The Evernote folder where I keep all my research for #TheDave is called Magic vs Technology. There are dozens of files in there, ranging from my publishers’ editorial reports, papers on autism and Aspergers, articles clipped from Militarytimes.com (“How the Nation is failing today’s troops and veterans”), to adverts for fire axes and splitting mauls, and a glossary where I keep track of the madness:
“Diwan; Sliveen priestess. Diwanum (pl)
Gurikh: warrior spirit…
Shieldwise, is on the right, because demons are all left handed…”
I maintain my own monsterpedia in there, with entries about the biology of threshrendum, the culture of the Horde, the evolution of demon mythology in Japan. There are Youtube videos of .50cal Beowulf machine-guns, infographics on oil exploration, and clips of text that I need to remain aware of for the purposes of continuity:
“It had been an age since the lord commander had called upon the Archivum Scolari. It was not far removed from his quarters, being directly accessible from the Lord’s Keep by any one of five bridges which reached between the two towers.” - from Ascendance.
Magic vs Technology is my personal Archivum Scolari, but it is misnamed is it not? The Brits, I think, got the truth of it in their series title. Dave vs the Monsters. Or, perhaps appealing to the power of archetype, The Superhero vs the Monsters.
As much as I set out to write a magic versus technology story (in part to address my frustrations with Dr Who, and in part to grin knowingly at the old SciFi vs Fantasy feud) #TheDave is less about dragons being shot down by heat seekers, and more of a traditional superhero story. There are plenty of dragons getting shot down by heat seekers, of course, and whole regiments of orcs destroyed by… well, you’ll have to wait.
But in all of this it’s telling the way Marvel has come to dominate the box office. Throw in DC and the virtual superhero series such as Bond and Bourne, along with the rise of the female superhero (often a spy or a soldier turned spy), and you’ll being to discern a deep and powerful tidal flow through our mass culture. Why are we drawn to these stories? I suspect for the same reason people were drawn to comedy during the Great Depression. For relief from our reality.
For an ordinary viewer or reader, the story of a simple and inevitably flawed individual, embiggened into heroic status is irresistible. It may be hard, if not impossible, to imagine getting out from under a crushing mortgage, or a terrible boss, but strangely easy and undeniably attractive to lose ourselves in a fantasy where we experience not just competence and autonomy but the most extreme forms of those states.
It’s not a wish fulfilment exclusive to superhero comic stories of course. I remember talking to Peter Corris about his private detective character, Cliff Hardy, and Pete quite happily admitted that in Hardy (whose stories are always told in the first person) he had a character who allowed him to be everything he was not. Hardy is tough as old boot leather. Hardy can throw and more importantly take a punch. Women are drawn to Hardy like moths to a flame, often to be burned.
Hardy, of course, comes out of a different tradition to someone like Dave, who postdates by many decades the social revolutions that made a lot of earlier heroes completely unacceptable to modern audiences. (Paging Captain Biggles!) Hardy is an heir to Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe and perfectly described in Chandler’s essay The Simple Art of Murder:
“Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid… He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.”
This is a pitch perfect description of Cliff Hardy, but in many ways the antithesis of Dave, who is far from being "the best man in his world" and more than capable of being mean and afraid. He is neither complete, nor honourable, and certainly not by instinct. Is Heath any of the things Chandler wanted in a hero? Yes, all of them. Zach? Without a doubt. Emmeline? Even more so, because she, like Heath, transcends the conditions that might otherwise hold her back.
But Dave? Nope. Dave starts out a flawed and very small man who struggles to grow. Sometimes, as we’ll soon learn, he can’t even be bothered struggling. For me this is what makes him such fun to write. It’s not just the opportunity to break taboos (to kick them to pieces in fact, and drag them behind his pick up truck while drinking stolen beer and copping a hundred dollar blowjob with what’s left of his kid’s tuition fees). It’s a chance to see what happens when someone like that has a hero's responsibility forced upon them. And not just the average, tedious, grinding responsibilities of our daily lives. But the weight of the entire world. In this he shares something with thresh, as more than one of you have pointed out.
Neither of them are well suited to their fate.