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…