Tag Archives: history

My Hate-Love Relationship with Historical Fiction

8 May

I love historical fiction. In fact, I’m currently binge reading, watching, and writing it right now. But I have a beef with it. (Does anyone even say that anymore? No? Oh, well.) If you’re curious, I’m reading Stalking Jack the Ripper, watching Reign, and writing a book set in the ancient world. Very different time periods, but all can easily fall into my hate-love with the genre.

So what is my issue with the genre?

My biggest pet peeve with historical fiction is when I look up the factual story and the factual story is MORE—more fascinating, bizarre, fun, gory, symbolic, or anything MORE.

Let’s look at a few examples:

In the movie The Revenant with Leonardo Dicaprio, Hugh Glass fights his way back from the wilderness to enact bloody revenge on the two who left him to die. In real life? He actually tracked down the two men and ultimately forgave them, because it was better for society. (One was a solider and the other a young man with a family.) I actually LOVE the real version, because I think it teaches us more about survival and sympathy and societal sacrifice. But forgiveness doesn’t feed into the bloody climax many expect, does it? (On a side note, Hugh Glass could’ve been a pirate…but that also doesn’t make it into the movie either. Boo.) Here’s an article if you’re interested in more info: The Real Story of ‘The Revenant’ is Far Weirder (and Bloodier) Than the Movie.

In Reign, the show follows Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland, as she marries the Dauphin of France. And it’s entertaining, don’t get me wrong. Lots of betrayal, murder, and sex. But the real-life version, if the show had been expanded to show more years, has MORE. Nearly everyone loses their head, country, or both. (It’s very Game of Thrones.) What I find strange, though, is not the focus but some of the blatant inaccuracies portrayed as fact. For instance, the show takes (weird?) liberties in taking shots at the blond hair Francis has when Mary herself was famous for blond-red hair, while Francis was the brunet. They even go as far as to say all Scots have dark hair. (Or bringing her mother into it, when they never saw one another after her childhood.) In real life, over time, there are three husbands. (Perfect for a trilogy, no?) That aside, I’ll absolutely acknowledge that brutal story is not the target audience or goal for the romantic TV show on the CW. Which brings me to my next point…

I don’t blame the authors or any creators behind this. Why? Because I get it. Truth is often stranger than fiction. If you wrote down some of the actual events that happened, readers or viewers would have a harder time believing that than the completely fictionalized version of an event. Not to mention that life doesn’t serve a linear, symbolic purpose…and with stories, that’s the whole point, especially when you bring genres and expectations for that genre into play. Not to mention the traditional narrative viewers and readers expect from certain historical periods. 

It was discovered, for instance, that slaves were not used to build the Great Pyramids. Skilled (and paid) craftsman were, which is why they could stage protests. (In fact, the first protests we now know of.) But our fictional worlds have yet to reflect this. (Oh, did I mention they were often paid with beer? I mean, come on.)

History—and what we understand of history—is constantly changing, and the genre should change along with it.

I want to see more Norse women out on Viking Voyages, as skilled seafarers. (Source) I want to see black cowboys (Source). I want to see skilled craftsmen building the pyramids (Source). I want to see the female sailors on the doomed Franklin expedition, especially since the entire crew was reported to be male (Source). I want to see an all-female battalion in the Russian Revolution (Source). I want MORE.

I get that it might be a little strange to see some of your favorite historical figures (and narratives) in a different light. But why not?

Why not challenge the traditional narrative, especially if it’s backed up by science and other types of studies? Why not write a version that’s based in factual evidence more than on speculation? On the opposite end, why not write a version that owns the fact that it’s not based in reality at all, like My Lady Jane (where royalty can shape-shift into animals)? Why not push those limits and expectations of what historical fiction can be? (On a side note, there’s actually a really funny/enlightening Oatmeal comic on why this is so difficult, and you can read it here.)

Historical fiction has limitless, constantly changing possibilities, and I cannot wait to see how it morphs in the future.

~SAT

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Website Wonders

29 May

Hi, everyone! For once, I’m not announcing anyone. I am back, and I am blogging! ::does a little dance even though you’re watching::

I am really happy to be back (obviously) and I am even happier that you all enjoyed the guest bloggers of May. Today is reserved for Website Wonders – all of the websites that I have obsessed over this month, so I hope you enjoy them as much as I have. The articles are organized into these topics: In the News, Writing Tips, For Readers, The Poets, Inspire, and For Fun and Laughter. All links will send you to the article.

