Tag Archives: 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.

Reading about Aboriginal Cultures

When I was in grade three, we studied about northern Alberta’s native life and history.  It was interesting, but it was so long ago, I can’t remember much about it.  In grade four, we studied about the Australian Aborigines.  That was also interesting, but my memory is mostly about art on rock faces.  In grade six, we studied about the Aztecs.  Now that was absolutely fascinating.  I remember a lot more about that.

As I read Deadhouse Gates, I have come to notice that there are a lot of different tribes of people in the area the story takes place.  It got me to thinking that learning about aboriginal groups in the world would not only be interesting, but would give a good idea about how different kinds of cultures lived in the past.  This could potentially be useful for writing fantasy and creating believable native cultures.

So, I’d like a little help.  Do you know of any websites that are good resources for learning about different aboriginal cultures?  Please let me know in the comments below.

July 31st, 1987 – A Horrific Day

July 30th, 1987.  A night I remember well.  I was ten years old and living in Edmonton, Alberta.  I was visiting relatives at that time in my hometown of Beaverlodge, Alberta.  I remember my parents were still in Stony Plain, near Edmonton, while I was up on my own.  I don’t exactly recall how I got there.  But that’s not important.  What’s important is what happened over the next 24 hours.

That night, we were in Grande Prairie watching a couple of movies, Dragnet and Superman IV to be exact.  Dragnet was entertaining with comedy giants of the ’80s Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd.  Superman IV was a disaster.  Maybe it foreshadowed what was about to happen.

On our way back to my aunt, uncle, and cousin’s home, we were treated to an intense thunderstorm so incredible that it was almost like daylight.  There was so much lightning, you could probably read a book.  I love thunderstorms, and even when I was ten, I enjoyed watching the lightning show.  Far better than Superman IV.

The next day, everything was going normally until we saw the news.  It was very troubling, and I was scared.  You see, July 31st, 1987 was the day that the tornado hit Edmonton.  27 dead.  It mostly hit the industrial area in the eastern part of the city, as well as some countryside, but it was devastating.  It was an F4 tornado, which is pretty powerful.  I’ll let this video show you how bad it was.  It’s a bit old, but you’ll see just what it was like. [Edit: Video no long appears to exist, which is a shame.]

What’s frightening is that it came pretty close to another relative’s house, and its path is very close to where my sister and mom live now.  When it was on the news, I called my parents.  They told me they were fine.  It was on the east side of the city, while our home was west of the city.  However, the weather was pretty intense there, too.  As you can imagine, a lot was going through my ten-year-old mind.  I was glad my family was safe.

Since then, I have seen some crazy-looking storms around the Edmonton area, as well as in Victoria, BC.  But I’ve also been through many typhoons here in Japan.  But nothing could match how I felt about that tornado.  We can ride out a typhoon, but a tornado destroys whatever is in its path.

Exactly 18 years after the tornado, I climbed Mt. Fuji.  A tornado can sometimes be shaped like an inverted volcano.  Strange.

Have you ever flirted with disaster?

What I Believe In

As you saw in my last post, I am against creationism in the science classroom and against abstinence only sex education.  But what about other causes or controversial topics?  Well, here’s a list of causes with my brief answer.

