. More recently, William Goldman put himself into the story by describing how "he" found a copy of fictional, unedited "The Princess Bride" for his (fictional) son, and then created the "good parts" versions.

Like a lot of other techniques, when this kind of meta stuff works, it works well.
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  #16  
Old 12-05-2012, 06:19 PM
silenus silenus is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy L View Post
Heinlein referred to himself in the opening of "And He Built a Crooked House".
Quite funnily too, I might add.
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  #17  
Old 12-05-2012, 07:48 PM
Scarlett67 Scarlett67 is offline
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Ellery Queen, of course (though "Ellery Queen" was a pseudonym).
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  #18  
Old 12-05-2012, 11:22 PM
SCAdian SCAdian is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lynn Bodoni View Post
I've also read a couple of books in which the characters were reading another book by the same author. Sorry, I can't remember the names of the books or the authors, they were definitely B-listers, though.
In The Lion's Game, by Nelson DeMille, one of the main characters takes a flight from the East Coast to the West. The in-flight movie isn't named, but from the description it's obviously The General's Daughter - based on another book by DeMille.
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  #19  
Old 12-05-2012, 11:24 PM
SCAdian SCAdian is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy L View Post
It used to be somewhat common for authors to explain how they acquired their stories by creating fictional forewords describing themselves finding some old manuscript - The Scarlet Letter starts that way. More recently, William Goldman put himself into the story by describing how "he" found a copy of fictional, unedited "The Princess Bride" for his (fictional) son, and then created the "good parts" versions.

Like a lot of other techniques, when this kind of meta stuff works, it works well.
"I had this story from one who had no business to tell it to me, or to any other." One of my favourite opening lines....
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  #20  
Old 12-06-2012, 02:17 AM
movingfinger movingfinger is offline
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I don't recall the title but Philip K. Dick put himself in one of his books as a thinly disguised "Horselover Fat".
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  #21  
Old 12-06-2012, 08:44 AM
chinchalinchin chinchalinchin is offline
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Originally Posted by movingfinger View Post
I don't recall the title but Philip K. Dick put himself in one of his books as a thinly disguised "Horselover Fat".
Valis. Although, Horselover Fat wasn't actually the author's persona. The main character referred to himself as Philip. Horselover was the main character's split personality where he stored all the crazy nonsense about the robotic satelitte god (Vast Active Living Intelligent Satelitte, hence VALIS) who transmitted directly into his brain via a pink laser beam the revelation that time stopped somewhere around 400 AD and the American Empire was a virtual overlay of the Roman Empire. Or something. It really only made sense if you dosed yourself into a coma with LSD.

Another famous example would be Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut.
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  #22  
Old 12-06-2012, 09:01 AM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
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Cyril Kornbluth put himself in the a story twice in the first paragraph. He had a bunch of fantasy stories published under his pen name Cecil Corwin. Then, his short story "MS Found in a Chinese Fortune Cookie" had Cecil Corwin as the protagonist sending out the manuscript in the title, which was mailed to C. M. Kornbluth:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cecil Corwin/Cyril Kornbluth
They say I am mad, but I am not mad—damn it, I've written and sold two million words of fiction and I know better than to start a story like that, but this isn't a story and they do say I'm mad—catatonic schizophrenia with assaultive episodes—and I'm not. [This is clearly the first of the Corwin Papers. Like all the others it is written on a Riz-La cigarette paper with a ball point pen. Like all the others it is headed: Urgent. Finder please send to C. M. Kornbluth, Wantagh, N.Y. Reward! I might comment that this is typical of Corwin's generosity with his friends' time and money, though his attitude is at least this once justified by his desperate plight. As his longtime friend and, indeed, literary executor, I was clearly the person to turn to. CMK]
Korbluth had given up the Corwin pen name ten years earlier; the story explains why Corwin hadn't published in awhile.

John Barth included himself as one of the characters of his tour de force, LETTERS (Not by name, but one of the characters is the author of LETTERS). Most of the characters in the book were from his earlier novels.
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Author of Staroamer's Fate and Syron's Fate, now back in print.

