Today on the blog, two writers weigh in on history: what it means to them and how it affects their fiction. Carl Brush, author of BONITA, an historical fiction novel set in California prior to unification with the United States, comments that history loops, leaving its benefactors to repeat the lessons of the past over and over again. Gonzo writer A.B. Funkhauser, on the other hand, makes a case for the continuum with the events of yesterday unfolding to an end not quite finite. Take a look…
PRESENT IS PROLOGUE TO THE PAST
By Carl R. Brush
Sounds funny, I guess, to say I write historical novels partly in order to create a window into the present, and that reading fiction set in the past will do the same for you. I haven’t yet written about presidential politics (though my The Second Vendetta covers a hot campaign for the 1912 California State Assembly), but politics is in everyone’s face now, so if you doubt my word, how about this?
The pundits say no one has ever before seen the scurrilous likes of the insulting, name-calling, barrage that’s been loosed upon us lately. We hold our founding fathers in reverence and imagine that they, unlike our current political crew, engaged in mature and intellectual deliberation as they went about fleshing out the institutions they created in the constitution. Well, uh, no. Check out the slings and arrows that flew during the contest between our second and third presidents.
Jefferson’s camp accused President Adams of having a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” In return, Adams’ men called Vice President Jefferson “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.” As the slurs piled on, Adams was labeled a fool, a hypocrite, a criminal, and a tyrant, while Jefferson was branded a weakling, an atheist, a libertine, and a coward. Even Martha Washington succumbed to the propaganda, telling a clergyman that Jefferson was “one of the most detestable of mankind.” [Kerwin Swint, professor of political science at Kennesaw State University and the author of Mudslingers: The 25 Dirtiest Political Campaigns of All Time]
With apologies for the racism–that’s been part of the culture since before the 4/5-of-a-man clause which the originators used to bequeath the solution to the slavery question to future (Civil War and beyond) generations. It’s important to understand that savage rhetoric has been around from the beginning, so why are we surprised about today’s hoopla? We have no sense of the past. As if the world started yesterday. Or this morning.
Cure for that? Read some history. No, not that bare-bones eleventh grade textbook. Take a peek at http://amzn.to/1ROFyzG for my take on the juicy past-as-present California and Texas. And there’s plenty beside my (excellent) works. The Shaara novels about the civil war. Max Byrd’s novelized biographies of Grant, Jefferson, and Jackson. Plus the vast sweep of historical fiction full of characters and cultures which provide insight into who we are, were, and where we’re going even though it may seem like you’re reading about people in weird costumes and funny accents. It’s all about you and me, really. Don’t think it’s not.
By A.B. Funkhauser
An infamous twentieth century political figure was once asked to comment on the effects of the Industrial Revolution. His reply was fast and revealing. Paraphrased, the leader of one of the largest countries in the world remarked that he couldn’t really say, because the world (circa 1950s) was still feeling the impacts of that seminal event.
So goes it with true tales and their relationship to art.
Well before I ever took to a keyboard, I was enthralled by the stories conveyed to me by the grandparents of my industry. Their eyewitness accounts of funeral service, stressing more a way of being than a means of doing business, focused on constant evolution in response to economic and socio political pressures. Neither dry dissertation nor heartfelt laments about a life gone by, these reminiscences were a direct commentary on a way of life that had not only changed, but was still changing, and will likely continue to do so as long as there’s life on planet E.
History called and I blinked.
“Time was when we didn’t leave the building without our stripes,” one elder statesman said. “Back then, we were held in higher esteem, but then, so was everybody else.”
“Some of us had been driving since our twelfth birthday. That’s why we never crashed the coach.”
“People actually smoked in the building back then. Can you believe that?”
FD’s don’t smoke in the building anymore, and the snappy black and gray livery of an era gone by appears less and less inside North American funeral establishments. But the way an FD sees to the directions of the living in order to honor the wishes of the dead remain constant. How directors got there and how they continue to achieve that balance is the stuff of my art.
Many times, fiction writers are asked if their scenes and characters are based on actual events. I can only hope that the answer will always be ‘yes,’ for what better way to shine a light on a subject than through plumbing it’s antecedents to draw a line right up to the present. The people and events we hear about or—even better—are lucky enough to witness with our own eyes beget the words that feed a continuum…history making news.
As the famous unattributed quote goes: “How can we know where we’re going if we don’t know where we’ve been.”
Such is the role of history in the creative process. Such is the role of great plots.
Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/1Mzapu6
Author’s Den profile: http://bit.ly/1Fu4HtW
Bonita buy link: http://amzn.to/1H6M8No
Bonita trailer link: https://youtu.be/ktS6Ols1kaA
Yellow Rose buy link: http://amzn.to/1TMA2dM
Yellow Rose trailer link: https://youtu.be/MfW8qLOxgow
The Maxwell Vendetta buy link: http://amzn.to/1iV5hqA
The Second Vendetta buy link: http://amzn.to/1Gb13A8
Geo Buy Link: http://myBook.to/ScooterNation
Geo Buy Link: http://myBook.to/heuerlostandfound
Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/author/abfunkhauser
SCOOTER NATION Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/oqmrW_t92jc
HLF Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-C5qBpb0Yc