  • Creationism taught as an alternative to evolution:  No.  Creationism isn’t science.  Evolution is.
  • Abstinence only sex education:  No.  Irresponsible, and doesn’t take into account that teenagers are horny and hormone-filled. Contraceptives must be taught, too.
  • Climate change is happening:  Yes.  So much evidence supports it.  Denying climate change doesn’t stop it from happening.
  • Destroying vast amounts of land for natural resources: No.  Stop it.  Things like oil are going to run out, so it’s better to search for renewable energy sources.
  • Nuclear power: This one is tricky.  It’s efficient, it produces a lot of energy, and it is relatively safe (coal produces more radiation, oil and gas produce far more pollution).  But when problems happen, that’s when we have a big problem.  Now, nuclear fusion would be nice.
  • Research into nuclear fusion: Big yes.  This would solve so many energy problems.  The fuel source is incredibly abundant (hydrogen), and the byproducts of fusion are benign (helium).  If it could work successfully, it would be wonderful.
  • Research for a cure for ALS and other unprofitable cures: Yes.  This has to do with responsibility to fellow humans, and not about exploiting them for profits.  I don’t care if a disease is relatively rare, work should be done to search for treatments and cures.
  • Gay rights:  Gay people should be allowed to marry, absolutely.  They should not be discriminated against.
  • Racial equality:  Yes, absolutely.  I don’t care where you’re from, I think I can get along with people from any background.  Well, I do care where people are from, mainly because I’m interested in cultures and countries.
  • Gender equality: Yes, definitely.  They should receive equal pay, they should have equal rights.  Everywhere.  That means you too, Middle East.
  • Public breastfeeding:  Yes.  Babies need to eat.
  • Profit vs environment:  Profit loses.  Environment should be protected, even if it deprives us of some natural resources.
  • Poaching of endangered species: Kill the poachers.  Honestly.  They’re scum.  They may be human, but they are not worth it.
  • Free medical care: Yes.  No one should have to pay for it.
  • Free university:  Yes.  Some countries made it work.  We need educated people, not heavily indebted people.
  • Genetically modified food: We’ve been modifying food for millennia, actually.  We’ve just become better at it.  However, there’s a problem with genetically modified crops mixing with natural vegetation.  They need to be kept separate.  Whether they’re bad for people or not, the jury is still out on this.  I’m cautious about this.  I’m sitting on the fence.
  • International conflict:  Grow up! Politicians, leaders, terrorists, you’re all bickering children.  Bickering children with big weapons.  You’re the dangers.  Learn to get along, go back to school.  We need more responsible leaders, not petty idiotic leaders who are in it for themselves.
  • Religious freedom: I’ll believe what I want, you can believe what you want.  Don’t try to change my mind.  I will shut you up.  I won’t push what I believe on you, so respect that, please.
  • Space exploration: Fully support it.  We’re screwing up this planet, so let’s find other places to go if we need to.  Colonise Mars.  But don’t screw that world up in case there is life there.
  • Medical marijuana: Yes, go for it.  But to smoke it in public, no thank you.  The smell is awful and makes me feel sick.  Keep it away from me.  And this leads to…
  • Smoking in public: I wish this would be banned from public places completely.  I don’t need your vile habit going into my or my child’s lungs.  Keep it in your home, as long as you have no children.  Keep it away from children.  Make it illegal to smoke around children, I say.
  • Antibacterial soap: Ban the stuff.  Now.  It’s creating stronger bacteria and is a hazard to our health.  Some places already have banned it.
  • Protect our little snowflakes: Kids are protected from too much these days.  They can’t run around outside with their friends because they may fall down and scratch their precious little knee, then the parents will sue the school, the city, the friends, anyone.  It’s this idiocy that’s causing children to become unhealthy blobs of fat who can’t exercise any kind of independence because their parents won’t let them.  Parents, you’re raising people, not fine china or collectibles that must be kept in mint condition.
  • The customer is always right:  No way.  Bad customers deserve to be denied service and thrown out.
  • Children should be protected from anything related to sex: No. They’ll learn about it from friends, from TV, from the Internet.  I say talk to your kids about it, honestly.
  • Teaching of history: Please be honest, and don’t give us biased drivel.  I don’t like the kind of history education that portrays your home country as the best in the world, while all the others are wrong.  This is propaganda.  Be honest, please.  Maybe that way, countries will get along.
  • Vaccinations: Absolutely.  The whole anti-vaccination movement is dangerous and damaging.  Diseases are coming back because of this lapse in judgment.  Autism isn’t caused by vaccines, either.  No research has shown that it does.  Autism is genetic.

I think that’s enough for now.  Any that I missed?  Ask me about my opinions, and I’ll answer in the comments.  What do you think?

Farming Is Interesting?

I’m currently doing a course on FutureLearn about the time of Richard III in England.  I’m finding the historical courses I’ve been taking recently have been very interesting.  While the Portus course was more about archaeology, the Richard III course is more about history.  I’m finding that more interesting.

The first week involved learning about the royal family of the 15th century, which was quite interesting, but the second week was mostly about peasant life and their farming and landholding system.  That was actually very fascinating.  I didn’t realise how interesting that aspect would be, because I’m normally rather uninterested in modern farming.  I lived in a very small town when I was a kid, and there were farms everywhere.  However, farm life wasn’t for me.

I could see myself living in the countryside, maybe having a garden, but not farming.  That’s very labour intensive, and not at all profitable these days.  It seems the only people able to profit from farming are corporations, not individuals.

Anyone interested in farming or having experience with it?