Thursday, May 29, 2014

Guest Post - Craig Cormick

What is so fantastic about Romeo and Juliet?
By Craig Cormick

So I’ve been asked to write about the Romeo and Juliet-type characters in my new book the Shadow Master. First, a quick description of the book: it’s a kick-arse tale of alternative history, love and conflict, madness and magic. Shakespeare would have liked to describe Romeo and Juliet something like that, I’m sure.
Anyway – there are two warring houses in my book – the Medicis and the Lorraines – and a young woman from the Lorraine household, Lucia, is in love with a young man from the Medici household, Lorenzo – and much of the book describes the efforts of the two to reach each other, dodging the mad monks, assassins, kidnappers and plague.
Sounds a bit derivative of Romeo and Juliet, doesn’t it (well, sort of). But in fact I’ve ‘scaffolded’ the story on an 18th Century Italian novel the Betrothed (Il Promessi Sposi), written by Alessandro Manzoni in 1827.
Say what? Well, it’s actually described as one of the most famous novels in Italian, and the first dealing with Italian history, and was itself inspired by Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe.  It is set in 1628 and tells of the plague years and the politics and church of the time – and has two young lovers (the aforementioned Lorenzo and Lucia).
But the point is that the Romeo and Juliet theme has been around a looooong time and Shakespeare even lifted it himself from other sources.
Now I just happen to be researching Romeo and Juliet proto-tales at the moment, for the sequel to the Shadow Master – the Floating City – which is set in a Venice-like city and uses the proto-tales of Othello, Romeo and Juliet and the Merchant of Venice within it. These are the original Italian stories that Shakespeare adapted into his plays.
The earliest supposed Romeo and Juliet story is the tale of ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’, from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, written about the year 0. Dante’s Inferno, written in the 14th Century, refers to the families Montecchi and Cappelletti, that were later used in other versions of the story. In the 15th Century the story was ‘Mariotto and Gianozza’. By the early 16th Century it had become Giulietta e Romeo. It was later translated into French in 1559 and then into English by Arthur Brook in 1562 as The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet.
Still with us?

In 1567 William Painter released a collection of Italian tales, the Palace of Pleasure, that included ’The goodly History of the true and constant love of Romeo and Juliett’.
And then comes Shakespeare’s version of the story.
So whether you’re a follower of the theory that there are only a small limited number of plots in the world or not, or a follower of Jung’s theories of the universality of folk tales, it’s pretty apparent that the Romeo and Juliet story appeals to something in us that leads to it being told and retold and retold. Modern variations on Romeo and Juliet include West Side Story, Gnomeo and Juliet and the zombie romance Warm Bodies, by Isaac Marion (2011).
And I think that’s very interesting, given our general desire for ‘they all lived happily ever after’ endings – to find a double tragedy ending so appealing (Cue rap beat as Bill the Bard comes onto the stage and says, “Never was a tale of more woe chk-chka-chk-chka – than Romeo and his foxy ho!” [ed note: early draft – later revised to “Juliet and her Romeo”])
So, how does a writer take a well-known theme, or meme, and present it in a way that achieves the balance of being familiar yet new? I mean, if you tip too much one way you’re being unoriginal and derivative, and if you tip too much the other way you’re taking the reader too far off the familiar path and they start feeling a little lost.
I believe I’ve found a nice balance in the Shadow Master, and its sequel – and I’d tell you all about it in detail except I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise for all you readers out there (ed note: not that lame-arse excuse!!).  So let’ s just say, “Never was a tale of more woe, chk-chka-chk-chka – than Lucia and her Lorenzo!”

About the Author -

Craig Cormick in an Australian science communicator and author. He was born in Wollongong in 1961, and is known for his creative writing and social research into public attitudes towards new technologies. He has lived mainly in Canberra, but has also in Iceland (1980–81) and Finland (1984–85). He has published 15 books of fiction and non-fiction, and numerous articles in refereed journals. He has been active in the Canberra writing community, teaching and editing, was Chair of the ACT Writers Centre from 2003 to 2008 and in 2006 was Writer in Residence at the University of Science in Penang, Malaysia.
Cormick's creative writing has appeared in most of Australia's literary journals including Southerly, Westerly, Island, Meanjin, The Phoenix Review, Overland, Scarp, 4W, Redoubt, Block, as well as in overseas publications including Silverfish New Writing (Malaysia) and Foreign Literature No 6 (China). He has previously been an editor of the radical arts magazine Blast, and his writing awards include the ACT Book of the Year Award in 1999 and the Queensland Premier's Literary Award in 2006. As a science communicator he has represented the Australian Government at many international science forums including APEC and OECD conferences, presenting on issues relating to public concerns about new technologies.
His site -
His twitter -
About 'The Shadow Master' - 
In a land riven with plague, inside the infamous Walled City, two families vie for control: the Medicis with their genius inventor Leonardo; the Lorraines with Galileo, the most brilliant alchemist of his generation.
And when two star-crossed lovers, one from either house, threaten the status quo, a third, shadowy power – one that forever seems a step ahead of all of the familial warring – plots and schemes, and bides its time, ready for the moment to attack...
Assassination; ancient, impossible machines; torture and infamy – just another typical day in paradise.

Will be released on 24th June, 2014 in North America & EBook.
And on 3rd July, 2014 in UK.

Book link on 'Angry Robots' -

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