Enjoy!

In the News:

As Publishers Fight Amazon, Books Vanish:  This article is first for many reasons. I’m really passionate about the publishing industry, and I want to see it succeed for everyone. I know. I know. Many have been taking Amazon’s side because everyone “hates” the big 5 – but shifting the power from 5 to 1 is not a good idea. Plus, preventing David Sedaris’ novels is never going to fly. Either is preventing Robert Galbraith. (a.k.a. J.K. Rowling) But I’ll stop ranting here.

‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Book 4 Coming?: E.L. James is heating up the publishing world (and Kindles) again! Kind of. Photo included. Kind of.

Tim Burton to direct ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’ slated for July 2015: Muh-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha. ::cue the creepy and delightful laughter:: I am a huge Tim Burton fan.

Writing Tips:

Cheat Sheets for Writing Body Language:  This was really popular on my Facebook page. It’s an amazingly thorough list of different ways to describe body language based on emotions.

This Sentence Has Five Words: I can’t explain this because it would spoil the piece, but I definitely recommend it.

5 Editor’s Secrets to Help You Write Like a Pro

My friend sent me this

My friend sent me this

13 Wonderful Old English Words We Should Still Be Using Today

For Readers:

7 Historical Parallels to ‘Game of Thrones’: If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you will absolutely love this.

32 People Reveal The One Book That Blew Their Minds: My favorite novel is on here! Is yours?

For Lexophiles (lover of words): Read these sentences twice. You will love them.

From Random House

From Random House

33 More Things We’d Do if We Were Locked in a Bookstore Overnight: What would you do in Barnes & Noble?

Q&A with Cassandra Clare: I just finished City of Heavenly Fire last night :]

The Poets:

Words and Pictures by Grant Snider: This comic is hilarious and true!

He’s Counting Down from 21, and By the Time He Reaches 15, My Stomach was in Knots: These sort of poems live in the depths of your soul forever.

Inspire:

Top Ten Mythical Places

No Photoshop. These Are Real Animals! These models and their animals are fantastical.

12 Photos of the Strangest Weather Phenomena Ever Witnessed

These 22 Far Away Perspectives of Famous Places Will Change the Way You See Them Forever: Who doesn’t like a change in perspective?

Artist Turns Dead Old Watches into Creepy Mechanical Crawlies 

30 Awesome Photos from Iceland

From David Olenick

From David Olenick

For Fun and Laughter:

Which Magical Creature Are You? I am a Sphinx

20 Funny Cat Photos That Are Sure to Make You Smile

~SAT

Pennsylvania

25 Jul

So I’m back! And I’m really glad everyone kept my blog going while I gone on family business. I am really busy right now–I just got back, but I have my final this Friday. It’s all great, but I thought today I’d simply share my trip with everyone :]

Pennsylvania Sunrise

My dad and I drove from Kansas to Pennsylvania–about a 17 hour drive–and this was the sunrise we were met with upon arrival.

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Gettysburg 

My dad and I decided to visit Gettysburg while we were there since I’ve never been there, and my dad hasn’t been there since he was young. Fun fact: it was the 150th anniversary.

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Everyone knows how historical this battle was in U.S. History, especially in the Civil War, but I didn’t know just how large (or how perfectly preserved) it is. We took a two-hour bus tour and we still didn’t see the entire thing. I think the most interesting part was how the survivors actually returned and built all of the monuments exactly where important events happened, so the fields have these statues throughout the miles of history.

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I think another story that really stood out to me was how many people died AFTER the battle simply because they’d walk across the fields and leftover ammunition would explode and/or injure someone. They also believe up to 1,000 bodies of Confederate soldiers are left in the fields. Crazily enough, they found one of these bodies partially unburied in the 1960’s–over one hundred years later.

National Soldier Cemetery  

Another part of Gettysburg is where every Union soldier was buried. There are more memorials for certain groups, and this one was New York’s:

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Hershey Park

I LOVE roller coasters, so two of my cousins, my uncle, my aunt, my dad, and I went to the amusement park that smells like chocolate! There were lots of roller coasters, but I think my favorite was Storm Runner or Sky Rush. Lots of fun. Lots of chocolate.

