Tag Archives: History

Top Ten Time Periods in Historic Novels I Want to Read

I love to experience different cultures through books. Seeing what life is like in different countries is very interesting. However, while we can experience those easily in modern times, it’s much more difficult to experience times from the distant past. Here are the time periods (and places) I’d like to visit through fiction:

  1. Ancient Greece, more than 2000 years ago
  2. Ancient Rome, more than 2000 years ago
  3. Ancient Japan, around 1000 years ago
  4. Mayan civilisation
  5. Incan civilisation, pre-Columbus
  6. Norway, around 1000 years ago
  7. Scotland, more than 1000 years ago
  8. Australia, before European colonisation
  9. North American plains, before European colonisation
  10. Mesopotamia

What are some time periods and civilisations would you like to read about in fiction? Let me know in the comments below.

Difficulties of Worldbuilding

I love worldbuilding. I’ve created a world, Ariadne, that is an entire planet with many countries, cities, cultures, and of course a large variety of landscapes. But making an entire world isn’t easy.

For me, some things were difficult. I think everyone excels in a different aspect while worldbuilding. Some difficulties are:

Culture

It’s so easy to create a world that’s populated by people from a single culture. But is that realistic? Not at all, especially if you’re looking at an entire world. In fantasy, it’s extremely common to have several cultures. But it’s also easy to copy cultures from other books. To make a truly unique set of cultures is difficult.

Language

If you’re not a linguist, you may have some difficulties with creating a rudimentary language. But it’s not always necessary to. A lot of fantasy novels use a “common language” or “standard tongue” or something like that, and it’s always written in English. That’s fine. But if you want to make a language, then you should probably try to set up some rules. That’s the difficult part.

History

You can’t have some cultures on a world without a history. It’s extremely important to create a history for all of the cultures. It often helps dictate cultural relations. But to create a history that goes back for hundreds or thousands of years is a lot of work. And that can be difficult.

What do you think is difficult about worldbuilding? Let me know in the comments below.

Studying the British Empire

As you may know, I have an interest in history. Understanding history often helps with writing both science fiction and fantasy, as they deal with different times and societies, while also having rich and well-developed histories of their own.

I’m getting back into using FutureLearn, and this week, the course called Empire has begun. It’s about the British Empire. I’m from a country that was part of the British Empire, so I’m expecting something about Canada in this course. But the British Empire was the largest empire in the world at one time. There’s a lot to learn. Below, you can see how much of the world was part of the empire (click to see a larger version).

The_British_Empire_AnachronousThat’s a lot of countries. You can see a strip through Africa, much of south Asia, parts of the Middle East, and plenty of Pacific islands, as well as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the Thirteen Colonies.

Do you know any interesting facts about the British Empire? Share them in the comments below.

What’s In a Family Name?

Family names are interesting. In many cultures, they tell a story about your family history. In Japan, they often refer to where your family comes from, rather than a job. In England, it tells about your ancestor’s job. But what about other countries?

If I look at my family name, I can tell that someone in my family’s history was an archer. Someone used a bow and arrow. I don’t know when it happened, but that’s where the name originates from.

So, if you’re willing to disclose your family name, what country is it from, and what’s the story behind it? Let’s discuss this in the comments below.

What Ancient Rome Really Looked Like

I’m very interested in ancient cultures and all we have that tells us how things used to look are ruins, some art, and some descriptions by people who lived during those times. There’s a project called Rome Reborn that allows us to see what Rome most likely looked like in 320 AD.

I found this video at this website.

The video is quite fascinating, but it makes me wonder about other places. For example, what did ancient Athens look like? Or Constantinople? Or London a few hundred years ago? Or Paris? How about Edo during the time that Edo Castle was still towering over the city? What did Angkor Wat look like when it was in its heyday? Or Machu Picchu? Or Tenochtitlan? So many to wonder about.

What other ancient cities would you like to see recreated in this way? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Mythology in Science Fiction

Mythology plays a very important part in establishing the culture and world in fantasy novels. It is often the basis for the magic system, the religious beliefs, and the antagonist. There’s often an influence by gods or other supernatural beings, and the amount of power could be limitless.

In science fiction, mythology is quite different. It may not even be present. In Star Wars, the Force is almost mythological. In Dune, the religions have changed so much that they’ve become the new mythology. In the Hyperion Cantos, the Shrike is often regarded as a myth or legend. Much of the time, mythology draws on older religions, but not always.

In my Ariadne universe, there will be a couple cases of new religions and mythologies that develop. One has an origin that will change over time as the centuries pass, but it’s an interesting mix of elemental and old Earth religion, mainly Christianity. The Christianity part fades away, but the basis is there. In the other case, Earth itself becomes almost mythological, and it’s revered by a large portion of the population.

What are some other examples of mythology in science fiction? Let me know in the comments below.

What’s Your Favourite Period of History?

