Sunday, October 10, 2010

History by Christopher Columbus: What Will You Change?

Ahoy-ho, mates! It’s Columbus Day, that dubious holiday where we celebrate the guy who didn’t really discover America but says he did. (The Vikings found it first, but I guess this is one of those things where if you don’t write it down, it didn’t happen.) Columbus Day annoys me, mostly because we never get the day off here. Banks, post office, everywhere else—they are enjoying the Fall weather, but here where I am, we’re stuck at our desks.

Which is why you’re getting a blog instead of a “we’re in port” because if I have to be here, I think you should too.

But Chris does offer us writers an interesting inspiration. He’s not the first guy to play fast and loose with history, but I like to think he’s the first guy who’s got a holiday celebrating a guy who played fast and loose with history. If you think about it, I suppose you can’t blame him for not wanting the Vikings to get credit. “What? Those barbarians in a rowboat?” He was a Renaissance guy, right? If someone was going to discover America, shouldn’t it be the good-looking, well-educated, civilized guy?

(“Good-looking, well-educated, civilized” used as loosely here as “discovering America”, you understand.)

And if you think about the historicals we read now, we’re doing the same things, aren’t we? Tweaking the facts to make history more palatable. In the good old days, weren’t we all barbarians in a rowboat? Wouldn’t we like to read about the version of ourselves as good-looking, well-educated, and civilized? Of course, we do. It’s romantic.

So if you were writing a historical, what period would you write about and what would be the first thing you’d change for history’s sake? And what’s the one thing you could not compromise history for?

P.S. Just because I’m blogging in a civilized manner about corrupting history for writing’s sake does not mean I won’t be ranting about any authors in the future who use 90210 characters in their Regencies. I’m speaking more about not dying in childbirth, good dental hygiene, and perfect skin type stuff.


2nd Chance said...

Oh, if I did write historicals and played fast and lose with history...I suppose I'd go the Anne Bonney route...see her escape, bear Calico Jack's children...who would go on and end up living in some Caribbean paradise.

Or take the Irish pirate queen and have her actually be more than a thorn in England's side.

Or have my time traveling sexual witch meet up with the founders of America and do some major meddling... Why I write alternate history! So I can actually do all that!


Hellion said...

Actually I don't there is proof that Anne Bonney didn't escape, so that'd be a fun one to play with. I think they said Anne had a rich father and he bought her freedom and no one ever heard of her again--but that she didn't die on the gallows or in prison like her contemporaries did.

I could roll with that one.

I could probably roll with Grace O'Malley too.

I could not be as cool about the Founding Fathers though. I like them just as they are and wouldn't want them meddled with. *LOL* I prefer them with their flaws than to have them modernized with our sensibilities. Even the ones for equal rights for all people, regardless of race or sex. (Though, perhaps, I'd meddle with the bits about how they treated the Indians, but I'd have to go back further than the founding fathers to do any good.)

Hellion said...

The missing word in my post to Chance is "think" and at 11:30 pm, I'm not thinking.

Granted it's Wikipedia, but the novelty of the idea her father ransomed her and she married someone else and lived a quiet life appeals to me. *LOL*

Quantum said...

I would go back to medieval times, before America was discovered.
The Ancient Brits used to do battle naked except for the woad painted on their bodies.

The first thing I would do is to introduce a different colored dye.
Helli, you would look awful in blue!
I would change that to pink, then Boadicea could really set those Romans reeling.
They would throw down their spears and gawk in awe. :lol:

Woad's the stuff to showmen
Woad to scare your foemen
Boil it to a brilliant blue
And rub it on your back and your abdomen.
Ancient Britons never hit on
Anything as good as woad to fit on
Knees or neck or where you sit on
Tailors you be blowed!

I would have to retain romance though. This is timeless. They may have been a fearsome lot on the battlefield, but back in the village, the lads would be courting the lasses and the lasses would be flirting with the lads as sweetly as ever. I could never change that. :D

Hellion said...

But Q, I'm already a delightful pink color when I'm in the buff! Well, pink and white. And if you left me outside in the buff under sunlight, I'd be VERY pink before long--and I hope you'd bring the aloe vera gel.

Actually my favorite reference to woad in a romance novel: Carried Away by Jill Barnett (and incidentally now available for Kindle, Q, if you haven't read it). There are a couple kids in the book and they're terrors, and while the heroine is asleep, they paint her face blue (like the Celts, their ancestors) and she can't get the blue dye off her face for ages. Quite hilarious.

You're right--romance and flirting could never be forsaken. I couldn't stop flirting if I tried. It's sad really... *LOL* Actually I just wouldn't want to.

Hal said...

I do like for my regency heroes to have all their teeth and have bathed in the last month, although historically, I'm pretty sure neither of those things would be true *g*

I'm with Hellie on the Founding Fathers (and their awesome wives). Though now I can't think about Abagail Adams without picturing Laura Linney.

If I were writing historicals, I'd probably go for Westerns first. I started one set on the Oregon Trail, which was great fun, though again, they somehow bathed. And had yummy sex in their tents, which couldn't have been comfortable (or, for that matter, all that private).

Bosun said...

No time, we're getting a late start. I could never write a character with bad teeth, be it historical or otherwise. And my apologies if that has been said.

Hitting the road and hoping for smooth seas and calm winds!

Hellion said...

