Pseudo-history and paperbacks

I have managed to get the paperback of Cloud-Castles up (the text is a link on which I get a few pennies of commission. I was going to hold back on announcing it until I had my author copies in hand and could check that they were all right, but I got some dear soul giving the book a one star review, because the link led him to the e-book version, and the other formats available button was obviously too hard. I thus can only hope it is OK. If those of you who have read the book feel like giving it a review to help cancel that, I’d be grateful. I am sorry about the price – $9.99 but that’s 90 cents royalty for me, and the rest for printing and Amazon.

Ah, pseudo-history. The heart-stuff of the modern media, odd cults and much bad science fiction. I should know the latter, I write it at times. Woven from scraps of fact, with threads of tenuous connections, which often don’t stand up to anything more than ‘what at least some of the audience would like to believe’. When I read it posited as ‘news’ it’s more of a view into the beliefs and desires of the writer (who may or may not have an audience gullible enough) who hopes to drag the audience firmly into his or her beliefs. I suppose for the founder of whatever cult has the same take. For the sf/fantasy writer it’s kind of the inverse… they start with the reader KNOWING this is fiction, and, presumably willing to have their disbelief suspended at least in part, while reading the book.

As it happens the three books I am currently working on are all forms of pseudo-history (or both pseudo-history as pseudo-geography. Both Atlantis and an un-drowned Dogger-land – 2 separate books – fit in that category).

To easily slide into that suspension of disbelief: the background needs to be plausible, even to someone who knows a fair bit about whatever you’re inventing. If you’re going write about a probably mythical city, in the middle of a sea, on a mountain surrounded by three wide moats (as Atlantis is described) – a volcanic island, surrounded by smaller islands (which could be joined) in a caldera where the lip protrudes above the ocean would ‘fit’ a possible historical Santorini (what is left is part of the ‘lip’). It’s a lot more believable than racist homophobes wandering the streets in MAGA hats, in a left-wing town at two AM in a sub-zero winter in hope of finding a specific gay black victim. A setting that people will easily believe plausible allows you to wind fictional elements into it.

It’s an important facet of this to make the connections at least semi-logical. Look, you can get people to suspend disbelief and keep it hat way if the steps to your illogical story don’t contain things they cannot say ‘Okay, that makes sense. If you attempt to sell or swap your dysfunctional family on Craiglist and include some details that make them recognizable… ‘A missing hand, a missing eye, and two annoying ravens’… logic says someone who was looking for them might just respond. If you’re going describe members of the most heavily armed populace on Earth as running an insurrection in a place protected by armed men… logic says they’d be heavily armed. You throw the reader right out of the story (even if the story is supposed to be fiction) if it doesn’t make any kind of logical sense. Man wanted for desperate adventure and deeds of derring-do a la GLORY ROAD… must have a logical, believable reason for taking on the job and being able to do it. If they’re going to need to be a swordsman, they must have a background in fencing at least.

There is always a need for consistency to keep that belief suspended. If your characters speak pseudo-Greek and behave as if they came from a bronze age Greek city, they cannot shift from that to regarding slaves and women as fellow humans without some profound change being shown to the reader. I can’t tell you how tired I got with the mass media changing their portrayal of the last US president from idiot to evil genius running a fiendishly cunning plot, sometimes within the same paragraph, and back again. Internal consistency of that fake history is a must. Make notes.

Finally, keep details precise, especially ones much are likely to know (or believe) but keep most of the story distant, on things they are less likely to know about. So your vegetation of area ecologically congruent with modern Sweden (but with pseudo-geography and the pseudo-climate required for Doggerland to exist) must be right – and then you can get away with details and story that are made up, but do not interrupt the willing suspension of belief.

11 comments

  1. The problem with fiction it has to make sense, reality doesn’t 🙂

    BTW if you want to see a real life possible pre blow up santorini then you could do worse than looking at the Oki Islands in the Japan sea. Nishinoshima contains the cone and it and the two adjacent islands make up the submerged very large caldera – https://goo.gl/maps/9aDPg9ycTuqkYXP16

  2. Specific example, in a former best-seller: the heroine is having a very bad labor (well, she was raped by a Neanderthal) and the Neanderthal wise-woman assisting her thinks she (the wise-woman) should see if can find some rattlesnake root to ease her labor. The story is, of course, set in Europe.
    The instant you start thinking, “Well, she didn’t do her research,” the author’s lost you.

    1. saw something on naming cof nations and somewhere (Africa iirc) the locals were “called X because of their clothing’s resemblance to to Jaguars”
      by the Romans

    2. Sort of like the Indiana Jones movie that had African Siafu ants in South America? Dragging a large man into their nest mound, no less.

      I’d say you can’t make this shit up, but, well, they DID.

  3. One older fiction book that I read almost “threw me out”.

    It was set in Ancient Egypt and the main character who is telling the story is a High-Status Egyptian.

    He interrupts his story to Defend Slavery.

    The problem for me was that his likely audience (for his story) would be Ancient Egyptians so why is he defending a system that would be a Fact Of Life for him and his audience?

    Obviously, the Real Author thought he had to “Defend” his character’s acceptance of Slavery.

    Oh, this was an older book so the author didn’t have to get into the “Only Blacks Were Slaves & Only Whites Were Slave-Masters” nonsense. 😀

  4. All the fun has gone out of making up pseudohistories and conspiracy theories to explain the current state of the world.

    My “laughably grandiose” hasn’t measured up to the realities that have been exposed.
    (Worse, they make the most horrifying things *boring*. How does a dark occult ritual written by A. Crowley and performed by Ms. “I’m totally not a Satanist wink” for the inner circle of Hillary’s Presidential campaign become banal?)

    Which is depressing enough, but the flagrant crap people are eager to believe instead, is just insulting.

  5. This is one of the reasons why I do so much research for my novels. I might not use all of it, but what I don’t know personally, I can fake enough of the details to not look like I’m trying to brazen through things.

  6. I love dead trees so I hopped right over to Amazon. And since I had to get free shipping you helped out a couple other authors. Can’t wait.

Comments are closed.