Paracosms: Know Your Fiction
About This Show
Explore your favorite fictional worlds from unique perspectives and find new stories to enjoy with author Arthur McMahon. In each episode we explore a fantasy universe together and pull apart its building blocks. Every creation from Harry Potter to Star Wars will be put under the microscope. Creative influences, author intentions, and social impacts will be referenced. We will look at why these worlds were constructed and how they evolved over time.
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The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County
Some authors live to write, and some write to live. Others fall somewhere in between, and a few just seem to fall into it.
Mark Twain, author of multiple Great American Novels such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, encapsulates all of those traits, yet somehow also exists outside of them, or, perhaps, above them.
In this episode we will learn how Mark Twain’s legendary career as an author began from the man himself. I am Arthur McMahon and this is Paracosms.
Now known as one of America’s greatest novelists, Mark Twain came from humble beginnings, and he lived quite an adventurous life before finding his success.
Born as Samuel Langhorne Clemens, Twain was raised in Missouri where he learned to pilot steamboats on the Mississippi River.
At a young age, Twain lost his father to pneumonia. Several of his siblings passed away before they had reached their teenage years, and he lost his 20 year old brother Henry in a steamboat explosion, a boat that Twain himself was aboard. He lived in a time when slavery was legal, and he briefly fought in the war that abolished it.
As an adult, Mark Twain travelled across America working as a journalist, typesetter, and coal miner in places like New York, Philadelphia, Virginia, and Utah before moving to San Francisco where he found his first great success as a writer at when he was 30 years old.
The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County is a short story about a gambling man named Jim Smiley. It was a simple tale that brought Mark Twain national attention, a little story that started the man’s illustrious career. The novels that followed after Jumping Frog’s success propelled Twain’s fame to outstanding heights, and his ability to capture his childhood, that specific slice of American history: it’s culture, the time, the people, the setting— has immortalized his best works, made them enduring pieces of literature that stand the test of time.
In his autobiography, Twain dedicated a chapter to describing the circumstances around getting his first story published. It’s in the public domain now, and I think it’s well-worth sharing. In this brief chapter you can witness his emotions: the ex