I like history. I like it now, but I didn’t always enjoy learning about it in school. But even then, I liked history. I guess I just didn’t like having to write essays about it. But what we learned was quite interesting. I remember learning about the Aztecs in grade six. I remember learning about Russian history in junior high school. I remember European history and studying about the World Wars. It was all fascinating.

I like looking at the history of countries, how things have changed over the centuries. Even now, looking at current events, I think about how this will be history. And what happens now shapes our future, just as our past shaped what the world is like now.

When I think about history, I often wonder about what my favourite time in history is. I think I’ve mostly been interested in ancient Greece and Rome. But I also like Japanese history. What is your favourite period of history?

Authors Answer 45 – Real World Influences in Fiction

When drawing influence for books, authors look in many places. They may get ideas from around them, from people they know, or from history. Today is the fourteenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center in New York. Events like this could have a big influence on writing.

Twin_Towers-NYCQuestion 45: It’s the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001. How much do major world events influence your writing?

Linda G. Hill

I try not to state the date in my writing unless it’s necessary, so there aren’t many world events that actually make it into my novels. But from a politically correct, I suppose you could say, standpoint there has to be some sensitivity to such things. I guess you could say they don’t affect my writing in a direct way, but indirectly I find myself watching what I write.

Allen Tiffany

They certainly influence the fabric of our lives, but I don’t perceive that they have materially impacted my writing. It feels to me that core themes of loyalty, loneliness, belief, love, hope, friendship, loss, etc., are bigger, more powerful and longer lasting than a single event no matter how shocking or traumatic it may be in its time.

Gregory S. Close

Yes, in two distinct ways.

1) As a human being, I am very distracted and involved in world events and human suffering.  Columbine, the 2004 Tsunami, Fukushima, 9/11…  any or all of them can throw me into a bit of a fugue.  I can dwell on it, generally not productively, and run the narratives through my head over and over trying to figure out how it happened, how it could have been prevented, what I would have done in situation A or B if I had been there, or if my wife or children or mother or brother were impacted.

That naturally leads to…

2) As a writer, building characters and situations within a story is certainly influenced by observing the world.  Both historic and current events can feed into the creative process.

D. T. Nova

A fair bit. The main reason I won’t change my first novel to be set in the year it’s published instead of the year I started writing it is because parts near the beginning involve references to then-current or recent events. (It’s likely to diverge into alternate history if I reference any real-life events in any potential sequel.)

I have a character who’s indirectly named after a controversial figure, a character who’s the religion he is because of what a certain organization has become defined by (though I don’t use the real organization itself in a fictional way), and due to the coincidence of a character’s birthday falling on the date of a certain real-life protest I even have characters participating in that.

Paul B. Spence

Most of my writing, not at all. My contemporary stuff, a lot.

Caren Rich

It’s not necessarily world events as much as national and regional events. Famous hurricanes, the Deep Water oil spill, and the Great Recession have all played a part in my writing. I think if you want your writing to be believable, you have to pull in “real” events. Those events don’t necessarily have to be the center of your plot, but I think it makes reading more interesting.

Jean Davis

While I don’t copy any real world events in my writing, I do draw upon the real evils of mankind when working on antagonists. Sadly, real people are often capable of doing worse things than the stuff I imagine.

S. R. Carrillo

I have no idea how to answer this question. 6_6 I suppose not.

H. Anthe Davis

I look back a lot on history for inspiration — for characters and themes as much as for events.  Since my work doesn’t involve the real world, though, I try not to be too affected by current issues; I have no interest in being ‘topical’.  That said, sometimes a real-world situation will illuminate something that must have happened in my own world’s history, so it will prompt me to fill out more of my backstory with my world’s reaction to a similar event.  Since you mentioned the WTC attack, though, I will admit that one of my major characters is basically a terrorist, but I conceptualized him that way back in ’93.

Eric Wood

This an awesome question. As I sit here and ponder this one, I attempt to make the connection between my writing and worldly events. I have a great respect for all those involved with the attacks in 2001. I was in university approximately 40 miles from the the plane that crashed near Shanksville, PA and was scheduled to teach a freshman orientation class that morning. But to connect that (an other events) to my writing is difficult. I suppose there’s no direct connection. Though perhaps I become more aware of what I’m writing and how it could affect the children who read my stories.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

World events do affect my writing, but mostly just in an emotional way. For instance, after a huge, horrible event like September 11th my writing will inevitably take on a somber and depressing tone. If there’s a big scandal in politics I might find myself creating corrupt authority figure characters. If there’s a mysterious tragedy, like the disappearance of a plane, then I might find myself drawn to writing about strange, supernatural occurrences. Basically, world events affect my mood and the way I feel about certain subjects, and as a result my writing is affected as well.