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Finally

We headed home after a couple of days, and this was the sunset we were met on an Indiana highway.

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Basically 

I had a really good time visiting my family in the state I was born in. I regret to say that the reason for our trip was a death in the family. My grandmother, L. Noreen Thompson, passed away July 13, 2013. She was a wonderful woman, and I’m proud to be a part of her lineage. Below is the last family photo I was able to be a part of. You might recognize it from a previous post since I shared it November, 2012, but I wanted to share it again, because–although it doesn’t have the entire family in it–it was the last time I saw my grandmother, and the photo means a lot to me!

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So I’m back, and I will be continuing ShannonAThompson.com! 

Thank you for your support 😀

~SAT
….

I regret to announce the book signing event has been canceled. 

Minutes Before Sunset is available at AmazonBarnes & NobleSmashwordsKoboDieselSony, and Apple.

Reading Event: Ann Hamilton at the Spencer Museum of Art

19 Apr

Website Update: The Magill Review interviewed me this week, and now the interview is posted! Check it out here, and learn more information on the behind-the-scenes of Minutes Before Sunset. (There will also be the link on my next post.)

12 days until the Minutes Before Sunset release!

Last night, my Poetry Writng II class (instructed by professor and poet, Megan Kaminski) was invited to read poems.

My wonderfully supportive father escorted me to the event under one condition: I behave for a nice photo.

My wonderfully supportive father escorted me to the event under one condition: I behave for a nice photo.

We read as a response to Ann Hamilton’s exhibit “an errant line” at the Spencer Museum of Art. It was an enlightening experience that established artists and their responses to others’ art. The moments encased the ability to communicate through art, and I really enjoyed taking part in such a unique event. If you live in Kansas, I really encourage you to take an afternoon and visit the exhibit, along with such a beautifully broad collection held within the museum walls.

Below is an excerpt from the Spencer Museum of Art website:

” Using digital technologies to explore the fundamental nature of cloth and the ways museums organize and maintain material legacies, Hamilton and Schira will consider the role of the hand and human practices that reveal and conceal. Working with current KU visual art students and Spencer Museum staff, the artists are also investigating their former relationship as student and teacher (Hamilton came to KU in 1976 to study fiber arts with Schira). Transforming multiple galleries with their immersive installations, both artists will employ images of and actual objects from the SMA’s permanent collection to create a multisensory tapestry that will feature changing interactive elements.”

The exhibit featured percepio dolls from early Italy, used to teach children during church about Nativity. The dolls are very elaborate and quite magnificient to see. Hamilton used them, scanned them onto cheese cloth, and positioned them along the walls to signify the movement through time and history. But, what I found to be one of the loveliest aspects to Hamilton’s art was her ability to adjust to the museum and use artifacts unique to the location. Instead of moving the infamous Bechstein piano, she covered it with a pink fabric and allowed pianists to play as a part of her collection.

Below are the two poems I read: the dots are not a part of the poems. It was the only way I could get the spacing to hold.

    I hear the Bechstein

a blushed blur of universal vibrancy, constructed

……….of covered caution, a colored dream—a

……….dance.

a pressed curl of waxen connections, torn

……….over a rumbled boast, teetered to time—a

……….transition.

……….Folded space, a future chase.

……….The movers and risers pull the views out of

place before anyone can                          see.

………………………………momentarily

Precipio

Beneath the cherubs of Basilica di

Santa Maria Maggiore, St. Frances of

Assisi inculcates the embroidered

    Il tuo sorriso è l’alba che ho perso questa mattina

word of God, threaded into centuries

of artwork extinction, rehabilitated

into the minds of a museum, where

we cannot touch, only to distinguish,

what is ours, what is there’s, why

we must perderò  understand the

implications of sunrises bringing

another day of God to teach.

Our loss of Nativity is

freestanding figures

brought on by time.

The third poem, when printed with a different text, actually looks like a face. It’s supposed to represent the dolls, but I cannot seem to get the internet to work with me, so I apologize. But I hope you enjoyed them if you didn’t have the ability to come to the event and/or visit the museum in the future.

My class

My class

~SAT

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