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Historical Stories That Are Not

Gemini1766

As a person who loves history, it highly irritates me to see a story posted as "historical" but then to find that the historical facts are missing.

When writing a historical history, one should ensure they know the monetary system(s) of the period and location; the economics, so as not to have someone earning more than the richest man known to them for doing 'normal' daily work; what implements are available to use, or be obtained, and the difficulty in obtaining them; the skills necessary and what it takes to gain them that the characters will be using; and much more.

In a few stories set in the past, beyond the late 1800s, I've read stories where individuals are earning, thousands of "dollars" worth of coin/trade. It's easy to do the research to find out the average income of the times back to colonial times, even back to the middle ages.

The next thing is that it is one thing to research what items would best help a person to live and get along with ease and another to have them suddenly come into them. A lone person with such wealth would be soon targeted by robbers and most likely killed. They wouldn't be leaving a witness alive to point them out to the local law man.

Knowing how hard the work is, is another thing that must be taken into account, as well as which tools were available at the time. There are huge differences between the plows of the 1600s, mid 1700s, and the John Deere design that is so familiar to us today. The differences are huge in terms of amount of land one can plow. Same goes for axes. Early colonial axes were more like what we think of when we hear "tomahawk", not the woodsmen single and double headed wedge shaped axes we know today.

A story should be listed properly. Historical means an in depth study of the era and all that goes with it. Anything less should be listed as fantasy. Maybe, even "historical fantasy".

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Gemini1766

Most of what you mention is more to do with proper research and writing, but a lot of that information is not readily available to everyone. However, the tag Historical has a specific meaning at SoL and that meaning doesn't mention anything about facts:

Historical - Story that is set in past history, mostly related to famous people and events.

from:

http://storiesonline.net/docs/code_faq.php

you should always be aware of what the codes are supposed to relate to.

Gemini1766

And, my response is that much of the things I find wrong in stories that are "historical" and supposedly researched, can be found online.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Gemini1766

supposedly researched


Not all authors at SoL do much in the way of research, I think the few very active ones on this forum would easily account for over 90% of all the research done for stories posted at SoL. I know I've done many thousands of hours of research for stories, and still sometimes make an error due to transcriptions to my research files. But I'd have to be one of the top five SoL authors who do heavy research for their stories. Also, the ability to find anything on the Internet will often depend on knowing where to look for it; there's a lot of good information that requires you to be able to provide exact search requirements before you can find it.

Gemini1766

In this case, I'm talking about a situation where I was explicitly told that research had been done. It is one thing to make things up,based on recollections of "history" from school, or even movies and the like; but it is another when claims of research have been made.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Gemini1766

Let me add, Ernest, that I read plenty of your stories and enjoy them very much.

Hell, even in a case like the kind I'm talking about, I can and do, enjoy the stories; I even rate it decently for the fact of my enjoyment. Poorly written stories bother me far more.

Ernest Bywater

@Gemini1766

I was explicitly told that research had been done.


I hate badly research things as well. But I also recognise the problems with research. One of the things about research is: when you find ten experts who tell you one thing, and another ten tell you the exact opposite. Arrgh.

For Finding Home I spent a few hundred hours just on researching aircraft to find one that would do what I wanted it to and still be able to land at the main airport I use in the story. In the end I ended up with an aircraft that the first 20 hits I got on research for that aircraft said it didn't have the range. Then I found on obscure site that mentioned an optional extension tank, confirmed it with the manufacturer, and problem solved. Yet even the manufacturer's main website didn't mention the little used extension tanks as being available for that model. Arrgh. You never know what you'll find out.

Take the Tactical Nuclear Weapons in Will to Survive the TNWs work differently to the big nuclear bombs. Most research websites don't mention much about that difference in the construction. I found one old report that raised the concern about a nearby explosion setting off the trigger mechanism. It even went on to say the US DoD officials recognised it as a possible issue that had a low probability. Yet no one tested to see if it was a safety issue or not. Even now, after they've phased most TNWs out of service they still worry about that type of scenario, bit no one has tested it out. I hit over 20 sites on stuff about TNWs and only 1 site mentioned that DoD report. arrgh. So easy to miss.

