History and Reincarnation

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

A New Genre

I propose submitting an article to Ezine on Historical Fiction, if it’s not accepted I may blog it.

The point is that the genre is a broad one and encompasses work with great historical accuracy, from which you really can learn about the past, and fantasy, in which modern characters with modern mind-sets are projected back into the past to act out their fantasies in period costume. The former can give serious insight, the latter is mere escapism.

A similar polarisation happened in Science Fiction, from the high speculation of great writers we descend to fantasies about dragons: and yet, what do we make of Avatar?

It is difficult to draw the line in Historical Fiction also, where do you put “Sharpe”?

I am proposing greater discrimination of genre – not that I would propose following ‘Science Fantasy’ with the nomenclature ‘Historical Fantasy’ – that might offend too many people – but we could do something to guide readers as to how much history they may expect in a book.

You may say Historical Fantasy will dismiss itself as being poorly plotted and characterised; not so, a fantasy may be a thoroughly good read, the easier for not asking the reader to make a leap into an alien and historical mind-set. There is a place for it.

At the same time, there is a place for exploring real historical issue and characters: King Arthur, Robin Hood, Richard III and the Tudors spring to mind. These are constantly popular but all too often they’re rendered as fantasy. Perhaps it is just too difficult to get into these in an historically meaningful way, the truth is just too distant from the modern mind-set.

Yet there is a way to do it – to give a modern commentary on Dark-Age or Medieval mind-sets – the ‘time-slip’ novel, a device which has been around for generations. Unfortunately time-slip has too often been used as just that, a device. How the modern character came to access the past must be part of the story, how she/he reacts, the effect the past has on him, must be part of what matters to the reader. Given this we could have a powerful tool for understanding the past.

What I propose is therefore a clearer definition of genre, in which ‘time-slip’ and maybe other forms, could be used to give access to real history – perhaps we should call it ‘Historical Faction’?

Monday, 11 April 2011

How many fascinating lives have there been in the past?
The question is not, were you once someone rich and famous; and, even if you were, it probably wouldn’t help you with your present life – although, famously, General Patton realised how to fight the German counter-offensive of 1944 by remembering his retreat from Moscow with Napoleon’s army in 1812. The question is; what can we learn from the past?
There are already quite a few people involved in past-life regression therapy – have a look at Michael Newton – and solving the personal problems brought forward from the past is entirely desirable.
What may need more work is what past-life regression can tell us about the History of the times in which past lives took place.
Can work on this be encouraged?
Is there already published work out there? Maybe you know of historians acting as therapists, or therapists acting as historians, who could give that extra dimension of personal recollection to what we know of times before the 20th century.
How does my previous post relate to this? Or, indeed, to “History and Reincarnation”?
In fact the novel I referred to, that no-one has yet looked at, was precisely about this. What I found from past-life regression was certainly personal but it was also solidly factual about major figures and events – it put early Tudor history into a totally new perspective, one that historians didn’t know or ignored. My experience is not unique; the Imperial War Museum learned how ‘slow matches’ were kept alight in Nelson’s navy from one of Arnall Bloxham’s regressed clients, while other stories concern World War II.
Unless what is published is driven by reader interest, and what can be more interesting than who we were and what we did and why, we run the risk of being trapped in a two dimensional world – a world in which we suppose the way we think is the only way to think and that those who created past ages might as well be living in the 21st century.
You will have seen many novels of this “history as current affairs”; novels, sold in supermarkets and newsagents’ shops. Many famous writers have been inspired by past-lives, whether they knew it or not, but too many have written or accepted representations of the past without the depth of experience.                                                 
I welcome your thoughts.                                                                                                                        
I have, last week, published an historical novel; no-one knows it’s there. I do not know how many thousand hours work went into writing that novel, that’s not the point. I wouldn’t have done it if I hadn’t had something (several things actually) novel – not to say utterly original – to tell the World.
The problem is I’m not alone, any casual trawl through Amazon will give you countless authors and titles of which you’ve never heard – I have no doubt no less deserving than my own effort. What is the public missing? And what can be done about it?
The publishing ‘industry’ has responded by not even attempting to sell books, but merely attaching books to names already known to the public. There are many comments on the Internet to this effect; the point is publishers, distributors and retailers are unlikely to do anything to remedy this situation. It is no good pointing out to them, they would sell more varied, more interesting and better books, consequently making more money, if they stopped selling names and started selling books.
Any individual, self-publishers’ organisation or authors’ help group is simply overwhelmed by the scale of the problem. I believe they mostly mean well, but they haven’t the organisation or presence in the public eye to make much difference. It is, dear reader of this plea, up to the mass of humble bloggers, who care about the written word, to do something about it.
Please don’t write off the proposal I’m about to make as bumptious or na├»ve (maybe it’s both) because the present situation discourages talent, wastes valuable work and promotes the shallow and meretricious; in short, something must be done.
What is to be done:
If bloggers come together in sufficient numbers, an organisation can be set up to review ALL published books. The reviews may be partial, inexpert, incomplete – it does not matter – what the public needs is a guide as to what ordinary readers might like or not like.
These reviews are to be posted on a free public site for all internet users; a site to be promoted as widely as possible to contributors and readers.
The data base created may be enormous, it can be refined by key words. The criteria for like or not like may be arbitrary, but “any publicity is good publicity”. It might be controversial, controversy with the book trade may be a very good thing.
No doubt the creation of Wikipedia looked daunting before it was done, now it’s a far greater resource than any produced by conventional publication.
As a lawyer I had great faith in the jury system. Ordinary people’s willingness to apply common sense and good judgement, defying the court to do so on occasion, is part of the bedrock of civilisation. Sometimes juries get it wrong, with errors in both directions, but their justice is always better than that of governments or big corporations. And so it will be here – on bringing interesting books to the attention of the reading public.
Bloggers, this is a crusade.
There are wiser heads than mine, more knowledgeable and better resourced too. But then, it’s the “wise and the good” who brought us to the situation we are in. Rise up against the names sold in the supermarkets, along with the groceries, give the public the full range of now unknown books.
I would like to hear from you, each and every one of you; I would like you to join together, respect and empower the public, give everyone a choice in what we read.