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O, Frabjous Day. More Briticising Resources for Potterficcers. - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
O, Frabjous Day. More Briticising Resources for Potterficcers.

Interestin’ week in LJ country, what? [/drawl]

There’s been wailing and rending of garments and gnashing of teeth over the Wickedness of the Yanks (yawn. Important country, lovely people, I know, all that, but, really. I cannot get overly exercised by domestic legislation in a nation that is younger than the college of which I have the honour to be a Senior Member) and a great deal of heat (and damned little light) over the soi-disant ‘intellislashers’ (yawn, again. That’s the last refuge of the pretentious and incompetent, isn’t it. The difference between experimental prose engaged in solely for the author’s own satisfaction, and communicative story-telling of whatever form, is more than the difference that the American poet Frost found in traditional and free verse, the latter of which he dismissed as ‘playing tennis with the net removed’: it is in fact the difference between wanking, and a relationship. Except that the unfortunate and excluded reader of ‘intellislash’, thrust outwith any relationship and reduced to the status of a voyeur, is the one who gets rogered. Look, to each his own and All That, but by the ghosts of Eliot, Coleridge, Burke, and Russell Kirk, let’s get things straight. Really good prose is a product of, and instinct with, the moral imagination – and that has nothing to do with the only issue most people get moist over, mere sexual morality – and that is why its plots are few and its themes fewer still: honour, duty, loyalty, commitment, Truth: yet its permutations are infinite. There are – what, about twelve? Say, twelve – there are some twelve basic plots available in literature. Full bloody stop. There are not many more themes than that, if as many. Yet the doors of perception remain infinite, all the same. Take the standard plot, Boy Meets Girl, All Hell Breaks Loose. Take the subset of Boy Meets Girl From Rival Family. If their romance is condemned by their society and by the author, you have the Iliad. If it is condemned by their society and approved by the author, you’ve R&J. If their romance is condemned not because of rival clans or politics, but because it is simply Wrong (as indeed is the case of the adultery that drives the Iliad), you’ve Mme Bovary. If their romance is condemned not because of rival clans or politics, but because it is simply Wrong, and the parties themselves are innocent in their intentions, you have the Œdipus Cycle. And so on. I forget who it was suggested that the recent spate of ‘experimental prose engaged in solely for the author’s own satisfaction’ is driven by fandom’s having exhausted all other alternatives of plot and theme for traditional story-telling, but whoever it was, is barking mad. The vein is inexhaustible.)

Let us, rather, snug by the fire (it’s a trifle coolish out) and contentedly replete with tea and toasted muffins with vast quantities of butter, return to more congenial matters: getting the Local Colour right in one’s boringly conventional Potterfic, ahem. (If I want experimental prose or poetry, I’ll read Donne and George Herbert, damn your eyes.)

I have mentioned GENUKI previously; I advert you to it again, specifically. There’s this notion that GENUKI is there for the sort of people who feverishly hunt up presumably or hoped-for lordly ancestors, and nothing could be further from the truth. For our purposes, what matters is that it will often give, along with a potted history of the area being researched, a surnames list, and even a tradesmen’s directory from Victoria’s day, showing who fed, policed, taught, clothed, and preached to the village. Fascinating stuff.

Any place that you wish to make yours is well worth entering into the search engine at A2A: The English National Archive. You will be astounded at the wealth of information the National Archives have for the most obscure hamlets and farms, and the record that even the most obscure yeoman or tailor leaves. (Old newspaper archives are good for this as well). You may find, for example, that before the various acts reforming the justice system, even well into the 1820s, the local ‘hundred’ was still collectively liable for some crimes perpetrated by felons unknown: in June of 1825, the Hundred of Mere gave a dinner at the Ship Inn for the attorney who had represented them when they were sued by the duke of Somerset for £400, attendant upon the burning of two ricks of hay at Maiden Bradley by an unknown incendiary. The Mere folk were no fools: to beat a Seymour (Edward Adolphus Seymour, who, being a pretentious ass, insisted on ‘St Maur’ instead, eleventh duke of Somerset), they hired … a Seymour: Francis Seymour: as their advocate, who proceeded to win the case and have His Grace’s suit dismissed – with costs, I believe. (Pace the Marxists, there is no such thing as class solidarity, or sometimes even family solidarity, amongst your real aristocrats; pace the romance novelists, they’re not unconcerned with cold, hard cash, either, as witness two suits in 1707, in Berks, and 1708, in Wilts, that pitted, in ’07, Ralph Montagu, the first duke of Montagu, against Lord Hinchingbrooke (Edw Montagu, son and heir of the earl of Sandwich), a Hyde of Clarendon, a Pyle, an Ashe, and a Popham, and in ’08, the same duke of Montagu against yet another Montagu cousin, as well as the earl of Essex, Charles Montagu the first earl of Halifax, Algernon, Lord Seymour, son and heir of the fifth duke of Somerset, Hyde of Clarendon, and, yes, poor old Pyle of Collingbourne, Compton, and elsewhere. There’s a reason County families are ambivalent at best towards the peerage. The point of this, though, is to spark ideas about Wizarding life – collective responsibility, say – depending on when you date the great removal, the seclusion and withdrawal from the Muggle world. What long-discontinued practices here still persist in Wizard-dom, the more so as lives are longer and change slower?)