............

bad research reminds me of the box office hit film about the Roman Empire that opens with a certain date shown, then proceeds to have a battle involving two Roman Legions that weren't raised for another century or so.

Perv Otaku

Even Hollywood productions often get details wrong about this or that. Most of the time it's stuff that will only be caught by folks who are experts in the field.

Crumbly Writer

The most abused use of this (using "Historical" or "True") are fictional biographies that some author's list as 'autobiographical' in order to promote the story. Think of them as 'fictional autobiographies', but they code them as if they're actually true stories. Aarg. Drives me crazy every time I run across it. First thing someone needs to learn in writing: the difference between reality and fiction.

On a side note, I'm considering writing a story with a fictional Asian country. How annoying to readers find this type of thing? Would it be better presented as a science-fiction story (i.e. one on another planet like in Star Wars). Secondly, how would you handle language difficulties. I was considering using Chinese (to make it easier to understand for certain segments of the population, and easier to write convincing language--though SOL can't post the 16-bit languages), possibly using a lesser known variant (say Cantonese?).

samuelmichaels

@Crumbly Writer

I personally have no problem with a fictional country -- it was a more common approach in 19th century fiction, but is still used in recent books.

Not sure what you mean about foreign language? An occasional untranslated curse? Sounds okays. Long passages in Cantonese Pinyin? Not really.

Dominions Son
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


Would it be better presented as a science-fiction story (i.e. one on another planet like in Star Wars).


An alternate reality of a slightly different but similar earth.

I would not consider such a story Science fiction.

You could position it as an alternative history. It's a small genre, but alternative history stories have a long history.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_alternate_history_fiction

Once you position it as alternate history you get rid of the need for historical accuracy.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Dominions Son

Why isn't an alternate reality story science fiction? Alternatives would be fantasy or historical fiction, or? If a story is set in the future it almost always qualifies as SF. If there is no magic, elves, other mythical creatures like zombies or vampires, an alternate universe is a more SF type explanation that merely calling it fantasy. If history is a science, changing some basic postulates seems to me to make it science fiction. Or some science hocus pokus like time travel or dimensional switching.

odave44

Some interesting thoughts here. My take on "historical" here has always been something that is set sometime in the past. To me that was no claim of being historically accurate. Although I can see how it would bug you. It does seem many of these stories having he hero somehow stumble into unrealistic amounts of wealth rather quickly.
As to science fiction, I don't know that the term is really used carefully here, but the definition of SF that I have always heard is pretty simple. Take one premise that is outside of the normally accepted rules of nature, physics, whatever, then develop the story scientifically around that premise. That is where the science part of the name comes from. For example, suppose android exist, then develop that story alone logical lines. I think many people call stories SF that are really fantasy.
Finally, I don't think writing about other worlds or the future is actually either of these, I think it is actually just fiction. That is if you just speculate about the others planets and future keeping to our existing laws of the universe.

Dominions Son

@richardshagrin

If a story is set in the future it almost always qualifies as SF.


There are lots of other fiction genres besides fantasy and science fiction. A story set in the near future with only technology that exists in the real world is neither science fiction nor fantasy.

If history is a science, changing some basic postulates seems to me to make it science fiction.


History is not science. Check your local universities course / program / department listings. History is part of the humanities / liberal arts.

Dominions Son

@richardshagrin

Why isn't an alternate reality story science fiction?


It could be, but it doesn't have to be. It could just be a modern international spy thriller (no Bond super gadgets) with a bunch of made up countries.

Dominions Son

@richardshagrin

Or some science hocus pokus like time travel or dimensional switching.


Most alternative history stories are just what if this major historical even didn't happen or happened differently. No time travel or dimensional shifting.

Alternate reality stories don't have to involve any kind of dimensional shifting. You are just telling a story that takes place in a world different than the real world. As far as the characters go, the story world is the only real world.