Last edited by RealityChuck; 12-06-2012 at 09:02 AM..
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  #23  
Old 12-06-2012, 09:15 AM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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Warday was a novel set in an America that had survived a limited nuclear war. The two authors, James Kunetka and Whitley Strieber, wrote the book as if it was non-fiction, with the two of them writing in the first person about the experiences traveling around America.

Robert Anton Wilson inserted himself as a minor character in his Schrodinger's Cat Trilogy.

Trevanian made a reference to his real identity in The Eiger Sanction.

An unusual case was the Badge of Honor series. William Butterworth is a prolific author who writes under a variety of pseudonyms. In the early eighties, he had become well known for his Brotherhood of War series, which he wrote under the name W.E.B. Griffin. In 1988, Men in Blue a novel by John Kevin Dugan was published. It was the first book in a new series, Badge of Honor. Like many books, Men in Blue was publicized by a favorable blurb on its cover from an established author, in this case W.E.B. Griffin. What makes this blurb unusual is that John Kevin Dugan was another pseudonym being used by Butterworth - he was offering a recommendation for his own book.

This type of self-reference really has no effect to my enjoyment of a novel.
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  #24  
Old 12-06-2012, 09:48 AM
Andy L Andy L is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by movingfinger View Post
I don't recall the title but Philip K. Dick put himself in one of his books as a thinly disguised "Horselover Fat".
"Horselover Fat" being a translation of his name into English

"Philip" derives from the Greek words for lover of horses http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_(name)

"Dick" derives from the German word for "thick" or "fat"
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  #25  
Old 12-06-2012, 10:03 AM
tanstaafl tanstaafl is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy L View Post
Isaac Asimov has characters in his Black Widower series and his Azazel refer to Asimov by name (generally disparagingly). Philip Jose' Farmer had a character named Peter Jairus Frigate (a fairly obvious pseudonym) in his Riverworld series.
Farmer also had a character named Paul Janus Finnegan show up in the later World of Tiers novels.
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  #26  
Old 12-06-2012, 02:42 PM
Annie-Xmas Annie-Xmas is offline
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Kinky Friedman's main character is Kinky Friedman.

Ed McBain inserted many a reference to Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds in his books, the giggle being that Evan Hunter (McBain's alter ego) wrote the movie screenplay. In one book, a couple go to see the movie and have a big argument over whether the guy that wrote it was the same one that wrote Blackboard Jungle. It was.
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  #27  
Old 12-06-2012, 06:38 PM
FeAudrey FeAudrey is offline
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Agatha Christie based her character "Ariadne Oliver" on herself:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ariadne_Oliver


Zoe Wanamaker played the character in a few of the Suchet/Poirot adaptions.
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  #28  
Old 12-06-2012, 07:30 PM
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Martin Amis appears as a character in Money, a novel I finished about a week ago and then mentioned in this forum.

The protagonist is planning a film and calls upon Amis to revise the script. It's an outstanding novel, IMHO, though I'm not sure whether to describe it as tragedy or farce.
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  #29  
Old 12-07-2012, 04:26 PM
Kaio Kaio is offline
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So, if you came across an author you were unfamiliar with, would it influence your enjoyment of the story to read that the main character had the same first name as the author?

Last edited by Kaio; 12-07-2012 at 04:29 PM..
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  #30  
Old 12-07-2012, 04:52 PM
President Johnny Gentle President Johnny Gentle is offline
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Originally Posted by Yllaria View Post
Kurt Vonnegut not only appeared in Breakfast of Champions, according to wikipedia he was the book's deus ex machina. It's been too long since I read it, so I don't remember how he saved the day.
Vonnegut appeared in other books as well. I remember Slaughterhouse Five and Timequake off of the top of my head. Strangely enough, Kilgore Trout appears as a character in all three novels. Trout was widely considered to be Vonnegut himself, given another name.
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  #31  
Old 12-07-2012, 05:42 PM
Tim R. Mortiss Tim R. Mortiss is offline
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Originally Posted by SCAdian View Post
"I had this story from one who had no business to tell it to me, or to any other." One of my favourite opening lines....
I believe he did pretty much the same thing with "A Princess of Mars."
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  #32  
Old 12-07-2012, 06:09 PM
Ethilrist Ethilrist is offline
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Mercedes Lackey inserted herself into her fantasy novels as Herald Myste (she is known to her friends as "Misty"). Didn't bother me too much because I didn't even figure it out until I read a Q&A for the series.

