I can't write historical fiction. The following examples illustrate my problems.
April 14th 1865, Ford's Theatre, Washington DC
John Wilkes Booth smacked Eric in the jaw. Eric went down like a sack of potatoes.
“You can't stop me now,” John Wilkes Booth declared grandly. “I'm going to go and assassinate President Abraham Lincoln!” With that said, John Wilkes Booth rushed out of the dressing room, locking the door behind him.
“Damn!” Eric thought, miserably.
Eric was still a little groggy from the blow. He got up and tried the door but it was firmly shut. If only he had a way of communicating with the president's staff, he thought desperately. If only he had some sort of telecommunication device, some sort of device that would allow him to (maybe) dial a number, and then talk to one of the president's members of staff, and give a warning that an armed man named John Wilkes Booth was on his way to the president's box intent on assassination.
Eric stopped himself from pursuing that line of thought, sure that such imagined devices were nothing more than the trickeries of speculative fiction and an overactive imagination.
From outside the stage door he heard the sound of a gunshot followed by a shrill scream...
I hit these sorts of problems regardless of the era in which I'm writing.
1601, The Globe, England
William Shakespeare stared at the broken quill and sighed heavily. “Cheap, imported piece of shit,” he muttered. “How am I supposed to finish this really good play called 'Hamlet' when these bloody quills keep snapping?”
His anger faded to a speculative mood as he wondered if there would ever be a time when, instead of having to write words in longhand, using only a quill, ink and parchment, writers would have machines with keyboards and LCD screens that had a function that allowed the backlight to reduce radioactive glare, and maybe access to some sort of huge worldwide library of information that anyone could go ogle online, whenever the need touched them. For an instant he could picture a sublime future where entire manuscripts – and more – were held in small digital drives so small they were no bigger than a man's thumb.
“Nah,” he mumbled unhappily. “That's never going to happen, is it?”
Perhaps it's something to do with technology? Maybe I'm a closet technophile and I rely on it so heavily that I can't move my fiction back to a period when it didn't exist?
Climbing down Mount Sinai, Moses wondered what God had been thinking. Forcing a man of his age to carry two humungous stone tablets down the side of a mountain had to flout every health and safety regulation ever written. There was the unlevel ground to consider, the risk of personal injury in being forced to carry such weight, and the fact that the instructions he had been given were tantamount to a dictatorship rather than being a democratically agreed code of practice negotiated by the leaders of the Hebrew community who were expected to adhere to these regulations.
It crossed his mind that, when he did get back to the base camp, it wasn't just the fatted calf that was likely to get slaughtered.
“Oh! Lord,” he mumbled. “Can't you hurry up and invent the internal combustion, and maybe a fork-lift truck to go with it, before I reach the bottom of this damned mountain? The weight of these stone tablets is stretching my arms. If they do much more damage I'm going to be able to scratch my athlete's foot without bending down...”
Maybe I went too far back in time with that one. What if I try something from the last century?
August, 1944, Amsterdam
Huddled with her family inside the Achterhuis, the secret annexe that kept their presence unknown to the occupying Nazi forces, Anne Frank said a silent prayer of thanks that she didn't live in a world with mobile phones, which would have an annoying habit of beeping and whistling and playing their shrill ringtones at inconvenient moments, the sound of which would be likely to alert the Nazis to where she was hiding. Admittedly, if she did live in a world with mobile phones, Anne Frank guessed that the technology would exist to put the phone on silent alert, or maybe vibrate. But she knew, like with all technological advances, the element of human interaction that came from remembering to put the phone on vibrate or silent alert would remain a key issue.
Which, all goes to show - I can read and enjoy historical fiction – but I can't keep my mind in the past long enough to write a story. Congratulations to all of those authors who have the tenacity to do the necessary research and recreate bygone eras. You're doing far more than I could ever hope to accomplish.