Alternative history or alternative reality stories can be science fiction or fantasy, but there is no particular reason why either must to be one or the other.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

My whole Clan Amir series is set in a fictional country in SE Asia, in fact the neighbours are fictional as well. But it's set in modern times, so historical doesn't apply, and because it's in modern times and modern life and tech, sci-fi doesn't apply; but I did hit the codes that do. I have a covering note at the start that there are times they speak the local language but all conversations are portrayed in English for easier management.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

My whole Clan Amir series is set in a fictional country in SE Asia, in fact the neighbours are fictional as well. But it's set in modern times, so historical doesn't apply, and because it's in modern times and modern life and tech, sci-fi doesn't apply; but I did hit the codes that do. I have a covering note at the start that there are times they speak the local language but all conversations are portrayed in English for easier management.

I think that best describes this story. I was planning to place it in some remote, mountainous Asian country. Rather than a 'How I became a multi-millionaire', it's about a young American kid who's suddenly being shot at by a variety of people, only to learn he's the deposed heir of a country taken over by his cousin. (That's the action part.)

The first part is him running for his life, the second part is his learning his new history, and learning about the people (hence the language difficulties), and the final part is the fight to free his country from the hands of the military. The part where he becomes the new king isn't even covered. Right now, I'm considering a series of 3 ten or fewer chapter books, so it's short, and hopefully sells for only a few bucks each.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Alternative history or alternative reality stories can be science fiction or fantasy, but there is no particular reason why either must to be one or the other.

Addressing Switch's point, only a small amount of science-fiction qualifies as "hard" sci-fi (i.e. based on actual science). The rest is either fantasy (an imaginary world not based on science) or simple fiction (not set in any specific time, and little difference in the people other than a fictional setting).

My issue was whether the idea of a 'fiction country' had been done to death, and lacked the specificity to appeal to a wide swath of readers. I remember many 'alternate history' stories that just seemed silly, lacking any real depth or perspective. However, many of my stories feature purely fictional towns/cities. I just haven't tried the fiction country/languages yet, and am unsure how to approach it. (The only decent fictional language was the Lord of the Ring series, and that was based on actual historical languages). Even the various Star Wars languages were based on actual remote languages, butchered so no one could accuse them of outright theft.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Addressing Switch's point, only a small amount of science-fiction qualifies as "hard" sci-fi (i.e. based on actual science)


In my opinion, if it doesn't go beyond real world existing technology at least a little bit, it isn't science fiction at all.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

I just haven't tried the fiction country/languages yet, and am unsure how to approach it. (The only decent fictional language was the Lord of the Ring series, and that was based on actual historical languages)


My understanding is that Tolkien actually designed fairly complete elvish and dwarven languages before he started writing the books. He also created a full mythology for middle earth. There is reams of background material for middle earth that Tolkien wrote, but was never published in his lifetime.

Personally I would suggest sticking with a Latin alphabet, at least for spoken dialog, unless your Asia is your actual target audience.

Even the various Star Wars languages were based on actual remote languages, butchered so no one could accuse them of outright theft.


No one owns a language, so you can't steal one.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Personally I would suggest sticking with a Latin alphabet, at least for spoken dialog, unless your Asia is your actual target audience.

I've used Vietnamese before. It's easier to reproduce (you can't include 16-bit characters on SOL), and it reads a little easier being letter based rather than character based. My aim isn't to have anyone understand the language, only to have it sound natural, and to have my character respond to having no clue to what's going on around him.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

My aim isn't to have anyone understand the language, only to have it sound natural


And if you used a Cyrillic, Arabic alphabet no one who doesn't know a language using that alphabet won't know what it's supposed to sound like.

With a pictographic or semi-pictographic alphabet like most of the Asian languages, It's even worse. Only readers who know that specific language will know what it's supposed to sound like.

Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

@Crumbly Writer

you can't include 16-bit characters on SOL


Actually, you can. Any properly encoded plain text (UTF-8 or UTF16) or html file would work.

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