The National Archive for Scotland is here, but be warned: you may not surface for days, having not even begun your search. I recently visited, happened to spot a new link, idly clicked on it, and later realised I had spent happy but unproductive hours wallowing in paleographical issues and the infamous Secretary Hand.

Having done your research, you may wish to adopt a method suggested by the Common Ground lot to local schools and parishes as an art-preservative of local history: creating a parish or area map, or creating an ABC of your setting (‘M is for Malfoy, manor, Malmesbury, Melksham, and so on’). It’s the sort of mnemonic that can spark new flights of ideas. (And perhaps, after all, this is why some fanficcers feel they have used up all their possible plots and themes and ideas for Potterfic: they have never rooted themselves in real, English earth, and have builded their castles, not on sand, but on mere cloud….)

Another couple – and they are very much coupled in my mind – of excellent resources are the superb and fascinating records at British History Online, including the Victoria County Histories, the church records series of Fasti Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ, and the journals of both Houses of Parliament, and the ‘snapshots’ of place from the Census that are enshrined at A Vision of Britain Through Time. Hunting surnames, whether of Potterverse characters or proposed OCs, and place-names, sparks new ideas and plot twists, gives a sense of place and history, and keeps you from setting your story in Cloudcuckooland when you meant to set it in Britain (even a Britain mediated through the imagination of Wizardry). A Vision of Britain Through Time’s historical mappings, traveller’s tales (Borrow, Boswell, Cobbett, Defoe), and comparisons, area by area, of 1801 (and 1841, 1851, 1881, and so forth) to 2001, are rich treasure trove.

Another means for avoiding cardboard characterisations and notably un-English characters (‘Yo, dude,’ Harry said, chugging back a Code Red. ‘Wassup, dawg?’) is to concern yourself with the quotidian details of eating and drinking. The Great British Kitchen is a good start. Funnily enough, although geared to a segment (an admittedly educated and monied segment) of the tourist market, there’s some surprisingly scholarly stuff at Britannia, not least in its cookery section, although it shines most admirably in another area entirely, its history section, which has surprisingly sound stuff on ecclesiastical history, architectural history, country and manor houses of note, and so on, by competent writers in those fields, as well as useful primary sources ranging from Bede to a German ambassador at Good Queen Bess’s court.

Street Sensation is a London street guide, but also useful in that it shows, in addition to, say, bespoke tailors and famous restaurants, the sort of shops and take-aways that can be found on any village high street (that’s ‘Main Street’ in Yank). Most of these will have a web presence, so that the overseas author can get a sense of simple, daily life in England, from the intrusions of Starbucks and KFC, God help us all, to what soaps and ‘frozen dinners’ (I admit that they are frozen. That they are dinners is another matter) are available.

I may add that in the UK, shops are shops, not stores (warehouses are stores: that is where one stores things), even if they are named ‘Stores’ (be it the Civil Service Stores of old or the shop in Salisbury that is called the ‘Abbey Stores’).

Also, for the love of God hie thee to the BBC’s site, and explore. The various channels, particularly the various wireless channels, have each their own target audience and ethos, and you will learn much. Moreover, you can create convincing cultural references both Muggle and Magical (in the latter case, by distorting the Beeb wireless schedule as in a funfair mirror to create the shows one would hear on the WWN).

I have mentioned newspapers and periodicals before; I note that you can generally tell everything about a man’s views, class, and education by noting what he reads. British publications are partisan, and they have connotations, from the Daily Mail to The Independent to Country Life.