Bathing and good dental hygiene does seem to be a consistent theme for all of us. Then again, on any date I go on now, bathing and good dental hygiene are the top two. Then we get to nitpicky stuff like "Does he have a job? Does he live with his mother?" which are more negligible compared to the bathing. And tooth care (actually TEETH care because I'd hope he'd have more than one.)

Yay, Hal, we'll start our own little "Loving the Founding Fathers: Just As They Are" club. Though I do enjoy the Dodge commercial that has George Washington driving a Challenger at the British. *LOL* That's right, keep up that rumor that all Americans are horrible drivers.

I can see the Oregon Trail being romantic--aside from the constant threat of death, you know--with the camping and forging a life together into the unknown. And sex outside--that's awesome. Just not in earshot of everyone. But then again, didn't most of them live in one room for the most part so they were having sex across the room from their kids anyway? Or if they were good, they'd put up a curtain divider though those are hardly soundproof.

"Mama, what was that noise?"
"Wolves, dear. Go back to bed."

Hellion said...

Drive safe, Bo'sun. Good driving vibes are being sent to you.

Janga said...

I complain a great deal about what appears to be contemporary heroines in Regency costume, but I think I would grow quickly weary of heroines whose lives were historically accurate portrayals of the circumscribed lives of most women of the era. If I were to write historical romance, I’d probably use a post-WW I setting. I kick around the idea of using a Hello girl returning home as a heroine.

Just this morning I read a description of a book I definitely want to read; it’s a retelling of The Odyssey from the pov of a daughter Odysseus doesn’t know he has. I think that alternate pov thing would be fun to write.

Hellion said...

Yeah, Janga, writing all those novels with women dying constantly in childbirth fever would be a definite downer. I was re-reading some Julie Garwood novels over the weekend. It's THOSE heroines I miss; hers and Jude Deveraux's historical heroines. They were spunky, but not arrogant (entitled); reformers but not in an overly modern way. And of course, they were usually a little harder to persuade into bed. I think that's one of the things I miss: a heroine who doesn't immediately leap into bed with the hero, but has to be persuaded first.

The Odyssey story sounds fascinating. What's the title? I need something new to read.

Hellion said...

P.S. I had to google what a Hello Girl was, but the google article I found was so inspirational and spunky that I think we definitely need a story of this nature:

2nd Chance said...

Ladies! I wouldn't actually meddle with the founding fathers, but I'd love to have John Adams as a secondary character...who isn't sure love is worth a pickle...and then he's told about Abigail... And have Ben Franklin actually with magic powers and belonging to a magical society intent of helping America attain indepedence.

All on the QT of course!

And I think I'd write Anne as more likely to take her Da's help, then flit back to the Caribbean and keep raising hell. Find herself a new captain, one who won't get drunk and hide from the Brits.

Save travels, Bo'sun!

Janga said...

Hellie, the Odyssey book is called Penelope's Daughter by Laurel Carona. It was listed among the October releases from Berkeley/Jove. Here's the link to the description I read:

Hellion said...

And have Ben Franklin actually with magic powers and belonging to a magical society intent of helping America attain indepedence.

Also probable. *LOL* Just don't mess with George or Thomas. Unless you're going to make them super-spies ala James Bond--that I might go for.

And as for Anne, it IS rather difficult to imagine her as not raising hell somewhere. I mean, be real. That's how she got into the whole circumstance in the first place! *LOL*

Don't be trashing Calico Jack. He always struck me as some sort of guy who just wanted to sail about--and the girls were the real pirates. Then he got over his head.

Hellion said...

Hellie, the Odyssey book is called Penelope’s Daughter by Laurel Carona.

Must locate this book ASAP. Thank you, Janga, for always broadening my read pile!!

Still not reading Little Women though...or Anne of Green Gables (which I heard equally disturbing "Beth-like" plot points occurring in it.)

2nd Chance said...

Hey, Calico Jack managed to trash himself! I have read versions where he and Anne had several children, left with friends to be raised. Which I always figured made more sense.

I mean, I figure if Disney wants to be realistic...Sparrow would have a handful of kids show up that are all his! Don't you imagine most pirates scattered their genes everywhere?

Of course, if STDs hadn't made them sterile!

I'm certain Ben belonged to some magical society. And John at some point viewed romance as a waste of time. So I figure that historical would be fairly accurate! LOL!

Hellion said...

Well there is a new POTC coming out. Maybe a few mini-Jacks will come out of the woodworks and complicate his life. *LOL*

2nd Chance said...

I'd actually loath seeing kids pop into Jack's world, though that would be realistic! ;-)

Bosun said...

I can't believe it took until the afternoon to mention the STDs. And I hope you all aren't suggesting they bring secret babies into POTC4.

Speaking of POTC, I found the first one on television this weekend and my sister informed me she hasn't seen any of them. I'm officially disowning her.

2nd Chance said...

Wow, yer such a good pirate!

Hellion said...

If I can't disown Sin for never watching the movies, you can't disown your sister.

Never mind I'm disowning you, Sin and 2nd for not reading the Harry Potter books. 38 days!!

Bosun said...

You'll be happy to know that my mother and aunt are die-hard HP fans. They are both very excited about the next movie. That should win me some points, right?

Hellion said...

No. That's like me trying to get into Heaven on my dad's Deacon Elder status. And it wouldn't count if Isabelle had read all the books either. Deerhunter tries that crap.