The King’s Court — Does It Really Matter?

Let’s set the stage, shall we?

I’m claustrophobic as hell.  Crap, I fly business-class because spending more than an hour or so in coach is absolutely guaranteed to set me off.  The extra cost is generally worth it when you weigh against the legal bills that would follow a total freak-out on a transatlantic flight…

I also hate humans.  All of them.

Ahem.

I’ve pointed out in previous posts that the “sales-me”, the guy who can laugh and chat and bullshit with anyone, is an act.  It’s an act that I’m very good at, but still just a role I play.  In reality, if a room is full of people I don’t know — and I’m not “working” — I’m that guy off in a corner, silently deciding what excuse will get me out of there the quickest.

3DAE05B1-EBE2-4093-8630-4A716A74609DJokingly (well, mostly jokingly) I refer to myself as a misanthrope.  Of course, so too did Theodor Geisel; if Dr-freaking-Seuss can hate humans, and still write the wonderful stuff he produced, I figure I’m in pretty good company.

Okay, that’s it for the backstory and info-dump, now it’s time for the scene.

I went out the other night, for a goodbye party for a co-worker up here in Yellowstone.  Now, I moved from my happy little existence inside the park itself to our headquarters a couple of weeks ago, I should point out, so I don’t actually know my co-workers at this point.

At any rate, the party.  The bar was small and crowded, and so was the table.  Very small, and very crowded  So there I sat, crammed into a corner — trapped, really — talking with a group of people I barely knew…

Welcome to my idea of hell.

My co-workers are nice people, as far as I can tell, but…

But…

But…yeah.

2216DABA-8509-46B4-A5EF-EA9A44AAA83CNow, why the hell did I just do that info-dump?  Because everyone I was drinking and talking with  that night is “important” at the organization I work for when I’m up here in the park.  They’re all at the center of power.  It was the royal court I sat with.

It struck me, then, as I sat there and listened to the jokes and semi-false bonhomie, that all I had to do was wear my mask.  All I had to do was “become” the good ol’ boy sales-me that can exist confidently and comfortably at the heart of power.  Hell, I’ve done it before, more than once, and I’m still very good at it.

I could…

I should…

I didn’t.

I had no interest, I discovered, in being at the center of power.  I miss already my “life” in the middle of the park.  I miss the connection with nature and the wilds that I don’t get — that I can’t get — here where politics and schmoozing make a difference.

I’m an outsider up here, and I like it that way.  I’ve chosen to isolate myself from the king’s court…or, at least, not to throw myself into the middle of it.  Which amounts to the same thing, really.

Now look; when I first started this post, I was all over the map.*  I had bits going on about those figures from history who existed outside of the charmed circle of power, but were forced to take control because too many favor seekers and “good ol’ boys” on the inside were out to destroy them: the Richards of York, the Julius Caesars, the Tokugawa Ieyasus…  I had bits going on about the evils of the “Mary-Sue” in writing…

*I was also, I should probably mention, quite drunk when I started to write it…but that’s another story.

As writers, by the way, we should be glorying in the contradiction of “special” characters like Richard, or Caesar, or Tokugawa who choose to live outside of the center; of those folks who are born to power, but are alienated from it (better, even, if they alienate themselves!).  Just as we should be glorying — glorying even more! — in the person who has no claim to, nor hope of, power in the first place…yet still achieves it.

Under the Romans, even a mere propraetorian governor had total and complete power within his province…

A British duke — at least one of royal blood — could do as he liked within his lands.  To this day, in fact, the Duchy of Lancaster is a palatinate, separate from the rest of England in many legal ways…

A Byzantine viceroy…

A Chinese governor…

A Japanese daimyo…

Historically speaking, if you wanted to be truly powerful, you had to live at the center.  If you wanted to be Richelieu, or Wolsey, or Warwick, you had to live and breathe and operate at the center of power.

If you on the other hand didn’t give two shits about being the eminence gris, if you didn’t give two shits about running the rest of the world, then you could quite happily exist in your own little world in the provinces…until someone at the heart of things decided to screw with you.

Queen Margaret screwed with Richard of York…

Pompey screwed with Caesar…

Nobunaga (and the executors of his will) screwed with Tokugawa…

Richard died, but his son overthrew the Lancaster dynasty to become King Edward IV.

Pompey got his shit handed to him by Caesar…and we all know where that ended, thank you very much.

Tokugawa rebelled and created a shogunate that lasted almost 400 years.

The outsider, in writing terms, is under-appreciated.  A character who wants to exist in peace away from the center…a character with no overriding urge to power…a character quite happy to be nothing more than a minor player in the game…that character can — and should! — become someone who changes the world.

Think about your own wants and desires: do you want to move to DC or Manhattan and be “at the center of it all”?  Or are you happy to live in Bumfuck, Egypt?  Do you really think your characters are — or even should be — any different from you?

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