Wednesday, February 3, 2010
This post is mainly for extra content that deals with side stories I think will go into the book. It also gives a look into some of the elements I want to use and people/places I think would be interesting for the main characters to discover or run into. Some of the stuff is left over from my ideas for location research like the above photo of the family with car. I'm amazed at how much great photography was done during this time period, the emotion is so high in looking through these old photos. I tend to think that it's not necessarily any great skill being employed by these early photographers as much as the time and event was so horrible that even taking a few amateur shots couldn't help but express and reveal the sorrow and heartbreak that the world was going through. Little melodramatic there so let's take a trip over to the circus for something happy.
The presence of the circus is something that grew organically out of my first draft and has since led me in a lot of the direction I took my Hercules, specifically the design elements and look of early circus strong men. men
A big part of the look is probably going to be owed to Mr. Louis Cyr, one of the old world kings of men. Just look at him! Cyr hailed from Quebec and was a professional strong man and lumberjack. Here's a quick bio from a strongman enthusiast site:
At the height of his career, Cyr stood only 5'10" tall but he weighed over 300 pounds and had a 60" chest when it was expanded (55.2" normally). Several of his weightlifting feats and strongman stunts have been exaggerated over the years but some were documented and are still considered impressive today. Examples: he back-lifted a platform holding eighteen men; he lifted 553 pounds off the floor with one finger; he pushed a freight car up an incline.
One of Cyr's most-talked about stunts occurred on 10 December 1891 in Montreal. Four horses were tied to his arms (two on each side) and, while the grooms whipped and urged the horses to pull, Cyr managed to restrain all of them.
Louis Cyr died in 1912 and many say he ate himself to death.
Feats accomplished by Cyr: Lifted like twenty guys, lifted a quarter of a ton with his pinky, beat the shit out of a couple of horses, oh and what else?...oh yeah: ATE HIMSELF TO DEATH!!! This guy fucking was Hercules. It's commonly known that many of his other exploits where exaggerated but even that element fits well with Hercules, as all Hercules stories are most likely romanticized events of real men in ancient Greece. The image of masculinity and power that strongmen exemplify perfectly fit with many of the aspects of the Hercules mythology, in other words they go together like syrup and waffles.
Some extra stuff I've also come across is interesting "ugly truth" history about America. Take for instance the forced labor camps scattered throughout the deep south, some of them way out in the deep woods. The ones in Georgia are particularly talked about now for the level of violence and brutality, and the venality of things that were done. People were commonly whipped, starved, and without clothing. There were work camps where people reported that they would arrive looking for a lost family member, and would arrive at a sawmill or a lumber camp where the men were working as slaves naked, chained, and whipped. American slavery in the 1930s. Common stories I read were acounts like a young man (a teenager) who spilled or poured coffee on the hog of the farmer he was working for. He was stripped, stretched across a barrel, and flogged 69 times with a leather strap. And he died a week later. This was one of the thousands of deaths which occured, and was reported on by press who easily gained access to the camps. They got access to these as a journalist, in part, because the officials of Georgia had no particular shame in what was happening. The level of brutality was just astonishing. Truly crazy stuff. take a look.
....And as to not leave this post on too awful a subject, here are some great merchandising pics from the 30s (really only the tip of the crazy early twentieth century advertising iceberg)
These first few are for the for the opening chapter that's set in a heavy woodland area. Our main character will meeting up with Hercules here and begin the great odyssey.
The next piece of the story moves into the Midwest. Now I have to admit I've always heard people talk about the heartland and the Midwestern plains etc. but I really didn't know too much about them or the specific states and areas they were located. I did a little research and found the area I really wanted was the smaller region inside the Midwest called the great plains region, made up of Kansas, Nebraska, and North and South Dakota. These are places that I really appreciate for their natural beauty but I feel that if I was stuck living there I would probably drink myself into a early grave from the lack of life. Still though, beautiful locations and scenery (also some of the highest population to employment ratios in the country, hmph!)
The next chapter would be the first inclusion of urban areas and small town life. I purposefully move the story this way because I wanted to begin in an area largely detached from the economic turmoil and then slowly move into areas more and more effected by the crisis, until at the very end we find are selves in places where the consequences of the depression are evident all over.
For our final stop I felt it seemed natural to end with New York city. This is the kind of place we think of when we talk about devastated cities of the 1930s, I felt this was really the only place to end the story so it was an easy choice for me. Also something that became very obvious as I developed the concept was that I was turning this into a trek across America. By beginning the book in the woods of Washington or Oregon, it made a lot of sense starting the cast on the west coast and having them end on the east. This story mechanic gives me a lot of opportunity to tell stories and mythology from all across America and has the added advantage of giving the reader the feeling that they they're getting small snapshots from all over America (hopefully).
Love this China town.
The trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange just after the crash of 1929.
Margaret Bourke-White, Garment district, New York City, 1930
This is fantastic enlarged (click on any of these for a bigger view)