Monday, 26 July 2010

On the advantages and traditions of running a small autocratic principality

It’s always worth planning how things are going to work once you’re the benevolent dictator of an isolated tropical island paradise. After all, you never know how things will turn out. Many’s the wandering gun-toting imperialist or amoral son of an ex-prime minister who’s accidentally found themselves engaged in a violent military coup. It could happen to any of us.

So, on the basis that one day I might be sat in a pillared, porticoed palace, being fanned with palm leaves and being adored by a grateful or population of tax-evaders, retired banditos, war criminals and accountants for all of the above (oh, and feared and despised by the actual locals, but since when have they been high in the concerns of imperalist missions?), I thought I’d attempt to nail down some of the basics of my pseudo-tyrannical regime.

Examining assorted repressive political foulnesses, I have decided that what I’m really going to need are some slightly loopy laws about artistic expression. So, in an effort to make sure my personal empire at least has some jolly decent books, I have begun some planning.
Archetype rationing
Taking inspiration from the US immigration system (and I’ll wager there aren’t many people who’ve said that before), my island will accept only limited mumbers of certain fictional figures each year. Current restricted categories will be:
  • Orphaned royalty (or other distressed children with hereditary concerns).
  • Hookers with hearts of gold.
  • Strong, silent types.
  • The mysteriously nameless.
  • Maverick cops with nothing left to lose. Mainly as a response to the sadly limited quantities of fictional whisky in Johnsonia.
  • Bad sorts with troubled childhoods.
  • Witless, inexplicably successful seducers, of any sex, gender or species.
  • Twins, particularly where used in plot ‘twists’.
  • Smart-talking, streetwise teenagers trying to hide their emotional vulnerability.
Wanton post-modernism by application only
I’m not saying you shouldn’t write a book about writing a book about writing a book that may or may not be a meta-narrative about reading a book about writing a book, but... oh, wait, actually I am. Anything so referential or self-referential it has no actual identity of its own shall be hit with a big editing stick until it at least starts making sense.

Automatic notification of noir-something crossovers
Have you filmed something in black and white for no particular reason? Are all your characters moody and witty? Have you taken an interesting subgenre and then added Bogarticity? If so, my goon squad will be along shortly to drag you and your new artistic creation to the foot of my throne. It’s not that you’ve done anything wrong – I’m just a sucker for this sort of thing and don’t want to miss out.

Severe restrictions on making a fourth instalment in a series
This should be self-explanatory. Yes, there are exceptions, but on the whole the fourth book, film or series is where it all goes to pieces. If you’ve got a jolly decent justification, an attractive presentation with slides, and possibly a tasty bribe, I’ll probably allow it, but you really ought to be thinking twice before committing a quartet. Possible exemptions for short stories.

Official frowning upon for pissing about with grammar
Books only. Did you have a good reason to remove the punctuation and make all your sentences three-word fragments because you thought it looked modern, edgy and punchy? Warning: there is only one correct answer to this question. All passports bearing the name ‘Cormac’ will be turned back at the border.

Trailer trashing
Movies only. If you have ostensibly made a comedy but your trailer makes me remember being violently sick fondly, then you will be locked up until you produce actual humour. If you’re not sure, re-watch the trailer. Do you want to slap everyone involved? If so, please take your film back from whence it came. Ta.

Anyway, that’ll do for now. Please excuse me – I have a revolution to plan. Applications for head of secret police should be sent to the usual address. Please include suggested designs for lapel badge insignia, and list three favoured brands of sinister sunglasses. 

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