Spider Robinson has developed an annoying tendency to include several of his favorite fans into his novels, and it's one of several things that I find annoying about his work. "Hm, let's see, I need another couple of characters who are, among other things, SF fans... There's no reason for Bob & Mary to show up in this story, but what the hell, I'll just use them again."

Clive Cussler also includes life-long friends of his in his stories, with their actual names. They tend not to survive the prologue.
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  #33  
Old 12-07-2012, 06:25 PM
Elmer J. Fudd Elmer J. Fudd is offline
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Originally Posted by President Johnny Gentle View Post
Vonnegut appeared in other books as well. I remember Slaughterhouse Five and Timequake off of the top of my head. Strangely enough, Kilgore Trout appears as a character in all three novels. Trout was widely considered to be Vonnegut himself, given another name.
I think there may have been elements of Vonnegut's personality in Trout but they are definitely different characters, since the two actually meet each other in Breakfast of Champions. It's been a while since I read that book, but I believe Vonnegut attempts to personally apologize to Kilgore Trout for putting him through so much shit. IIRC, this attempted atonement is rewarded with personal injury.
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  #34  
Old 12-11-2012, 02:21 AM
BigT BigT is offline
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The only way it could affect my reading after the fact is if I thought the insert character seemed like a Mary Sue even before I knew it was written by the author. It would just make me dislike the author more.

If I know about it while I'm reading, it makes me more on the lookout for that stuff.
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  #35  
Old 12-11-2012, 06:54 AM
BellRungBookShut-CandleSnuffed BellRungBookShut-CandleSnuffed is offline
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If you're asking about the exact name this wouldn't count, but Kafka had tons of characters that shared his name's letter pattern (KAFKA - ABCAB), most notably being Gregor Samsa from The Metamorphosis. Kafka had some issues, so trying to decide how much of himself he was putting in his stories made for an interesting class.
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  #36  
Old 12-11-2012, 07:39 AM
GreasyJack GreasyJack is offline
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In East of Eden, John Steinbeck not only inserted himself as a the mostly non-participatory narrator but used a lot of his mother's family as major characters in the otherwise fictional story.
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  #37  
Old 12-11-2012, 08:23 AM
Der Trihs Der Trihs is offline
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In Simon Hawke's The Inadequate Adept and sequels the main villain is an evil wizard who is so powerful that he can hear the author when he writes in the narrative voice during scenes including him.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethilrist View Post
Mercedes Lackey inserted herself into her fantasy novels as Herald Myste (she is known to her friends as "Misty"). Didn't bother me too much because I didn't even figure it out until I read a Q&A for the series.
She also had a little story on her website where she's confronted by her characters who complain about the hell she puts them through (I did laugh when she apologized to Talia for "that foot thing"); Myste talked them down and after the rest left Myste commented that "I don't think they've figured out that I'm you yet".
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  #38  
Old 12-11-2012, 08:31 AM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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A particularly complicated piece of metafiction is the movie Adaptation. The screenwriter Charlie Kaufman was given the book The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean, which is about a man named John Larouche who helps Seminole Indians to find and sell orchids in the Everglades and who was considered a thief by some people since he wasn't a Seminole Indian himself, to adapt into a movie. Kaufman decided it was a hopeless job to adapt, so instead he wrote a movie about his problems in adapting the book for the screen. Charlie Kaufman is the main character in the movie Adaptation and a secondary character is his identical twin brother Donald. (Kaufman doesn't actually have a twin. Nicholas Cage plays both characters in Adaptation.) The movie Adaptation not only shows Kaufman's struggles to adapt the book, but it shows scenes in his mind which would be part of the movie of The Orchid Thief that didn't get made. Some of those scenes are completely imaginary events which (the character) Kaufman inserts into the script to try to make the plot of this never-made film more interesting. One such scene shows Orlean and Larouche having an affair, which didn't happen in real life.
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  #39  
Old 12-11-2012, 11:15 AM
Cliffy Cliffy is offline
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Although the OP quotes Wikipedia that authors do this under their own name, it's much more common for them to show up as unnamed characters, or pseudonymously. Off the top of my head I remember George Pelecanos writing himself in as a short, sort of nebbishy court reporter in Soul Circus, which is quick joke, and Tom Robbins making himself an important supporting character in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, which I couldn't stand, but I couldn't stand the rest of the book either.