Then there are titles and heraldry. Apparently, the lure for many is irresistible: it seems that prayers nor curses nor blows will stay them from their rush to folly; equally apparently, they get it painfully and resoundingly wrong. I suggest the dormant but still accessible JAG site, Debrett’s Etiquette FAQs, and The Heraldry Society of Scotland. I pause to insist, loudly, that there is no such thing as a ‘family coat of arms’, although people do seem to usurp English arms with impunity; try that with Scots arms, though, anywhere in the world, and you may well find yourself prosecuted by the Lyon Court, and severely and properly fined. This may be one reason that Scots heraldry remains, by common assent, the purest in the world, although the recent civic grants to all the new councils have some ghastly entries.

Finally, we turn to the one issue and topic more ubiquitous and influential in Britain than class distinctions: the weather. The national weather service is not called the National Weather Service, ta ever so: it is the Met Office, ‘Met’ here meaning meteorological, not metropolitan-as-in-Scotland-Yard. The Met Office is must-reading: learn it, love it, use it to set your fics in three dimensions for a change.

Shops and houses, schools and churches, pubs, lawsuits, lost dogs, gales, and hard weather, are not only the life of the land, but the life of fiction, commonly as a background that makes it live, not infrequently as giving rise to incident that shows character in action that drives plot that serves theme that, all together, saves you from becoming yet another unintellislasher cutting increasingly grotesque and fantastic dolls from paper because you cannot immerse yourself in, and have indeed forgotten, the three-dimensional and the real.

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17 comments or Leave a comment
bufo_viridis From: bufo_viridis Date: November 20th, 2005 03:20 am (UTC) (Link)
I pause to insist, loudly, that there is no such thing as a ‘family coat of arms’
I have yet to read the whole, but if I may add a tiny bit for the sake of the people who may venture into international relations in their stories: in England the coat of arms is a personal thing. Germans however have a single "shield" for a family - therefore there is a family coat of arms there. In Poland the matter is even more different as several unrelated fmilies would share one coat of arms (interestingly enough, such heraldical "brotherhoods" formed sometimes stronger ties than real, but distant relatives).
Right, I shut my big box now.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: November 20th, 2005 06:57 pm (UTC) (Link)

You Know...

... I had heard that abt German arms. Damned odd. Thanks for the caveat, and the intriguing information, esp anent Polish arms.
bufo_viridis From: bufo_viridis Date: November 21st, 2005 11:00 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: You Know...

It's not that odd, if you think about it several generations perspective: if the line was not divided etc., several English knights would consecutively use exactly the same coat, which would become a "family coat of arms".
Germans simply did not differentiate between the sons, making it possible for several persons to use the same coat simultaneously
Zeese Germans, zey are zrifty... Zey don't vant to make new seals for efrybody ven fatter dies...

I can't give you more specific info about Polish heraldry in the moment, but I can look for something, if you're interested :)
wemyss From: wemyss Date: November 21st, 2005 04:20 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thrift Is One Thing.

But how confusing and potentially dangerous is it to have three chaps caracolling about in the same surcoat? Or using indistinguishable seals on land transfers, for that matter? What if someone has a feud with Mathias, only, and puts a lance in Georg by mistake?

I'd love to hear more of Polish arms.
lucubratrix From: lucubratrix Date: March 27th, 2006 01:16 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm German, and my family has one coat of arms shared between all 50 or so of us. A bit boring, but there it is.

I came across your journal as a result of reading that fic where Draco impresses Harry by showing him his Thomas Kinkade, whereupon my head exploded and I screamed, "Why, Draco, why? What's wrong with Vemeer?" even though it was 2 am. I wanted to see if anyone else had ranted about this (or if, heaven forbid, there are more fics out there with Kinkade as a plot element). As much of a fan as I am of Pretentious!Git!Draco, I think that he needs to be written so that Pretentious!Twat!readers can read the fic without descending into unintentional hilarity. I don't drink alcoholic beverages, and I've come across wine references by Draco that even I know to be patently wrong.

I took a course from a professor routinely and contemptuously used "Kinkade" as a synonym for mass-produced schlocky crap masquerading as art. Americans are embarassed for being responsible for Thomas Kinkade. On behalf of my adopted country, let me say that we are sorry. Very, very sorry.
lucubratrix From: lucubratrix Date: March 27th, 2006 01:18 am (UTC) (Link)
A professor WHO used Kinkade as a synonym. Clearly, typing before my morning coffee is a bad idea even when it is 5 pm on a Sunday.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: March 27th, 2006 06:41 am (UTC) (Link)


And welcome to the insanity.

