Guest Blogger–David Lee Summers–The Appeal of History

Howdy all,

Happy New Year!!!!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday. Mine was marvelous. It’s the first year I took off two full weeks from editing and writing and just hung out with family and friends. Of course I ate and drank too much, and slept too little, but it was fun. Before I realized it, the year’s end was here.

And so now as we ring in the New Year this week, I’m delighted to bring to you my first guest blogger, my good friend and colleague David Lee Summers. This talented author not only has written many awe-inspiring stories in several diverse genres, but he is also an astronomer and the editor of a superb quarterly science fiction and fantasy magazine “Tales of the Talisman”, which features quality short stories and poetry from gifted authors and artists from around the world.

His blog post’s theme is history and its influence and appeal on us. Enjoy the read and don’t forget to check out his own cool blog at: http://davidleesummers.wordpress.com or visit his website http://www.davidleesummers.com to learn more about this brilliant author and his writings. 🙂

The Appeal of History

by David Lee Summers

When I was a child, I used to spend a portion of my summer vacations traveling across the United States with my parents.  We would spend time in places like New England, seeing the places the English settled.  We saw Mesa Verde in Colorado where my dad observed that Native Americans were building castles at the same time Europeans were.  I toured the Underground City in Seattle and saw how people lived there over a century ago.  All of this gave me a real appreciation of history that has served me well as a writer.

What’s great about discovering history through travel is that many museums and historical sites give you a good sense of how people lived — better, often, than you’ll get from history textbooks, which are mostly concerned about the events that shaped the world.  If you write historical fiction, you can further expand on this to give people an even better sense of what it was like to live in the past.  I did this when writing the historical scenes in my novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order and its forthcoming prequel Dragon’s Fall. In Vampires of the Scarlet Order there is a chapter set in 19th century Las Cruces, New Mexico.  I live in Las Cruces and learned all I could about what life was like at that time.  The first part of Dragon’s Fall is set in ancient Greece.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to travel to Greece, but I spent time in the library researching the way people lived so that I could paint as accurate a picture as possible.

The appeal of history for a writer goes beyond simply presenting the past as accurately as you can.  As a writer, you can ask questions about the way history has unfolded.  In addition to Dragon’s Fall, I’m working on a steampunk novel called Owl Dance.  In Owl Dance, I ask the question: What if the Russians discovered that oil and gold existed in Alaska soon after the territory was purchased by the United States?  How might history have unfolded differently?  These questions allow us to explore the consequences of certain actions and perhaps better understand the world around us as it exists today.

However, even if you have no interest in historical fiction, a study of history can suit you well.  History gives you a sense of how peoples interact with one another and can provide story ideas in non-historical genres.  My first novel was a science fiction novel called The Pirates of Sufiro that told the story of how one group of colonists on a distant world enslaved members of another group of colonists and the consequences of those actions.  I looked at the history of the United States, South Africa and other places around the world to understand how these problems develop.  The resolution of the conflict was based, at least partially, on the Battle of Glorietta Pass in New Mexico from the American Civil War.  Robert A. Heinlein called this process of looking at the past and extrapolating possible futures “time binding.”  It’s a very useful skill for a science fiction writer to hone.

If you’re a writer, I strongly encourage you to visit historical sites when you travel, or even visit historical sites near your home.  You may find that you get some great ideas for your fiction.  Likewise, I think readers can get a better sense of the themes and ideas that various writers explore by learning more about history.

If you would like to learn more about the books I’ve mentioned, I invite you to visit my homepage at http://www.davidleesummers.com or my blog at http://davidleesummers.wordpress.com

Finally, I’d like to say thank you my editor and friend, Giovanna Lagana, for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts with you.

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4 Responses to “Guest Blogger–David Lee Summers–The Appeal of History”

  1. David Lee Summers Says:

    Thanks for the guest blog spot, Giovanna. If any of your readers have a question, I’ll do my best to answer.

    • giovannalagana Says:

      Thanks for being my very first guest, Dave. 🙂
      I have a question for you. If you lived in a Big Brother society where you were allowed to have only one vocation, what would it be? Would you choose to be an astronomer, writer, or editor only?

  2. David Lee Summers Says:

    Great question, Gio. If I were to choose based just on what I enjoy most, I would be a writer. However, in the Soviet Union, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn discovered that learning and knowing physics eased and reduced his time in the gulag system because he had a skill deemed useful to the State. So if I were in a truly totalitarian state, I would probably have to say astronomer. It would be easier to do the kinds of astronomy that the State would find acceptable than to have my writing limited by such a society.

    • giovannalagana Says:

      I like that answer. 🙂 Yeah, if we lived in a Big Brother society, odds are your freedom of the written word would be practically non-existent, wouldn’t it? No use following your passion for writing then, aye?

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