Delving Into The Past For The Future

Now that’s a heck of a title!  But it’s true of what I find myself doing lately.  To keep the G1: The Guardians series fed with suitable material, I have to plunder our past, and a distant past at that.  It’s a fascinating exploration, though.  In truth, I’ve always had an interest in the ancient post, though I’ve generally avoided Ancient Egypt and the pre-Colombian period of America, especially for Central and South America.  I have an aversion to cultures whose organised religions are based on human sacrifice and those where there’s a distinct leaning to a fascination with death.  Before anybody howls in protest, I realise that most religions have a degree of death-fixation, but I think it fair to say that some really do take that to extremes.  Now, however, I find that I have to explore all ancient cultures and religions, as well as I can with the limited knowledge that we have.

I have known for a very long time that the factual value of ‘history’ is limited.  This is partly because of bias.  Because all written histories are tainted by the prejudices and mistakes of historians, or the fact that some histories have doubtless been written more for propaganda purposes than a true desire to record events, such histories are extremely unreliable.  This problem is made even worse when the written histories are set down long after the events described, because the events pre-date written records.  We quickly plunge into a world of legends lightly sprinkled with a few rare facts, and those facts may actually be wrong!  Once we move from simple events into a commentary on past religions, things become even more tainted.  Every writer now has a religious axe to grind, desiring to demonstrate how superior their ‘modern’ beliefs are compared to the barbarous religions of others, both past and (to them) present.  So all history tends to lean strongly to religious, political or a general societal propaganda and nothing can be taken to be the truth.

Where does that leave us?  Many will leap up and down and cry out “archaeological discovery”.  I wish it were so!  I have watched archaeologists at work on television and I’ve felt horrified at the processes portrayed.  Layer after layer of human existence is carefully sifted through, catalogued in superb sketches and careful photography, with very detailed plans of where each individual preserved piece was located.  There is a glowing veneer of ‘science’ overlying it all.  But then you hear the experts in their discussions, and the ‘science’ begins to flicker like a dying light bulb!  Even if the gathered experts al agree, we hear a catalogue of assumptions based on the many tomes of research published by their predecessors.  The concept that those revered persons of the past may have been mistaken rarely surfaces, despite the fact that they may have been guessing based on written histories that I’ve already argued are of little real value – a fact they should know.  And in fact, the experts often don’t agree!  Perhaps they come from different academic origins.  Maybe they are arguing in support of some work they published, touting it as the ‘real truth’.  In short, many (and the more famous they are, the more likely the problem) have their own motives and understandings.

That leaves us amateurs in a limbo.  We can’t trust the commentators of the past, or the ‘scientists’ of today.  But there’s a delightfully useful fact that arises from all of this!  Whatever ‘conventional wisdom’ may say about anything that is no longer a living tradition, we can invent our own ‘truths’!  We are free, because of inevitable human error and prejudice, to do whatever we wish with our most distant past.  That’s a wonderful realisation for writers like myself.  It’s liberating!  Of course, I’ll research as best I may, but the final interpretations can be whatever I desire to make them.  If the archaeologists wish to dispute what I write, they’re free to do so.  At the end of the day, I deal in fiction.  But, are my guesses any less valid than those of somebody who has studied the ‘authorities’?  I wonder…

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About Steve

An author since the age of 13 years, writing again dominates my activities. My "Imagineer-ing" blog is my primary site. Also: Beginner knitter since November 2010. Favourite knitting techniques: cable and lace. Beginner cross stitcher. Beginner jewellery maker. With the promotion of self publication and all the other work that has been going on here, Dad decided around 2am this morning (22/11/2013) that it was time to begin his next adventure. He was seen off earlier the previous evening by myself, my brother, my sister in law, and my sister, as well as his wife (our mum), and an enigmatic being known only as A Lorraine. After this time of story telling, laughing, crying, joking and mickey taking, we saw how tired both mum and dad were, and we decided to leave them under the (sometimes) gentle care of The Lorraine. When Dad found the timetable for his travels, he let Mum know gently, which woke her from her drowsing, then, with the same gentleness he showed in this universe, he boarded his favourite mode of transport, the Interdimensional Steam Train, and set off with a smile and a wave. For those of us closest, that smile was a reminder that his pain has ended, and the wave, an indicator that he will pop in to all those that knew him, from time to time. Usually at the most inconvenient and in opportune moments he can. While we are sad that he is no longer here, we are happy he now has no pain, and is experiencing more extraordinary things that his writers mind will be frantically weaving into a new story. Posted by Son Damien

4 thoughts on “Delving Into The Past For The Future

  1. In writing fiction based on historic interpretations, you are doing exactly what the “scientists” are doing – using speculation or “what ifs”. The only difference is that you know you’re writing fiction! I do a lot of research for my fiction writing and I love adapting history to my viewpoint and those of my characters. I think the only thing to be wary of when writing fiction that is loosely based on “history” is giving your characters a thoroughly modern “voice” unless of course, they’re time travellers.

    • Thanks 🙂 It’s good to know I’m not alone in regarding the ‘science’ as being undeclared fiction much of the time 😉 Yes, my characters avoid assuming that speculation is fact, relying on establishing the truth in other ways than the ‘conventional’ 🙂

  2. I love watching archaeologists at work – but I’m certain that all they ever uncover is a ricketty house of cards, each layer expanding wildly from the previous one. Some of the assumptions are incredibly tenuous and my doubts are compounded by the fact that I just don’t believe that true history is laid down in neat layers like that. Maybe geology is, but history is not. Similarly I guffaw out loud when “scientists” declare thousand-year results on the basis of testing a thousand instances of something for one year… er, no – reality can’t be extrapolated quite so neatly!

    As a species I reckon that we know a lot less than we think, and even that is far more than we are safe to handle!

    • I’m with you, Ian 🙂 There are times I feel like shouting at the TV, when some pompous character states a supposition/guess/leap of imagination as a fact cast in stone. And yes, I’d be amazed if all those neat layers are truly neat. You only have to look at geological formations, where you can see slippage from earth movements. The chances of some (admittedly compacted) soil not being subject to natural disturbance must be remote 😉

      I saw not long ago that experts have ascertained that we have, as a species, no more capacity of brain than our most ancient Homo Sapiens Sapiens ancestors – we just have more information and communicate it better. If you were able to snatch a baby or young child from neolithic times and raise it as any other child of today is raised, then it would be just as likely to be anything up to a genius as any other child! As for what we know, all knowledge is subject to change without notice 😀

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