You're quite right: Research Matters. And you are right, again: so does having at least the rudiments of taste.

Mind you, every nation has something to apologise for, on the same level as Kinkade. Biedermeier furniture, the art of the douanier Rousseau, Holman Hunt....

I do hope you'll stop here for a longish visit: you'll fit in admirably (that is, actually, meant to be a compliment, although I can quite see, looking 'round, where it mightn't be seen as one).
lucubratrix From: lucubratrix Date: April 6th, 2006 03:11 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hullo.

Thanks for the welcome! Taken as a compliment, most definitely. I'd like to friend you, if you don't mind!

I confess I do tend a great and not-so-secret love for Biedermeier furniture. My grandmother had a sitting room set that ended up being knockoffs, which upset nobody because it makes it easier to use them for quotidian life without feeling that one ought to be encasing them in tacky vinyl slipcovers. Not that one would in any case, but it makes it less distressing when one's cats shed all over them, for example.

De gustibus non est disputandum, my grandfather on the other side always used to say... and I suppose that even the taste of people who like Kinkade really can't be argued with. However, I can argue that Draco Malfoy would never be that demographic, and even if he were, it would be his dirty little secret, indulged in only behind closed doors.

I'm looking forward to reading your fic soon!
wemyss From: wemyss Date: April 6th, 2006 09:29 pm (UTC) (Link)

Cough, hack, wheeze. Hullo. Hack, wheeze.

Lovely to have you on board. Friends it is. I'll be much more interesting when I'm done bloody dying here.

SODDING head-colds. Bugger the lot of 'em.
lucubratrix From: lucubratrix Date: April 7th, 2006 01:15 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Cough, hack, wheeze. Hullo. Hack, wheeze.

Happy recovery from the virus! Cold medication can do a lot to make your head feel less like it's about to implode, but really, it's all about letting your immune system fight the battle.

I'm a biologist (computationally, anyway), so I can at least appreciate viral evolution as an evolutionary marvel.
nineveh_uk From: nineveh_uk Date: November 23rd, 2005 12:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
Have you read Susan Hall’s The Boys of Summer at Riddikulus – Potterfic with a (truly) glorious time and place?

Much amused by the variations on a theme.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: November 23rd, 2005 03:14 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes, Indeed.

Read it yonks ago. May in fact have been one of the first HP stories I read. Loved it then, still love it, bless you for reminding me of it.
From: ex_ajhalluk585 Date: November 26th, 2005 01:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
It occurred to me I still haven't apologised for being rude to you in ataniell93's lj. I still disagree with your argument but I was inexcusably discourteous in how I expressed myself and I'm very sorry (I had looked on the wine when it was red, which never assists political debate).
wemyss From: wemyss Date: November 26th, 2005 01:39 pm (UTC) (Link)

Oh, Pax. Pax. Not At All An Issue.

No apology necessary - although any absolution you feel you want, is of course granted, just say an Ave Maggie and a brace of Our Winstons.

Besides, it's only politics. We've far more pressing concerns: gooses to nadger, badgers to pillock, and the like.

PS: I'll make a deal with you. If we can bag both Jeffrey Archer and Geo Galloway, you can make an application for the Great Writ on their behalf ... and then we can both decide, No, never mind, principles be damned, they're such utter shits, the both of them.

Seriously, though, as the Yank comics say: in this vein, have you read Danziger & Gillingham's 1215: The Year of Magna Carta? Light, but not frivolous, you might enjoy it.
From: ex_ajhalluk585 Date: November 27th, 2005 10:55 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Oh, Pax. Pax. Not At All An Issue.

I'd look forward to trying to spring Jeffrey Archer, not least because my usual warning to clients about affidavits (and the need to be truthful therein) usually refers him and Aitken as an awful warning about the consequences of not being, and telling him exactly why his application was going to have peculiar credibility problems would have its amusing side....
From: ex_ajhalluk585 Date: November 27th, 2005 11:51 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Oh, Pax. Pax. Not At All An Issue.

Oh, God, and I hadn't even spotted this one here when I posted.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: November 27th, 2005 01:41 pm (UTC) (Link)

As You May Well Imagine...

... I had.

Daft bugger. The man simply wants to go away, quietly, and permanently. (Oh, well. At least the LibDems and Labour are in no position to peg rocks. Glass houses all 'round, sadly.)
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