As to the second part of the question (which is really too general) -- it depends. When it's a quick meta joke, and when (as is typical), the author portrays himself in an unflattering light, it can be funny, but mostly i don't like it as it reminds me that this is a construct, not a series of real events. When they show up as a major character I don't like it to an even greater extent, although this is quite rare, because it's such an amateur trick. It rarely ends up in a published work. But like everything, it can be done well when it's done by someone with the craft to do so.

I do like the thing that used to be more common, with authors writing a preface in which they "explain" how the story (which they are merely reporting) came to them. (Edgar Rice Burroughs did this in his Mars books; I believe he claimed to be John Carter's grand-nephew or something.) Even though it's obviously a construct, I like it because it **enhances** the illusion that these were real events. Similarly, I like when an author/narrator takes a chapter or two to offer his own asides or discussion (Fielding does this in Tom Jones, and Douglas Adams in the Hitchhiker's books, which might be the first time those two are mentions in the same sentence.) Because the author doesn't purport to be part of the story, but is merely relating it, then this engenders a feeling of conversation, making the narrative seem more like something you'd hear from a friend and, therefore, strengthening the illusion of its reality.

--Cliffy
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  #40  
Old 12-11-2012, 12:40 PM
Just Ed Just Ed is offline
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Glen Duncan's I, Lucifer is a good example of this trope. The protagonist is a suicidal writer by the name of Declan Gunn (which is an anagram of Glen Duncan) whose suicide is interrupted by God in order to provide Lucifer a chance at redemption - Lucifer is given Gunn's body for a month and tasked with living as a human and without sin for a month. Of course he does not, and his musings on biblical history are a running commentary throughout his fleshly revels. Some of it is funny, some thoughtful, but overall I don't think it works particularly well - I didn't like it as much as I liked Duncan's other genre novel (The Last Werewolf).

I've no idea if Glen Duncan himself is or was suicidal, or how much of Gunn's life as described mirrors Duncan's, so that bit of trivia just didn't affect my outlook on the story.
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  #41  
Old 12-11-2012, 01:06 PM
jsgoddess jsgoddess is offline
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So, if you came across an author you were unfamiliar with, would it influence your enjoyment of the story to read that the main character had the same first name as the author?
A part of me has always been amused that the most beautiful of the Bennett sisters in Pride and Prejudice was named "Jane," but otherwise, I probably don't even notice.
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  #42  
Old 12-11-2012, 01:23 PM
FeAudrey FeAudrey is offline
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... (Mercedes Lackey) also had a little story on her website where she's confronted by her characters who complain about the hell she puts them through ...
Maksim Gorky's serio-comic short story "Christmas Phantoms" may be the original of this trope -- characters from his conventional heart-rending Christmas stories accuse him of exploiting their misery for personal gain.
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  #43  
Old 12-11-2012, 06:26 PM
Snowboarder Bo Snowboarder Bo is online now
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Valis. Although, Horselover Fat wasn't actually the author's persona. The main character referred to himself as Philip. Horselover was the main character's split personality where he stored all the crazy nonsense about the robotic satelitte god (Vast Active Living Intelligent Satelitte, hence VALIS) who transmitted directly into his brain via a pink laser beam the revelation that time stopped somewhere around 400 AD and the American Empire was a virtual overlay of the Roman Empire. Or something. It really only made sense if you dosed yourself into a coma with LSD.
Even better: In Radio Free Albemuth, the novel he wrote prior to writing VALIS (which was almost a straight re-write of RFA), one of the main characters is a science fiction author named Philip K. Dick who has visions given to him, he thinks, by an otherworldly entity that he names VALIS, etc.
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