Elizabeth Rhodes

They don’t have a direct impact, but the influence is still there.  I don’t reference specific events, but certain movements and mentalities have influenced scenarios in my writing.  My interest in end of the world scenarios stem from a pessimism with current society that I think is common among a lot of people.  The 99% movement and working in service jobs influenced the plots of a few other stories of mine, but they aren’t fully fleshed out yet.

Jay Dee Archer

In my science fiction writing, there is some influence. I do draw on real predictions of the effects of climate change on Earth to create the future conditions that are present in the world. I have also used events in world history to create similar events in the future. But I think that it’s not so much the actual events that happen, but the way that people behave that influences me.

As for fantasy, I don’t use any real world events, and any events that happen in my story have very little resemblance to anything real, but human behaviour is what I get from real events. I think that’s the most important thing I draw from them.

How about you?

If you write, are you influenced by real world events? If you don’t write, do you like to see world events in novels? Let us know in the comments below.

Fantasy Novel Settings Based on the Real World

A lot of fantasy authors are influenced by real history and locations. Some come out and say that they are a part of Earth’s lost history, and some are Earth’s future. And it seems like many are based on the European Middle Ages.

Lord of the Rings is based on Europe, and I think Tolkien admitted that. I believe it’s supposed to be Europe, but long before recorded history.

A Song of Ice and Fire (or Game of Thrones) is also based on Europe, but not actually in Europe, but a fictional world. In fact, the entire war is inspired by the War of the Roses.

Shannara is quite different, though. It’s based in a world that had gone through an apocalypse. I’m not exactly sure of the precise location, but it is North America.

What are some other Earth-based fantasy novels and series?

Authors Answer 27 – History Changing Books

Books throughout history have provided us with a window on the past. But have there been some books that have guided the course of history?  Well, of course! But here’s what our authors think. This week’s question comes from stomperdad.

HistorybooksQuestion 27: Do you think there are any books that have changed history?

Paul B. Spence

Changed history? No — once it’s happened, it’s happened. But changed the COURSE of history, yes. The easiest one that comes to mind is Stranger in a Strange Land.

S. R. Carrillo

Plenty! Forgive my brevity, but of course. I think my favorite of which would have to be Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

Changed history? Well that’s a strong notion, but I’m sure there probably are some books that have changed history. The Bible definitely springs to mind, as I’m certain history would have been a heck of a lot different without it, but somehow that seems like a kind of a smartass response. So, instead, how about the grandfathers of horror like Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein? They may have not been Earth-shattering changes, but I’m sure these books changed the history of horror in huge ways, and as a horror writer that’s big enough for me.

D. T. Nova

Definitely. Two of the most obvious would be Newton’s Principia and Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species.

Fiction’s influence tends to be more subtle, but I doubt, for just one example, that American history would be the same without Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Jean Davis

I’m sure lots of books have. What we read goes into our brains and wanders around in there, inspiring new ideas about the way things work, about what we could do differently, about who we are and who we want to be.

Caren Rich

Books that have changed history? I don’t know. There are books that have changed how people see the world and others that have made generations of youth book lovers. There are controversial books that have caused great discussions.  I remember when the Satanic Verses came out. It was all over the news, people talked about it, but I don’t know anyone who read it.  My mother remembers finding a copy of Gone with the Wind.  Her mother forbid her to read it.  So she buried herself under covers each night until it was finished.  Did either change the world? No, not that I can see.

Amy Morris-Jones

DEFINITELY! Books definitely have a way of changing history. Just this week with the race-related problems in Baltimore and just before in Ferguson, I saw quotes all over the news and internet from Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s impossible to deny the way sacred religious texts influence history—just turn on the nightly news.   I’d add some others to the list as game changers: Orwell’s 1984, Darwin’s The Origin of the Species, Hitler’s Mein Kampf, Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique… Okay, I obviously could go on all day with this one!

Elizabeth Rhodes

I’m sure there are plenty.  I know of two examples that have influenced US history (I can’t speak for other countries):  Uncle Tom’s Cabin and The Jungle.

H. Anthe Davis

Pretty sure Ayn Rand’s stuff has had an …. interesting effect on the course of certain countries.  Then there are the various religious texts and political manifestos that have steered the course of the world, and of course scientific treatises causing philosophical upheavals.  Books are important.

Jay Dee Archer

History has been guided by a lot of books, I’m sure. Religious texts such as The Bible, The Quran, and Torah (and these are only for some Abrahamic religions) are still directing how people live, as well as giving reasons for waging wars. Scientific books, such as Darwin’s On the Origin of Species play a major part in scientific advancement that has resulted in things like vaccines and understanding how life evolved. More recently, fictional literature such as Orwell’s 1984 have had an influence on the present state of surveillance and attempts at controlling what people can say.

On the other hand, there are school history books today that are attempting to change how we view history, effectively making people completely misunderstand what really happened. Revisionist history is certainly not a good thing.

How about you?

Are there any books you feel have changed the course of history? Let us know in the comments below.