by Terri Wagner
Yesterday's post opened the proverbial can of worms for me. I have a degree in history. At one point in my life, I devoured historical fiction. Then I soured on it. The reason is because even with a simple BA, I knew enough to know that wasn't right, it didn't happen that way, it wouldn't have gone down that way. So I turned to sci-fi/fantasy or total adventure type books and never looked back.
But years ago (yes we argue around here all the time about using "but", but I like it) I read a story about Druids and Romans. It was fiction. The storyline was pretty typical for historical fiction and the sex was for its time fairly graphic (another reason I quit reading those types of books) but the real stunning theme of the book was the main character saying to his fellow Druids, "I'm going to Rome because if I don't go, the only history anyone will know of us is what they write about us, and they consider us their enemies.”
My jaw dropped. Here was the real truth hidden in the historical fiction. Not the Druids and paganism. After all, the Romans were pagans as well. Not the ritualistic ceremonies, but the fact that history is usually written by the victors. Naturally, the losers are portrayed in the worst possible light to justify what the victors did.
This is NOT what happens in our day; in fact, it is almost the opposite. Without getting into the political realm, let’s just say a lot of slack is given to the other side today.
My professors drilled in me (as I commented yesterday) that you need to read, where possible, the diaries and notes of contemporaries and then triangulate the truth, because each person writes from their own perspective. There is no such thing as impartial observation.
Coming full circle, I think I’ll stick to my new genre--mystery--and keep my history and my fiction separate. Kudos to all of you who can walk that line between the two and keep it true. I know it can be done, based on the Work and the Glory series, but I'm not the one to write it.