Monday, July 29, 2013

12 Books That Never Were: Fabulous Fictional Tomes and Guides

A homage to metafiction and unreliable narrators in the form of fictional books.

Fiction seems to engender more fictions and when you can have a fictional or fanciful book to support a story, it gets even better.  At the best, they are the story itself and at the least, they are whimsical ornaments to a story.  I have chosen twelve fictional books for their strength in supporting a story and their longevity and in some cases, for nostalgia purposes.  Some you have probably read, a couple are probably obscure and no doubt I left a few off that you would have had on the list.  Some are quite old and others are topical, but here is the list nonetheless. 

I would like to challenge the blog reader to make their own list and make suggestions to add to this list.  I hope that this list will spur you to research and read or watch the stories that these glorious fakes have supported.  Many of these are books or guides that can be helpful or harmful to the reader.  I have provided links to get people exploring around if they haven’t read or seen that particular story.  They are pretty much in order as I thought them up – that is to say, in random order, kinda.

Junior Woodchuck Guidebook (Disney’s Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck series)  The Junior Woodchuck Guidebook is a book of wisdom and knowledge used by Huey, Dewey and Louie which they consult when they need information.  The manual is a satire of the Boy Scout manual and appeared in 1951.  There is a lot of nostalgia for me personally in these stories.  Many of them are decades old, but for me they are timeless.

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhikers Guide series)  A handy handbook for galactic travelers and hitchhikers.  It is a hilarious series of books (and one mediocre move).  Don’t forget your towel.

The Enchiridon ( from the Adventure Time cartoon series)  The Enchiridon is book discovered in present Earth by Simon Petrikov, which ends up on the strange paratime or parallel world of Ooo.  It is basically a handbook about how that multiverse works as well as a gate; that and the wizard he becomes who sings the theme song to Cheers to keep his sanity -- he fails.

The Necronomicon (H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos)  Supposedly the Necronomicon exists in several editions in several languages, written by the mad Arab, Abdul Al Hazarad about his experiences and travels in several dimensions and dealings with strange creatures and sentient beings.

Handbook for the Recently Deceased  (from the movie BeetlejuiceA book issued to all recently dead giving the rules and regulations for being undead.  If you don’t want to transgress the Neitherworld, you need to read the book.   Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse – hey a star appeared.

Tobin’s Spirit Guide (from the movie Ghost Busters)  A helpful book that listed types of ghosts and spirits for the investigators.  Tobin's Spirit Guide is mentioned several times in the movie, but doesn’t hold a candle to the real spirit guide, Mr. Boston’s which I have often consulted over the years.

The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, more commonly known as The Book, by Emmanuel Goldstein (from the George Orwell’s book Nineteen Eighty-Four).  It is a clandestine volume circulated secretly as a plot against Big Brother.  Remember we have always been enemies of Oceania … no wait, ... friends, wait … darn, the teleprompter broke.

The King in Yellow (from a series of stories by Robert W. Chambers, one of which is The King in Yellow).  This is a  book with a play of the same name that drives the reader to madness.  These stories had influence on a young H. P. Lovecraft. 

Encyclopedia Galactica  (Issac Asimov’s Foundation series)  It is the sum of all knowledge in an attempt to shorted a galactic dark age.  The Encyclopedia Galactica and the Encyclopedia Foundation set up to author the book are the centerpieces of a series of books that are set in the far future. 

A First Encyclopedia of Tlön  (Jeorg Luis Borges from the book Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius)  This might be a obscure reference, but I highly recommend Collected Fictions, which contains this and other stories as a one-stop-shop for a huge chunk Borges’ fantastic short fiction stories of magical realism.  He also has several other interlocking fictional books referenced such as The Garden of Forking Paths, a poem by Ts'ui Pen, but now I am cheating by citing two references.

The Grasshopper Lies Heavy by Hawthorne Abendsen (from Phillip K. Dick’s Man in the High Castle).  A book supposedly written by using the I Ching.  The Man in the High Castle takes place in a parallel universe where the Allies lost WWII and the US is occupied by the Germans and the Japanese.  It’s always been one of my favorite because it muses about authenticity and reality. If that doesn't tempt you, the read the linked analysis:

The Collected Monographs of Sherlock Holmes (no, wait I made that one up to introduce all the monographs of Sherlock Holmes as one title – that makes it a fictional book referencing fictional monographs from a book of fiction.)  Do note, I cheat at lists.  Here is a list of his monographs referenced in his stories that I have fictitiously gathered into one book:  Chaldean Roots in the Ancient Cornish Language, Early English Charters, Malingering, Of Tattoo Marks, On Secret Writings, On the Polyphonic Motets of Lassus, On the Study of Tobaccos and their Ashes, On the Surface Anatomy of the Human Ear, On the Typewriter and Its Relation to Crime, Practical Handbook of Bee Culture, with Some Observations upon the Segregation of the Queen, Upon the Dating of Old Documents, Upon the Influence of a Trade upon the Form of the Hand, Upon the Tracing of Footsteps, Upon the Uses of Dogs in the Work of the Detective, The Whole Art of Detection

Thus endeth my List of Twelve.  What got me on the subject is that an original copy of Schindler’s List (one of four is on sale on eBay for $3 million, which I looked over with an eye to spotting a possible fake with my interest in props such as featured on Propnomicon.  But this got me thinking of the fake Hitler Diaries that were “discovered”, put up for sale in 1983 and then shown to be a fraud.  Now follow me if you can, that got me on the subject of fictional books, and The Junior Woodchuck Guide jumped to mind followed quickly by The Enchiridon and the Necronomicon.  The rest just followed.  This pretty much ends my quick view of 12 fictional books referenced in books of fiction, although I got by with a few cheats and multiple references.  Of course being your unreliable narrator, I might be lying too. 

      Other links of interest on fictional books in books of fiction.  The great granddaddy of fake works published first in 1684.  This was my find of the day, whoopee!

Digression:  That leads us to fictional autobiographies, but that is another story, but I leave you with two that stand out in my mind:  Robert Graves’ novel I, Claudius is written as a recently-discovered autobiography penned by the late Emperor himself.  Also along that line are the George Macdonald Fraser’s Harry Flashman books, supposedly written by the great man himself.

The dark and eldritch origins of the Junior Woodchucks.